Let's Get Adventurous. (An Announcement From Me + A Challenge For You!)

If you listen really hard, what is your writing life telling you? Bonus: Can you muster up the courage to *do* whatever it's asking for? That's what we're looking at, over on the blog today. | lucyflint.com

One of the skills that I've tried to improve this year is listening. Not just to the people around me (though that's hugely important!), but also to my own instincts.

Especially my instincts about my writing life. 

Not my fears, but my honest observations, my true best-self sense of how I'm doing and where I'm at. 

Every time I really focus on this and check in, I'm rewarded, big time. It's why I've written about it here, here, and kinda here too. ... I am smitten with the power of pausing the noise and listening to the truth of what's really going on, underneath everything else.

I have never regretted doing this.

And near the end of September, I started listening in again. (Something about whenever the seasons shift: I always want to do a big "How'm I doing?" check.)

I set aside my productivity schedules and wildly important goals and self-care strategies and I listened. And, yep, sure enough, my writing life was saying something. Over and over and over. 

It said, "Help me, I'm starving."

Wait, what?!

I've been doing all this stuff in earnest, after all. I've been working to help my imagination and writing life recover from a really tough year. Which is why we've been talking self-care and strength building here in the blog. 

In the last two months, I've rebuilt my writing practice and honestly, I've found a really sweet routine. My writing space is the prettiest, coziest, and happiest it's ever been, and I'm reading novels on the regular

I'm treating myself well in so many ways. And everything feels lovely except that when I've been drafting, I feel like I'm stripping myself dry.

Like I'm mining something that isn't there anymore. 

So I kept telling myself it was just a matter of time before my imagination really caught up and my writing got all juicy and self-propelling again.

Only . . . 

Only it hasn't. 

I've done all my usual tricks, I've applied the best that I knew to do, and I still feel like my imagination is gasping.

So why isn't everything fixed? 

I had a few days (actually, it was more like a week) of total consternation. 

And then I picked up the book The Accidental Creative, by Todd Henry. (Like so many other good things that come into my life, this one was a recommendation from my mother. Thanks, Mom!!)

I read it in a whirlwind of excitement and hope.

Amidst the many helpful concepts and ideas, there were two that especially leapt out to me: 

1) Todd Henry's idea that creativity follows a kind of rhythm, and 2) his concept of creative stimuli, creative nutrition.

It hit me that my crazy year had deeply disrupted my own creative rhythm. No surprise there. But in rebuilding my routine, I was only working on half the problem. The externals are all back in place, but that internal rhythm of creating? That hasn't fully come back.

And, to fix that, I need to go deep into the world of creative nutrition: taking in the best kinds of things, so that my creativity can thrive.

Okay. So, good creative stimuli = brain food, which is the sort of metaphor I can get pretty happy about. 

To camp out on this for a moment: As I read Todd Henry's ideas about how to take in better creative nutrition, it really hit me. I'm a big fan of eating well, and taking in nutrient-rich foods, especially as a way of getting healthier. I've seen it happen in my physical body, so using the same principles for my mind and creativity gets me pretty happy and excited.

Here's the thing: sometimes, when you need an infusion of health, it makes sense to take a superb daily multivitamin. Sometimes, it means you commit to having a daily salad or green smoothie.

Yay. Good effort, good work, good food.

But sometimes it means that you go on a radical course of overhauling everything you eat. And flooding your body with superfoods, with all the best nutrition, all. the. time. 

And that, my friends, is exactly what I need now.

My earlier attempts were the creative equivalent of upping my vitamins and adding in more salads to my days. It's good, and a great way to maintain health. But when a total overhaul is required—and when there's nothing there to maintain—it's just not going far enough.

And this is what was brewing in my mind when I wrote about commitment last week. 

I want to go all-in with committing to my creativity. 

I've listened hard, and I've decided that I have to do whatever it takes to flood myself with creative nutrition. I'm pretty dang sure that this is the missing piece, the thing that bumps me back into a good groove.

