You may have noticed that there was no blog post last week, and that I’m running a little late this week. Believe me when I say this is no excuse. I’ve been on vacation. I took a trip to Traverse City, Michigan to partake of wine tastings, rock hunting, and hanging out with some very dear friends at the Mitchell Creek Inn. And I wrote very little while I was there.
The plan was not to write at all – a sometimes tough task for a writer. I didn’t quite hit that goal because I had a couple of deadlines during the days that I took away from the real world, but I came pretty close. It was difficult the first couple of days. I went through withdrawals from feeling my fingers on the keyboard, the pen on the paper, and the constant stream of words flowing through my brain in my writer’s voice.
So, why not just take a few minutes and write each day?
I could tell you it’s because I was on vacation and I wanted to be lazy, but the truth is, it was because I really needed to refill my writer’s well. Making daily withdrawals from the well takes a toll when there’s nothing going back in. All too often, that’s how it happens with writers. We stay shut-in, rarely interacting with people or our environments, but building worlds and scenes, people and information products. Eventually, all that’s left in the bottom of the creative well is sludge, so occasionally it needs to be refilled, and I have some guidelines when I’m in refill mode:
- Take at least three days, but 5-7 is better, and get completely away from your normal environment. Don’t go visit family, and only go visit friends if you plan to do something more than just “visiting.” Whenever possible go somewhere completely new.
- Try something new every day, even if you do end up in a familiar location. It doesn’t matter if it’s tasting a food you would usually turn your nose up at or getting on a zip line for the first time. Hike, climb, bike, walk, eat, swim, explore, but most of all experience something new. The new is what refills the well. It gives you new experiences to draw from.
- Don’t write any more than is absolutely necessary during these days. If you have a daily writing or morning pages habit, continue with that, but resist the urge to do more than the daily minimum. And if you need to record details in reporter’s’ notebook, keep them brief. Hold as much as you can in. Save it until you get home. Let your writer’s brain mull it over, turn it inside and out, and play with all of the new experience that you’ve had.
- Plan a day of downtime when you get home. Vacationing makes you tired. You’re constantly in motion, absorbing new experiences and when you get back to your familiar environment your body and your brain just want to relax. Don’t fight it. Rest well.
- Then write. Write about your experiences, about everything you saw and did. Write the characters you saw or created. Write the scenes that rolled through your brain. Write the stories you heard or imagined. Just write.
As writers, we are constantly taxing our creativity. Without adding experiences, you will eventually run out of material to draw from. For me, taking a break from writing a couple of times a year is essential. When I do, I find that just about the time that I’m struggling to come up with things to write, I take a break, come back and I’m ready to roll again.
These are my guidelines. They work for me, but they may not work for you. What does? Share your well-filling strategies with us below.