Blogger: Mary Keeley
Everything about this summer, especially a visit from out-of-state family, was a piece of heaven. But cooler temperatures and the scent of fall invigorate me physically, emotionally, spiritually, and creatively. The change of seasons does that for me. Today, I’m going to offer some simple suggestions that can help to refresh your creative spirit. Fortunately, revitalization doesn’t have to be limited to only a few times a year.
Your book has to be the best it can be to attract interest from an agent or editor. The competition is fierce. There’s no way you can soar through a plot problem or find the perfect word when you’re dull of mind. Here are my four offerings to recharge your creative juices. Add your own ideas to the conversation–ideas not merely for escape but that also promise constructive refreshment and stimulation of thought.
- Clear your head. Step away from your computer . . . and dare I say, away from reading and all things having to do with books and the publishing industry. I confess, I’m a type A personality. This one is hard for me. Anyone else in this category? Deliberately choose something different from your normal take-a-break activities. Ideally, take the time you need until you feel excited and eager to get back to work, not because you feel guilty about being away. Of course, if you’re under contract, your time will be restricted. But do allow for a little time completely away from work for constructive refreshment. Give yourself permission.
- Move your furniture around. Aside from the adrenaline rush of the physical exertion, the change helps you to view things in a new way. Purchase a new throw pillow or frame a favorite vacation photo to hang on an empty wall. I included this suggestion because I recently did this myself and was delighted by how rejuvenating this simple exercise was. What you do doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate.
- Go through old photos and home videos. It can help to re-set your anchor. Why is this important? Because your creativity will be hampered by guilt over neglecting your real-time priorities. It’s a delicate balance. Do something to nurture and care for those relationships God has blessed you with, and initiate a time discipline you’ll follow to maintain your priorities.
- Visit an older relative, friend, or a lonely person in a retirement home. Listen to them reminisce. Chances are their stories will ignite fresh thought and a perspective that perhaps wouldn’t have dawned on you otherwise. Younger writers might not have a thorough sense of history, including American history, since the trend in many public schools has changed to combine history and civics into one class: social studies. Listening to these old-timers may provide gems of wisdom. (Remember to take pen and paper with you to jot them down ideas right away.)
Whatever you do to rejuvenate, it needs to feel like something worthwhile, but not work. The old idiom, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a good reminder. Constructive time away will benefit you and your final project in clear and subtle ways.
Now let’s hear from you. If you’re feeling dull, what do you intend to do about it? What do you think will work best when you need productive refreshment?
I love this Mary. I was reminded of this last weekend when we went camping. I awoke at 4 am and couldn’t wait until daylight to search out the girl’s room. I was pleasantly inspired by the night, the stars, the crickets, the dewy damp air, the still quiet closeness of God. Yep, 4a.m.! Try that one some time. :o)
I agree Anne, that 4 am scene is an awe-filled moment. Sensing God’s presence in his beautiful, pure creation is precious refreshment.
Jennifer Major @Jjumping
Happy Friday Mary!!
I need to get my hands on an antique to re-finish/re-build. There’s something cathartic and invigorating about the scent and feel of power tools and wood dust. The buzz I get from my palm sander makes my arms feel like they’ve been to the dentist and the freezing is wearing off. And Varsol. WOOO! Oh, and the compound I use for dissolving old paint and varnish is enough to make me feel like the police should be asking me to walk a straight line. A proper vapour mask is extremely important. Otherwise, it’s buh bye brain cells.
Which I really need.
And actually do use.
When I need them.
For blinking and other involuntary muscle reactions.
Happy Friday to you too, Jennifer. You almost make me want to become a woodworker. I admire your talent. And I imagine your completed projects continue to give you a refreshing buzz. Now that’s productive.
Mary, I love this post. After ACFW, I’m definitely implementing some of your ideas. Don’t laugh, but I have begun to find weeding a good way to escape. Something about pulling them out by the roots, seeing the progress in clearing what was supposed to be a wildflower garden makes my heart happy. I’ve also found some fun writing ideas popping into my head while working on that too.
I also enjoy scrap booking, though I haven’t done any of that recently. 🙂
Have a wonderful weekend!
Jeanne, turning weed-pulling into a creative get-away is a double bonus. Enjoy your wildflower garden as you utilize those fresh ideas that pop up. Have a great weekend.
I’m just back from a vacation where I lived and visited museums in a place very different from home. Blog ideas sprang out of everywhere and I’ve got quite a list.
Half-written stories came to mind with different plot twists.
And then, of course, all that rich conversation with old friends prompted an explosion of ideas!
