Nourishing Our Creativity to Help Our Writing

by Jami Gold on February 2, 2016

in Writing Stuff

A palette of water colors with text: Writing as Art

Writing is an art form, and yet I don’t usually think of myself as an artist. Maybe that’s because when I think of art, I think of visual arts or musical arts, and I’m utterly incompetent at both.

(I draw stick figures, and I don’t play an instrument or compose music beyond humming when I’m happy. *smile*)

Logically, I know there are plenty of other forms of art, but I have to remind myself to include them—along with writing—in the “art” category.

I mention this obvious fact because it occurred to me how all types of artistic endeavors have the concept of a muse or a gut feel for when something is working—or not. Then I started wondering if we could use that general “artistic muse” concept to help us with our writing, especially when we suffer from writer’s block.

At some point in time, most writers will struggle with writer’s block. Maybe we’re not sure what should happen next in the story. Maybe we’re not sure how to get from where the story is to where the story is supposed to go. Maybe our muse or our characters aren’t speaking to us.

Regardless of the specifics, when faced with writer’s block, we need to do something to shake up our subconscious or walk away from the computer. Sitting at a keyboard and staring at a blank screen for hours at a time leads only to frustration.

Many blog posts suggest ideas for how to get unstuck in our story, get in touch with our muse, or deal with writer’s block. Today, I want to focus on one technique in particular.

Changing Our Creative Playground

Whether we call our subconscious mind simply our subconscious or our muse, one way to kick start our subconscious muse is to give him or her a different creative outlet. (Yes, I know muses are traditionally female, but mine is male, and he made me include the him. *smile*)

Sometimes we can jump into another writing project:

  • brainstorm a new story
  • work on a blog post
  • beta read for a friend

But sometimes that’s not enough. Writing of any kind might have become an exercise in pulling teeth, and we might have no ideas—about anything.

In extreme cases like that, it can be helpful to remember that creativity is creativity, across the arts. As writers, we’re often creative in areas outside of writing. And spending time exploring those hobbies can get our creative juices flowing too.

Improving Our Writing through Creative Hobbies

There are many ways non-writing creative hobbies help us develop skills that we can carry over to writing. For just a few examples, consider:

  • Visual arts, whether painting, photography, or computer graphics and animation, provide us with an opportunity to observe details, like how a change in light or color can affect our interpretation.
    Compare to: how one tiny tweak can cause a domino effect in our story.
  • Dance gets our blood flowing, and coordinating our movements with the rhythm and beat forces us to listen to something subtle.
    Compare to: how our subconscious can be very quiet and subtle.
  • Playing a musical instrument can help us see the beauty and patterns locked up inside the notes on the page.
    Compare to: how we create subtext behind the words of our story.
  • Composing music draws our muse into a form of storytelling where emotions reign even more prominently than using words.
    Compare to: how connecting with our emotions can help us feel our way through the block.

Breaking Writer’s Block through Non-Logical Thought

Beyond those traditional forms of art, any project where we have to make decisions based not on logic but on our gut feelings can get our subconscious back into gear. We can find a way to tap into our instincts almost anywhere:

Designing a Garden:

  • Which flowers should go where?
  • What color patterns do I want?
  • Do I feel like tomatoes or zucchini this year?

Decorating a Room:

  • Which paint colors will be the perfect not-too-light-not-too-dark shade?
  • Should this chair go here or there?
  • Is it too cluttered?

Organizing Our Closet:

  • Are these jeans too out of style?
  • Will I be that size again?
  • Do I have anything to go with this shirt?

Personally, I’ve painted and decorated rooms, I’ve created faux stained glass, I’ve gardened, I’ve sewn, I’ve done landscape and home design, and on and on. I designed my own website, and I enjoy taking landscape photographs.

Whenever we use our instinct to accomplish things, we’re forcing our subconscious to speak up. We’re asking our muse their opinion, and we’re listening to their answer. This give and take can strengthen the connection between our conscious mind and our subconscious mind.

If nothing else, we’re assuring our muse that we want to hear what they have to say. That, in turn, can encourage them to share more of their ideas. And a vocal muse might be just the thing we need to break through our writer’s block. *smile*

Writing as Art

Why is any of this important? Because maybe by thinking of how writing compares to other art forms, we can work out problems.

