Hitting the Reset Button When Life Kicks Your Creative Keister

Do you ever have those weeks where it feels like you’re dragging your little hiney from here to there, and never getting anywhere? Literally or figuratively, this happens to everyone.

November has been a hiney-dragging month for me. Until I went to the doctor yesterday, I hadn’t stepped outside my house since November 5th. That’s NINE days of work/family/writing time. Wiped out. Gone. POOF!

I’m likely to have several more days go POOF since the prognosis is either pleurisy or some other kind of (stupid) lung infection. It feels like I got kicked in the chest with a pointy shoe. *pitiful sigh*

Life, death, kids, pets, illness all knock us off our rails sometimes and it’s good to have an escape plan for the mild depression that usually lurks on the other side of these events. At the very least, an understanding of how you personally cope with stress will make a huge difference in whether it’s a setback or a show-stopper.

What do you do when life kicks you in the chest?

I’ve seen people cope by:

  • Drinking heavily (sadly, that’s not an option for me right now)
  • Sleeping till they get to the other side (check)
  • Cleaning until the world looks better
  • Doing the next thing, then the next and so on
  • Reading until their eyes cross

My solution, almost always, is to work. For some reason, having to deliver a product, class or document smooths my mind. It makes me feel productive and, somehow, in charge of my fate.

Imagine how soothing it was to manage my blog this last week. It wasn’t like I could really write that much, but I could approve comments and answer back from the cushy confines of my bed. That connection made me feel so much better! Even when I couldn’t talk, I could tap a few keys and then go back to sleep.

I might not be up to my normal level of juice but, thanks to all of you, my creativity is rarin’ to go. This kick in the chest has slowed me down, but it hasn’t knocked me completely on my can. Ha! *gives pleurisy a rude hand gesture*

What do you do when your creative juice is running low?

Many of my NaNoWriMo brethren are feeling a little low on the juice right about now. Whether it’s an autumn illness or a knotty plot problem, here’s some techniques I’ve learned for kicking creativity in the keister when it misbehaves or gets lazy.

From the incredible Leanne Banks:

Write an autobiography of your characters and ask them provocative questions like:

  • What are you most proud of?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment?
  • What is your biggest fear?
  • What did your parents teach you about sex?
  • What did they teach you about love?
  • What is your biggest shame?
  • What is your secret wish?

From Leanne and other writing geniuses:

Change creative mediums

  • Make a collage for your book. Jennifer Crusie does this. Different textures and different mediums can stimulate your brain to be creative.
  • Debbie Macomber and Christie Ridgway knit (so do I!)
  • Linda Lael Miller paints.
  • Julia Cameron composes music.
  • Choose a soundtrack for your book.
  • Brainstorm with a writer friend, a non-writer friend, a newbie and someone who writes in a different genre.

More Leanne Magic:

  • Role-storming – How would you handle these problems if you were someone else?
  • Iconic figures – How would you approach the problem if you were an iconic figure from the past?
  • Brainwriting – Gather several people in a room and give one person a piece of paper. Each person writes for 10 minutes, then passes the paper. Keep going until everyone has written on that page. Read the entire story out loud.
  • The old reliable List of 20 – You must write down twenty possibilities, as fast as you can think of them, no editing allowed. The only engraved rule is that you must write all twenty! It’s the “old reliable” because it works.

If you’ve still got some juice left, here’s some great brainstorming articles for you. (Yes, there are some similarities but Holy Cowbell, look at the differences!)

Quick ROW80 Update:
The energy levels aren’t quite up to getting any writing done yet, but I’ve started visiting as many Team ROW80 members as I can manage today and I’m dying to know how everything is going for the rest of you! To encourage your ROW80 teammates, click here.

What helps you juice up your creativity? What techniques get up your gumption to finish a page that’s going badly? Is anyone else suffering from the bionic cooties roaming around? Enquiring minds always want to know here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
This entry was posted in Life's Challenges, Team #ROW80, The Writing Journey and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Hitting the Reset Button When Life Kicks Your Creative Keister

  1. Morning, Jenny! SO sorry to hear about your *bleep*ing medical issue. Kick THAT in the keister.

    You’ve already found one of my faves, but you don’t have the top secret code. Since it appears on page 13 and is item 11 in Weisner’s First Draft in Thirty Days, it’s a Code 1311. Writer’s block? Tip number 11 (Code 1311): Take a nap.

    Sherry (You MAY know we’re buds) kicked me in the keister yesterday with a Boo-Hoo to Woo-Hoo challenge. She sent a list of her accomplishments this past year b/c we all seem to focus on the “didn’t get done” lists twirling in our noggins. LIFE threw me a four-legged curve ball on my goal to finish my WIP in time for GH. Our eight-year-old lab blew out her ACL chasing tennis balls. I officially announced a week’s vacation to my writing buds, officially confirmed GH was out for this year, officially went into an “I’m a loser” funk. AMAZING how effective a list of accomplishments can be in terms of looking forward versus back.

    I’m also a HUGE fan of gratitude lists. Fluff those pillows. Get all better. I’m here thinking about ‘ya.


    • amyskennedy says:

      Love the gratitude list! And listing your accomplishments, I bet, would motivate you to accomplish more.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Definitely running the Code 1311 play this week!

      I’m so sorry about your baby lab…that’s dreadful. I’m glad Sherry got you out of your funk (she’s great that way, isn’t she?) and that you’re going to take a little break. I sure hope your doggie mends quickly!

