Creative Recovery

By Liz, still wishing she’d missed that plane home from Key West

I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes it feels like my creative spark has been doused by an ocean wave.

This usually happens when my deadline is looming somewhere between 60 and 30 days away (like right now) and I’m feeling those first stages of panic (How will I ever get this book done?). The panic attracts the inner critic, and then it becomes a whole host of self doubt and procrastination.

In the past, I would beat myself up abut this situation. Berate my slacker tendencies that put me in this position every deadline. Curse the wretched day job that prevented me from putting the lion’s share of my time into writing. Deprive myself of anything good until I finished the book, which I was still convinced would be horrible, even if it was finished.

But that doesn’t work so well. While I may manage to slog through and claim victory, I feel like I’ve been through a war. I don’t want to look at or talk about the book. I want to watch Gilmore Girls reruns for a week. It takes a bit to get back into the writing habit.

So this time I’m trying something different. I’m trying to be kinder to myself. To “be” with the book wherever it is in the process and have faith it will get done. And I’m trying new tactics to get my mojo back.

Here are a few of them: IMG_0878

  • Morning pages – Anyone who’s done The Artist’s Way is familiar with this journaling practice – 3 pages right after you wake up. I’ve been doing them for years, but in the last few, not consistently. I’ve made a concerted effort to get back into the habit. It gets the juices flowing and gets all the extraneous stuff out of your head so you can get back to the important work.
  • Coloring – Yep, I’m a colorer. And I’ve totally given myself permission to stop and pull out the crayons for a bit if I’m too stuck.
  • Playing with the dog – Of course, this is my favorite. A game of fetch with Finn or aFinny Ball game of tug with Shaggy and all is well.
  • Reading creativity books – Sometimes reading other fiction isn’t a good idea when you’re in a writing rut. I’ve been returning to books about harnessing your creativity. I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and I’m in the process of re-reading some of my SARK collection. Big-time inspiration.
  • Visit Key West or other island paradise – This one is a no-brainer, right? I definitely came back from my vacation itching to get back to the computer. Sometimes your batteries really do just need a recharge.


And hopefully, that deadline won’t come too soon….

Readers, what do you do to get your creative mojo back?

29 Thoughts

  1. All that sounds good, Liz. Glad you’re finding some other ways to cope! My fast fresh-air walk at the end of the morning always helps, both to put things in perspective and to get some fresh ideas.

  2. Sometimes you just have to have faith in yourself. You may feel like your writing brain is empty, but chances are good that something is percolating below the surface, and when it’s ready to come out it will bubble to the top and you’ll have an “aha!” moment. So do other things you enjoy and let your subconscious do what it needs to do.

  3. I like to knit while I’m thinking. I’ve never actually made anything, I just have these extremely long scarf like creations. On day I’m going to yarn bomb a tree. I’m not kidding, I have scarves that must be at least a block long. It’s crazy. My other “hobby” is putting together jigsaw puzzles. I find it’s a bit like when you lose something and you starting searching for something else instead. While searching for the puzzle piece that fits, my brain works out my story and I didn’t even realize I was thinking about it.

  4. I realize this isn’t easy to do, especially if you write several books a year or have a publisher who wants the next book soon, but what works for me is setting a faux deadline months ahead of the real one. That lets me finish a draft of the book early enough to take a nice long break from it before going back and polishing it up for the real deadline.

    1. Good point! You can’t be finishing the draft the night before it’s due to your editor. You have to give yourself time to step back, figure out what’s not working, then polish it.

  5. You just described my Saturdays. Seriously, every Friday morning, I have huge plans for all I will get done over the weekend. Read a book? Check. Draft several reviews and polish up others? Check. Most of the time, but the time I get home on Friday night, my brain is fried from the week and it’s all I can do to do anything that absolutely has to be done. Saturday I often don’t get much done either. But I’ve come to realize that I need that down time and when Sunday rolls around, the little bit of time I have to work on stuff is much more productive as a result.

  6. I can vouch that Liz really did take a vacation on her vacation. I was very proud of her. Since a writer’s time is flexible, my husband and I like to plan the occasional outing. A museum in the later afternoon after the school trips have gone and before working people arrive. Or here in Key West a drink at sunset on the pier. When you work for yourself, as writers do, it’s hard to carve out downtime, but if you don’t plan it, it won’t happen.

  7. Two things for me: A mindless activity outdoors such as walking, gardening, shoveling snow, raking leaves. Second, meditation. I listen to affirmation meditation every day.

    1. Yeah, you won’t catch me shoveling snow Ramona 😉 Seriously, though, meditation is a big one. I have been making an effort to be more forgiving with myself when I feel like I’m falling short on that too.

  8. I identify with you, Liz! While finishing my last book, I just had to let go and have faith because logically, I couldn’t convince myself everything would get done and be okay. And it seemed to work, even though life threw me some curve balls! I especially took breaks to listen to music/dance and spend important time with my family (even though the deadline was LOOMING). I love that you went on vacation and recharged! I haven’t done that yet. Good for you!!! Sending you some good writing vibes. 🙂

  9. I know it is cold but bundling up and walking on the beach is such a cure for whatever is ailing. A full length down coat makes it comfortable in even the worst weather. Every now and again I head to Old Orchard and spend an hour soakign up the atmosphere. I always come back refreshed and ready to get back to whatever work is at hand. Head on up! I’ll even lend you my coat:)

  10. Lovely post. Encouraged me to go buy the Gilbert book. Sark is only in paper. Dang. Ok, where did you find the coloring book? The adult books I’ve seen have all been too busy with pen and ink to inspire me. The one you show looks just right!

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