If a scene isn’t working and we can’t figure out why, maybe stepping back and looking at our writing like a sculptor will reveal whether it needs to be built up or carved away. Or if an emotional scene is reading flat, maybe thinking like a music composer will help us focus on which emotional notes we need to hit harder or draw out longer. Or if the tone of a scene feels off, maybe thinking like a painter will point out where the scene is too light or too dark.

We all know writing isn’t an exact science, but even beyond that, the techniques other types of artists use to solve their problems might help us too. In short, if you’re anything like me and don’t usually think about writing as being a “true” art form, maybe it’s time to change our attitude. *smile*

Do you think of writing as an art form? Which art forms do you think writing is most similar to? What other creative outlets do you have? Have you ever used them when you’re suffering from writer’s block or when you’re burnt out on writing? Have they helped or not?

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47 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) February 2, 2016 at 7:08 am

I know what you mean, Jami, I have to work at remembering writing is an art. As much as our colleague Janice Hardy says “Things can be well written but not a story” it’s hard to appreciate your storytelling when lack of technical skill keeps people from enjoying the story.

I think my envy of illustrators and musicians in particular makes me feel like my art (writing) is limited in what it can do.

Maybe it’s because it’s easier too see visuals and hear music than words alone. I feel like writing on it’s own is inferior, even though I know intellectually it’s not true,

So much of our world is visual and audible, and the blind and deaf communities aside, that’s hard when your art does neither on it’s own.

Music can exist without lyrics, visuals can tell stories without words, what can words do that visuals and sound can’t?

I’m probably asking the wrong question again, Jami, but that’s what my heart feels, even if it’s not the “Right” question to ask myself.

Poetry certainly is art conveyed through words, but not everyone can, or wants to write poetry.

I’ve played with it, but it’s not my thing, and it doesn’t help that trying to work in meter drives me nuts.

Even free verse poetry needs meter. When someone who writes more poetry me than me says I achieved good meter, it’s likely out of pure luck on my part.

Plus, while you make the point of listening to our gut, there is some technical aspect to any art form, and poetry has TONS of technical aspects to it!

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Jami Gold February 2, 2016 at 8:50 am

Hi Taurean,

I understand. Even with stick figures, drawing resonates so much more with what I expect art to be that I don’t think of writing as artistic. As you said, it feels inferior on the “art scale” even though we know it’s not. 🙂

I often write my posts as reminders to myself, and this is definitely one of those. LOL! Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone! 😉

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) February 6, 2016 at 6:08 am

I’m the same when I write posts about self-encouragement, patience and positive thinking, I don’t like that my default stance often comes off negative.

But life doesn’t help when there simply isn’t a positive spin on what’s irking me. I’ve had to figuratively pull teeth to see the “Good” in having to buy back my contract for the first (and only) book I’ve ever sold.

All I can gleam now is that . I tried to move too fast with few finances and limited skills. As I’ve said many times, I learned the “Life is short” lesson WAY TOO WELL, because I didn’t take into account my unique to me situation that tempers the degree to which I can execute that ideal.

As much as I don’t subscribe to the “Ignorance is Bliss” mindset lots of writers have, I concede I have problems thinking “Big Picture” when the details stick out more to me, esp. when so much of publishing is about details that MATTER.

I’m afraid stick figures lost their impact for me after grade school, and every time I look into really learning how to draw, I get turned off with all those fundamental exercises, such as drawing and shading eggs and fruit, and while most visuals artists I know work digitally, I know the learning curve’s even more steeper for me than drawing on paper, and I don’t have a tablet to work on, either.

Again, my thinking’s probably too limited, but I’m just being honest here.

Yet I still wrote without knowing all the technical stuff that I later Learned it the HARD way with “Gabriel.” But now I’m afraid to draft anything new because I fear I can’t fix it. Another reason the “Write the next book” advice stung so hard, and by association why “Writing more books” would presumably fix that, too.

But having 10 books and those same 10 books being equally high quality are not the same thing, and again, I’m probably misreading what people meant who told me that.

As much as writers I know tell me what you learn in one book will transfer, I The few things I’ve tried to write since Gabriel still had issues “Gabriel” had in the beginning and in all honesty, I might just be coasting by as hard as I work on my writing.

