Sunday, July 29, 2012

Regaining Your Creative Focus

There's been a lot going on these past few weeks. My oldest daughter is moving out. A sixteen-year-old nephew moved in. My husband took a second job. I've been stressed, agitated and unsettled. Even during the times I would usually write, I've been distracted by negativity. As I look back over the week, I recognize some old patterns I've fallen back into, and though I didn't realize it at the time, I think I was trying to find comfort.

I re-read a favorite novel:


I listened to this beautiful song on repeat:


I've even been closing out each day with a favorite childhood bedtime snack:
I also decided to revisit a comfortable writing habit: writing flash fiction and short articles. With my lack of creative focus, I wasn't getting much accomplished on my novel anyway. So I decided to concentrate on several shorter pieces. I wrapped up some projects I had started long ago and I submitted a handful of poems, articles, and essays to magazine markets - something I haven't done since committing to my novel over a year ago. It felt good. I felt productive. And the whole process was like slipping on a comfy old pair of sneakers.


 Which was just what I needed.

A big part of moving forward in life and in this writing business, is about breaking out of our comfort zones. But there's something to be said for revisiting those comfort zones as needed. So right now I'm giving myself permission to take another week off from novel writing. And hopefully I'll emerge calmer, stronger, and more focused as a result.

What do you do to regain your creative focus?

47 comments:

  1. I have such sharp memories of Ethan Frome. What a memorable book. I agree with visiting your comfort zones as a respite. It's so nice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sharp memories - well put. The word "twittering" for example - I can't hear that word without thinking of this story.

      Delete
  2. You've got it right, Ruth - take a break. It works for me anyway. Working on those shorter pieces help, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It has been good to work on the short stuff for a change. =)

      Delete
  3. I love returning to my comfort zones... especially on those days when things aren't going too well:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess that's what comfort zones are for, eh?!

      Delete
  4. Nothing wrong with returning and getting recharged in our comfort zones. Are these shorter pieces for the kids' magazine market? By the way, ETHAN FROME is a favorite of mine - so sparsely written. You've inspired me to check it out and re-read it. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Laura, a few of them are for the kids' magazine market. Do enjoy Ethan Frome. I'm in a mood for re-reading. Next I'm breaking out some Catherine Cookson.

      Delete
  5. It sounds funny to say since I've written four books already this year, but I take breaks between drafting novels. I focus on writing short stories, revising other novels, and planning new ideas. I don't like to draft one WIP and then jump right into another. This summer, I promised myself I wouldn't draft my next WIP until August 27. That's when my daughter starts school. So I've written a bunch of short stories, edited for clients, revised other manuscripts of my own, and am now planning the WIP so it's ready to be drafted at the end of August.

    Enjoy the break, Ruth. You'll feel refreshed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I do about what you did. I felt horribly guilty at first, as if I was cheating on someone or giving up on my goals. But after a couple weeks I realized I had solved the problem that stumped me. So by the time I got back to work I was ready for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right, it does feel a bit like cheating. Must get over that ;)

      Delete
  7. Thanks for the insightful post, Ruth. I have taken the last week off from writing myself, since I finished my most recent revision of my WIP. Once I get ready to get going again, I usually make some kind of goal to get me started. I agree with you: it's important to take some time off for relaxation and rejuvenation. Have a great week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Victoria. Making a goal once you get going again sounds like a good idea.

      Delete
  8. I do take time off from my writing and then come back to it with a different perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You 'do stress' gracefully, Ruth.

    I try to remind myself of a higher purpose, but sometimes it is what it is. We wouldn't know high if there weren't lows.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It doesn't feel graceful, but thank you, Mirka. Especially for the reminder of a higher purpose.

      Delete
  10. I'm sorry you're going through a rough patch. Yes, shorts are great when I don't have a lot of creative energy. Also writing really bad poems! But the best is taking rest. Naps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooo, naps?! That would just feel way too indulgent. But keep telling me how beneficial they are and I might work on reconsidering ;)

      Delete
  11. I'm SO in the same place as you. Getting ready for a vacation (not really a vacation, visiting my husband's family in the scorching southwest) and then a move out of state in September. I can hardly concentrate on anything writing related, so I've been reading and letting the revisions for the WIP simmer.

