Saturday, May 1, 2010

Update: Lack of Motivation

I am happy to report that I have gotten my motivation back!! I got some really great advice from fellow authors who've been there. While you're in the slump, you feel as though it will last forever--much like when you have a new baby and they go through that first growth spurt at six weeks. You're tired all the time and you start to wonder if it will ever end. Then suddenly, you get a breather. I'm sure I'm not alone in either of these experiences.

So, how did I get back the will to write? I decluttered my house! 

Since last year Spring, I had the job to do, but you know how it is when you're an author--nothing else matters when you are in full flow of a new work in progress--and you can't let hubby do it cause you just know he'll throw out all the keepsakes you have of your babies. I still have some cupboards to tackle, but I was shocked to discover that the very first day after getting started I actually wrote! Now I'm back in the flow and don't want my To Do list to block me again, so I'll take a few days and finish what I started.

If you too find yourself not able to write, my advice would to ask yourself what is weighing on your subconscious mind? I am, quite frankly, shocked by how the things we put off in order to work can affect our creativity.

A fellow author was kind enough to email me one of her articles entitled "Ten Ways To Boost Your Creativity", and has given me permission to share it with you. She has some great advice on getting over writers' block and I'll be sure to keep this handy in case I open a Word doc again and find I haven't the motivation to write. I found this time to be an awful experience because writing has always been a part of my life. To not be able to do it was like losing a valuable part of myself.

If you find yourself in the midst of the dreaded writers' block, try Liana Laverentz's advice and see if it helps.

Ten Ways to Boost Your Creativity

As I’m blog-hopping, I read a lot about different kinds of creative endeavors and people wondering how to deal with getting stuck in the middle of a project. I don’t have that problem to any serious degree, my problem is more like one of time management, (hence the blog-hopping), but I’ve uncovered a few things along the way that can help me get unstuck if I find myself wallowing around in a project that just isn’t going where I think it should.

I have a tendency to think too much, to not relax enough to let my creativity flow. So I procrastinate. But I’m not really blocked, per se, just stumped for a while. So here are a few things that have worked for me, to get me unstuck when my mind won’t cooperate. My muse would do just fine, if my mind wouldn’t keep getting in the way.

Most of these apply to writing, but they can also apply to any creative pursuit such as painting, music composition, organizing a spreadsheet, decorating a house, planning a meal, creating jewelry or other artwork, or just feeling stuck in your life in general.

Journal: It’s just for you, nobody’s going to read it, it doesn’t have to be perfect or even make sense. If you’re an artist, doodle. A musician, write nonsensical lyrics. A cook, write weird recipes. Give yourself time to let your mind roam free, without any goal of producing something worthwhile. Just sit down for five or ten or even twenty minutes and write whatever comes to mind. Do it several days in a row and see if a theme emerges. I bet it will.

Free Associate with sticky notes: Get a pack of sticky notes and write just one thought or word on each. See what arises out of your subconscious. Then lay them out in some kind of order (but don’t stop to think about it or consciously organize the words), right on the spot. Do this on a piece of posterboard, or cardboard, whatever you have handy. Use different colors for different thoughts or moods if you want to. Stick them on the board where your impulse tells you that you need to put them, even if it doesn’t make sense. Later, you can go back and try to figure out the association(s) between the words.

Better yet, do this with a couple of friends. Each get a different color of sticky notes, and play it like a board game, where you each take a turn. One puts a sticky note in the middle, with a word or phrase on it, and you build a spider web of sorts from there, with words that come to you as a result of whatever you see on the board overall. You don’t have to respond to the last note posted. Again, later you can go back and see if any pattern has developed. But while you are posting the sticky notes, don’t stop to think. Just go with whatever comes into your mind.

Imitate/play with your pets: Animals have instincts. They don’t stop to think, should I do this, or should I do that? What if I make the wrong choice? They just “do.” Or, “be” as in the case of a cat basking it in the sun. When a cat basks, it basks. If a threat comes along, the cat will deal with it. If hunger arises, the cat will do the same. The cat doesn’t worry about what’s for dinner. The cat just “is.” And if a cat goofs up, misses the mark or whatever, they always shake it off, lift their heads and walk away unconcerned. I’ve always admired that skill.

Try being like a cat or a dog sometime, and just go with what your instinct tells you. If you goof, just shake it off like a cat does. Your instincts will get better over time.

In the short term, playing with a cat with something soft attached to a piece of string can be soothing and relax you enough to let your mind change gears. The same goes for rolling around on the floor with a puppy or playing fetch with a bigger dog. The point is to give your own mind a break.

Push a child in a swing: This is a wonderful opportunity to get some sunshine, exercise, spend quality time with your loved one, and make a child happy. Meanwhile your mind is free to wander. If you can do this while playing a simple board game or building blocks, more power to you. Or you can put on a video like Winnie The Pooh and hold the child in your lap. The child is thrilled you’re spending time with him or her and your mind is free to relax.

Clean your house: This includes folding laundry, sweeping the floor or (I recommend) washing it by hand (as opposed to just sailing through with the mop), doing dishes, dusting, or anything you can do without having to think about it. Your hands and body are in motion, you’re burning calories, your house is getting cleaner, and your mind is again free to wander. Painting walls works for this, too. Or gardening, or weeding. Or simply watering the plants.