I don’t have a ready grasp on much I pretty much go by instinct and piecemental. It’s probably why I get panicked when I think about affording editors because there’s a limit to what beta-readers can do, however many you had. “Gabriel” had 100+ beta-readers of varying experience levels, and

That said, by the time my now ex-editor saw it, it was pretty clean and her editorial help was just some clarification and mild tense fixing (Tense REALLY trips me up because sometimes something present tense reads cleaner to me, even if my story’s supposed to be past tense…Sigh~)

This probably goes back to my high expectations mindset. It’s not that I expect to draw something amazing the first time. Really, I don’t. But I get overwhelmed with all there is to learn, at least with writing, stories can be rough but the writing itself is fun, and fun’s been in short supply for me in general, but esp. in writing.

I’m really jealous of writers who while they may struggle as I do, they at least have fun more frequently than I do, it’s hard to “Enjoy the damn journey” when what you don’t enjoy matters more and you can’t “Skip it.” Does my hiatus from publishing ease the pressure in my life? Yes, I can say that’s already true, even though I still have the matter of saving up to buy back my contract hanging over my head.

Sadly, that also hasn’t meant my attempts at writing have been more fun like I first hoped. I probably just need other things to do. But it’s hard to find things that don’t cost money I can’t spend (esp. due to the contract situation) transport I can’t always get, etc.

All my writer friends have told me in recent years to just focus on the fun, and as someone who’s trying to be a career writer, that came off to me like fun was all you need, and that ideal doesn’t stand up to rigors of real life where I have to eventually end my currently extended stay in my fragmented “Family Nest” and be on my own.

Not graduating high school and having that stupid GED hanging over my head prevents me from pursuing much other than publishing, no matter how many times I hear making a living in publishing is way low.

The bottom line is I’m not exempt because of my stagnation in trad. education where college degrees are mandatory to do much of anything else now, and again, being a janitor is not my idea of solving that problem. I know some writers apparently swear buy it, but all I see are endless days cleaning, dealing with filth, and coming home too exhausted to do anything else.

Janice (in private) once suggested Starbucks, but I see no jobs there I can do, and I so can’t learn and memorize over a dozen coffee drinks and combinations and whip them up at a fast paced turnover, and yes I know there’s likely on the job training-I know the more I’m forced to speed up the more mistakes I make.

Most employers want fast and well done, and I can’t do both at once, but I’m also not so “slow” that cheap labor’s all I’m good for, if that makes any sense without sounding unmeaningly snobbish.

I know I’m not seeing what they really meant yet that’s how it felt. Probably an indicator I was going to fall apart ages ago, huh? But at the time I just was pushing past it because as I’ve said before, I used to give up to easily or lose interest before I really made an effort, I didn’t want writing to be that fleeting pastime other things had been growing up.

It’s like telling a laid off police officer to switch from policing to being a filmmaker, the learning curve is a MAJOR whiplash, and it’s what I feel about finding this other nebulous career that has “reliable income.”

All I think of are careers that frankly are just as hard as breaking into publishing.

All my interests are in the arts, I’ve no interest in law, medicine, finance or hospitality, yet those are supposed to be the “Pay the bills” jobs I’m supposed to lean on, but they all require schooling I don’t have, skills I don’t have, and a whole different personality than what I have.

Much as I want to be positive, and believe in change, I also have to face my limitations and sometimes that’s not overtly positive.

I feel so tired emotionally and mentally most days I feel like I’m forever “On break” which is part of why I didn’t want to walk away from publishing, not only because I didn’t want to be a quitter, but because

Yeah, I know this is just a “season” I’m in, but I see no end to this season or what I’m supposed to do while I’m in it. I can’t spend days upon days in bed. While I’m seeing a therapist/taking meds again, I don’t think it’s just clinical depression that’s the problem here, if that makes any sense.

While I don’t want to worry myself into a stupor, I also can’t pretend what’s bothering me will go away, and I can only “Forget about it” for only so long.

Okay, I’ll stop here before I get back into my old habits, and I know I’m sounding like a broken record again, anyway, but even though we agree the whole “30” thing isn’t that big a deal, it doesn’t change how angry, scared and sad I feel not know what to do next. I can’t help that.

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Jami Gold February 9, 2016 at 7:54 am

Hi Taurean,

I still have my first original novel waiting for me in a drawer. I don’t know that I can fix it yet either, so I understand. My debut novel was my third completed novel and the fifth one I started.

I know you worry about each of your stories taking a decade, but the rough draft doesn’t have to take that long. (Or if the drafting drags out because we’re not feeling it, we can abandon it. You can see from my numbers up there that I have 2 started and not completed books in there too. 🙂 ) So I hope you’re able to avoid the pressure you put on yourself to have fun with writing again.

