Committing to creativity

Apart from wanting to help people achieve their creative dreams, there is evidence that being creative is good for your health. In The art of being mentally healthy, Dr Christina Davies et al. from UWA suggest that two or more hours a week of arts engagement is associated with mental health benefits.

So no more excuses, get creative!

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What, you say? Yes, of course, you WANT to … but are you having trouble committing to doing something creative? Or to any other worthwhile pursuit for that matter?

Like motivating yourself to exercise, eat well or change to any healthier habit, sometimes we need to kick start ourselves by committing to something tangible. Creativity is no different.

So how can we get going? Here are some strategies that I’ve found helpful:

1. Decide your goal. 

Name it in beautiful, confronting, terrifying, real words.

2. Break your goal into achievable steps

Nut out your plan. Write it down if you can – even just a list of starting steps.

Naturally what you need to do will depend on your goal, but possibilities might include:

  • Write a list of creative ideas/possible topics (I love this post by Louise Allan on What I want to write about …)
  • Research your goal, idea or topic – although we have to be careful not to get caught on the endless research merry-go-round, there is no doubt that looking at what’s out there, how others have approached similar tasks and what works (and doesn’t) can be invaluable in shaping your thinking. The internet simplifies this no end. Don’t forget to save and file resources that you may need to refer to again – old-fashioned notebook or print and file, a folder in your favourites might do the job or there are apps that can help you.
  • Do a course (or two) – great for starters but also can get the creative juices flowing again if you are beginning a new project in an area you are familiar with, or interesting in looking at alternative approaches. There are usually both free and paid options, some you can do online and others in person. Don’t underestimate the value of networking either – meeting others with similar interests can be invaluable, no matter where you are in your creative journey. For writers, check out
  • Identify what resources and equipment you need. It can be worth questioning the need before you decide whether to acquire each one. If funds are tight, what can you borrow or buy second hand instead? Or ask your family and friends to buy or put towards something on your list. (Who doesn’t love an easy present which you know the person receiving it will love?)
  • Prioritise and allocate some timeframes in which you want to start and/or achieve the steps you have identified.

Leave space to add to your list of steps as the need arises. We often need to flesh out the detail as we better understand the requirements.

3. Make your promise public.

Uh oh … I can feel you hesitate. Seriously do you WANT to do this? What you commit to can be either your overall goal or one of your essential steps – committing to “writing at least 500 words five days a week” is possibly going to be less threatening than announcing you are going to write a book. And it will still get you there if you do it, and you keep doing it.)

  • You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, you could just tell one person. Squeak it out in an offhand way to a stranger if you must. But the more you clearly formalise your commitment, the more likely you are to do it.
  • Announce it on social media. Many find this a great place to start and there are social movements harnessing the power of the pledge, for example encouraging people to makes changes to improve health outcomes through Change Day Australia. For an individual goal, a Facebook post or a tweet may be enough to cement your commitment.
  • If you need some added incentive, you may want to look at Promise or Pay. Founder, Jay Boolkin says that “research shows that chance of success increases by 33% if it is shared with others and by up to 72% if money is put on the line”. At least if you don’t achieve your goal, a reputable charity of your choice will benefit. And the charity doesn’t have to miss out even if you achieve your goal – family and friends who wish to help encourage you can reward your achievement by pledging to donate if you succeed. *NB. Promise or Pay’s fee structure is outlined in their FAQ.

4. Get on and do it.

Fair’s fair. There’s no getting out of this step. But it’ll be worth it!

You may need to revisit your plan. That’s normal. You may need to revise your timelines. That’s okay too. Sometimes we don’t estimate timing accurately, other times complications develop or life gets in the way for a period and we may even need a break. But keep going.

5. Celebrate every success!

I love to tick something off a list – it gives me a real sense of achievement, and when the goal is a biggish one and/or something will take time to fully realise, acknowledging each step forward, no matter how small, is essential.

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Do you have any secret (or not-so-secret) motivation techniques?

I would love you to share them in the comments below.

I hope you find this post useful. Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

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Why fiction writers are strange …

We fiction writers may look normal, sound normal, act normal and many of us may even have normal day jobs. But we often are less normal than we appear, and not infrequently we live in a world suspended between reality and fiction that is far from normal.

