Friday, November 18, 2011

Replenishing Your Creative Juice

Let's welcome Jenny Hansen from More Cowbell for another Life List Friday! I'll be over at David Walkers blog talking about gratitude, and believe me, it is not a post to be missed! Take it away Jenny!


 As most of you know, November is National NovelWriting Month – NaNoWriMo to all of us frenzied writers. I prepped for it mostof October, anticipated it all year…and have been unable to participate in itfor most of November due to illness.

November has been a hiney-dragging month for me. I’vehad TEN days of work/family/writing time wiped out. Gone. POOF! Since theprognosis is pleurisy, I'm likely to have several more days go “poof.”

This is why so many of us have multiple layers toour goals. NaNoWriMo is my writinglover for November, but I do ROW80 and Life List Clubyear round. ROW80 is “the writing challenge that understands you have a life.”Life List Club is an effort to make sure that ALL the areas of your life aregetting attention. (If you click on the Life List Club tab under the title ofthis blog, Jennie has given a great description of it.)

Whatdo you do when you get behind on a project (like NaNoWriMo)?

Do you ever have those weeks where it feels likeyou're dragging your tired little backside from here to there, and nevergetting anywhere? Do you: Drink, cry, read, clean, sleep work, write, watch TV,or just “do the next thing?”

My solution, almost always, is to work. For somereason, having to deliver a product,class or document smooths my mind. It makes me feel productive and, somehow, incharge of my fate.

Life, death, kids, pets, illness all knock us offour rails sometimes and it's good to have an escape plan for the milddepression that usually lurks on the other side of these events. At the veryleast, an understanding of how you personally cope with stress will make a hugedifference in whether it's a setback or a show-stopper.

What do you do when your creative juice is running low?

courtesy google images
Many of my NaNoWriMo brethren are feeling a littlelow on the juice right about now. Whether it's an autumn illness or a knottyplot problem, here are some writing exercises and techniques I use for jump-startingmy creativity when it misbehaves or gets lazy.

1. Blogging

Yes, believe it or not,blogging gets me all fired up and actually helpsmy WIP, rather than taking away from it. Plus this year for NaNo, I bloggedahead THANK GOD. Being so ill used every one of my surplus posts so now I’mback to writing on demand. Try free writing some blogs – you’ll be amazed atwhat you can do.

2. Participate in goal-basedchallenges

Like I said above,participating in several has actually been a help to me because they all havedifferent goals. If I fall down in one, I can usually still achieve somethingsomewhere else. It’s been much better for my self-esteem to do it this way,rather than the old way where I wanted to drown my sorrows or stop writing “fora while” when I missed my goal milestones.

3. Interview the characters in yourmanuscript

I learned this trick from the incredible Leanne BanksInterviewyour characters and ask them provocative questions like:

§ What are you most proud of?
§ What was your most embarrassing moment?
§ What is your biggest fear?
§ What did your parents teach you about sex?
§ What did they teach you about love?
§ What is your biggest shame?
§ What is your secret wish?

4. Take a break

Julia Cameron swears by taking a walk to clear her mind for writing.Several writers knit. I have a friend who sets a timer and cleans for 20minutes. Whatever it is that you do to clear your mind, try that instead ofjust giving up for the day when your writing laughs at you and calls you nastynames.

Bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips admits to being a slowwriter. After a lot of angst and experimentation, what worked for her infinishing her manuscripts was a state-of-the-art digital timer. She sets it fortwo hours each day that she writes. If she answers the phone or checks email,she stops the timer. She said some days it takes the entire day to do two hoursbut she keeps at it.

What works to amp you up when your creative juice is running low? Are youparticipating in any goal-based programs right now? How are they going for you?

I wish you happy writing this week! Don’t forget to click on over to David's place to see Jennie!

About Jenny Hansen

Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’sfiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking BabyGirl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for anaccounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s diggingthis sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell,Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In TheStorm. Every Saturday, she writes the RiskyBaby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, newparents and high-risk pregnancy.


Donna K. Weaver said...

I tried NaNo last year, and it was so not for me. Not only did I have too many distractions in my life but my mind really wasn't in it as much as I'd tried to prepare for it. This year is very different, and I'm grateful for having a much larger group whose been very supportive as they participate as well.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oh, and I meant to say I hope your pleurisy gets better (had to look it up because while I'd heard of it I couldn't remember what it was).

Joanne said...

I swear by walking too. Something about it clears my thoughts and brings focus to the writing project at hand. One step, and word, at a time :)

Abby Fowers said...