Hmm, one reason Starbucks might be worth looking into is because of their support for education. (They provide qualified employees with a free college education through Arizona State’s online program, I believe.) Yes, it might not work, but as you said, they’d provide the on-the-job training, so it might be good to look into it more and not dismiss it out of hand. I’m not sure if you’ve done that already though. 🙂 Good luck and thanks for the comment!

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) February 9, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Thanks for replaying, Jami,

I just don’t want not finishing things to be a habit. I do wish I could hear/read the words, “Have Fun” and not feel defensive and sad that I don’t know what fun is in regards to writing anymore.

That isn’t your fault or anyone else’s. I’m just frustrated.

Re Starbucks: I do have a problem. At the same time, as I know I have the habit of being overambitious, and I don’t want to get into the habit of overestimating what I can do, that’s what I’ve done with writing/publishing, remember?

Plus, I It takes me more than 5 min. to make myself coffee, so that’s why I don’t see myself serving customers as a fast clip.

But maybe training would solve that.

But I’m not sure if I want to open the wound of putting working in food (or beverage) again.

Still, until this stupid GED warship is shot down, that isn’t an option anyway. I know they have programs and benefits, but that’s a moot point if I can’t do the job. But I know, don’t dismiss offhand.

My grandmother and my therapist told me the same thing yesterday, but again, I don’t want to overestimate what I can do. But I do need to leap out of my comfort zone.

It’s just hard when what much of what I want to do isn’t in Detroit.

Unless you like cars, football or some other sports, not much to do, I like cars but I’m not a fanatic, and don’t get me started with football or other sports, which I imagine you can relate, too…

I want to travel, see plays, try out fun restaurants, but they’re beyond my finances (esp. given the contract situation), or I can’t travel to them if money wasn’t the issue.

The only low cost things I like to do I do at home, again, being my own best company. But that defeats the purpose.

I just can’t force myself to like sports.

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Jami Gold February 10, 2016 at 8:03 am

Hi Taurean,

Yes, there’s definitely a balance between overestimating and underestimating (or giving up too early/easily) that can be tricky to find.

As for Detroit, no doubt that the city’s issues have affected services and the like, but even in a place like that, there are usually still bright spots like the Zoo, Institute of Art, Greenfield Village, etc. 🙂

I’m not saying that any of that is relevant to your situation (I have no idea if any of those are near you and have job openings, for example), but I’m pointing out that sometimes we can be so close to something that we don’t see the bigger picture–which is where possibilities tend to hide. 🙂

And if I were in Detroit, I wouldn’t be a football fan (the Lions suck–LOL!), but I actually do enjoy football quite a bit, so it’s a good thing I’m not there. 😉 That said, I understand the desire to find ways to enjoy life, and budget limitations can make that very difficult. I hope something comes together for you! *hugs*

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) February 10, 2016 at 6:24 pm

Lions aside, I’m just not a football fan in general, Jami, that’s not the fault of the Lions: Or any other team in the league’s fault, okay? (LOL)

Sports were just never my world, either playing or watching, no matter how much the teams exceled or sucked, just saying.

I respect those who love sports, of course, it’s just not my world as I’ve said, but it’s hard when that’s the major spotlight where you live, and please don’t get me started about Star Wars (Yoda and I do not get along…*Shivers*)

I’ve been to a lot of the major sights most folks outside the city/state know of, but it doesn’t grip me right now.

To not sound totally dismissive, I’m making a greater effort this week to find events or places that jive with me, so far nothing’s clicked yet.

I have to put myself out there or nothing will change. I know that.

Maybe I’m just so used to amusing myself that I have a harder time doing something new, as much as I’m bored and lonely with the status quo.

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Jami Gold February 11, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Hi Taurean,

LOL! I hear you. And I know you’ve been working really hard at reaching out and not being dismissive of possibilities, so I just wanted to let you know that I’m proud of you and cheering you on. 🙂 *hugs*

Davonne Burns February 2, 2016 at 7:38 am

I’ve had to argue with people that yes writing is indeed an art form. I do love your suggestions for getting through a block. I enjoy painting/drawing, gardening and cooking so those are usually the things I turn to when I need a creative break. Actually now that I’m thinking about it, this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m in desperate need of a creative recharge now that my book was finally released. Thanks to you I now have some ideas.
^_^

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Jami Gold February 2, 2016 at 8:51 am

Hi Davonne,

Yay! I’m glad it helped. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Carradee February 2, 2016 at 9:21 am

Tbh, I’m increasingly finding that consumption of real food seems to do the most good for me. But I know I’ve reason for being odd, in that. [wry smile]

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Jami Gold February 2, 2016 at 10:44 am

Hi Carradee,

LOL! Hey, compared to some crap food, real food can be an art. 😉 Glad you’ve found what’s working for you!

