Take a Deep Breath & Press the Creative Reset Button

Monday, July 11, 2022

Raise your hand if you had a rough week. Or few months. Or year. Or it feels like things have been rough, in general, for a very long time.

Good, I'm not alone.

From being ghosted to an endless borage of rejections, writing hasn't been very fun lately. It's been one of those times where I'm baffled that I can put a sentence together let alone make a living off of writing in some capacity. 

If you've ever been there or are currently there, I hope you know that I understand.

I realized that when writing has become too much work and less creatively play, a sneaking feeling of being jaded comes in. In fact, I love Merriam-Webster's second definition of this word:

(2) made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience or by having or seeing too much of something

Ain't it the truth?

I've decided I need more creativity in my writing universe. In fact, I think it's a must. Here are a few ways I plan to do it, and hopefully, these ideas will inspire you too:

1. Read more.

Whether it's books, short stories, narrative essays, or poetry, reading can spark a fire in my creative self. I love when I become enveloped in a piece of writing in some capacity. It isn't as easy for me to make time for a book for a variety of reasons, but I want to make time for it. Even if it's during my lunch break at work, or while waiting on the Instacart shopper to finish, I plan to take more reading breaks, just for the pure enjoyment of it.

2. Collect words.

I write dental copy for my day job and there are only so many times I can say how a cosmetic service will "enhance" your smile without getting sick of writing it. So, I look for other words to use and collect them as I find them. Thanks to this habit, I've also begun to collect words for my creative writing purposes. Some words are objects, some are places, and others are creative ways I witnessed a writer describe something. Whatever word I see that strikes a chord within me, I keep it. Of course, this requires me to observe writing as well as become ensconced in it but I am trying to improve on that. 

Here are a few I've come up with lately: harbinger, darkened streets, tilt-a-whirl, an old suitcase, an old grocery list, and a zoo gift shop. Just looking at these words fills my creative side with delight.

3. Become curious.

While not entirely impossible, I don't imagine myself becoming a world traveler anytime soon. So, since I can't go to the world, I like letting the world come to me. I recently signed up to receive emails from Atlas Obscura which talk about different destinations around the globe. I also just signed up for National Geographic emails too. I worry as adults our curiosity instinct diminishes a bit unless we exercise it actively. My curious side is often a direct gateway to my creative side and so by feeding it, I believe I'll be more inspired.

4. Collect writing prompts.

I know not every writer is a huge fan of writing prompts, but I love them. In fact, some of my more successful short stories have come from prompts. Even if you aren't immediately inspired, if a prompt leads you to feel "Huh, that's interesting," then keep it!

If you find prompts hard to come by, you may consider signing up for "The Time is Now" newsletter from Poets & Writers Magazine. I also save clippings of articles found on Google News Archive Search. Other times ideas come from calls from literary magazines that have a  theme. Even if I don't imagine writing something in time for the deadline, I like saving the theme so I can remember it for later.

5. Allow false starts.

Sometimes the pressure of finishing something can be terrible for creativity. When I'm stuck in the weeds of revising and submitting, I often feel I have to complete all first drafts otherwise it will be useless. However, there is a lot to be said for half-finished stories. 

Letting myself be imperfect and letting go of the idea that my stories need to be finished no matter what is freeing. So, I'm allowing myself to have incomplete stories. Many times I'll go through old notebooks (digital and paper) and discover these half-finished pieces or snippets and feel inspired again. This happened with a story of mine that I found and ended up finishing years apart from starting it.

When you are having a bad season of writing, I think the crux of feeling better is by returning to that love of creativity you had before writing became a job. And remember, writing can feel like a job whether or not you are getting paid for it. 

So, even if you aren't able to take a long break from the work of writing, even a 20-minute break of wordplay of some kind, or reading a book for pleasure, can return you to your creative self. 

So, if you are having a bad writing time, take a breath and press the creative reset button.

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. When she's not hunting down the right word, she's talking to God, reviewing books on her writing blog, watching movies, hanging out with family, and daydreaming. Her work has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not, WOW! Women on Writing, The Voices Project, and Sky Island Journal. Read her musings at WorldofMyImagination.com.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--You had me at "rough." Seriously.

I love writing prompts too. I especially love the ones that initially make me think, 'I got nothin,' after reading over the prompt. Almost always, after letting it sit for a few minutes, the words start flowing.

Here is a prompt you might not have seen. After viewing the video (it's less than a minute), begin a piece with the words "Don't tell."


Have fun...

Anonymous said...

Great tips. I too like to colect words.

Deborah-Zenha Adams said...

This is exactly what I needed this morning, Nicole. Even though I have a strategy that turns rejections into rewards, there's a limit to how many rejections a woman can receive before she curls herself into a tight ball and whimpers the day away. Thanks to your suggestion, I'm off to research Wildest Dreams travel destinations.

Renee Roberson said...

Nicole--I am suffering from a BAAAD case of burn-out, and I think it's because I write so much for my day job. I'm trying to figure out how to outsource more of it, but the summer has been tough because a lot of local writers I work with are on vacations or needing to take a few months to help care for their kids who are home all day for the summer. I've even hit a wall when it comes to brainstorming my podcast content, and you know how much I love that! I've found that reading for pleasure the past few months has been so helpful. There's nothing like reading a good book and watching it get adapted into a streaming series or movie to light a fire under me! It sounds like you are doing what is necessary for you, too, don't be too hard on yourself!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I think it also pays to take time off. When we were in Texas, I didn't write. At all. By the time we got home I had two new ideas. It was like a week long pajama day w/o the pajamas.

On Pajama Day, I must stay in my pajamas all day and do whatever I want. Not running around? Revitalizing for this introvert.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Nicole ~ That sucks about the rejections, but we all love your writing here at WOW, and this post rocks! :) Perfectionism is a real problem of mine, so I love your tip on being imperfect and letting go. Creative mistakes and letting your imagination run wild is what makes a piece of writing interesting. I collect words, too, and subscribe to Dictionary.com's Word of the Day, and then try to incorporate those words into my writing. I just signed up for The Time is Now. I also subscribe to Atlas Obscura and Nat Geo. Sometimes I think I subscribe to too much! Anyway, you've inspired me to do some fun reading today, so thank you! :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Yes to reading! I'm all for taking a writing break and reading instead; it always seems to inspire me, Nicole. But it has to be a book that grabs you, pulls you in--or maybe even a series--but good enough that you don't think about anything else. And then fwoosh, the door to creativity opens when you least expect it!

Nicole Pyles said...

@Deborah: Absolutely! Rejections bring me down no matter how hard I try to deny it.

@Renee: Same to you Renee! Don't be too hard on yourself either. You do such great work and great writing!

@Sue: That's a great point! Taking a break actually helps a lot.

@Angela: Ooo Word of the Day is a great idea actually!

@Cathy: Oh yes, it must be a book that just sweeps me in!

Nicole Pyles said...

@Sioux - totally didn't realize I forgot to reply to your comment. But I LOVE that prompt!

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