Us readers, writers and artists have a tendency to live inside of our own heads. This can sometimes lead to feeling isolated or creatively stagnant. If left long enough in this state, we simply run out of ideas, or the motivation to be creative.
In university I took a course called ‘The Creative Process’ meant to teach creative people how to overcome ‘writer’s block’ or whatever you choose to call it, depending on your discipline. Something I learned from this course is the value of new experiences. The easiest and most effective cure for feeling stuck or stagnant is to get out into the world and experience something new.
Back in university, we called these “Artist Dates”. As a part of our ‘twelve-week program’ to getting over writer’s block we were told to take ourselves out on a date once a week. These dates had a couple of rules:
You must go alone
You must do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do
You must do something different each time and…
You must make the best of it
The word ‘date’ is kind of misleading. This isn’t taking yourself out to a dinner and a movie, unless that’s something you don’t usually do on your own and you’d like to give it a try. It’s simply referring to doing something for your creative self and with your creative self. Some examples of things I did and that you can try are:
Hop on a bus and see where it takes you
Go to the dollar store, buy $5 worth of crafting supplies and see what you can make
Try a new discipline. If you’re a writer, paint and if you’re a painter, try poetry or music.
Go for a hike, or swimming, or find a beach.
I don’t go on Artist Dates regularly anymore, but every once and awhile I will make time to nurture my inner artist by stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing the world. For example, last night I attended a life drawing class put on by Sho: Art, Spirit and Performance. I went by myself, tried something I’ve never done before, and had an experience that I can later hopefully draw from in some creative way. Best of all, I got out of my own head for the evening.
Have you ever taken yourself out on an Artist Date? Would you try it? Let me know in the comments below.
As writers we often get a lot of well-meaning, but ultimately harmful advice. One such example is the adage, ‘write what you know’ which has some truth to it, but leaves non-scientist science-fiction writers and purely imaginative fantasy writers out in the cold. Another bit of advice I hear a lot is ‘write every day’ or the even more potentially harmful saying, ‘writers write.’
These sayings come from a good place, but to those writers who aren’t currently writing, they can come across as a bit… judgmental. Writing is an art. It is a passionately driven creative endeavor that takes a lot of time, energy, and focus. It is also sometimes dependent on that creative spark that prompts artists to create. Sometimes writers find themselves between projects or on a break and sayings like ‘writers write’ can make those writers feel shame for not writing. It can make them feel less than writers, which is blatantly false.
Now, I’ve given the advice, ‘write every day’ or ‘write as often as possible’ on this blog and when asked for writing advice. What I meant was, write every day, where possible, while you are working on a writing project. The goal here is to stay motivated and ‘in the zone’ so to speak so that the words flow more easily and you don’t lose sight of the various plot threads you are weaving. It is not to intimidate anyone into thinking they are doing it wrong if they don’t write day in and day out.
Writing, especially something the length of a novel, takes a lot out of a person. It is perfectly okay and acceptable to take some time off afterwards. Also, no two writers are alike and their processes differ as much as their levels of experience do. Some writers will need or want more or less time to complete a project and more or less time between projects as well. And this is fine!
So yes, writers write, but they don’t have to be doing it all the time to be considered writers. Sometimes its okay to wait for one’s muse to visit. Sometimes that results in better ideas and a healthier outlook on this art we call writing.