Using up Creativity?

Can creativity be “used up”?

I ask this as part question, part theory, as I’ve been pushing myself relentlessly to finish a new manuscript before the RWA National Conference in July. Which means I’ve been putting in  a minimum of about 5000 words a day, and on Saturday, actually got 9077 words written in one day. I haven’t posted totals like that in years! Hmm, that means last week (though I am in second draft) approximately 28,000 words (okay … give me a second here. I only just added that now, and I’m feeling a bit tired!)

Okay, so back to my question: can creativity be used up? Can I overexert my creative “muscle” to such an extent that I’ll dry up the creative well (oh my but for mixed metaphors!)

Here’s my theory.

On the one hand, I figure that while I’m a fairly fast writer, my totals are certainly not extraordinary. Other writers are much more prolific, and post higher word totals each week. And, like any other muscle (and part of why I suspect I’m getting continuously higher totals), the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes, and the more it can handle.

On the other hand (and I’m a Gemini, so I get to see the duality of glass half-full AND half-empty), I believe you can drain your creative well, as it were. If you keep on drawing material out but don’t replenish, why wouldn’t this be the case?

Which means to some extent, I think  you need some attention paid to refilling your creative well simultaneously as you draw on it when you do so excessively. Just as necessary as proper hydration when BC2010 Holiday Aug4_10 015working out. 🙂 Otherwise, certainly one risks creative burn-out, where you just don’t feel you have anything else to draw on, and in writing, you just can’t come up with the words.

So I was thinking: have I been “replenishing” as I’ve been pushing so hard? I’ve been trying. I’ve:

  • been up in the craft room, finally making a new lining for my purse and cutting out new skirts for summer. (I left the fabric on its own for weeks beside the pattern, but evidently they lacked any natural inclination to turn themselves into clothing.)
  • watched a truly terrible film and picked it apart, considering the potential for what could have been– and how I can make sure I don’t make the same mistakes in my writing.
  • read a new book, surprising and outside of my usual fare. (But which has almost certainly added a new element to my current writing because of the subject matter.)
  • been outside fighting the mosquitoes and weeds, giving me plenty of time to think on random things and take out my frustrations on the weeds.
  • given myself permission to have fun in my work, go where the story takes me, and if I get stuck, have a shower where the ideas always whirl in the steam (I’ve so got to get one of those writable shower surfaces, like the ones intended for divers.)

So now I turn to you: what do you think? Do you think it’s possible to use up creativity? How do you “refill your creative well”? Come on, click the comment button. 😉

Thanks so much for reading, have a great week, and happy writing out there.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Winter Writing Whining

Yay winter roads. Bleh! Source: cbc.ca
Yay winter roads. Bleh!
Source: cbc.ca

Today it’s snowing. Again. A lot. Already this month we’ve had two terrible weeks of snow, including two days where my husband has even worked from home because the highways are so bad. Today is the second of those days.

I find myself staring out the window and finding it hard to actually, you know, write and work like I’m supposed to. And it’s not just the weather. I’ve been a good girl and I’ve actually finished almost all of my presents pre-December 1st (yes, I actually made almost all of them as well). I needed it done extra-early this year because of a wedding at the end of the month as well as an early date for my own annual Christmas party. No, I am not Martha; there are still pumpkins now frozen and stuck to my front steps, and the boxes of decorations are out, but haven’t spontaneously jumped onto the tree or mantle (though they better get a move on – the party is this Saturday!).

Instead, after taking all of last week “off” to do holiday-related stuff (read: shopping and getting out of the house after a week stuck in the house), I am studiously trying to write. I’ve started a new WIP (or re-started, depending on how you look at it). And mostly, I even like it, and have spurts of high inspiration for it. But mostly, I just want to curl up and do nothing, or possibly run away to my craft room and play. My excuses are plain: I have worked on rewrites almost the entire year. I have worked on making Christmas presents most of the latter part of the year (including the massive dollshouse for the kidlet, which is done too, btw – pictures hopefully next week). And right now, all I want to do is play. I do not want to be “good” and sit at my computer as I should and push out more words. I do not want to get the last few things done that I’ve promised for the wedding (and kind of need, like a dress for the kidlet). I want to be irresponsible. I want to do what I want.

Which then makes me think: but when I’m writing, aren’t I always doing just what I want to? What would be the purpose of writing a book that I don’t want to write? Rewrites are different, seeing as there comes a point when I think we all start to hate rewrites, and they’re simply a necessary evil. But just writing that first draft? There should be joy and fun there. And I am enjoying myself, especially playing with more modern language than I usually use, and two zany-type characters. And writing in a different POV is fun too, a bit easier than it sometimes is, though I miss the other perspective (no, I simply can’t be happy, can I?) 😉

And yet I still find myself longing for something else. For escape. Or maybe just to curl up and indulge myself.

What about you? Does December leave you feeling similarly? If not, how do you stay motivated to do non-holiday related things?

Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. Have a good one, happy writing, and a happy week to you out there!

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Playing and Making Writing Fun Again

Well, this will probably feel a bit strange, but first, I’m going to send you away from this blog post, because I just read a great post that inspired this one. So, go check out:

Dale Launer’s “Cure Writers Block”

In case you haven’t checked it out already, he talks about where he thinks creativity – and it’s opposite, writer’s block – come from, equating true creativity with “the child” and our negative inner editor with “the parent.” Seriously, check it out. Poke around on the page a bit, since a lot of the other essays are both very well written, and thought-provoking.

