Today’s Writing Wednesday post was written by my friend Angela Lam. Once, a few years ago, Angela traveled all the way from California to speak to my middle school students in Tomah about her memoir Red Eggs and Good Luck. She shared with us the ways in which she wrote about her life in her pre-teen years and how real life can be a source of inspiration, even when real life is hard or confusing. It was a great experience for all of us. Today, in celebration of the release of her new book, The Divorce Planner, Angela is here to talk with us about creativity.
Just like any natural resource, creativity needs to be nurtured and replenished. Otherwise, the creative well dries, leaving you stranded in the middle of a project. How do you keep your most precious commodity fully engaged and optimally functioning? Over the past twenty years of writing, painting, and other creative pursuits, I’ve learned a few techniques to keep your creativity flowing.
You can’t keep planting, tilling, and harvesting the same soil without rest. Neither can you continue to produce creative work without a break. The poet David Bromige called the process, “laying fallow.”
Don’t feel guilty taking a vacation between projects. Your body and your mind need restoration.
Even if you can’t take off two weeks, you can switch projects or activities to let your mind rest. If I am working on a contracted novel but get stuck, I might take a day off to paint a landscape. This process allows me to continue using my creative muscle in a different way, allowing the rest of my mind to unravel the knots in the story.
Don’t forget daily breaks. After every hour, take a ten minute break. Go for a walk. Drink a glass of water. Eat a healthy snack. Pet the dog. Fold a load of laundry. Pay the bills.
Limit your breaks the same way your work day is limited. I set a timer, so I never exceed the time allotted, both for work and for breaks.
Reading other writers while you’re working on a project infuses ideas, sparks freshness, and keeps the momentum going. Some writers can’t read others while they are writing. I understand.
I prefer reading something other than my genre when I’m deeply immersed in writing a first draft. Subsequent drafts, when I’m focused more on technique, benefit from the rich resource of reading other writers who have written in the same genre. I learn everything from sentence structure to character development through the wealth of knowledge in other authors’ stories.
Workshops/Conferences/Other Group Activities
Writing is a lonely profession. I spend hours at my keyboard, away from human contact. When I am working with editors, I usually correspond by email. No one calls on the phone to chat or meets me for coffee to discuss plot points or character development.
This year the loneliness became unbearable, so I signed up for a meet up group to network with other working writers twice a month.
Needing an extra boost, I flew across country for a one day symposium at Hunter College. In a room full of other writers at various stages of their careers and several panelists specializing in fiction, memoir, and literary representation, I met and mingled with new people, making friends and sharing stories.
Isolation, no matter what your profession, isn’t healthy. Online relationships, at least for me, are not the same as walking into a room full of people you can shake hands with or embrace. I need to see the laughter on your face, hear the joy in the timber of your voice, feel the comfort of your support in the way you squeeze my hand.
When I was working full-time for a large corporation, I craved the time alone to write. Now that I am writing full-time, I need consistent interaction with others who understand the unique challenges of this chosen field. Having a support group boosts creativity and reduces loneliness.
In closing, sometimes writer’s block is your body’s way of telling you to step away from the page. Go on vacation, or at least, take a ten minute break. Read the works of others. Find a support group in which you can meet on a regular basis to keep each other fresh and inspired. If you take care of your creativity, you will be rewarded.
Angela Lam’s latest novel The Divorce Planner, a contemporary midlife sweetheart romance, debuted in May 2020 from The Wild Rose Press. Her next novel under contract, Friends First, explores the unique relationship between two broken people. She is currently writing a romantic trilogy focused on a senior softball tournament team and exploring the option of writing outside her genre under a pseudonym. You can reach her online at www.angelalamturpin.com, Author and Artist Angela Lam on Facebook, and @authorangelalam on Twitter.