Visiting a different place, shifting your viewpoint, thinking about exhibits in a museum, all can inspire.
Michelle, thanks for mentioning museums. What a great place for ideas to spring forth. And of course meaty conversations, and different locale too. Your creative mind must be at bursting level. Can’t wait to read some of your future blogs.
I LOVE fall too. It’s just starting here in Arizona, and it’s soooo welcome after a hot summer.
This weekend, I’m getting away for a women’s retreat at my church. It’s at a resort in town and a bunch of my friends are going. I’m not even bringing my computer–just my swimsuit (still not so NOT hot that we can’t sit by the pool!) and a good book. I intend to soak up the relaxation before heading off to ACFW next week. I think it will be really good to recharge my batteries and stop obsessing for a bit about prepping my pitch, etc. 🙂
Great timing for this retreat, Lindsay. Sounds like you’ve already planned to put it to good use. Let us know how this time away benefited your ACFW experience. Have a great time.
Jennifer Major @Jjumping
Oooooooh, a ladies retreat!! SOunds AWESOME!! Are you going to file a report for your blog? Coughhintcough.
I agree with stepping away from the computer. I have a dog who always wants (OK demands) attention so I get up and take her for a walk. Sometimes it is good to go a different route than our usual one. We sometimes run into people and sometimes their dogs that we haven’t seen for a while. I live near a National Park so this time of the year it is nice to see the change of color.
Nice suggestion, Lori. Simple tasks like walking the dog and chatting with people can provide just enough refreshment to clear your head for the day.
I’ve read that doctors advise getting up from your computer for 10 minutes every hour is good for a person’s heart (not to mention our eyes). For those of us who can’t sit still for hours on end, this is blessed permission.
This is actually the best advice I’ve heard in a long time. I’ve been typing along with the word “deadline” echoing in the back of my mind for so long that the idea of stepping away from my computer sounds like a terrible idea. But perhaps that’s exactly what I need. My husband isn’t going to know what happened to our bedroom furniture when he gets home tonight…
Erin, when you’ve been working so hard to meet a deadline, a purposeful break might indeed be what you need to refresh. Let that creative adrenaline flow. I hope you both enjoy your new room arrangement.
Thank you for these great suggestions. I tend to be a type A, who keeps going until my eyes feel like they will pop out.
Fresh ideas always come when we are still. Though, its sometimes hard, I appreciate the encouragement to do so. Your words remind me to make it a priority.
I also love hiking, running, and browsing the library. Sitting on the floor and playing with my kids always helps refresh me too.
Good point, Lisa. It’s important to get away and enjoy total quiet, even if it’s only as far as the next room. Time alone where you can hear your own thoughts and listen for God’s quiet voice is rejuvenating. Likewise, taking time for fun activity, especially with loved ones, is refreshing to the soul. Good blend.
Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts
Thank you, Mary, for a wonderful post. I cheered when I read your idea about younger people (especially) getting older people to reminisce. My critique group includes a few people who are in their 90s–yes, their 90s. They write memoir pieces for their children, grandchildren,etc. Often they so capture a time that is gone (the joy of going to the five and dime and getting a basket of candy for ten cents or going to the drug store soda fountain and getting a soda made from scratch). I’ve have begged a couple of them to publish their pieces because this history and their attitude towards life is being lost.
As to your question, some of the things I do to refresh my creative juices are to go for a walk with the intention of noticing and enjoying the beauty of the day and the gift of being able to walk, making music or drawing (sometimes in order to describe a character or a scene, I have to draw it first), or going to the beach. I live in Florida, so I don’t get the wonderful change of leaves and seasons, but I do love to go and just look at the ocean, smell it and feel the breeze in my hair. These are the things that invigorate and refresh me.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Jennifer Major @Jjumping
Hey! Here’s a FUn plan…YOU come here and enjoy the Fall colours (ooooh ahhhhh) and I’ll go watch the surf!!
Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts
LOL! If I had the money (and didn’t have a job), I’d be up there in a minute, my friend. I’d love to see Canada. And I’d love you to come down here. Of course, come in the Fall (after October) when the is usually below 90 degrees F.
Oh Christine, you are blessed to have those ladies in your critique group. Yes, those first-hand stories of an era gone by should be made available.
I love you description of being recharged near the ocean. All of creation is a source for recharging if we allow ourselves time to really take it in, don’t you think?
Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts
Thank you, Mary, and yes, I agree completely.
