I haven’t really been focusing on writing so much lately, and it’s really hard on me because I want to stay as creative as I can while I’m busy. If I don’t stay creative, then when I find more time to seriously focus, I’m usually stuck in a block. While there are many ways to overcome a writer’s block, I’d rather avoid it in the first place. So how do I stay creative and focused when I’m busy?
There is more than one way to be creative. I named my blog Hypergraphia because when the creative energy overwhelms me, I tend to write over other forms of creative output. But when I’m not in a situation where I can write, there are other ways I can funnel my creativity to keep it flowing rather than blocking the energy.
Sometimes I draw. I’m not great at it, but I posted some of sketches here. I cannot draw people, but I can draw buildings fairly well (at least I think so, I’m trying to be an author, not an artist). When I can’t write, I draw scenery from my writing because it makes me feel like I’m still submersed in the world and it keeps my mind focused on what I’m writing.
I also play the piano. I don’t currently live with a piano, but while my family was in town, we gathered at a relative’s house and I remembered to bring my sheet music and I spent an hour at the piano. It felt so good to get those keys under my fingers again. Sometimes I write music, but I haven’t since high school when I lived with a piano. When I can’t play the piano, I listen to piano music. My iTunes and Spotify are full of piano music. It also helps with my headaches (which are every day), and it’s something that doesn’t distract when I’m writing.
Basically, try a new skill, or something you don’t do very often. It could be drawing, playing an instrument, gardening, cooking, writing in a different genre, anything. As long as it is something you don’t do on a regular basis, it’ll channel your creative energy in a positive way.
If you don’t want to learn a new skill, learn something new about someone or something you care about. The internet is there to present free information about anything you’re interested in. Or go talk to someone you see daily and ask them something new.
Plotting is a good way to focus creative energy and it can be done in little bits of spare time. It’s been a while since I put Rose to the side because it was seriously lacking in plot and originality, but that trilogy never left my mind. So whenever I have spare time, I start writing down ideas on my phone, in my notebook of randomness, wherever I can. Sometimes it’s long cohesive paragraphs, other times it’s a jumble of bullet points and unfinished sentences. Usually it depends on how much time I have to jot down the ideas.
Most ideas I get from tv shows and other books I read. For example, I talked about how Husband of Mine took me to see the new Cinderella movie a while back, and little tiny details of the story jumped out at me that I decided to make more important. I also took inspiration from the Ella Enchanted version of the Cinderella story by Gail Carson Levine because it never made sense to me why Cinderella would choose to put up with her obnoxious and overly demanding family (if you’ve never read Ella Enchanted, she was gifted as a child to be obedient to direct commands and doesn’t get to choose what to do), so I found my own way to explain why Cinderella can’t stand up to her family.
I finished (kind of) the Cinderella retelling outline, and I’m halfway through the Snow White one. I’m struggling to come up with ideas for Sleeping Beauty, but it’s a work in progress. Like I said, I plot in my spare time to keep my mind focused on writing and creating new challenges for my characters. Not everything I’m plotting will get used. Sometimes it’s just nice to write down as many ideas (no matter how ridiculous) as possible because it keeps your mind working creatively. It could also inspire your current project if you’re struggling with a block.
Going along nicely with that is making a master list of character names. My list is up to 45 names now. It’s fun to browse sites of names and pick ones or if you’re like me, change them around to create your own fantasy names. It keeps your brain working, but you can do it in whatever spare time is available.
Another good idea is to change up your routine. If you’re busy all the time because of work, take a different route (or form of transportation) there or home. Try a new recipe or restaurant. Rearrange your work space if that’s all you can do. If you’re not that busy, go for a walk. If you leave the house at the same time every day to run an errand, leave at a different time so you’ll see new people. Read a different genre (or magazine, newspaper, etc). Talk to someone new (or just observe). Listen to new music. It doesn’t always have to be a big change. Switching something up will keep you alert.
Question everything. If you ask a question, it forces your mind to ponder things in a different way than before rather than simply accepting things the way they are. It can also prod you to come up with a fake answer, which can be more fun than the right answer.
Unplug. I use my computer to write, but I also use a notebook and write things by hand. Sometimes stepping away from the virtual world and back into the real world can clear up your time as well as your mind. Take 5 minutes away from Facebook and go look out a window instead. Talk to people in person instead of through a text.
A super important one is to exercise. Make sure you’re taking care of your body. If you’re not, then you’re not taking care of your mind. Sometimes this can be time consuming, so break it up throughout the day. Rather than carving out an hour to go to the gym, do push ups (sit ups, jog in place, etc) every hour. It doesn’t take up that much time anymore. And in those few seconds you spare to exercise, your mind is clear. Note- Throwing a one song dance party is an acceptable form of cardio.
Reach a goal. It doesn’t have to be something crazy hard or time consuming like finishing a novel. It could be as easy as taking out the trash or staying off the internet for an hour (okay this one might not be as easy). But writing down a goal and getting to check it off brings a great sense of accomplishment that is inspiring. That feeling is indescribable.
All or any of these things will help keep you creative, even if you don’t necessarily have the time (or energy, in my case) to work creatively.
4 thoughts on “Staying Creative (When You’re Busy)”
Timely post. I'm still trying to find a balance. My current WIP is starting to annoy me. I could (a) push through it and *hope* I don't get burned out, or (b) give it a break and lose the momentum I've built up.
Le sigh. In the mean time, I've been getting my creativity fix from adding video/audio to my blog. Hopefully I'll soon come back to the WIP with renewed creativity 😉
I loved reading through your list of things to do to keep your creative juices going when you are not writing.
*whew* Lots of things!
I read with great interest about playing the piano. My Mom played for the church throughout our childhood and she practiced often. Those songs play throughout my head now and all through my life. I still see myself walking across the missile deck on a ship in the middle of the night, a .45 slung on my side as I protected nuclear warheads from theft, singing those old songs to the beat of Mom's playing!
Have you thought of buying a portable Piano Keyboard? They don't take up a lot of room for you can stow them standing on end and then unfold the platform and plug it in when you are reading to play.
I work on my inventions or other electric and mechanical things when I am not writing. I also take my books to read and study.
Anyway, I loved reading your blog! Thanks for sharing.
I've been trying to slowly teach myself to sketch because I have fleeting pipe dreams of illustrating textbooks (or just educational blog posts) one day. Due to my limited time, it's not going very well.
What's going great is my love for foreign languages. Thanks to Duolingo, I've managed to become semi-fluent in Portuguese over the last year. It's how I keep creative.
I find it’s easier to work with an empty page when I wake up. When I’m writing-heavy, I try to wake up early before work and write three pages in a distraction-free environment. When I come home, I go through the ideas and build on what morsels are working.
Good thoughts on writing on paper, but it can be time intensive to copy those down onto a computer. Have you considered trying a distraction-free device? My wife and I use a Pomera DM20 when we don’t want distractions or while we travel. The keyboard is in Japanese, but the UI can be toggled to English and is easy enough to figure out, with a little practice. I plan on posting instructions to our blog soon.
The DM20 is here, if you’re interested: http://www.amazon.com/KINGJIM-digital-Pomera-DM20-Lizard/dp/B002YQ2Z6A I’ve heard about a lot of other devices, but this one is perfect for light travel.