The Purgery

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The Things We Do

Creativity is on the upswing. Writing output has increased. First draft completion for River of the Arms of God seems within reach.

Curious to know how I’ve arrived at this place? 

If you wake up every morning feeling like the weight of your ego is crushing your creative spirit, I have a few ideas about how to free it.

1. Join a Creative Coworking Community.

Too much quiet and alone time gets depressing, even for the crustiest of loners. Start a coworking group to establish a work routine, tap into synergies, set and share goals, and — most importantly — work in good company. Feed off of one another’s ideas, share what works/doesn’t work, and apply these gleanings to your own creative outputs. How do you find a creative coworking group? Inquire through your established connections: the workplace, church, school, extracurricular clubs, local community boards. If you can’t find one, you can make one! Meetup.com is a great way to go about creating creative community. Or use Facebook to create your own special group to share resources and arrange for ad hoc work sessions at cafés around town. Our little Get It Done (Coworking Writer’s Group) meets every Thursday at the same time. Then we work all day. Some of us also meet at a café on Wednesday afternoons to share our written works. Ever heard of the Inklings or The Bloomsbury Group? Those guys really understood the value of creative community.

2. Disappear Into Nature.

Sleeping under the stars, wilderness hiking, and getting to know strangers on the open trail frees your mind in unpredictable ways. Before the outdoor adventure, you’re stagnant. After the adventure, you’re inflow. If time and cost are an issue, take a few hours to disappear into nature even if it’s your own back yard, a city green space, or the nearest quiet room with a house plant (cacti, crotons, and bromeliads are nice). Try parking yourself next to a campfire or a natural water source for a few hours. Let your hair fly free in the wind. Bury your feet in pebbles or river muck. My most recent outside adventure required a lot of planning and saving, but the end result was invigorating. I journaled the journey so that I wouldn’t forget a thing, and I blogged the experience. Friends, the risk is worth the sunburn. And a busted boot. Read The Machu Picchu Diary here.

The busted boot. Nothing a little shoe string and super glue couldn’t fix. Does REI do refunds?

3. Unplug for 30 Minutes. Do it.

If you leave your screens at home, you’ll very quickly find yourself attuned to everything that’s happening around you. Sudden breezes. Birds chirping. House beams settling. Pins dropping. As a home-based writer, I go outside with a notebook and pen to unplug. I find a bench, a patch of grass, a  stoop, or a table in a café when I’m feeling spendy. Then I scribble out scenes. I make “to do” lists. I brainstorm. I doodle and sketch. Unplugging on a regular basis is easier said than done, but it really is just as simple as working out, walking the dog, or traveling from Point A to Point B sans phone or earbuds. Going for a nice drive? Nope. That doesn’t count. You have to do it without machine aides. If you are a writer/artist/creative, take a few days  or even just an afternoon to disappear. Enroll at a retreat. Check into a hotel room. Go to a park. Hide in the closet with a flashlight. I’ll be doing any or all of these things on any given day in November (see #5).

4. Experiment Outside of Your Comfort Zone.

Human beings are social creatures, and we’re programmed to seek fellowship in other humans for survival. We fear that if the pack doesn’t like us, the pack might ditch us when we are vulnerable. If the pack finds us threatening, we might be the pack’s breakfast tomorrow morning. And if making oneself agreeable to friends and family isn’t hard enough, it’s equally difficult for one to bare her soul or life’s work to strangers and critics. I’m talking about open mic nights. I’m talking about exhibitions: experiencing your own work on display, seeing yourself on a screen, or hearing your own voiced poetry reverberate through an open space or over a loud speaker. I’m talking about exposing yourself to criticism. Or love. It’s a terrifying growth experience, but it doesn’t hurt so bad. The sooner we experience the fleeting pain of a sucker punch, the less likely we are to fear it in the future. (Tip: Beware. The night is dark and full of terrors. It helps to have some supportive allies when you branch out into new territory. See #1.)

“I wanted you to see what real courage is… It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

— Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

5. Push Yourself Harder.

When it comes to challenges, people either love them or hate them. Someone close to me once said, “Writing should just flow from you after moments of divine inspiration.” Sure, I buy that. But if I were to wait around for inspiring moments, I’d never finish the ROTAOG manuscript by my self-imposed deadline.  Hence the need for challenges.  Competitions or contests, blog publication schedules, coworking group meetings, exhibition/reading commitments, and adhering to personal work plans are all fine examples of how we might challenge ourselves. As for me, I’ve signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which will require me to write 1,667 words per day (at minimum) every day throughout the month of November. If I stick to the goal, by the end of the month I should have in my hands a 50,000 word draft, which is about the length of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  A lofty goal? Heck yes it is. If I fail? No biggy. I’ll still be further along in the process than I would be otherwise. Watch a video about how I’m prepping for NaNoWriMo here. 

These scraps of paper are the framework for my NaNoWriMo novel outline. Impressive? More like obsessive.

Conclusion

We are all busy people. Some of us are more so than others. If we love and value our creative selves, then we must make it a priority to nurture our creative selves. Creativity is a lot like love or hate. The more we act on it, the easier it is for us to keep acting on it. It’s muscle memory. Repeating any or all of these activities once or twice a week will help strengthen that muscle. They seem to be working for me. We’ll talk about it again, though, at November’s end. There is a lot left to do between now and then.

*NaNoWriMo shield image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

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6 Comments

  1. Great advice, Krystal! Best of luck with NaNoWriMo! I’ve often been tempted to give it a try, but never taken the leap. Let us know how it goes! -saludos, Kathi

    • Hi Kathi, thank you for the compliment and for the well wishes. We’ll see how November goes. I’m feeling optimistic. (Haha! Obvi!) You are so much further along in the novel writing process, I’d love to hear about some of your creativity tips. I’ll bet you have some really good ones!

  2. I love this post, Krystal! I definitely agree with finding a creative coworking community. I belong to a few great online communities as well a great local writers group. These groups help me by inspiring me and keeping me accountable.

    • Thanks so much for reading Maya! I really feel like we benefit from the online groups as well. Where would we be without one another? I find the posts you author on your site and share in the Inkwell Mastermind group to be very inspirational and helpful for me on my writer’s journey. Thanks again!

  3. daniebothawriter

    11/09/2017 at 1:21 am

    This is the best advice: “…but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
    Don’t go it alone.
    Down time. Get away from the technology.
    Get outside.
    Fresh air. Exercise.
    Talk with people—in person.
    All the best with NaNoWriMo!
    Thanks for the post, Krystal!

    • Krystal Mercer McLellan

      11/14/2017 at 1:43 am

      Thanks very much for reading Danie! I’m glad you found the tips helpful. I’ll follow up later in December to let folks know what worked/didn’t work for getting through my first NaNoWriMo. So far, so good. But we’re not even at the midway point yet 😉 Thanks again!

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