After covering more serious topics, it’s time for a lighter post. My last post on creativity and death was a strange subject which got me to thinking about how we writers are strange. I will unashamedly narrow in on fiction writing today, since as I write fiction, I feel I can speak with some authority on our oddities and foibles.

We fiction writers are strange because:

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  • We invest phenomenal amounts of time conjuring up something from nothing.
  • And then more time again on another kind of magic, re-reading, correcting, tweaking, moving commas, etc.
  • Both of these often for no guaranteed income.
  • Most of us sneak writing into snatched moments circa dawn, when the baby sleeps, in the car while the kids do sports training, after dinner, in the wee hours and/or on weekends.
  • We can jump eras, continents and even galaxies, sometimes several times in one writing session.
  • It is not uncommon to find some of us in last night’s PJs at dinner time (Confession: I wear a t-shirt and trackie pants to bed so it’s not so obvious if someone knocks at the door).
  • I know you’ve read jokes about it: seriously concerning Internet search histories.
  • Many of us babble about our imaginary friends well into our adulthood and as if they are real.
  • The number of voices we can “speak” in is positively disturbing.
  • I bet I’m not the only writer who wishes I could speak words with the impact of the dialogue that I write (especially on the fourth edit when it is parred down to the glistening, quintessential elements).

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  • We notice the world in exquisite and sensuous detail despite spending much of our lives in a fictional world. We can describe the eye-stinging, acrid smoke of a fire starting so vividly you can smell it, but be so involved in our writing that we would probably be oblivious if one were to start, or convey the sound of raindrops pattering on a variety of roof materials, but not notice it was raining, or invoke every nuance on the palate of a delicious dish, while our own fridge and pantry may be bare.
  • We can take what might seem and insignificant moment to others, and change it to having profound meaning.
  • Every story is not just interesting, but also potentially a future scene.
  • We can consort all day with a vast array of interesting characters and yet not see another person.
  • We “kill our darlings”, not without pain, then we celebrate how good it was that we knocked off a character.
  • Some of us create new names and sometimes whole new identities, not just for our characters, but possibly also for ourselves as writers. Some even have several pen-names/identities to hide behind.

Are there any writerly oddities you’d like to add?

I’m certain there will be many worthy additions! If you feel bold enough to publically share any, please feel free to comment below. Happy also to hear about the odd habits of non-writerly creatives.

Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

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© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith

 

Creativity and death – not so strange bedfellows

 

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of fellow GP and writer Leah Kaminsky’s “we’re all going to die“.

I have posted about before about the need to have conversations about death and dying in A better death and revealed some of my own journey after loved ones died in The healing power of creativity.

I’m delighted to report that Leah’s “joyful book about death” has exceeded my every expectation. My copy now has many turned page corners to mark sentences and passages that I want to come back to again.

we’re all going to die” added to the books that have most inspired me:

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Far from being gloomy, the back cover of we’re all going to die says “by facing and accepting our coming death, we can all learn to live in a more vital, fearless and truthful way.”

Refreshingly honest, touchingly personal, and always with deep and respectful consideration of how difficult thinking about death and dying can be, this book has triggered lots of thoughts for me about how we can make more of our lives while not ignoring the inevitable presence of death, be it far or near, in relation to ourselves or those we love. (You can see my review here.)

In the context of my blog theme this year (what we can learn from the world around us and the characters within it, what inspires or heightens our creativity and how we can harness these influences), death and creativity might seem strange companions, and yet there are strong connections.

 

So looking at creativity through the lens of certain death in our lives, and building on we’re all going to die:

