It’s Friday. You come home from work (or log off your work) and head straight to Facebook. You’d planned on doing some writing. Your creative hopes were high at 10 AM, but now that evening is here, scrolling through your News Feed, watching random YouTube videos on your phone, or even collapsing right into bed is about all you can work up the energy to do. You fall into the same old time-suck trap or shut the computer, looking guiltily at the Word or Scrivener icon in the taskbar.
How long has it been since you wrote last? It asks you. Why didn’t you write?
I’m just too tired, you answer.
And you probably are.
Believe me, this is an all-too-familiar scene for me. Being a human in today’s world is just plain exhausting. But these three activities I’m going to discuss have helped me break the cycle of exhaustion on more than one occasion. I hope they’ll help you recharge, refill your creative tank, and reclaim your time for doing what you do best—creating awesome story ideas.
1. Work a Puzzle
Yes, I’m talking about good, old-fashioned jigsaw puzzles where you dump the pieces in the floor, sort them by color, or just pick a couple of border pieces and get to work. There’s something about the visual and tactile experience of rummaging through a box of colorful puzzle pieces that soothes this writer’s creative soul.
It also forces me to reevaluate my ideas of how certain pieces fit together, as sometimes a simple turn of a puzzle piece makes the picture jump out and its placement obvious. This unlocks juicy possibilities for playing with story ideas subconsciously to see how they fit together—or if I’ve been “turning” them the wrong way all along.
The process of putting together a puzzle takes a combination of left and right brain thinking, which closely mirrors the writing process. This gives your exhausted, drained brain a new, tactile way to creatively work out tough problems—and perhaps even work on story problems at the same time.
2. Color or Sketch
Another great strategy for visual learners is coloring. Adult coloring books are soaring in popularity because of their ability to relieve stress and promote creativity. Coloring intricate designs is a great way to let your right brain enjoy a child-like playground of possibilities. Using color schemes that correspond with the mood you want to create for yourself is also a key part of coloring (e.g. red for passion and energy, green for peace and serenity, etc.).
Alternatively, whether or not you claim to be the world’s greatest artist, sketching characters, settings, or objects from your story allows you to see your story in ways you hadn’t been able to before. Consider just drawing a quick sketch of your protagonist’s face. You’ll be amazed at the questions this will spark: “What does he wear?” or “How tall is she?” Soon, you’ll be compelled to fill in the rest of the details and satisfy your curiosity. Along the way, each decision you make about how to draw your character will inform the way you describe your character in your writing later on. Drawing elements of your story forces you to think about details you hadn’t considered before, and helps you learn more about your story.
Note: You can see my process for drawing my characters and their comics in a future post!
3. Unclutter Your Writing Space
I’m guilty of keeping a pretty sprawling, messy desk (as many writers are). Throughout the week, I move my laptop from desk to couch innumerable times, scatter handwritten pages/receipts/notebooks all over the place, and lose track of more pens than I thought I could possibly own. Naturally, when it comes time to write, I balk at the mess on my desk.
Trying to write at a messy desk works about as well as frying an egg in the snow. And the last thing I feel like doing after a long day is expending more effort to focus on my writing. But for me, there’s a certain “zen” to re-organizing my desk and uncluttering. Not only does it clear my physical space, but it gives me a feeling of starting fresh.
I also inevitably uncover old notes and ideas while going through my papers. This sparks my thoughts and takes me back to the moment I jotted each idea, bringing back the creative rush I’d felt at the time. Next time you find yourself “procrastinating,” try uncluttering instead. It just might be the spark you need to get your tired thoughts moving freely again.
I’ve used each of these strategies (sometimes all in one night) when I just can’t seem to work up the energy to face the blinking cursor. It takes some discipline and desire to break away from the comforting monotony of your warm bed or that 3-hour Vine compilation. But even if you can’t write, you can feed your writer’s soul with these strategies, bringing you one step closer to writing than you were before.
Tell me your opinion: Have you used any of these strategies to stay creative? What other methods do you use? Tell me in the comments below; I’d love to chat!