Thanks to Todd Henry's book, I have a much better grip on where to go next. He has a great section called, "Stimuli: What Goes In Must Come Out."

I'm taking that tagline to heart, and I'm preparing for a mega fueling session. Here's the scary-exciting adventure that I'm planning for myself: 

For the whole month of October, I'm doing a creative nutrition immersion sabbatical festival extravaganza.

All right, so I haven't figured out the name yet. ;) 

I'm turning my full writerly attention onto soaking up the best kind of inputs.

I'll be listening to quality podcasts and TED talks and documentaries. I'll check out the good fiction that gets my inner eleven-year-old all excited and swept up. And I'll take plenty of artist dates. 

I'm planning on more art, more nature walks, more luscious music. More excursions, and more solitude.

More of anything that's gonna fill my parched creative reservoirs.

But in order to do this at maximum, I'm going to take a break from productivity. I need to stop producing for a little bit, so that I can regenerate what I produce from.

Because what I said in the last post is oh-so true: I want to commit to creativity in a bigger way. I want to nurture it, so that I can show up fully. I want to live in wonder and curiosity. 

And this is the big creative obstacle that I'm focusing on: I can't dream up a book if there's nothing for me to dream with.

What this means for the blog is, 
I'm going to take the month of October off. 

Yep.

In the blog world, that can be a kind of yikes decision to make.

But I've thought it through, and my deal with you is that I owe you my best.

If I keep chug-chug-chugging along without taking this month to consume a huge amount of creative nutrition, I'll just start repeating myself, or blogging on autopilot. And I wanna write my best stuff for you—it's what you deserve, and it's what I signed on for.

So: this will be my only post this October. (At this point, I'm pretty sure I'll be back in November to cheer you on for Nanowrimo: so check back in with me then.)

In the meantime, three things for you: 

1) Check out The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice, by Todd Henry. Because it's lovely and helpful. It blends so much good wisdom together, and helps you apply it in a rhythmic way.

If you needed one more reason besides my jumping up and down: He calls himself an arms dealer for the creative revolution. How amazing is THAT?! I'm so on board.

2) Check in with yourself. Take a little time and listen in to your heart of hearts. What do you, my dear lionheart, need most from this October?

Where are you craving a bit of a sabbatical yourself—but it sounded too wild, or you feel like you're supposed to just be productive all the time?

Where do you need permission to unplug?

What's aching for some better care, some deeper rest, some quality nutrition?

And, especially those of you who are gearing up for Nanowrimo, can you do the crazy thing and give yourself some space to fill up your reservoirs?

3) Finally, if you're in need of a pep talk, inspiration, or some extra encouragement while I'm off refueling, check out my brand-new Archives! The link is up at the menu bar at the top of the page—the Archives is all spruced up and ready for you!

Every single blog post is here, from September allllllll the way back to my first wee efforts.

So please do check it out! Find a series that you missed, browse through the older posts, or just be slightly astonished at my obsession with really really long blog titles. *facepalm*


Okay. So, true story: I feel excited for this sabbatical in a totally new way. Like an impossible weight on my writerly shoulders has just tumbled off. 

I'll miss y'all, but I can't wait to come back with fresh ideas, richer insights, and so much more creative oomph. 

(I have been seriously missing my oomph.)

Til November, then. I love ya, and happy writing!!

Pssst. Go do something so gorgeous for your creativity that it scares you a little and excites you a lot.

Maybe that means taking a course in flower arranging, or reading through your favorite childhood novels for three days straight, or sketching a handful of paintings while roaming an art museum, or writing in the dark under the stars.

Or something else even wilder. Okay? Okay.

What to do after finishing a novel

It's kind of like the moment when you realize you need a new haircut--like, yesterday. Or when you discover you're ravenous, and should have eaten an hour ago. When cabin fever strikes, and you needed to take a trip last week, probably. That mad-urgent feeling. You know what I mean?