Read something totally different from what you are working on: If you write non-fiction, read fiction. If you write fiction, read non-fiction, or read something in a genre totally different from yours. Good writing is good writing. Bad writing is bad. You can learn something from every book you read, good or bad. Reading is also a passive activity. Writing and editing are active. Again, it’s a way for your brain to switch gears and relax.

If you do art work, go to a show or page through books in a totally different medium. The same goes for music. Listen to something totally different from what you are trying to create. Either go to a concert you wouldn’t ordinarily be caught dead at or listen to some CDs. Not with judgment, but just for the experience. If you feel like your life is in a rut, go do something you’ve never done before. Just one step outside the box is enough to get you kick-started into trying new things again.

Take a nap: Pose a question in your mind about whatever is blocking you, ask for an answer to the problem, then forget about it, let it float away, put on some soft music and go to sleep. This does not always work the first time, or even the first few times, but eventually you will relax enough for your subconscious mind to come up with a solution.

Brainstorm with a friend: You can do this by phone or email. Play what if. What if my character did this? What if I re-wrote the scene from another point of view? What if I turned the painting upside down, or composed the song backwards? Think outside the box. Or, in a personal situation, play “What is the worst that can happen?” Eventually you’ll come up with scenarios so outrageous you’ll both be laughing, and who knows, you might unveil a kernel of truth or a new idea along the way.

Create a collage: (Note: click HERE see Monique DeVere's article on Collages).  This is one of my personal favorites. Get a piece of posterboard. You don’t have to use the whole thing. A half or a quarter will do—whatever you have time for. Go through magazines and tear out whatever appeals to you. Then arrange them on the posterboard, and see what emerges. If you do artwork, simply mix and match colors. If you write, you can create collages for your books, your characters, or yourself. This will work for any situation you can’t seem to get off of your mind. For more information on creating a collage, see my January 9, 2009 blog post and/or read my article on the Musings Page of my website at

Go to a conference or a workshop: Even if it’s not in the area you write or paint or cook or do crafts in. Learn something new, or revisit an old interest. Get inspired by what others are saying and doing. I’ve never been to a workshop or conference or class that I didn’t come home with a host of new ideas. Sometimes just being around real live people who do the things you do and think the way you think is enough.

Liana Laverentz is the author of three contemporary romances, Eppie and NJRW Golden Leaf award-winner Thin Ice, Golden Leaf winner Jake’s Return, and Ashton’s Secret, a murder mystery romance now available at The Wild Rose Press. For more information, go to
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  1. Monique:
    Great advice and I use most of them-except "clean your house" - I actually have a cleaning lady (Hey! I'm 62 and have a stressful day job. LOL) but I "declutter" to get my mojo back.
    And the nap-thing: works every time.
    Very good post.

  2. Great post and great perspective, Monique and Liana--Not sure I'll hand-clean the floor (though I do tend to hand-spot-clean) but keeping up with the house helps me tremendously, too. I've got so much mental clutter, when I see it reflected around me, I get crazy. (Plus, it gives me an excuse to blow off my work, whether it's a wip or an evaluation report.)

  3. Great advice! I have big plans to weed and work out in my gardens today, so that usually does get the creative juices flowing. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

  4. Monique, I'm so glad I visited your blog today! I'm between WIP's right now and feeling a bit lost. Now, I know what to do. Thank you for the words of wisdom. :)

  5. Read something other than what you write; brainstorm with your friends; play with the grandchildren, these are what I do when the muse is in vacation. Monique I am glad your muse is back. Liana is always a great physical and moral counselor.

  6. So glad to see I was of some help! Write on, ladies!

  7. Hi, ladies, thanks for dropping by. Liana really does have great ideas. Obvious things, but yet I didn't think to apply any of them while I was busy mentally banging my head against the 'puter screen :)

    Hugs x

  8. Hey Monique, I am so happy for you! I hear your relief in your words. But, to de-clutter my house, means I'll have to get rid of all the kids for a weekend. (G) LOL. Husbands are great aren't they.
    Look at you, you got your groove back, and spring cleaned your home. I'd say your on a roll!
    Now that you know what works for you. When I read your FB and you say your cleaning, I'll know it's code that you're in deep thought. Perhaps your next book will be about a sexy maid, undercover for FBI. LOL
    Big Hugs,

  9. Hi, Neecy,

    I like the undercover maid idea--could be very entertaining ;) {g}

    Hugs x

  10. When I decluttered my house last Christmas I found an old manuscript that had received the dreaded rejection. I sat down and read it, fell in love with my characters all over again, re-wrote and ended up selling the MS. So I think decluttering is good! I love the collage idea - playing with colours and shapes can take you into another dimension where your mind can free range. Thanks for this great post.

  11. Hi, Leigh,

    Thanks for dropping by. I wish I could get my hands on my old MSs. They are all saved on a format which is only compatible with the old Amstrad PCW9512+. It breaks my heart to see that pile of useless floppy diskettes, I can tell you.

    Hugs x


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I greatly appreciate it! :) :)