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Serena Yung February 2, 2016 at 11:38 am

Yeah I get what you mean by not considering writing a legitimate “art”, but if I call it “literature” instead, it feels more like an art to me, because…”the literary arts”! Lol.

Hmmm I don’t actually get writer’s block anymore, and I don’t really draw for the sake of freeing my creativity; I draw just for the pleasure of it. But to add something actually constructive to this discussion, lol, in drawing, I find it very nice to vary what kinds of things I draw. I had been almost solely into drawing human figures and faces, especially the latter, for about 4-5 years… But recently I started drawing Pokemon, and woah it feels different in a very pleasant way!

When you draw, you pick up on the different “rules” of drawing (especially animal-shaped) Pokemon vs drawing human beings. E.g. in how you draw animal-like legs and torsos, or faces with muzzles vs. human faces, etc. But I admit that I do have some prior experience in this, because in my childhood, I was more passionate about drawing animals than in drawing humans (in contrast to many of my classmates), so I already understood some of the “principles” in how to draw animal limbs and bodies, etc.

So anyway, though I don’t know how drawing Pokemon will improve my ability to draw human faces and figures (or to write better), I do believe this experience of drawing something very different, will enhance my drawing skills in general. And who knows, this might help me understand something in the literary arts. *Shrug* That Wired to Create book I mentioned in a previous comment also convinced me to acquire more different life (and artistic) experiences, to enrich my writing and stories!

Learning how to use Photoshop and coloring with PS is a lovely new art experience for me too!

One more thing: Have you heard of the phenomenon where you stop doing an art for months or years, but when you get back to the art, you realize to your happy surprise that your skills have actually improved since you last did it? The theory is that your abilities were developing themselves within your subconscious while you were doing other stuff. I found this to be true for me in my drawing. My ability to draw animal-like bodies is definitely better than it was many years ago, even though I hadn’t drawn anything but human beings for those many years. It’s also as if I’ve grown older and more experienced as a person, so I could handle these shapes more skillfully and with more insight? Not sure, lol.

This is not to say that I think we shouldn’t keep practicing, though!

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:18 am

Hi Serena,

LOL! But “literature” makes me think of literary rather than genre writing, so I’m not sure that helps. 😉

Great example for how variations–especially in principles and rules to understand–apply across art. And you’re right–when I’m doing something else creative, I feel like I’m stretching different (but related) muscles. 🙂

Hmm, that’s interesting, and I haven’t heard of that subconscious growth phenomenon, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Especially if we’re doing something related to the art in the meantime. For example, if we’re reading, we’re still picking up pointers for how to approach characterization, plotting, worldbuilding, etc. 😀 Thanks for comment!

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Serena Yung February 4, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Loll I know what you mean. Well I’ve heard of the term “children’s literature”, and one of my primary schools had a “world literature day” that featured only genre books, so I guess that’s why my subconscious associates literature with both literary and genre fiction! Oh btw just a question on semantics: If an author only writes literary fiction and someone asks them, “What genre do you write in?” Would the author reply, “The literary genre.” or “No genre. I write literary fiction.”? Are literary novels even considered a “genre”?

Ooh for your example of doing related things that will increase your skills, maybe I should hypothesize that my years of observing the shapes of living organisms (including squirrels, cats, dogs, pigeons, etc.) subconsciously made me understand the “principles” of drawing animal shapes more. I don’t know! Lol.

And I think when I write plays or poetry for fun, it probably teaches me things about novel writing too. 😀 Analyzing Shakespeare’s romantic comedy plays like in my earlier comment was enlightening to me as well, haha.

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Christina Hawthorne February 2, 2016 at 11:54 am

An inspiring post. Thanks, Jami. I think of writing as an art and a craft, but then all arts have a more conventional cousin. Music is linked to math, drawing to engineering, and so on. Too, the arts exist on a color wheel, each influencing the other if mixed. Thus, I may turn to music, drawing, or photography for added inspiration, but then my words may do the same for a musician or painter.

