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Q: Last month you talked about getting past writer’s block. Once I’ve gotten past it, how do I keep my creative momentum going so it doesn’t happen again?
A: Excellent Question! Each writer will find his or her own methods for keeping the words flowing.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Make your writing a real priority, every day. Remember Jane Yolen’s ‘B.I.C.’ (Butt in Chair) mantra? Take it to heart and put it in action. Make your writing the first thing you do each day, if possible. If this isn’t possible, get out your calendar and see where else you can fit a block of writing time in your day. You don’t have to write the same number of minutes at the same time of the day to make writing a daily routine. Maybe it’s four hours on Monday, forty-five minutes on Tuesday, and so on…the point is that you are indeed writing for a portion of each day. Not worrying that you’re not writing, or making excuses for not writing. Scheduling daily writing time is making a lifestyle change that enables your creative projects to grow day by day. It means you’re taking your literary dreams seriously. And if you don’t take your writing seriously, how can you expect the people around you to take it seriously, too?
Make a creative sanctuary somewhere, somehow. Most writers (whether full time or part time) don’t work in a big office building downtown like most people who have a job to do. No, we work at home. Which means it’s shared space and we are not spared the possibility of distractions. Therefore, it’s vital to establish some sort of ‘sacred space’ for our creative work. For example, you may not have the luxury of a spare room in your house, complete with a door to lock when you’re working. But you can still make a creative sanctuary within the space you do have available. Maybe it’s a corner of the bedroom with a folding screen that can be put up to make a sort of ‘work cubicle’ that separates it from everyday life. Maybe it’s the dining room table, which most households rarely use anymore for formal dinners; or the ‘family office’ counter area in your kitchen. With the use of a laptop, any quiet space can become your office on the spur of the moment: your back porch, the local coffee shop, or your car, when you are waiting to pick up your kids from band practice. Some writers stay in bed all day, scribbling on a yellow note pad, because the reclined position and comfort under the comforter help them channel their creativity in a way unlike any other. I’ve read that Stephen King wrote his first novel late at night, in the hall closet, with a typewriter balanced on his lap. Where there is creative will, writers will find a way!
Make it personal to set yourself up for success. If you are romancing words, don’t forget to set the mood. Notice what helps your creative juices flow, then make sure those elements are in your environment whenever possible. Being interrupted, for example, is a common complaint. You may not be able to lock a door, but you can send signals to those around you that you are officially ‘in the zone’ and not to be disturbed (except for tornado warnings). These include a burning candle, a hanging ‘do not disturb’ sign, a red flag outside the workspace, a special hat or even head-phones. Head-phones have the advantage of turning an noisy space into a quiet space….or even providing mood music to create by. Classical music? New Age? Heavy Metal? Nature sounds? You choose the soundtracks that fuel your creativity best. If you find a scent in the air helps you concentrate, try incense or fragranced candle. Surround yourself with talismans that help you connect to your creativity if you have a physical space that enables this: a daily affirmation on a sticky note by your keyboard? A stone or statue of special meaning to your creative spirit? All writers are creative but not in identical ways. We are unique. Knowing what inspires us personally, and then making sure our muses have what they like surrounding them, increases our chances of success.
This our just a few ideas of how you can simply, and affordably, create conditions that help you keep your creative momentum going. While going on a writers retreat is certainly a treat…please remember that you have it in your power to create a mini-retreat mindset and environment for yourself each day.
Happy Writing! Dianne
Dianne Ochiltree is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her books have appeared on numerous recommended reading lists, classroom desks and library shelves. Her bedtime book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE, was a selected for the Dollywood Foundation’s childhood literacy initiative, Imagination Library in 2007. Her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! THE LEGEND OF MOLLY WILLIAMS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER, received the Florida Book Awards (FBA) Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012 and was chosen for the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature for girls. Her picture book, IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT, won the FBA Silver Medal in 2013. Her 2015 title, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, was given the FBA Gold Medal/Gwen Reichert Award as well as the Gold Medal for Florida picture book from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. For more information about Dianne’s books, go to http://www.dianneochiltree.com.
Dianne, thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Another great answer.
REMEMBER: To send in your questions for Dianne.