  • Being creative helps us fully experience life. A creative person who doesn’t express their creativity is not fully living.
  • Allow time for creativity. Creative results can’t be forced, but they need to be given the opportunity to materialise. What needs to be done, needs to be done – but don’t waste time on less important or unfulfilling activities.
  • Get your creativity out onto the page, canvas or preferred medium. If you die with your creative project inside, it will never see the light of day. You never know what is around the corner. Just get started and keep going.
  • Use your creativity to help you deal with death and the emotions it brings. Personal and professional experience has taught me that being creative can help us access emotions that we might otherwise struggle to face and this can help us heal as best we can, sometimes much later.
  • Use your creativity to honour the dead. This may take the form of a personal tribute or dedication, a creative ritual to help you remember your loved one or just knowing that spending time being creative can be a form of showing respect.
  • Let creativity help us to have conversations about death and dying. Leah talks about “death denialism”, pointing out that we have sanitised death. Creativity is one way we can make death real and challenge our feelings in a deeply respectful way.
  • Be kind and compassionate towards others. This was a strong take-home message from Leah’s book, and applying this to the creative theme, use kindness and compassion to foster and encourage others’ creativity. I have previously blogged about kindness in The best cuppa ever – don’t forget even the small things count.
  • Feed your creativity, and your joy in life itself, by surrounding yourself with beauty wherever you can. Things and spaces we love are important, but this extends beyond material beauty to meaningful relationships, listening to music that speaks to you or hearing the rain outside, wearing a scent you adore or a soft scarf you love the feel of, sitting in the sunshine and soaking up nature when you go for a walk – beauty in all senses. The corollary is also true – sometimes we need to cull that which means less to us.

 

Thank you to the lovely Leah Kaminsky for her frank exploration of her own confrontation with death and for inspiring this post (which can only but touch upon a few insights from Leah’s book).

Unashamed fangirl photo from the launch of “we’re all going to die (Leah is on the left):

Photo credit: Dionne Lew (dionnelew.com)

Photo credit: Dionne Lew (dionnelew.com)

If you only had a limited time left, is there something creative you would wish you had done (or done more of)? If you feel bold enough to publically share your creative dream, please feel free to comment below. If you’d rather not comment, please make a start on your creative process anyway!

Are there other synergies that you can see between creativity and death? I’d love you to share your ideas in the comments section.

 

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS), Facebook and Google+.

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© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith

 

13 valuable creative lessons inspired by gardening

I’ve been getting my hands dirty in the garden recently and pondering the overlap between two of the activities I love – gardening and writing – although I think the analogies are true for creativity generally. This ties in well with this year’s blog theme of what we can learn about creativity from the world around us.

So what can we learn about creativity from gardening?

(with pix from our garden a labour of love!)

Herbs © 2014 Jacquie Garton-SmithHerbs © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Timing is important

You must do what needs to be done when the time is right. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes eloquently about creative ideas passing if you don’t take them up. No point sowing your seeds in the wrong season, although you needn’t lie idle either …

  1. Prepare your ground

Gardeners won’t need to be convinced of the benefits of fertile soil and a fertile mind is a great start for creatives (for some ideas, see Learning from the creative inspiration around us)

Retic going in © 2013 Jacquie Garton-SmithRetic going in © 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Prepare your plot

I’m not saying you must strictly plot your story, although that works for some. What we do need to do is set up a supportive environment – where the gardener may set up a sprinkler system, a raised garden bed, supports for creepers or fence off an area, so a creative must establish what’s needed to support their creative work and put it into place.

  1. Plant your seeds

If you don’t get your seeds in the soil, they won’t grow. What we plant is nothing like what we end up with – and so it is for us creatives. Just start with your idea and see what grows. If your ideas come to you at inconvenient times, make a note of them so you have them for when the season is right. If procrastination is your problem, The power of naming procrastination may help.

Plum tree terrace viewed lengthwise © 2004 Jacquie Garton-SmithPlumtree terrace viewed lengthwise © 2004 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Nourish your seedlings

As our plants need regular water and periodic fertiliser (some more than others!), so our creative ideas need encouragement. And too much love can have its issues – much as overwatering or over-fertilising is unwise, try not to overwrite, overpaint or over-torture your creative idea. Just get it out and let it grow.

  1. Protect new growth

Those precious shoots do need protection from all kinds of insults. Where our shrubs may need protection from pests and diseases, heat and drought, frost, wind and storms, animal attack, so sometimes we need to protect our fledgling creative work from self-doubt and wrong turns, mistakes (they are okay – they can take you in new directions), the opinions of others (this can be particularly destructive on early work which, let’s face it, will always need to evolve) and withering enthusiasm, interruptions and excuses. If finding the time to be creative is a challenge, check out When push comes to shove – juggling priorities in a time-poor world.