I often avoid the word “muse” because some writers blame their inactivity on the gremlin they can’t control. Still, we’re using it here so I’ll use it. Our muse lives in a room where a blank screen equals a dark, cold room. Want to brighten the environment? Open the curtains and invite friends. My muse is often visited by Beethoven, The Beatles, Hozier, and others. Too, Leonardo or Bierstadt might stop by. Today, you visited. Thank you.

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:29 am

Hi Christina,

Great point! Yes, every style of art has serious craft principles to learn too. 🙂

I’ve mentioned before that I use the word muse because that helps me respect my subconscious’ input more (especially if I’m thinking of a big guy getting grumpy when I ignore his ideas–LOL!), but you’re right that we wouldn’t want to use that concept as an excuse for getting to work. And I love the idea of inviting friends over to stimulate and inspire that muse. 😀 Thanks for sharing!

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Paula Millhouse February 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm

I do consider writing an art form, especially when I turn my eye toward edits. Crafting the right sentences makes me happy (and my muse is male too, BTW, Jami.)

Writing/editing feels a lot like composing to me.

I paint, and it is good to get away from writing and create pictures. I combined those skills last year by painting a fantasy map my editor included in my latest release – every fantasy world needs a map,right?

*One important tip – if you’re suffering from Writer’s Block, have some blood tests done. Not exactly artistic, but I found out I was suffering with a critically low Vitamin D level last November when I had to drop out of NaNo2015. Now that I fixed the deficiency, the Block disappeared.

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:32 am

Hi Paula,

Yay! Nice to meet a fellow male-muse writer. LOL!

Great comparison of writing/editing and music composition. That’s probably the art style that resonates the most with me too. Especially because I think in words like resonate and rhythm. 😉 Oh, and great tip about keeping up our health too! Thanks for sharing!

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Mike February 2, 2016 at 1:15 pm

The Taoist would argue that every method and every process is part of the Tao.

So in addition to music, we could add acting, calligraphy, rock climbing, and martial arts. All these disciplines teach us to focus and make sound choices. The “art” emerges as it all becomes second nature and flows naturally.

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:41 am

Hi Mike,

Beautiful thought and insight! 🙂

That’s a great point for writing–we have to learn the principles for our writing to best flow with our ideas. Thanks for sharing!

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Lara Gallin February 2, 2016 at 1:21 pm

You wouldn’t believe how topical this is for me right now! I stalled a while back and I recently started compiling pictures and photos of the places in my book as I see them in my head. It’s frustrating at times when I’ve not been able to find exactly what I want but overall it’s been very rewarding to have those pictures in front of me as inspiration. My pièce de résistance though is my recent venture into arts and crafts. My book features a book that has been hidden away for 150 years so I bought a relatively cheap embossed journal and transformed it into how I visualise the book (or at least as much as I could on a budget!). The idea was that creating a major prop would serve as inspiration. The problem though is that it’s supposed to be mysterious but when you’ve made it pretty much from scratch and the whole process has had you tearing your hair out, it takes all of the mystery out of it! Still pretty proud of the end result though :-p (incidentally, I posted a photo of it on Twitter if you want to check it out!)

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:46 am

Hi Lara,

Oh, great point about how exploring our story visually can help too! I couldn’t find your picture on Twitter, but it sounds like a fun (or frustrustrating? or funstrating? LOL!) project. 😉 Thanks for sharing!

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Lara Gallin February 5, 2016 at 2:10 pm

I’m putting the pictures into collages for each of the worlds and looking at them is great for imagining myself being there. What’s been most helpful about the whole exercise, is that it’s allowed me to expand on how I imagine these locations to be. It’s laborious but worth it, I just wish I was a digital artist myself!

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Jami Gold February 6, 2016 at 9:32 am

Hi Lara,

I love that process too–it’s so fun! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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Sue Coletta February 2, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Thinking of writing as art, which it is; I don’t disagree, reminds me of “those” people who always put “creative” in air quotes. Oh, you’re “creative” as if that explained so much.

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:49 am

Hi Sue,

Ugh. Yes, I think I used to think of art in that “one of those” way (since my stick figures didn’t seem very creative–LOL!). But now I’m rather proud of not being like the crowd. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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dolorah February 2, 2016 at 11:25 pm

I like the idea of doing something else creative to kick start the writing muse. Sometimes I think my muse is on permanent holiday. Its not so much a lack of ideas as a lack of inclination to flesh them out in a story.

