Updated: Mar 27
Even when you're not working, you're working. Does this ring true for you?
We've become so accustomed to our brains being "on" all the time, brainstorming, planning, problem-solving, hustling, cracking codes, whatever, that when our brains are not engaged in a "useful" way, we feel a bit guilty.
It's understandable. As a freelancer, if I'm not "on-it" continuously, then I won't have a pipeline of work to rely on.
It. Is. Exhausting. And for someone who needs to keep coming up with new perspectives and fresh ideas, it's also pretty counter productive. I find that if I don't allow - nay - force my conscious brain to have down-time, the end result is that it keeps running loops around the same thoughts and concepts like a lab rat looking for the illusive cheese.
So, what to do when the creative tank is at dangerously low levels? How can you get your motor running at premium capacity again?
What fuels your engine, hmmm?
Firstly, I'm going to ditch the fossil fuel analogies. Then, I'm going to list some of the methods I use to reboot the old brain.
1. Step away from the screen
There is no getting away from them! Whether it's doing my banking, correspondence, research, networking or actual work, I'm on the screen. It's no accident that as soon as I leave the laptop and phone behind, the ideas and solutions start popping in my head.
Neurologically speaking, boredom has an important function in brain health. When we're not "doing", the brain falls back into a default mode, not only giving it a much needed rest, but also allowing for ideas to germinate and flourish.
2. Interact with humans
Tempted to cancel that get-together with a friend because you have too much work on? Don't!
Go along and chat, catch-up, laugh, cry, talk shite. Repeat. We are social beings, we need face-to-face social interaction for our mood and mental well-being.
And not only is it good manners to talk to your friends about things that interest them rather than you, it can also also throw up the odd gem in terms of re-filling the ideas bank. Details from random subjects can add depth to a character's backstory or even trigger a whole new project!
We all know about the physical, emotional and mental benefits of exercise. But there is definitely something about just getting up and moving around in a different location that makes the brain switch gears and allows you to see the same issues from a different perspective.
So whether you dance, go for a long walk, ride a bike, jog, or whatever floats your boat motion-wise, just do it.
Before I had a dish-washer, I can't tell you how many times I had a major break-through while scouring pots and pans. Any cleaning will do, take your pick. I'm reasonably sure there is a constant demand at your house for some form of vigorous or light cleaning. Oh, and sorting stuff definitely counts too.
It's basically a chewy toy for your brain; distract it from the problem you're mentally struggling with and, like magic, a solution will appear. I guarantee it will work. If not, you will have a marvellously clean house. There are no downsides.
5. Listening to music
This is one of my favourites, actually. Lots of writers rely on music to get them in the zone; some even go to the trouble of compiling a sound track for the project they're working on. Personally, I cannot write when any kind of music with lyrics is playing, so it's usually something unobtrusive and instrumental that I listen to, depending on the genre of the project.
I'm working on a fairly serious period drama at the moment and have been listening to Shamanic healing music to write by, with lots of chimes and Tibetan singing bowls. Try it!
6. Cross Pollination
Read, watch, go the theatre, an art gallery; feed your creative soul via other mediums!
Going outside of your genre comfort zone is a great way to add something fresh to projects and can inspire your work in surprising ways.
7. Mind maps
I'm using this term in the broadest possible sense! Whether you want to go old school by sitting down in a comfortable chair with paper and pen or actual white board, or use online programs such as Miro, mind maps are a great way to break out of plot-heavy, linear-based thinking modes and add depth to your project.
I'm most probably preaching to the converted here, but creating a pinterest board for a project is not simply a displacement activity! It can be really crucial in understanding the visual world and tone of your script.
8. Get in water
Look, I'm not saying that because you're a writer you inherently have poor personal hygiene. But there is something kind of magical and inspirational about being in water, isn't there?
I could go on and on metaphorically about amniotic sacks and birth etc but I won't. I'll just say that for me personally, water works.
What about you? How do you get your creative mojo back?