Feeding the Beast

This summer has been two months of experimentation regarding my writing and what I need in order to be productive. What I have found is that to continue to be productive creatively, you need to feed that creative beast.

Writing is an incredibly solitary activity. You sit in front of your computer or notebook for hours, constructing a world of your own. While it’s rewarding and you wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s hard to do day after day. Burning out is a constant threat, which leads to productivity problems, lack of motivation, and overall blah-ness. It sounded scientific up until that point, didn’t it? It’s true though. As much as we would like to pretend that writers and artists are limitless fonts of creativity, it’s very possible for the well to run dry, and it does, much to our dismay.

Typically my summers consist of me living a mole-like existence where I don’t leave my house unless I have to attend a university function or go to work. This year, I decided to try to get out more and actually do some fun things to boost my creativity. Here are some things I have found that feed that creative beast:

  1. Read! No seriously, read a book, one you actually want to read. Most writers are fairly avid readers, and I’ve noticed that when I am reading a book or series I enjoy, the words tend to flow more than they would if I was slogging through a book for grad school.birthday books3
  2. Color. Or draw or paint. Do something creative that is not your current project. For my birthday, I received one of those adult coloring books and a new box of colored pencils. It’s wonderful. While you’re utilizing someone else’s design, you’re choosing the colors and figuring out how you want it to work. The repetitive nature of coloring also tends to reduce stress and help you reach that zen-like state that is conducive to creative work.
  3. Get out of the house. Seriously, step away from your computer and go outside. It’s easy to fall into the trap where you sit for 10 hours at a clip staring at Microsoft Word wondering why the muses are being so cruel. Part of you says, “I can’t leave the house! What if I get my mojo back while I’m out?” More than likely, you’ll be enjoying what you’re doing out in the world, but bring a notebook just in case or use the notepad feature on your phone to jot down your idea on the fly. Go to the mall, go to the bookstore, go to the park. My favorite right now is going to the beach or to the water. Water is an incredibly grounding force. If you can, get to the water (lake, ocean, bay, whatever) and take off your shoe and socks. Let your feet soak in the water. I find the ebb and flow of the tide to be an incredibly grounding force. This summer I went on a 3 hour boat tour, and it was wonderful. I brought my notebook, but I was so busy enjoying the water that I didn’t even reach for it. When I got home, it was writing time.

    A little pic from the Jersey Shore.
  4. Watch a little TV. When I say this, I don’t mean an 8 hour binge of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. I mean, sit down and watch something you truly enjoy. Put away your laptop for an hour or two and just enjoy the show. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Project Runway or Poldark, just sit and watch for a little while. I tend to not advocate Netflix because the autostart the next show, and 1 episode turns into 10 in the blink of an eye.

Remember that your creativity is like a being all of its own. It needs to be nurtured and fed, and when you work it for weeks on end, it needs time to rest or recuperate. My suggestion is to do at least one of these things each day. Read before bed or during your lunch break, get out of the house on days off is possible. Take time to enjoy your work and feed your inner creative being with things that inspire you.

Monthly Review

June in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

Sometimes it’s hard to be upbeat when you feel that you haven’t quite met your goals from the previous month. I don’t think I did as much writing of The Earl and the Artificer (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #3), but I’m okay with that because I did a lot more writing and tinkering with my short story “An Oxford Holiday,” which I am enjoying immensely. Now to get down to business:

What I did accomplish:

  1. Wrote and edited two chapters of The Earl and the Artificer (IMD #3)
  2. Wrote the majority of my companion short story “An Oxford Holiday”
  3. Finished reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (if you have seen the thickness of this book, you’ll know why it’s an accomplishment)
  4. Got out of the house more
  5. Wrote or edited more days than I didn’t
  6. Uploaded The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden on iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Oyster, and other ebook platforms

Goals for July:

  1. Finish “An Oxford Holiday” and ready it for publication
  2. Plan and write more of The Earl and the Artificer
  3. Blog more
  4. Read 2-3 books
  5. Stop making goals by the number (apart from reading goals)
  6. Strive to write instead of striving for perfection

One of the things I have learned this month is that setting numerical goals drives me crazy. I had writers block for a good chunk of the month, and the longer it lasted, the more I focused on my previous goal of writing four chapters of my novel. Of course, the more I focused, the more I froze. To loosen up and break the block, I decided to work on a short story that was knocking on my brain and would come between books two and three. As soon as I began working on it, the words flew onto the page, and I was writing double what I wrote on my most productive day earlier in June. Immediately I began to wonder why “An Oxford Holiday” was taking shape so much faster than The Earl and the Artificer. Some obvious answers are length and complexity– since it’s a short story, both are a lot simpler than a novel. Was it the characters? While I love working with Adam and Immanuel, it shouldn’t make the story that much easier to write. The big difference between working on my for-fun short story and my novel was fun. Ever since I sent in my thesis proposal, I have been so hard on myself about The Earl and the Artificer, and it is sucking the fun out of the writing process. I’m constantly catching myself over-thinking scenes or freezing up because I’m worrying that it isn’t perfect. This is why my fifth and sixth goal are there. I need to stop over-thinking and making numerical goals because it’s apparent that I get fixated on them. After bouncing back and forth between my short story and the EatA without any pressure, I suddenly banged out a chapter in like two days.

The upside of June was that I had a great time and actually got out of the house. On the 20th, my boyfriend and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. We went down to a lovely waterfront town not far from our house, pigged out on pub food, French desserts, and sea air. It was wonderful. The same week my mom and I had a girl’s day, so I enjoyed spending an entire day with my mom and also made an impromptu stop at the bookstore. For once I actually spent time out of the house, and it seemed to revive my mood, especially after an incredibly stagnant first half of the month. Because of this slump, I may have bought a few too many books. Can you really have too many books? And I didn’t drain my bank account, so all is well.

book pile juneI am so looking forward to finishing “An Oxford Holiday” in the coming weeks. It’s a short story that falls between books two and three, which I will be offering for free on all ebook platforms when it’s finished. The basic idea of the story is that Adam goes to visit Immanuel in Oxford as promised, but they soon realize that finding a place to spend time and speak freely is easier said than done. A bit of information will also be revealed regarding Immanuel’s life at Oxford and what his future with Adam holds. It’s just a little tidbit to hold my readers over between books, but I am greatly enjoying writing it. Hopefully you will enjoy it too.

One of the best things to happen this month is of course the supreme court ruling that gay marriage is legal in all fifty states. Living in New Jersey, I have taken it for granted, but I am so excited my southern or mid-western friends who thought having marriage equality in their state would be a pipe dream. As a supporter of gay rights, it made my day. The funny thing is, I bought this shirt in May and it finally arrived in mid-June. It says “I support LGBT lit” on the front and “Because everyone deserves to see themselves in fiction” on the back.

lgbt shirtMy hope for July is that I can finally put aside my perfectionist tendencies and be consistently productive or at least more productive than I have been. I think having a few chapters go smoothly will boost my confidence and hopefully produce more success in the future.

What are your goals for July?

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