Well, there comes a point in writing a story when I need to be DONE. 

I can never quite predict what that point will be. I make these wonderful, sensible schedules; and then life happens and shakes 'em up a bit. I readjust my schedules, I get back to a slightly more aggressive plan to make up for lost time; life interrupts again. I back off, I slow down, I reevaluate.

And then I wake up one morning and say: I don't care how many pages are left. What, 60? 70? Pfft. I have today free. LET'S DO THIS.

It's the drafting marathon. That's how I closed out Book Two, and that's how I closed out Book Three: last Tuesday, I worked from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., cranked out 65 pages, and yup, finished the book.

I slept in the next day, patted myself on the back a lot, and then contracted a serious case of NOW WHAT.

You have to give drafts room--a lot of room--to breathe, before you go back in and start revising. What to do in the in-between time? 

I've heard of very clever writers who crank out a mini-project before coming back to their major projects. Well done is what I have to say to them. That's a tempting option, but I don't have another project that close to being draftable, and besides, I'm practicing being Not Crazy.

I'm finally gonna keep things simple, so instead, my in-between list looks more like this:

1) Type in the draft, for starters! Lament the state of wrists and penmanship. 

2) Embark on a course of light, easy reading. Time to kick back, yes? Select something fun and beachy to start: Anna Karenina. (Although I have to say, the knees on that cover are giving me FITS. Cover design, people. Cover design.)

3) Sign up for a green smoothie challenge! 30 days of green smoothies. Because eating habits during the second half of a draft... not pretty.

4) And on that note: Realize how much sitting has happened. SO MUCH SITTING. Start a new workout routine. 

5) Maybe two. It was really a lot of sitting.

6) Go full throttle in the kitchen. I mean, all out crazy town. If you're not on your feet for three hours, you're not even trying. Reconnect with your love of good eating--I mean good cooking.  

7) And then make more lists!! Places to go! Things to do! Dust bunnies to vacuum! Closets to reorganize! Those file cabinets won't index themselves! 

Seriously, it's funny what I can find time for, without a draft breathing on my brain.

Oh, and hi, 2015. It's good to be here.

How to survive the end of a novel.

I finish up a novel in the same way that someone else might fling herself off a cliff. (Like in BASE jumping, not like suicide. Not being morbid here.) I make a mad dash for it, and suddenly find myself in midair, no friction, no traction, no story, no nothing.

And apparently we're done.

I finished this wonderful sequel project last Tuesday at 2:00 a.m. I wrote 53 pages by hand, and then just kind of fell over.

(Okay, first I did an ecstatic little happy dance. The last paragraphs felt perfect; there was a breath-stealing twist at the ending; and hopefully it catapults the reader right into the next book. So dance I did. But then I fell over.)

For the next two days, I went back and forth, from feeling brilliant to feeling like a vegetable. Moments of bright conversation where I felt all verbal and warm and quippy, and then the next moment, I couldn't really remember my name or why I had walked into the room.

Writing withdrawal

I never handle the end of a draft with any real grace. I have lovely intentions: I wanted to declutter my office area, clearing psychological (as well as actual) space for the next book project. I wanted to catch up on all the correspondence and errands and undone things... everything I'd just forgotten about in the last two weeks of racing toward the end.

And I wanted to do a lot of confetti-tossing, a lot of balloon-gazing, a lot of party-party-party.

Instead I sort of floated around, jellyfish style. I stared at things, and not in a meaningful way but in an I-hope-I'm-not-actually-drooling way.

Maybe I'd burned myself out a bit? Who am I kidding. Of course I was burnt out. 

But the thing is, I've trained this funny brain of mine to invent fictions. And it's going to keep doing that, whether I'm writing a novel at the moment or not.

