Writers write. That’s true. We’ve all been admonished a million times to park our behinds in our chairs and just write. Sometimes—maybe even most of the time—that’s what we need to do.
But nobody can write all the time, unless you want to end up like Jack Torrance in The Shining, typing pages and pages of madness and hacking down doors with axes. In order to define our writing as writing and hang on to our sanity in the process, we have to have non-writing to surround it. The rich shadowy darkness of creativity is only visible when it’s contrasted with the light of everyday life.
The trick to this is to have an arsenal of non-writing things you can depend on to refresh your spirit. The list will be different for everyone. Here are six things from my list:
Walking. Not power walking for exercise, but just ambling through the neighborhood, picking a different route every time. Sure, the exercise gets my blood circulating, but the solitude, the fresh air, the sunshine (or the rain)—it’s a great way to get away from the computer, but at the same time a terrific incubator for new ideas. I like to recite dialog as I walk, to hear what it sounds like. Yes, the neighbors wonder about me.
Showers. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but water does a lot more for me than get me clean. The solitude again, the sound, the primitive rushing feel of the water—when a particular plot point is blocking my progress, it’s amazing how often I figure it out in the shower. I keep a notepad in the bathroom so I can get things written down before I forget them. I tried one of those waterproof-notepad gadgets but I kept dropping the special underwater pen. If I get a really good idea I just scramble out of the shower and drip all over everything while I write.
Stargazing. I learned the constellations as a child, but you don’t have to know Ursa Major from Cassiopeia to appreciate the enormity of the night sky. After a while it makes writing-related problems seem much less important. You can muse on what your characters would see and think at night—the stars will be pretty much the same (well, in the northern hemisphere…and a star map will show you constellations in the southern hemisphere) to anyone in any time and place. I thought of this when I wrote a scene for THE RED LILY CROWN in which my heroine awakens from being drugged and abducted and looks up at the sky to orient herself:
There, that was the North Star, just as Ruan had taught her. Her own stars, the curling tail and spread claws of the Scorpion, were on the opposite horizon, so that was south…
I felt that scene because I knew what the sky would have looked like, deep in the darkness. Continue reading