Thursday, November 3, 2011

Write Club - Cleanse the Palate

Hey y'all.  I feel like spouting today, so I will.  I was thinking about it lately, and writing this massive five part Mega Man fanfiction I've been doing for the past few years has really burned me out at a point or two.  I'm doing pretty good now, but there was a time when writing it was really hard.  I felt so burnt out and uninspired.

Which is why from time to time people have to stop writing and take a break.  I mean sure, sometimes "take a break" means write something else, but at the end of the day we all need to stop and cleanse the mind, not writing at all.  It's a weird thing to say now that it's NaNoWriMo month, and the writer types are trying to write 50,000 words (I need to get working on that) this month, but yeah, we all need a break sometimes.  And for the record, I think November is a terrible month to choose for NaNoWriMo.

Anyway, so what can you do?  Some of these options I'm going to list may seem obvious, but this isn't a thinker blog post, it's a nagging blog post.  I know us writer types have to be nagged into doing things a lot of the time, and so I will nag for this.  Trust me, your writing will be better in the end.

1. Go the heck outside.
Nature will always revitalize us, and the sun is wonderful.  Get out of the dang house and go for a walk.  I know for some of you this will be hard, as you live in a city and nature takes some distance to get to.  I personally like the city as well, but do what you have to do.

- Go lie in the sun for an hour.
- Go on a walk.
- Climb a tree.
- Hang out with friends.
- Go swing on a swing.  No, I don't care how old you are.  Bonus points if you go on the teeter-totter.
- Wash the car.  It's dirty.

2. Work.
For some reason, I generally always get inspired when I'm not sitting in front of the computer.  When I'm at church, school, work -- anywhere but where I can type my story -- it's so much easier to think of what to write.  Basically it's because my brain doesn't shut up, but maybe this can help you out too.

- Wash dishes.  No really, it works.
- Scrub the floors.
- Have you ever noticed that you have coffee/food stains on your lower cabinets in the kitchen?  No?  You might wanna check on that.
- Clean out your car.
- Scrub the tub.
- Mow the lawn
- Build a shelf.

3. Entertain yourself.
Hey, you're working hard putting your story together to entertain people, but what about your brain?  It needs fun stuff to do from time to time.  So long as you don't use this as an excuse to slack.  For example, watching TV is not always a good way to go, especially since your eyes might hurt from staring at the computer so much.

- Play a video game.  This is better than watching TV because you're actually doing something.
- Play a game.  You know, with like, real people.  The internet doesn't count.
- Karaoke is fun, especially in Asia.  You might not live in Asia, but do karaoke anyway.
- But a hamster and watch it run around in its cage.  They're so darn cute.  I love it when they drink from their water bottles.  Aww...or just watch the pet you have already.  Or someone else's pet.  Or that squirrel in your yard.

4. Shut up, brain.
Sometimes you're just done.  Your head hurts, you don't want to think about life, and you especially don't want to think about your fiction.  Trouble is, you're so burnt out that you can't even make your brain stop thinking about your story, and it's starting to make you sick.  Or, alternatively, you realize that you haven't been out of your fiction mode for a month.  Loved ones are sick to death of you talking about writing, but you have effectively cut your brain out of reality mode.  Or is this just me here?

- Go find a moderately busy place, like a restaurant or the mall, and just watch people.  Don't try to think about what they're doing or why they're doing it, just note their literal physical activity.  This will help you get away from your characters and expecting people to act a certain way.
- Sleep.  Your brain knows when you stayed up til three in the morning for a whole week, and it's punishing you for it.
- I suppose this is the category where TV fits, as long as you watch something that only mildly interests you.  If you like it a lot, you'll try to watch it more carefully.  If you hate it, you'll try to point out why.  No.  Go watch sports follies or PBS cooking shows.
- Write in your journal about reality.
- Stare at a color you really like.  Don't look at me like that, it works.
- Stop writing.  Entirely.  The first day will be a relief, but some time after that your brain will be so mad at you for not writing that it will start coming up with new ideas.  Warning: depending on your situation, you may need to stop writing for a longer period of time.  Don't let this stress you.  Your brain needs rest at times too.
- Write something else.  Sometimes it's just a specific story that's getting you down.  Even if what you write in the meantime isn't great or never gets published, go on ahead and do it.  Your brain will thank you later.

5. Music.
No, not all music works for this.  Usually the type of music that works best can change per person, but there are some genres that are right out.  Keep in mind that you're trying to refresh your mind, not overexcite it.  This means no techno, metal, rock, pop, fast jazz, or modern country.  Also, nothing depressing.  When you're happy, your writing comes easier.

- Listen to worship music.  Non-Christians won't like this one, but it works.   It just does.  Notedly, it works better if it's live rather than recorded.  Here's a link to a very relaxing song anyway:  Oh hey, and here's my favorite worship song:
- Floaty trance -- the trance that's all angel choirs and clouds.  Ishkur of Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music despises this genre, and admittedly it doesn't really deserve to be taken too seriously.  That, however, doesn't stop it from being really good to listen to when you're burnt out.  This stuff is like water: boring, but refreshing. Links: or
- Enya.  Duh.
- Have you checked out DJ Redlight's new song Far From Home?
- Okay, so maybe you're one of those people that's stuck on lyrics.  Okay.   What you need in that case is silly electronic music, either trance [] or mildly melodramatic house []

Relax.  It's good for you.

6. Last step: get back to what inspires you.
This is the step I can't always guide you too much on.  It's something you have to know for yourself.  Okay, so you've been taking a break and taking care of yourself, so now it's time to work on returning to your work. You've got to bring yourself to the place you were when you first got the passion to write the story.

- What inspired you to write this story?  Is it a memory?  A sound?  A color?  Just generally get a hold of that and try to put yourself back where you were.
- Get out of your normal environment.  Go to the library or somewhere you know you can be alone or doesn't have anything to do with the daily grind.
- Go to a location that inspires you and just write.  I had a story come from a visit to Barnes and Noble, and it was a story I thought of every time I went there.  Surely this place exists for you.
- What music were you listening to then?  Step 5 is over, so it's cool if that happens to be metal or something.
- Reread your old stuff.  This will serve to constantly show what you wrote and remind you how much you love writing.  It will also help you not have plotholes.

So there you go, I hope this helped.  If you feel burned out, then eat, exercise, sleep, and do ten of the things I suggested in steps 1-5.  Don't kill yourself to finish a story.  If you really love your tale, you'll want to get it right.