Plum tree terrace viewed ten years later front on © 2014 Jacquie Garton-SmithPlumtree terrace ten years later (front on) © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Train into the direction or shape you want

Many plants benefit from encouragement in the right direction. I’ve been known to laboriously and repeatedly twist creeper shoots around supporting structures or fences and to hang part-filled bottles to tree branches to train them where I want them to go. I commissioned several garden designers to draw up plans for our garden, none of whom could see their way around the easiest and cheapest way to what I wanted, before one encouraged to me to design it myself (and gave me great advice which helped us achieve it and more). We creatives do need to be open to the journey our creative work wants to take us on and there are times we need to take charge of our project and direct it where we want it to go. You’ll know when you have the vision you need to do this.

  1. Fear not a good pruning

It took me a long time to learn to prune with confidence in the garden and (surprise, surprise) also in editing. If unsure, start gently, review and then trim a bit more, and repeat again and again until done. Luckily in writing and many other creative pursuits, the benefits of a healthy prune can usually be seen instantly in your shining work where in the garden, it can look seriously brutal until the plant reshoots. But it must be done for a better result.

Cornelia Weeping Rose © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith Cornelia Weeping Rose © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Try new things

I do like a fairly traditional garden which goes very well with our 1914 home, but trying new things can be great fun in the garden, be it new varieties, different combinations or new techniques. I’m a sucker for new varieties of plants. Some work, some don’t but that’s part of the fun. New combinations of plants can really freshen up a garden bed. And I like to keep abreast of new approaches to gardening. Worm farming was very new when I started and has been a fabulous addition to our garden, reducing our use of conventional fertilisers to nearly nothing and using up most of our kitchen waste to boot. What does all of this have to do with creativity? Try weaving some new and different approaches into your creative project and see if they sing. If they don’t, see 8 …

  1. Fads come and go but the basics never fail you

The “right way” of doing things is often the best. Whether it’s the basic gardening skills or techniques, solid equipment or the old favourite plants, they will carry your garden to achieve its full potential whatever the trends. As will good artistic/musical/dance/writing/culinary/(insert your creative passion here) techniques, materials and equipment. And you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune or study at university to develop these.

Rosebuds © 2014 Jacquie Garton-SmithRosebuds © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Celebrate every beautiful moment

Yes, that empty plot that’s been dug over, soil built up with seeds planted and watered in may not look like your dream garden but it’s a huge achievement in itself. Same with that early painting, sketch or tune, or draft storyline or scene. Enjoy every stage of the process. You deserve it.

  1. Know when to yank out your plant (or even the whole garden bed) and start afresh

It can be heartbreaking but also liberating – why struggle on with something that is not going to deliver or is past its use-by. You do need to be sure it’s not that periodic falling in and out of love with our creative work that naturally happens, but when the time comes to free yourself up for something better, celebrate that stage too.

 Cherry Tomatoes finishing © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
Cherry Tomatoes finishing © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Lying fallow

Paddocks benefit from fallow periods – do we? I think so and I’ve written about my experience with this in Is it a dreadful mistake to take a break from writing?

 

I’m sure the list could go on …

Do you have any gardening/creativity analogies to add?

Have you found one or more to be particularly useful?

Please feel free to comment below.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

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© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith (text and all images)

Embracing Creative Input from Others

If you want people to read your writing, it is inevitable that people will actually have to read your writing … Stating the obvious, I know, and yet so often we write in isolation, perfecting every comma of a manuscript no one has seen.

And yet the process of seeking feedback, while infinitely valuable, can leave us feeling vulnerable, exposed to our creative core. And while feedback can be gold, working out what to take on board and how, and what is less important (or even misguided) is crucial to delivering a work of creative integrity, a unique expression of its creator.

While feedback can be gold, working out what to take on board and how, and what is less important (or even misguided) is crucial to delivering a work of creative integrity, a unique expression of its creator.

This little bird hiding in her nest in our plum tree reminds me of what we creatives often do ... © 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith

This little bird hiding in her nest in our plum tree reminds me of what we creatives often do …
© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith

I have been extremely lucky while writing and editing my current WIP to have been encouraged and supported by both gifted writers and avid readers who have been so very generous with their time, kind, patient, insightful, astute, intelligent and sincere.

Keeping in mind my own positive experience, I have been reflecting on what has worked for me during the (quite frankly terrifying but also exciting) experience of opening my WIP up to input from others, and indeed, making the most of feedback offered on any venture or project.