WOW! This is a post worth bookmarking! Wonderful information here.

LM Preston said...

Oh this is just what I needed. My writing has ebbs and flows and staying connected with other writers carry through those slow times.

Marcia Richards said...

Great tips and I can vouch for how every one of them works! Now go back to bed...get better!

Emily R. King said...

All wonderful advice! And thanks again for the book. I can't wait to read it! Feel better soon!

WilyBCool said...

I find inspiration in the outdoors a lot. Great connection to the creative spirit!


Great post, thank you.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Oh my gosh. That is the BEST blog name EVER! More Cowbell? Awesome.:D Wonderful advice as well. ;)

Jenny Hansen said...

Donna - I'm so glad NaNo is working for you this year. My original goal was 30K and I'm still working toward that. Thanks for the wishes!! Pleurisy hurts like hell, but it's getting better. :-)

Joanne - There really is something about changing venue, and getting some fresh air, that stimulates the words for me too. But even a walk around the house will sometimes get me unstuck.

Thanks Abby! I hope to see you again, here and at More Cowbell. :-)

LM - I'm so glad! Sometimes that connection to other writers is all that keeps me going, I swear.

Marcia - I'm just up for a l-i-t-t-l-e while, to answer these wonderful comments!

E.R. - It's great to meet you here at Jennie's place!

Thanks, Wily!!

Chantele - I laugh every time I go to my blog. Kristen Lamb and I cooked up the name together and it feels like a gift. I'm glad you dig it too. :-)

i'm erin. said...

I love the character interview. In fact, that's exactly what I needed today. I've really been stumped on one of my mc. I thought I knew him, but I guess not so much. Thank you.

Sonia G Medeiros said...

Wonderful advice! I'm so sorry you've been sick. I had a nasty ear infection and I'm finally getting over it. It definitely made it hard to work. *sending healing thoughts and prayers your way*

Jodi said...

This is really great advice – and I'm definitely in need of some NaNo juice right about now. Setting a timer for writing sprints is one of the things that works for me... here's to hoping for a big word count weekend!

Christa said...

All great advice...can I be smug and say I'm glad I am not involved in NaNo this year (even though I would dearly love to be!)...November has been c-uh-razy!

Natalie Hartford said...

Get well soon Jenny!!! Love your advice - I use any number of those tactics to get re-energized and pumped back up. I, like you, get jazzed up off my blogging and I find taking a break always helps me clear my mind and get into a great mind set. Fab post - thanks for sharing your strategies with us!

jesswords10 said...

Oh Jenny, I empathize. I can't believe you're up to such creativity while being so sick on top of it. Just my cold and the extra hours at work has be crashing into bed the moment I come home. I'm way behind on Nano, and like you have used up my cache of extra blogs. One step at a time; we'll keep trucking. Feel better! So happy to have you in the life list club.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I love this post. I love that you talk about recharging. I think this ties over for life, being a mom, wife, teacher, writer. Recharge.

hawleyville said...

Although I'm not NaNoing, my "tired little butt" has been right there with you this month! Great post and fun suggestions for overcoming - I think I might need to try the 'walk away one' a bit more!

jennyhansenauthor said...

Erin - That's awesome. I'll bet that character interview gets you "unstuck" in no time.

Sonia - Yep, but that's why they handed out those titanium panties to the LLC set...we keep trucking along, crappy health and all. :-)

Jodi - I predict a huge word count this weekend. Be sure to pass the juice around. There's a lot of tired Wrimos right now!

Christa - That's OK, we'll see you next November. I can feel it...

Natalie - Yep, you and me are born bloggers. There's no doubt that we'll always get fired up about it. :-)

Jess - Thanks, dahling!! I'm happy to be 'in the Club' and I'll tell you, that Jennie's a saint. She waited patiently till Thursday AM for this post!

Tasha - I just had the "forced" recharge and it was pretty humbling. Now, I just need to move forward making sure I do it "on purpose."

Pam - good on you, girl! I loved your post today. :-)

Jenna Cooper said...

Great post! I definitely agree with the keep working bit. And walking helps a lot, at least for me.

faith hope love... said...


Kathleen Doyle said...

These are some great suggestions to get through whatever wall is up! Thank you for sharing them=)

And, Mrs. Bennett, I have given you a blog award=)

Peggy Eddleman said...

I love the setting the timer and stopping it whenever you stop trick. I'm going to have to try that one! Awesome post.

Now I'm off to check out David's blog.