Which brings me to my post today: playing and making writing fun again. I recently started a new WIP that’s way out of my comfort zone, is something bizarre and weird, and which may never actually be seen by other eyes than my own. The reason: I needed to. I’ve been pushing myself very hard to continue with books in two different series, and the pressure of continuing to build on this, on over-analyzing what’s working – and what’s not – in all of these books has been completely freezing up my writing. Things aren’t going well, and I can’t quite decide how to fix it.

And this all brings me back to play. When I was studying French, the reason I really enjoyed it was being able to play with the language again, something I’d lost throughout other education and the degree in English Lit; playing with language really doesn’t seem to be encouraged. So how do I remind myself to play?

I think, honestly, it comes to trying to erase all the expectations.Maybe I’ll list them to try and break them down.

    • Writing in deep 3rd person, switching between the characters.  (But wait a minute, if this is just for me, who says that it sells better? Who says it even works better? Why not switch it up, start playing … sure, I’m all the way onto chapter 2 /3, but there’s nothing saying I can’t try something new for today.)

    • Traditional plotting methods, following hero’s journey model. (Again, who says? Does the climax have to be facing death? Where else could it take me?)

    • Following the lines of a well-known storyline. (Okay, this is something I’ve apparently done to  make my life harder, but if my premise is that the original story is all lies and a coverup, than it hardly constrains me, does it?)

    • There’s no market for an “orphan” manuscript like this. (Yeah, so? Is that the purpose of writing it? No. So just keep writing anyway.)

    • This may be unpublishable for a variety of reasons. (Does the purpose of all writing I do have to have the eventual goal of trying to get published? Writing is still writing, isn’t it? And being unpublished, isn’t this the opportunity and ideal time to indulge oneself in play?)

Pardon my very strange self-analysis, but I think I needed a bit of butt-kicking. Is my eventual goal publication? Certainly. So if I write something that may not be an ideal candidate, does that make it useless? Not at all. I’m reminded of this little card I picked up at a writer’s conference that tells the story of two fictional beginner pottery classes.

Class A was told to make one pot and make it the best pot they could, rewriting, reworking, and continuing on the same project for the month of the class. Class B was told to learn to make as many pots as they could during the duration of the class. So who made the best pot?

Class B, of course, because they kept experimenting and learning with each new pot they created, rather than sticking with only their first attempt. The end message? There’s no such thing as wasted writing or effort, and I’d be better off continuing to play and expand my skill by experimenting in each new WIP or exercise than sticking with attempting to revise my first flawed effort.

I don’t know about you, but off to play in the writer’s word-box right now. What about you? Do you have the courage to just play?

Have a great week, and thanks for reading.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Five Ways to Break Through Creative Resistance

Okay, so I was thinking about it, and while last week’s post discussed my own desire to break through my own creative resistance and fear, I didn’t really address how others can do this, which is kind of like cheating. After all, if the post isn’t useful to you, what’s the point?

So, first, let’s look at how to identify resistance in yourself. Do you have the following (or have you felt) the following symptoms:

– an almost irresistable urge to suddenly go clean or organize something rather than write or create what you’re supposed to?

– a sudden spatial aversion to going anywhere near your area of work – as though by not seeing the workspace, you don’t have to feel guilty about not doing work?

– a desire to watch hours of mindless television?

– a long list of mindless necessities that MUST be done before you do anything you “want” to do, like actually create?

– a mind whirring on all cylinders, but like a sieve and focusing on nothing?

– a sudden need to do all sorts of things you’ve either suddenly remembered but which haven’t been important for the past year, like reading that latest book, learning the rules of cricket, or cleaning the grout in the shower?

– a lack of time for creativity because it’s all been used up somewhere else?

These symptoms and many others – since resistance is a master at customizing itself for each of us – are a sure sign you’re facing resistance. What you do about it is part of what defines you in part as a person, and certainly as an artist and professional.

How to overcome resistance:

1 – Don’t quit. This sounds ridiculously stupid, I know, but here’s the thing: if you keep fighting, keep chipping away at whatever is blocking you, eventually you will break through the resistance. Indeed, it may take a few drafts to correct the section or get it how you want it, but at least you’ve been working, even if the pace isn’t as you’d like.

2 – Recognize the resistance for what it is: fear (almost always). Why is it there? Is it valid? What are you going to do about it? There are lots of games where you encounter a monster or something, and your choices are to either face and try to beat it, go around, or run away. Which will you choose?

3 – Go around. Resistance is wily, but so are you – can you go around it? Beating your head against the brick wall won’t get you through – but there’s probably a door or window in the wall, so why not go that way? Allow yourself another option to get through or in.

4 – Work up to it. Perhaps it’s one particular aspect of your creation that is causing creation, because it’s so essential to the plot, it brings up issues from your past, it will be so visible, it isn’t something you’ve done before, etc, etc. So, lead yourself up to it, gently, like leading a child frightened of a dog up to the dog. Don’t jump or startle the dog, but make friends first, make it friendly, and move slowly forward. Eventually, the dog will be running along beside you.

5 – Release rigidity and the need for perfection – especially in a first draft or attempt. We may want things to be “just so,” but it’s amazing the places you can be taken if, instead of ordering and demanding your work go somewhere it clearly doesn’t want to, you follow and see where it may lead to. This is similar to brainstorming, when you don’t reject any possibility, and instead let form and imagination carry you.

For further reading and suggestions to overcome your own resistance, I highly recommend to any artist – writer or other – the following books (no big surprises here if you read the blog  – I’ve recommended these books before):

The Writing Warrior by Laraine Herring

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles


So, has this helped you out? Have you broken through resistance? Have you found other methods work for you? Please, share so they may help others. Otherwise, thanks for reading, and have a great week.