Taking on board creative feedback:

  1. Be open to both positive and negative feedback.

    I have a habit (as many of us do) of focusing on what didn’t work so well, to the point of not hearing what people thought was good. What does work is equally valuable so that you know what the strengths are, so that you can bring them out further, and so you know what not to lose and why … especially if conflicting opinions arise. Even neutral feedback can be worth attention to improve your WIP.

  2. Be curious (not defensive).

    Even accurate and constructive comments can be crushingly disappointing. Listen carefully and ask questions so that you can better understand the feedback.

            Do you know what made you feel that way?
            Can you put your finger on why?
            Do you have any idea what might work better?
            How do you suggest I approach it differently?

  3. Look for underlying issues.

    Sometimes feedback doesn’t totally gel because the problem is a symptom of another issue. I find this particularly when I am offered solutions that don’t sit right. (see 2 – if you have fully explored the feedback you will have a better chance of working out what needs to be resolved.)

  4. Especially listen to repeated themes.

    One person might be wrong, but if you hear something similar from multiple people, that is a strong sign you need to pay close attention. Be open to the different ways this feedback may manifest in variations on the theme.

  5. Let advice percolate.

    The tendency is often to rush in excitedly to fix things. All good for a straight-forward fix.

    But for more major changes, think them over, sleep on the suggestions (more than once if needed) and re-visit the feedback. Let your subconscious do some of the work. If still unsure, ask more questions to further clarify or run past other reviewers what they think.

  6. Be excited.

    Having the gift of another’s perspective to help guide you is incredibly precious. (For more on excitement as a strategy in writing see my post “Is excitement a new strategy for writers?”

  7. Give it a go.

    Even if you aren’t sure, test it out. For example, for writing:

    • Copy and paste a chapter into a new document and have a play – liberally delete, add to or switch around.
    • Print that section, mark up the problem areas and scrawl over it with your ideas.
    • Pick up a pen and scribble out a new version for fun.

No harm done if it was better before, you can go back to your earlier version more confident that you have explored other options. But you may be blown away by what you discover.

  1. Seek further feedback on changes.

    The pendulum can swing too far the other way. Or maybe one change creates or exposes another problem. Or maybe you didn’t quite nail it.

  2. Log all feedback.

    As your WIP evolves, it can be useful to revisit feedback on earlier versions to see if on reconsideration and after further gestation, you come up with additional ideas.

    Also keep old versions of your WIP in case you change your mind and want to reinstate something or even just revisit to remind yourself. An accomplished writer friend, Louise Allan , suggests keeping deleted scenes in case you decide to repurpose them into another body of work – what a great idea!

  3. Identify when to dismiss feedback.

    The ideas above are geared towards working with feedback from people who have valuable insights. Sometimes you will decide well-intended feedback doesn’t gel and that’s okay. It is your creative work, not theirs.

    If feedback (invited or otherwise) is destructive, it can be excruciating, especially if from someone you care(d) about or trust(ed).

    DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT DESTROY YOUR WORK. And DO NOT let negative feedback destroy you.

    You will still need to deal with your own reaction to the feedback and may still find some of these tips helpful in gleaning something useful from what they have said, or in evaluating their feedback to determine that it is not helpful.

    And it is all the more important to be open to the feedback of those who can offer valuable input, as this will give you perspective when faced with those who shoot down your creative development.

 

Without exploring the logistics of who to ask for feedback, when or how, these are some of my reflections on strategies that have helped me to handle feedback.

Do you think any of these tips are (or might be) helpful?

Do you have any other useful tips that you’d like to share?

Please feel free to comment below.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

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© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith

Learning from the creative inspiration around us

The remarkable breadth and richness of creative influences in the world around us continually amaze me, be it the pleasure (or the pain) derived from a single sensory experience, hearing other peoples’ stories, appreciating the work of other creatives or receiving creative ideas or advice from others, or many other possibilities.

Consequently, the theme for my blog posts for this year will revolve around what we can learn from the world around us and the characters within it, what inspires or heightens our creativity and how we can harness these influences.

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Inspiration from an early morning walk © 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith

When I start to think about by the magnitude of trying to take on board everything around me, I nearly hyperventilate, overwhelmed by possibility. But appreciation of the stimuli around us is not about generating creative overload! It is about honing our creative receptivity to help us make the most of the wonderful opportunities that surround us.

