By J. M. Hochstetler
Have you ever experienced an unexpected letdown on completion of a project? You’re suddenly overtaken by the uneasy feeling that you ought to immediately jump into a new story and start producing words. The problem is that your brain seems to be stuck in neutral.
Discussions with fellow authors assure me that this is just part of a natural fallow season that often follows the long, hard grind of writing a book, just as fall follows summer. Deadlines may make it impossible for you to take advantage of a natural fallow season. But if your schedule allows, here are some strategies for replenishing the well of creativity and preparing physically and mentally for your next project.
Celebration. You’ve finished your project! That’s plenty of reason to celebrate with dinner out with a spouse, family member, or friend, or by going shopping or attending a movie, sports event, concert, or other event. Mark the completion of your goal by treating yourself to something special.
Take care of yourself. When we’re in the flood tide of a project, we tend to eat at irregular times, skip meals, and fill up on junk food. Good nutrition feeds not only your body, but also your brain. Eat fresh, wholesome foods, and if you’ve spent long periods in front of the computer, add exercise to your routine. Movement increases the blood flow to your brain and helps you to think better. But also be sure to get enough rest so your body can recharge.
Nurture your relationships. If you’ve been neglecting those close to you, take time to reconnect with them by not only engaging in activities, but also communicating on a deep, heart level. It’ll refresh you as much as it does them.
Jump-start your creativity. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing that you’ve neglected while immersed in your project. Make time for those activities, and while you’re at it, rediscover your environment. You may be surprised to discover new story ideas, characters and settings, even snippets of dialog and plot. Becoming involved in other forms of creativity will spark the creative flow in your writing too.
Get involved. Find ways to minister through your church, community organizations, and writers groups. Cheer others on in their endeavors. When you share the expertise you’ve gained and encourage others to succeed, they’ll do the same for you.
Free your mind. Engage in activities that allow you to free associate. Recently I accompanied my husband on a business trip, and ideas for scenes and dialog rushed into my mind while we were driving along in companionable silence. Much of this article wrote itself while I was driving to the post office. Seek out such opportunities and take advantage of them.
Prepare mentally. Read excellent literature and books about the craft of writing. Dive into research for your next project.
Promote yourself. Take advantage of online promotional opportunities via the social media, a new or redesigned website and blog, and by connecting with other writers through online loops and writers organizations.
Maximize your fallow season and watch your creativity explode when you’re ready to write that next project!
An award-winning author and editor, J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers, a graduate of Indiana University, a professional editor, and a lifelong student of history. She is the author of Daughter of Liberty, Native Son, Wind of the Spirit, and Crucible of War, books 1 through 4 of the American Patriot Series, the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Books 5 through 7 are forthcoming. Her contemporary novel One Holy Night was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Carol Award.
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