    Keeping active physically, eating healthy food, listening to favorite music, catching up with friends, watching great movies, reading loads of good books--these are the things that help me fill up the creative well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wishing you all the best with that out of state move, Angelina. I know how all-consuming and exhausting moving can be. But I'll bet the added time of simmering will benefit you WIP.

      Delete
  12. I think we all have to take breaks or we'll go nuts! With all the stories and characters going on in our heads, we need to break away from them every once in awhile. I've been going through the "not feeling like writing" stage myself but am trying to work myself back into it. I've picked up some old manuscripts and begun working on them again. Sometimes doing that is just as creatively challenging and rewarding as starting something from scratch!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Allyn. Sometimes those unfinished pieces provide the spark we need to get writing again.

      Delete
  13. Know the feeling well. But loved how you dealt with it -- fun! Time to pamper. My week at the conference got me recharged -- and I've taken a break from blogging this summer so I can focus on writing. Sorry I haven't been around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The blogging break sounds like a good idea, Pat. Glad you got recharged at the conference.

      Delete
  14. These are all great ideas! I watched the coolest movie trailer today and I was like, wow, I need to go write now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never thought of watching movie trailers to get inspired. Sounds like fun!

      Delete
  15. Excellent post, Ruth, thank you! You are so right, and I confess, I think I could use some comfort zone about now! Glad revisiting yours turned out to be so helpful :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you get to visit your comfort zone soon, especially after all that travelling.

      Delete
  16. I can't decide if getting on with my craft, or getting away helps more. I do know that I love a change of pace, and a visit to a new location. I trust that things will come back around for you, Ruth...hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jarm. I guess sometimes getting away is what we need and other times just getting on with it is enough. The trick is knowing which you need.

      Delete
  17. Beautiful song!
    When I need to regain my focus I do something creative in another way--crafting is a big outlet for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Crafting is a big one for me too, Coleen.

      Delete
  18. Well done, Ruth! You didn't sigh in defeat, you didn't succumb to stress, you went forth and made creative work. You have accomplished much in down times, and this is inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are such a wonderful encouragement, Claudine. Thank you for your kind words. You've lifted my spirits =)

      Delete
  19. The Cap'n Crunch made me laugh!

    Reading books I love, new or old, relights my creative fires.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You laughed at Cap'n Crunch?! Clearly you have not experience their peanutbutter-y goodness ;)

      Delete
  20. In the summer it's all about a hammock and a good book. I do like putting on my tennis shoes and going for a hike, too. That works. I've never tried Cap'n Crunch, but you've given me an idea.! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh, the hammock sounds lovely right about now. And do let me know if you decide to try the Peanut Butter Crunch cereal ;)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm going to use your checklist to find my own sanity. My son is moving out so I can relate to you there. Crazy time. Thanks for the perspective.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All best to you and your son, Leslie. Times of adjustment ahead for all.

      Delete
  23. Very nice piece, Ruth. I empathized with your process. Love the sneaker shot and description.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Funny I should read this excellent post today - I've been struggling for two weeks to make a start on a magazine article that is due in 12 days. It's on a topic I know longer enjoy writing about, but I must. Guess I'll have to just tie myself in the chair and do it!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Isn't that the truth, Ruth? Didn't mean to be rhyming here. : ) Sometimes I need to stop stretching, return to the familiar and be comfy for just a little while. I love getting permission and having company - thanks for both. And thanks for visiting my blog today. I sure appreciate the company there as well.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I'm still boggling at the number of people who have good memories of Ethan Frome. Must go have a lie-down, re-evaluate...

    ReplyDelete
  27. I think what you did to recapture your creativity is perfect. I have been under a great deal of stress recently and I think I could do with rereading an old favorite, some comfort food, and maybe writing some poety (my version of your flash fiction). So glad I read this today!
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete