Friday, October 3, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

You’re in the middle of your latest work in progress (WIP). Things are going pretty well. Then suddenly your characters aren’t talking to you. If you’re an into-the-mist writer, you have no idea where your plot should go. If you plot, for some reason what you planned isn’t working out. Whatever happened, you’re lost. What do you do? I say, just forget it.


Okay, let me put that another way: Try something different.

Among writers there’s a team, “refilling the well,” which refers to doing things besides writing—allowing your creative self a chance to replenish and recharge. In other words, giving your muse a vacation. Of course, if you’re under pressure to complete a manuscript, either because of a publisher deadline or just your own need to finally write “the end,” you may feel the last thing you have time for is something else. The problem with that viewpoint is that creativity can be stifled by pressure. Even those of us who thrive on deadlines and pressure can sometimes be plagued by stress induced creativity blocks. The cure? Relax!

There are many ways to refill the well, give your muse a vacation, give your creative self new material with which to be creative. My co-workers have mentioned reading, and relaxing with a good book is an excellent way to refill the well. What you read is going to depend on your own personality. Maybe reading in the genre/subgenre in which you write will be helpful, or maybe reading another genre. Writing craft books may help you, or make you feel worse. You have to decide what’s best for you, and possibly try several different types of books.

But while books are great, there are a world of other choices to give your muse a break and your creative self a boost. Generally the more different from your norm the activity is, the more likely it is to shove you out of your block. Some suggestions are: go to an art gallery, visit a zoo, a museum. Go shopping for a new dress or shoes (even if you don’t actually buy anything); try a new restaurant (if money’s a problem, get a desert, salad, or appetizer). Go see a movie, preferably one you wouldn’t normally have chosen. Go to a bookstore, a craft store, a party story, an office supply store; somewhere maybe you’ve been thinking about going but haven’t had the time. Exercise is always good. Walking, running, tennis; or my personal favorite: the exercise bike (you can combine this with the reading).

Then there’s the water cure. I don’t know the psychological reason for it, but I know from experience and from reading what other writers have said that water seems to trigger a creative response. How many times has a great idea come to you in the shower? Or even while sitting on the toilet? Use that to your advantage. Take a long bath complete with candles and scented water. Or go swimming. Maybe you’d like to sit by the ocean, river, lake, or stream. You might even consider getting yourself a small tabletop, electric fountain, a CD of water sounds, or some other type of relaxing, water-sound type item. In fact, something like that might be a good investment for any writer or other creative person.

So, the next time you find yourself blocked, put the problem out of your mind and do something different. It works, honest!


  1. Cheryel,
    I like your ideas and thanks for the suggestions. One thing I try to do is become creative in a different way. I like to paint and take photos. Recently, when I had some time off, I took my new camera and just went for a drive in the country to take pictures. It got me looking at ordinary things in a different way. It made me consider how to best frame a focal point in the shot or what mood I was trying to convey with the image.

    It made my creativity flow in a new track and it was refreshed me so that when I went home, words came to me more easily. It's another thing to try when you need to break the daily pattern. :-)

  2. I find that getting myself into a situation where it's impossible for me to write or even jot down notes helps :)


  3. I'd add washing dishes to your water cure. Though I'm not a huge fan of organized housework, it often lets me fool my brain into forgetting about writing glitches. Vacuuming works too.

  4. Water definitely works for me. ;) Great post!

  5. Cheryel, I wonder if the water connection exists because we developed in water...hmmm or maybe it goes wayyy back to the primordial ooze??

    I always get ideas in the shower and I think that I partly because it one of the few places we can't "multitask."