Frankly? My real life is fraught with enough at the moment that I don't need to be asking what if through each day. I'm full up on real conflict, real stakes, real characters, real risk. But still my brain spins.

So it's time to get back to work. Honestly, that wasn't much of a break: I had dreamed of a lot more Champagne and a lot less catching up the laundry. But I can't let myself invent any more scenarios for what could go wrong. If I'm going to be inventing, I need to put all that craziness into the next project.

Besides, I've already made an exciting little multi-colored chart. (And I cannot say no to the exciting little multi-colored chart.) If I'm very, very good, and eat all of my vegetables, and stretch well before each session, I just might finish book three in time for Christmas.

OH, THE HOPE.

I might be escaping reality a tiny bit, by jumping back into my story world again. Or maybe I'm just that fish on the dock, leaping back into water so she can breathe again. Either way, the beginning of book three is in my fingertips, or at the very least, it's right around my knuckles.

So this week I'll be catching story ideas, feeding the bears, freewriting, daydreaming. And drafting starts again next Monday.

I think it all comes down to this: You survive the end of a novel by starting the next one.

Jiggety jig. (Home again.)

I handed my passport and declaration form to the U.S. Customs officer, and he asked me, "So how do you make a living?"

Which is my favorite question, especially from scary-faced men in super official uniforms. 

I said in a rush, "Well, it's not actually a living, I'm a writer, writing novels, but, yeah, I'm not paid for it or anything. Not published. Still learning. Kind of." 

At which point he scanned my passport and said, "It'll pay off."

He gave my passport back and I took it and sort of floated down the corridor.

It will pay off. The scary man said so. Which is SUPER news since I'm starting a new book on Monday, right? Right.

I met that Customs official on the way back from Bermuda. I spent a week and a half on that tiny island with pink beaches and sharp sunlight and mopeds zipping about and playing card games at night with the doors open so we could hear the waves. 

So good to be away for a while, good to let that to do list shrink and atrophy a bit, right? 

This is the between week: post-vacation, and pre-drafting. Full of unpacking and laundry and returning emails. All that good catch-up stuff.

But I have to admit, I also envisioned a kind of super-charged version of me, running around on all that vacation energy and mid-Atlantic sunshine, getting some long-neglected projects taken care of before the new project starts...

Instead I'm fighting off the cold that the guy sitting in 11B gave me. (Thanks for that, mister. Three hours of being coughed on? I finally succumbed.)

Spent today in pajamas and my favorite pair of socks (they are ten years old, don't tell anyone), pottering around the house and sneezing. Ruffled my notes for the draft, looked over all those paragraphs hopefully. 

Not so much ultra-productive super-charge super-anything. 

Maybe that's okay. 

I always feel like I should have everything just so before starting a draft. That I should be ready for it, whatever ready means. I'm building an imaginative universe out of my brain on Monday morning at 10 a.m. ... how can anyone be ready enough for that?

Maybe it's better to just drink hot toddies and nap. Because the beauty of the novel and the crazy roller-coaster thrill of writing a new draft... it doesn't come from my having every thing perfectly in place.

It comes from the wildness of inventing something new, day after day after day.

So it's probably fine that I didn't deep clean the closet, clear the junk out of that one corner, or scrub down the bathroom. And whoops about that shopping and errand running I was going to do. 

This baby novel doesn't really depend on the rest of my life running perfectly.

All I actually need is a stack of blank notebooks and a very deep, persistent desire to tell myself a new story. 

And of those two, it's the desire that's more important.

Be tenacious. | lucyflint.com

Does that quote give you chills? It does for me. (Or maybe that's being sick. No, no, I think it's the quote.) Tenacity. Even the word sounds tough, full of muscle. 

I have the notebooks. A fresh crop of new pens. And I'm starting to hear my characters around every corner. 

Paper, pens, ideas, and tenacity.

So I guess I'm ready? 

Yeah. Totally. I'm ready.

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity. -- Louis Pasteur