You’ve crossed the coveted NaNoWriMo finish line and celebrated it accordingly. But after a month of superhuman efforts to reach the desired word count, you might be feeling creatively depleted. Perhaps you’re so exhausted that completing your NaNoWriMo novel seems like an impossible chore. Or you’re finished, but are cringing at the thought of the revision process ahead.
We invited creativity coach and AROUND THE WRITER’S BLOCK: USING BRAIN SCIENCE TO SOLVE WRITER’S RESISTANCE author Rosanne Bane to get some tips on how to get out of the post-NaNoWriMo rut.
Congratulations! You completed a major writing project! Perhaps you completed NaNoWriMo – either with 50,000 words or with the knowledge that you showed up and put in a gallant effort toward your 50,000 words.
Maybe you completed a book proposal, a chapbook, your 500th blog post or your MFA. Maybe your editor approved the final draft of your book or you’re finally holding your just published baby.
The forms of writing accomplishment vary, but the exhilaration is the same. Relish how good completion feels. Take pride in your effort and the results. Exercise your bragging rights.
Because this afterglow will fade, and if you’re not prepared for what comes next, the aftershock can knock you off your feet.
After the Glow
To achieve a significant writing goal, you must exert a great deal of creative energy. Sometimes you complete a project and still have enough energy to circle back to the first stage in the creative process to start a new project. But creativity is not an unending assembly line, nor is it supposed to be.
Sometimes completing a project depletes your creative energy. You simply cannot start something new. Your mind is blank. Your creative juices have run dry. It seems like you’re trudging through a creative desert without a juicy idea in sight.
You’ve moved into the Hibernation stage. And if you don’t know what Hibernation is, it’s frighteningly easy to start to wonder what’s wrong with you and if you’ll ever write again.
As I explain in AROUND THE WRITER’S BLOCK, Hibernation is often mistaken for a creative block, but it’s a normal and natural part of the process.
Hibernation is the equivalent of letting a garden go fallow in the winter. It’s the quiet time when you recharge your creative energy and refresh your perspective. The urge to be constantly producing something, constantly busy doing “something important” may be as American as apple pie, but it doesn’t serve our creativity. Downtime is essential to long-term creative effectiveness.
Not knowing they’re in Hibernation, writers only frustrate themselves if they try to push back into production mode too soon. Attempts to force your way out of Hibernation only prolong it.
What will move you through Hibernation is whatever feeds your creative spirit and restores your creative energy: rest, naps, quiet time alone if you’re an introvert or if you’re an extrovert, hanging out with people who refresh your energy.
When I’m in Hibernation, walking my dogs through the woods by the Mississippi River is ideal. Most writers find their creative energy renewed when they spend time in nature. Museums and galleries can also be restorative. It helps to “read really good books, flip through coffee table books of photography and art, watch great films.”
You need to let the creative well refill itself. Be patient. Give yourself the time you need.
Beware the Ides of Marching On
The realities of freelancing can require you to juggle multiple projects in different stages. If you manage your creative energy well, you might skip or significantly shorten the Hibernation stage for some projects. Even when completing one project moves you into Hibernation, you might be able to keep working on other projects. Just keep in mind that your progress on the other project will be slower than it is when your creative battery is fully charged.
Moving while hibernating is a tricky balance to maintain. The only way you can recharge yourself to full capacity is to be sure that you bring in more creative energy with restorative Hibernation activities (reading, resting, being in nature and beauty) than you expend on other projects.
It will take longer to completely recharge your creative battery while using it to light another project. It might be more effective in the long run to surrender completely to Hibernation at times. You need to evaluation each situation; don’t assume you can deny Hibernation and push forward forever.
You owe it to yourself as a writer and to your readers (future as well as current) to ensure your longevity. That requires you understand, respect and even appreciate Hibernation.
Rosanne Bane is a creativity coach, teaching artist and author of AROUND THE WRITER’S BLOCK: USING BRAIN SCIENCE TO SOLVE WRITER’S RESISTANCE. She has given thousands of writers the tools to break through writer’s block and other forms of resistance. Read her blog at BaneOfYourResistance.com. Visit her website, RosanneBane.com. Keep up with her by liking her page on Facebook.
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