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:52 am

Hi Dolorah,

Yes, sometimes just overcoming inertia and building up momentum is the hardest part. 🙁

I tend to think about my story ideas–imagining scenes and characters bantering, etc.–until my fingers itch to capture it all. If you haven’t tried playing out scenes in your head like a movie, maybe see if that helps you too. Good luck! 🙂 And thanks for the comment!

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Kylie Day February 3, 2016 at 4:50 am

I also find that nourishing creativity is a great way to help my writing. My solution to those times when I feel writer’s block approaching is to knit. I come up with new ideas when knitting – whether it be names for characters, how to describe something, new settings or scenes, plot twists, etc.

I will definitely try some of the options listed in your post, too. My closet has begged me to organize it for months now, but I haven’t done anything about it yet *grins*.

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:53 am

Hi Kylie,

Oh, great activity to add to the list! I know several writers who knit. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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Sophie Playle February 3, 2016 at 4:58 am

Great article, Jami. I’ve just shared it with the subscribers of my newsletter 🙂

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:53 am

Hi Sophie,

Thank you! I hope it’s helpful. 🙂

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Kristin Rockaway February 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Such a perfect article. Thanks, Jami!

I *do* think of writing as an art form, and doing so has helped me immensely in terms of shaping my stories and getting “unstuck.” When I had to rewrite 40,000 words of my novel in a very short period of time, I turned to The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield (who’s a writer). It discusses “resistance” and “the muse” at length, and provided just the motivation I needed for a tough job. It’s a very short read and I highly recommend it to all writers!

As for other creative outlets — I keep a small unlined journal with a faux-wood cover on my desk. The spine reads “Writer’s Block.” Whenever I’m feeling stuck, I turn to a fresh page and doodle. 🙂

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 6:54 am

Hi Kristin,

Awesome! I’ll have to check out that book. 🙂 And thanks for the great idea of an activity to add to our list!

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Sara L. February 3, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Funny, I’m working on a guest post about how writers can benefit from using adult coloring books. 🙂

Like you, I’m not artistically inclined in areas other than writing, even though I love listening to music and find so much beauty in photography, paintings, etc. (I used to dance years ago, but stopped when I didn’t feel like being in recitals anymore.) But I know a number of people who draw, paint, write music, and so on to help keep their creative juices flowing or to get themselves “unstuck” from writer’s block.

That said… I jumped onto the adult coloring book bandwagon last year; and even though it’s not necessarily as skilled as other art forms, it helps you focus and engages your senses of touch and sight while you’re essentially creating something aesthetically pleasing. It’s fun and relaxing, and it could be a good “change of playground” if I ever get stuck with my own writing.

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Jami Gold February 4, 2016 at 7:55 am

Hi Sara,

Oh yes! I want to get one of those coloring books. 🙂

Like you, I appreciate beauty in art, but that’s different from being able to produce it. (And I’m too klutzy for dance.) Thanks for reminding me of the coloring book option! 😀

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Joanna Aislinn February 5, 2016 at 7:38 am

Hey Jami,

This post came at a much-welcome time (that seems to be waxing and waning for far too long a period now–but of course that’s beside the point). 🙂

I like the coloring book idea too, but knowing me it will sit there. I definitely agree with the idea of getting away from the keyboard when I’m just too frustrated to be there. (My issue is I wind up using that reason as avoidance–also beside the point.)

Having said all that, I have found the concepts in Roz Morris’ (1st) Nail Your Novel book to be helpful. Getting into a task that doesn’t require conscious thought can help my mind wander into characters and story. (It’s remembering to jot down any flashes of ideas later that can be the rub–geez! I have issues, lol.)

Finally, since creativity seems low and avoidance high, I’ll be sharing this at my blog this week. Thank you!

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Jami Gold February 5, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Hi Joanna,

There’s definitely a thin line between not beating ourselves up too much and letting us cling to excuses too much. :/

Like you, I need to be better at writing down my ideas. LOL! I’m forever telling myself, “Oh, I’ll remember that.” 😉 Thanks for the comment and for sharing!

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) February 6, 2016 at 6:29 am

As much as I don’t want to be that “Deadbeat” who sponges of others and never does any hard work, and I don’t apologize for that, I’m starting to realize “lazy” isn’t always a dirty word.

I had to grow up fast in a lot of ways, so I have harder time Because I had no friends offline much of my life I had to amuse myself, and when I started being serious about publishing my writing, I cut out a lot of the few things I did to amuse myself.

Video games, cooking (which unlike some I really enjoy), some TV time, and going places other than the bookstore.

