Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Creative Spark - Exercises for the Burned-Out Writer

Ever been in a position where you feel like your writing well has gone dry? Maybe you're in between projects, discouraged by some disappointing writing/contest feedback, or you're just in a place where you feel like writing has become a ho-hum event.

When we take those first few steps to become a writer, especially a fiction writer, the process is almost magical. Everything seems possible. We could be a NYT bestseller. We could write stories that God uses to bring hope and healing to people's hearts. We could be authors. Our books may even make it to bookstores.

But have you noticed time has a way of dulling that excitement, even perhaps making us cynical? The edges of those dreams grow frayed and even sharp with each disappointment the road brings. But is that the way it has to be?

I don't think so. While some disappointments may be inevitable for growth, I think we can find our footing, so to speak, in any situation.

So here are some suggestions if you're feeling your creative spark has fizzled out!

  • Pick up a new book to read, even a new genre. I did this just recently... I decided it was time to branch out and read some genres I don't usually. I was shocked how much this pushed me out of my comfort zone and stirred fresh excitement in me about my own writing.
  • Don't be afraid to write just for fun. Remember those days when writing wasn't about what a publisher/agent might reject or following a certain set of rules? Even staying true to your selected genre/brand? Remember how much fun writing could be? It can be that way again. Even if it's only a page or two, write something you've always thought would be fun, even if it's way out of the box. Who knows! Maybe you'll spark a new story idea, or if nothing else, you'll recharge your writing energy.
  • Go back through old manuscripts you've long forgotten and remind yourself what a great writer you are. Sometimes we become overly critical of ourselves when we get very invested in a manuscript. While it's oh-so-important to self-edit and accept criticism, it's also important to remember the people who have invested in us and why we're writing in the first place. Don't be so focused on what you're doing wrong that you can't see what you're doing right! I have found if I go through old manuscripts, while I sometimes cringe, I also sometimes laugh at lines I'd long forgotten. Give yourself a confidence boost by remembering stories that once held your heart and time.
  • Get our of your comfort zone. Go to a park and people watch. Interview someone with the same job as your main character. Try zip lining or attend an animal adoption event if that's what your characters do. We tend to get comfortable in a writing routine. You'll be surprised what pushing yourself beyond that routine can do!
  • Pray, pray, pray. If you see your writing as a ministry/calling, you will go through dry spells. It's as simple as that. Pray God will cause a spring to shoot up in your desert season. Not only will it refresh you, but it will also take your writing to a new layer of depth as you come to depend solely on Him.

Do you ever find your writing spark has fizzled? What do you do to get it going again?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ashley, this makes so much sense! Yes, whatever we need to do to come up with our own version of "Plan B" (Tina Radcliffe jump-started some of us late-bloomers in Seekerville with this idea) it works!

I often read out of genre, and I read a lot of non-fiction (SHH!!!! DON'T BE A SNITCH BABY, TINA WAS JUST COMING UP WITH A MEME ABOUT READING FICTION AND ANGELS GETTING WINGS, AND MY ANGELS MUST BE CURRENTLY WALKING!!! YIKES!) but I find that jump-starts my brain into the direction I want/need to take.

Excellent blog!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Ashley, I loved this post. I have found that reading in a new genre sparks creativity. It's fun to see how other authors write—make their stories come to life.

And to be honest, I'm a wee bit nervous about going through an old manuscript. I'm afraid I'd groan at what I thought was great writing. ;) On the other hand, I guess it would give me an idea of how I've grown as a writer.

Thanks for sharing this today.

Angela said...

Thanks for the burst of encouragement.

Unknown said...

Thanks Ashley....I've found that reading your old pieces actually boosts your self confidence...I do hope I'm not doing anything wrong my posting my blog's link here tho...You could check it out as I read your blog