I have written before about the link between mindfulness and creativity. Experiencing the world mindfully and observing how it influences us is extraordinarily valuable. How can we write it, draw it, paint it, photograph it, sing it, dance it or in other way create it, if we live in a vacuum? While we creatives can be reclusive, experiencing life and translating that, directly or indirectly, to a creative form is valuable fuel for the creative fire.

And for many of us, creativity is intricately interwoven with wellness. I have summarised the evidence on the intersection between health and creativity a couple of years ago and have written about my personal experience of the healing power of creativity. I am especially excited to see increasing attention and research in this area. For example, Dr Christina Davies and her team at the University of Western Australia have recently shown that just two hours a week of arts engagement enhances mental wellness . I have no doubt that further research will continue to demonstrate health benefits from creativity for both mental and physical health.

The time I devote to my creativity takes time away from doctoring, mothering, family and friends, and at times, I do feel guilty about that. But I am convinced that I am a healthier, happier and more balanced person, doctor, mother, wife, relative and friend for allowing myself to also be my creative self. If I am not, who would know? I am who I am.

If you’d like to join me as I explore these issues further this year, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

In the meantime, I’d love you to think about and, if you feel so inclined, to share in the comments:

  • What do you think are your most powerful creative influences and how do you learn from them?
  • Are there creative inputs you may be overlooking and could be harnessing better?

Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

Disclaimer

© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith

Is it a dreadful mistake to take a break from writing?

I took a break from my main fiction project recently. Having finished the umpteenth round of editing on my second novel, I decided a few weeks separation was needed before I re-read it with fresher eyes and decided which aspects needed to be re-tackled.

While I let my novel lie fallow, I reflected on the place of “not writing” on that body of work. Although I took a break from creative writing, I think this experience could apply to taking a break from other creative pursuits.

Downtime high def

 

At first, it was strange. I constantly felt guilty that I wasn’t writing or editing my novel, and had to remind myself this was a deliberate choice. Of course, ideas usually come to mind after intense editing, and when they did, I just noted them down for action later. Oddly much of this time I was idea-dry, but there were a few valuable bursts of inspiration initially and more insights as time passed.

I did still do some writing but nowhere near as much as usual and certainly not every day; sometimes days went by without writing. I wrote stream-of-consciousness “pages” on a fairly regular basis, I snuck in some editing on some of my short stories and I wrote regularly for my medical jobs. I even contemplated making a start on my next novel, for which ideas are brewing. I chose not to because, while I also hold down three jobs, I find it difficult to swap between working on different novels. I like being in the flow for one novel at a time. I tend to want to give my project as much of my attention as I can (around my other commitments). I can pause for non-fiction writing or sometimes a short story, but to start another novel didn’t feel right. For the same reason, I chose not to look again at my first novel.

Once I got used to the pattern, I enjoyed having more time to do other things. More time for catching up with friends and family, exercise, reading, gardening and knocking off some of those chores that sit perennially on one of my lists but must be done at some stage – great to be without the added pressure of those jobs achieved. I went on a holiday with my family and for once wasn’t wondering if I could juggle my time to squeeze in some work on my writing.

© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith

Exploring near Bermagui, NSW – October 2015

The real challenge to my “taking a break” philosophy came as I restarted editing, while also catching up at work on my return from leave. Unexpectedly I had to devote more time to family and my writing break turned out to be longer than I had planned.

The reflection I had done during my time-out meant I was already at peace with myself on not writing when the occasion arises. Quietly accepting, without guilt or frustration, that it would be a little longer freed me to do what I needed to with a clear conscience.

In the meantime, my head feels clearer, my ideas-and-to-fix list has grown considerably longer and I am excited about the next round of rewriting and editing. (You will see from my previous post why I am excited about being excited!)

Many opinion pieces extol that we writers must keep writing every day, no matter what is going on around us. Maybe that is the right choice for some, but it isn’t the case for everyone. I have read a few posts that acknowledge the importance of a break and to those authors, I thank you.

Life has ebbs and flows. Some prudently placed downtime can be well worth the investment.

What has been your experience of taking a break from writing?

Any advice to those considering a writing break?

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences – please share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

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© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith