Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Refilling the Well

One of the authors at the recent Ninc conference said, “Don't think of writing as draining your mental energy so you need to refill the creative well. Think of writing as recharging your batteries so that the more you write, the more you'll want to write.”

In a way, this is true. Once you’re on a roll, it’s a glorious feeling. The story flows and you don’t want to stop or interrupt your train of thought.

But how about when you’re in between books? I’ve heard other writers say they write every day, or they take a week off and then start the next story.

Me, I’d rather take off a few weeks or more to catch up in all the things I put off when I’m on a project. I can keep going with one book after another for only so long. Eventually, I reach a saturation point where I feel as though I can’t write another word. I don’t want to sit at the computer in my writer’s cave every day while life passes me by. I’m not getting any younger.

Currently, I’m revising my WIP. It’s intense work because I don’t set a daily page quota. I start when I wake up and I quit when my brain feels fried. I need a break. A month or two looks good right about now. I’ll clean the office, sort files, catch up on emails, write blogs, go out to lunch, and go shopping. And I might even start plotting the next story. Once I do the character development and write the synopsis, I’ll be ready to roll again. In my view, this is part of the creative process.

It’s okay to keep the engine running but sometimes you need to shut it down for maintenance. It might turn on smoother from a fresh start. I know that I need a break after I’ve completed a few books. How about you?

10 comments:

  1. I am currently in one of those "shut down for maintenance" periods. This is the cleanest my house has been all year.

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  2. Nancy, I do write every day, save one. I take Sunday off. This recharges my batteries. Between contracted books I'll work on some new projects, keeping to a weekly quota. This has been my practice for 15 years.

    I can, however, see value in a longer break. I just think I'd get restless. The boys in the basement would be sending stuff up and asking what the heck was going on? Where's the sound of the keyboard?

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  3. Nancy, I recharge my batteries everyday between 2:00 and 3:00 when it's siesta time. But I try to go over my upcoming scene or chapter as I drift off to sleep. That way, my subconscious can keep working on any issues. I usually awake refreshed and ready to work.

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  4. It's risky for me to take time off from writing--if I don't have a deadline, I let too much time go by without an engine restart.

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  5. Kathryn, you make a good point. Put a time limit on the break, after which work begins anew. Lydia, it helps to feel organized, doesn't it? Less clutter makes things less complicated. James, if the boys in the basement knock on your door, it's time to let them in. Restless is good. It means it's time to get back to work. And Joe, I take that afternoon nap too but I need more time off betwen books. I should have added that it depends on your situation. You don't have the luxury for a break if you have to start the next contracted book right away.

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  6. Need a break after a few books!!!!

    You are aerobic endurance writing machines compared to my John Candy huff and puff.
    I completed my first draft a month-plus ago and have been pushing against a pull door since as i try to rectify a major miscue. I've been waiting for the boys downstairs to get the act together as i read multiple other excellent books in my genre and a number of revision 'how-to' texts(incl JSB).

    Your stamina is impressive. Your post has prompted me to get off my butt and start scratching.

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  7. Right with you on this one. I am in between projects. I have the premise, but not the characters or plot for the next one. I am thinking about dusting off one of my older ones and working on it for a while.

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  8. TJC, get to work! Remember the adage, BICHOK: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. If you wait for the muse, it might go on a perennial vacation. Set yourself a time limit for the break or sit down and figure out what's wrong with your story. Find a critique partner. That may help. And Doug, when you're ready, your mind will turn to your new premise and start kicking in with character details and plot threads.

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  9. I have recently come to the conclusion I need a serious refill. Between full time job, husbanding and parenting,
    podcasting, audiobook narration contracts (yeah, I finally got into the big time there but its starting to feel like a Pandora's box..what have I done)work at my church and my own writing I have run dry. Yesterday I found myself licking dust and some slimy black thing in the bottom of the cistern.

    Problem is, I have too much else to do such that my down time is simply task conversion time. I need a clone.

    ...or maybe just to quit a lot of stuff and not refill those spaces.

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  10. Congrats, Basil! Be sure to let us know which audiobooks you do!

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