I retreat to my various crafts, or go to a movie with my sister, or have a Doctor Who marathon. All sure-fire ways to rest and get the creative juices flowing again. Particularly with Doctor Who. The current executive producer and main writer is a creative genius! I’m so jealous of his mind.
Rachel, thanks for your suggestions. I haven’t tried Doctor Who. Maybe that will be next.
It didn’t surprise me that several of your suggestions had a strong visual component. I think writers need a break from living within the context of the written word. Creating mental images is one of a writer’s most rewarding but also most taxing jobs, and sometimes it helps to relax our descriptive muscles and enjoy the product of another’s. I know some writers are visual artists as well, but I am not one of them. But I’m kind of glad I’m not gifted in that way because it allows me to draw inspiration from another’s work. Music is the same. I’m rejuvenated by those artistic formats in which I have zero ability.
Amen, Evangeline, and thanks for that great insight. Viewing or hearing great talent is rejuvenating. That may be why concerts and art shows and museums are so popular.
Refreshing ideas Mary. I’m crazy about lists and love to post helpful hints on walls, bulletin boards or refrigerators…all the ideas in the comments will be decorating a space in my office.
I’m fond of baking when I need creative refreshment. 🙂 Photography restores my soul. I love capturing a moment in time that will never happen again. And food is fun to photograph…it holds real still!
Have a happy Friday and a joyful weekend.
Kate, what a yummy way to refresh. Double benefit. I imagine your photos continue to refresh you whenever you go back and look at your collection.
I love your suggestion of moving around the furniture, Mary. I just wrote a blog post about this. I have a nomad personality and would love to move around and explore a new location every few years. My husband, though, plants his roots deep. No moving around for him. So our compromise is to rearrange furniture and take fabulous vacations (no packing up the house!). A new perspective, whether it be a small change at home or zipping down the interstate, always resets my creativity.
I’m with you on both counts, Meghan. A change of scenery or change in a room arrangement recharge me every time.
Susi Robinson Rutz
This is the season when we harvest an abundance of garden veggies. Enough with the BBQ and potato salad already. I completely change the way I prepare meals. Bring on the Ratatouille and Pasta Primavera. All the nutrients in fresh vegetables make for good brain chemistry. Creativity comes more naturally to a well-fed brain. 🙂
Susi, thanks for contributing that important suggestion. Enjoy the harvest.
I like to go someplace new or unfamiliar, and pay attention to what you see. It doesn’t have to be far. It can be in my own town or even my neighborhood, although going somewhere totally new and far away opens me up for even more sensory input. And if I can’t get away, sometimes I can get a similar sensory jolt on a smaller scale from a good poem.
Scott, you make a strong case for the refreshment of new scenery. And thanks for suggesting good poetry. Great mind stimulator.
How funny, Mary! I actually DO move furniture around sometimes when I’m stuck and don’t know how to get into or out of a scene!
Kathleen, I’m laughing too, but it really does work, doesn’t it. Must be the physical rearranging of objects stimulates the brain…or some similar scientific explanation.
Mary, these are brilliant ideas! I really love them. I loved the idea of the nursing home. I used to hear some of the most fabulous tales from my Grandma and her friends!
Another thing that helps me reboot is to cook. Somehow creating a new recipe make me come up with clever plot twists.
I agree, Michelle. I could sit and listen to some of my older relatives for hours when they talked about their home life, surviving the Great Depression, supporting the troops during the war. Whatever. Very energizing.
Cooking and clever plot twists…go for it!
Mary, it is spring that invigorates me.
Fall moves me towards my least favorite season. So I will tuck away your great ideas for later when the cold and snow have sapped me of all creativity!
I think you live in Michigan too:)
We have to work so hard to not dread the coming winter!
Well that’s true, Peter. Fall is an immediate reminder of coming cold temperatures and snow for most of the country. Each year I pray for a sunny winter. But when spring comes with all its warmth and new life…yes, definitely invigorating.
I loved this! I decided to go down to the river and sit and listen to the wind in the trees and the water rushing over the rocks and its amazing how invirgorating it was.
How refreshing, Jean. You explained the reason behind the popular phrases, “Stop and smell the roses” and “get a breath of fresh air.” I’m glad it refreshed you.
Take the kids to the zoo and study giraffes. Then anthropomorphize them.
Ah, a giraffe that talks and waves back while doing a tap dance. Sounds like your creative juices are flowing, Darby.
Reading magazine articles can trigger a story idea or plot twist. I rip out articles or pictures that could start a future story.
Many times on my bike rides a new scene for my WIP has come to mind. The people I bike past may even hear me reciting the lines out loud, and then I run to jot them down in my notebook as soon as I get home.