Now I have to rethink everything in my life and build a new (and happier) normal, and I’m at a loss as how to do it.

Still, I can’t be that kid who had endless time to play video games and watch TV like I had infinite time.

So I have a hard time “Having fun” the way most my age apparently do, barring the dangerous, illegal and jerky things one can think of, I didn’t even watch an R-rated movie until I was 18, that’s how tame I was in some ways.

While I don’t like the term “Extended Adolescence” because I’ve always wanted to grow up, I do think there’s something profound and getting in touch with your inner child, but I don’t think we should view adulthood is the end of fun.

I mean, how depressing is it to think it’s all downhill after 18-21?

After all, apart from sex and alcohol, it would be depressing if life was only fun as kids and we spent our adult lives overworked and bored out of our skulls.

I always thought there was more about besides taxes, bills and being old enough to drink alcohol, now I’m not as sure some days. I know I sound silly but I feel that sometimes.

I didn’t see my 20s as “Lost Years” I wanted them to matter. But maybe I’m meant to be a happier “Old Man” than a wide-eyed youth or something. That’s my only theory at the moment.

I just know after what I’ve been through in my conscious memory from 4 to now-I better be the happiest old timer who ever lived to justify where I am now! I’m not even kidding, Jami. (Sigh)

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Jami Gold February 9, 2016 at 7:59 am

Hi Taurean,

Yep, the older I get, the more I realize that growing up doesn’t mean the end of being a goofball or whatever. 🙂

Maybe because you had to grow up so fast, you’ll find that adulthood–once you feel stable–fits you more comfortably than the in-between stage. Here’s hoping you’re able to get to that point soon. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Cynthia February 15, 2016 at 9:23 am

Ah, the old “my art is better than your art” argument. This post really resonated for me. I struggle these days with rhuematoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, both of which rob me of energy and concentration. I use crochet to get help me with the rough spots where I can’t write.

For a long time, I told myself that writing wasn’t really a creative pursuit. My crochet had languished in the closet for a decade or so. Then, my husband died and I found it while cleaning out a closet. I noticed immediately that when I was in pain and couldn’t write, the crochet forced me to sit still (a good thing when in pain) and concentrate details. Once I put my work down, I was able to go back to writing with a lot more focus and sometimes new ideas. In crochet, you spend a lot of time counting but you can also do other things. You can carry on conversations, watch t.v. and think about all kinds of things, like story ideas, scenes, and characters.

I also sew and love painting rooms but I’ve found, with my current health problems, that crochet has been a kind of salvation. When I finish a piece, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

I think everyone needs a secondary outlet for creativity, even if it is just building model airplanes out of a box. The mind, as you point out, needs a break at times to reset. When we come back to the story, we often come back with new and better vision and ideas.

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Jami Gold February 16, 2016 at 8:21 am

Hi Cynthia,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience! The only time I’m able to focus on audiobooks (my audio processing is usually poor) is when I’m doing something with my hands, such as sewing. So I can understand how that same brain-space could be used to brainstorm as well.

I’m glad you’ve found something that works so well for you! 😀 And thanks for the comment!

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cinnamonb February 17, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Hello Jami and all –
I don’t get here often, but this was a good post (and discussion indeed. I thoroughly do believe writing is an art —— and takes its place alongside the other arts you all have mentioned.

I do blog and have found myself often thinking of visual ways to express my thoughts on a topic. Of course I have very limited graphic skills so I can only do so much in that regard, but it does appeal sometimes as something different to explore. I have also done a coloring page or two and that is quite a fun activity.

I love Mike’s idea that ” The “art” emerges as it all becomes second nature and flows naturally.” Guess I just wish that happened more often 🙂 There’s no feeling like when the writing is flowing and the poem, story, novel or whatever vehicle is almost writing itself.

Is there an answer to Taurean’s question of “what can words do that visuals and sound can’t?” Great questions such as that really make us think! I guess words, visuals, sounds can all do what I personally feel art can do: it can challenge us, inspire us, connect us, aggravate us, make us laugh, bore us —— it all depends on the piece of art, and the responder. (that’s just my two cents 🙂 )

Anyway, best of luck Taurean – and everyone with your projects.

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Jami Gold February 20, 2016 at 10:46 am

Hi Cinnamonb,

I just got a couple of coloring books, so I’ll have to see how that works for me. 🙂

I’m wish you in that I wish I could enter that “writing zone” more often (or more easily). LOL! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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