Mon. August 26, 2019: Shake Up Your Process — #upbeatauthors

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image by Felix Mittemeier via pixabay

Monday, August 26, 2019
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We’ve been talking about different things that inspire us here on the blog for the Upbeat Authors Month of Inspiration. Today, our final day on this topic, let’s talk about shaking up our process as a way to inspire.

We all get stuck. We all have days where there’s resistance.

As a full time writer, I can’t afford the luxury of writer’s block. Yes, I said “luxury” and I will not apologize for it. If I want to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, I can’t indulge in writer’s block. When things get tough, I have to show up and do the work anyway. Just like in any other PROFESSION.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I look at my chapter and have no idea what to do next, even with a detailed outline. Or I know what to do, but the words feel like lead instead of taking fire and racing across the page.

Then I know it’s time to shake things up.

How do I do that?

Lots of different ways:

Shower. Yup. For me, that’s one of the best ways to work through plot problems. I take a shower. I get more inspiration in the shower than just about anywhere else. When a book gives me trouble, I am so clean I squeak and practically glow in the dark.

Cook. I love to cook. While I often like to cook focusing on the cooking itself, my mind often begins to wander and work out plot problems. Food and feeding each other is an important part of many of my books. When I set a book somewhere, I often cook meals from that area that are then incorporated into the book.

When I initially write cooking or food scenes, I overwrite them, overload them with detail and sensory description. I then cut back in the editing, leaving what is necessary to further plot & character.

Housework. Vacuuming, scrubbing things, folding laundry. Again, there are days when I want to do it mindfully, when I need to do it mindfully. Other times, I can let my imagination figure out how to solve writing problems. Then I’m eager to get back to my desk AND the house is clean!

Take a Walk. I’m lucky. I live in a neighborhood that is quiet enough to take a walk. I live a few miles from the beach. I live a few miles from several Audubon sanctuaries. Walking helps me clear my head and figure things out. I tried running, but I hated it so much that I stick to walking.

Additional yoga/meditation. Sometimes getting up and doing a few asanas or sitting on my zafu makes all the difference. It’s a refresher for my tired brain.

Read a book. Reading often fuels the writing. The danger is that you get so into the book, you lose the whole writing day. Sometimes I use a particular book as a reward AFTER I get in my quota for the day.

Switch projects. Sometimes this works, sometimes this doesn’t. If you have too many unfinished projects around, it drains creative energy. It’s important to finish what you start. I teach an entire class about this and have a Topic Workbook on it: THE GRAVEYARD OF ABANDONED PROJECTS.

Switch locations. When I get restless at either of the two desks in my writing room, I might write in the living room. Or out on the deck. I often go to the library to work. We’re lucky on Cape; every town has a wonderful library with a unique character. Library-hopping is an activity many locals enjoy. There’s also Cape Space, a wonderful co-working space. I don’t write much fiction there, but sometimes I’ll go if I need to video conference or work on projects for my marketing clients.

Go to a museum. As I’ve talked about, over and over again here, I use visual art to fuel my verbal art. Live music often does the same. Or dance. Or theatre.

Experiment in a new genre. Try writing something in a genre in which you don’t normally work. It can be flash fiction, if you like. Or it can grow into something different.

Write a scene several times, in several different perspectives. If you’re struggling with a multi-person scene, do one draft of it in the perspective of each character. Yes, you’ll cut a lot. One of the most ridiculous things I hear from writers in classes is they don’t want to write something that will get cut. It’s not a waste of time. You need what you learn from it to get to your ultimate goal.

Use prompts. There are prompts all over the place. In July, I posted one every day. They are still up here on the 31 Prompts page.

Write differently. If you always outline, try blank paging. If you NEVER outline, outline something and then follow through and write it. (Note: I don’t call it “pantsing.” To me that sounds like an STD. I call it “blank paging”). Whichever way you try, FINISH THE PROJECT. If you didn’t like this foray, you don’t have to do it that way again. BUT FINISH THE PROJECT.

Join online groups where you can hang out with other artists. I find Women Write Change to be especially valuable, in both good times and rough ones. The #remotechat group on Twitter, with its Wednesday afternoon chats, is terrific. We have so much fun there, and exchange so much useful information. #TheMerryWriter, also on Twitter, is a fun monthly game, and I’ve met some great people through it. I’ve had some excellent conversations with other artists of all types via Ello. Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page blog has grown into a tight, supportive community.

Get together with other artists in person. I like mixing with all kinds of artists. Too often, hanging just with writers lately has become a venting session or all the talk goes to marketing. It’s not enough about craft and content and ideas. (Again, this is why I love Women Write Change — we talk a lot about craft and ideas).

The HobNob Group ended when its founder died last year. I miss it terribly. It was a combination of visual, verbal, and performance artists. We got to learn from each other and support each other. I participate in some of the writer activities around here and go to conferences. I try to attend as many readings and author events as I can. I also go to opening receptions at local museums and art galleries. I’ve cut back on a lot of the other networking I was doing around here (chamber events, business networking events, etc), because I’m setting the foundation for moving in a different direction with my marketing writing.

Online is great, but meeting and spending time with other artists in person is even better.

Make sure you give yourself an Artist Date. We talked about that earlier. If you stick to that, and integrate a weekly Artist Date into your life, a commitment to yourself, you will find that you’re refilling your creative well, and that will flow into all areas of your life.

What are your favorite ways of changing up the process?