Oh sure, things are tight. Very tight. And I’m facing some rather heartbreaking decisions as a result. But the path I’d been on was killing me, there’s no doubt of that. It wasn’t sustainable, and yet it is *exactly* what the American workforce system requires of the middle-class American. Run yourself into the ground working 60+ hours a week, all for the ephemeral hope that you, too, will succeed in the American Dream.
Well, that Dream was turning into a nightmare for me. And like Marley’s Ghost, I am still dragging the chains of that former life around behind me, trapping me with debt and a house I cannot sell. Oh well. What I have rediscovered, however, in these last six months, is my love for everything that is important to me. My boyfriend. My dog. My horse. My writing.
Who I am as a person when I am not working myself to the bone.
It took a few months of this new lifestyle for my creativity to return. Thankfully, it was like a dormant seed in the winter, and all it took was a little time, warmth, and patience for it to sprout and blossom again. I’ve written more in the last six months than I’ve written in the last two years, and that feels right to me.
This past weekend, I had several long blocks of time in which I could write but I didn’t. I chose to take advantage of the gorgeous spring day instead. I’m not especially heat tolerant, so there is only a narrow window of time during the spring where being outside is a sheer delight for me. I have always maintained that spending a certain amount of time outdoors was fundamentally necessary to my well-being, and that I could tell when I hadn’t been in the forest in far too long. So Sunday, instead of working on the sequel to Walk a Mile (to be released by Dreamspinner Press sometime this fall) or even the fanfic I’m doing for a fest on Live Journal, I took the dog out for a run in the national forest and then headed out to the barn to ride my horse. It was a productive day of a different sort. 🙂
I’ve also always maintained that I do my best brainstorming for novels when I am doing some sort of mindless task, such as driving long distances, or mucking out stalls. Brainstorming while walking the dog is one of my favorite activities (though it got me into trouble recently as a jogger came upon us without warning and I wasn’t paying enough attention to keep the dog from planting muddy feet on him. *redface*)
Turns out there is a perfectly good reason for all of this. I ran across this article today on creativity and dopamine levels: and why brainstorming works in the situations I described and why it is incredibly difficult to write when stressed or depressed. It also explains why writing is so addictive to those of us who do it. The article is called Why We Have Our Best Ideas in the Shower: The Science of Creativity. Let me tell you, it explains a LOT. 🙂
So my advice? When you’re stuck at the keyboard staring at a blinking cursor, considering getting up and moving. Go outside and feel the warm caress of the sun on your face. Do some gardening. Mow the lawn. Take the dog for a walk. Do something you enjoy. Activate those dopamine receptors and let your subconscious work on the problem stalling you in that story. You can always come back to it later. But don’t spend the entire day at the keyboard, bouncing from one social media site to the next because you can’t figure out a thorny plot problem. You’re going about the solution all wrong.