      Thanks for the kind thoughts, Gloria…you rock!


  2. K.B. Owen says:

    Aww, Jenny! So sorry you’re in such bad shape! You do amazing work in such a condition! Glad your cowbell posse/pantypeeps could help keep you distracted from your misery, at least for a little while. 🙂

    Hang in there, and thanks for the great tips!

    P.S. – NyQuil counts as “drinking heavily”


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Pshaw…Nyquil does NOT count! But it doesn’t matter anyway – I went through it all while I had the cold/flu part of this program. 🙂

      I shared with David that y’all have been getting all my NaNoWriMo surplus posts. But yes, y’all are great distracters from mega chest pain. THANK YOU!!!


  3. Dang Jenny, that is just NO fun! Since I have TB (long story, it’s the inactive kind), I can’t visit you until you know for sure that your ickies are out of your lungs. Bummer! Nine days is a looooong time to be down, but you’re so on top of everything in the blogging world! Look at you. This post is amazing and I’ve never heard of some of these tips. I’ll definitely write them down and use them.

    What do I do? I write. Yep, when life kicks me, I kick back. Then I take a nap. Or three. I’ve never met a nap I didn’t like. If I’m sick, I sleep, sleep, sleep. But if it’s just stress, there is nothing like conquering other worlds and killing someone off if I feel like it. Ahhh, writing is bliss.

    Feel better gorgeous! Kick that pleurisy right in the tender bits!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Dang girl! What do you do, work in a hospital? I can’t think how you would have gotten TB unless you travel widely or work in hospitals. So, nope, we’re not getting together for a while. There’s still a chance this is pneumonia, but i definitely have pleurisy.

      I’m really glad you like the tips – I figured I should share some of the brainstorming wealth I’ve picked up over the years.


  4. So sorry you are not feeling well! I hate those curve balls, especially when they hit you in the chest. You did leave one off of your list, forgive yourself. Sometimes it’s okay to just stop. Toss away the uber guilt and feel better soon!


  5. amyshojai says:

    Wow…I knew you were under the weather but not 9-days-worth. You do a mean “suck-it-up-sweetheart” impression of getting crappiocca DONE from bed.


    Love these tips. I make endless to-do lists that I get to check off accomplishments (YES!) and then roll over the un-done things to the next week. Helps me keep track, and also know what I have accomplished. There’s always too much to get done, of course. To-do lists are like housework: eternal do-overs.

    Be well, my friend. No, I mean GET well!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Dude, I know how to use my phone to the fullest. See why I don’t sext either? I’d accidentally tweet it or something. 🙂

      You have an organized mind, Amy! To-Do lists often make me crazy. I like them, but it makes me crazy to keep rolling things over. I promise to get well!


  6. Well that sucks! *squeezing eyes shut and sending positive, healing vibes …* Your blogs continued to be up to their usual hilarious standards last week and I thought for certain you were on the mend. But here you go again, making delicious lemonade out of lemons. Smart, helpful tips … love the “brainwriting” idea! It could even result in some serious laughs at a party! Speaking of lemons, put on the kettle and keep sipping tea with honey and lemon. It will help, I promise!


  7. 9 + days {{hugs}} Jenny! Get better soon.

    Awesome post! Definitely bookmarking it for future reference.


  8. I almost didn’t click “Like,” because I certainly didn’t like hearing about your lung problem. Your productivity while down is amazing. Get well, friend.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ah, but I’ve been using all my surplus NaNoWriMo posts! Any other month this would have sucked even more big nuggies, but I prepped for NaNo. It just turned out to be cold/flu/pleurisy prep instead.


  9. Roni Loren says:

    So sorry you’re having such a miserable illness. Blech. Hope you feel better soon!

    And those are great tips. For me, I usually can get back to my creativity by taking the time to read for pleasure. It’s like a recharge. Also, true alone time helps me center myself again. So that might be going to yoga or just sending the kidlet and hubs on an errand and having the house to myself for a little while.


  10. Stacy Green says:

    Sorry you’re going through such a yucky time. Hope you feel better for Thanksgiving.

    Great tips, too. Normally I’d curl up and watch TV when I’m feeling down, but lately as life started throwing sh*t my way (like finding out about my brother), I’ve thrown myself into writing/querying, etc. Seems to be the only thing to take my mind off everything.

    Good luck, and get well soon!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Stacy, I’m so glad writing is doing the trick for you this time. You selling that book will be so exciting. 🙂

      I’d better be find by Thanksgiving since I’m doing most of the cooking!


  11. amyskennedy says:

    Let yourself just be. You need rest, and that’s what you’re doing. As for the creativity, when it’s not working for me, I take a break. Maybe I watch the complete season of Firefly, or go to a movie — or walk around the mall. I don’t know — something completely different from writing.

    But you, you just rest.


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  13. I am with Kathy on this one and am glad your cowbell posse/pantypeeps to help keep you distracted from your misery…
    I had pneumonia and pleurisy in college and had a nasty lung effection this summer (that cost me seeing U2 live…grrrrr) so I feel your pain and wish you health through antibiotics. The good thing is that once you get the drugs, you should start to feel a lot better in about 48 hours so hang in there…the light is coming!
    Until then…rest…and don’t worry about the rest of the world!
    When I get overwhelmed, I unplug guilt-free and do things that I truly enjoy – napping, watching chick-flicks, writings in my journal, going for a long walk followed by hot chocolate, soaking in a bath for an hour etc. And I do them for a few days…lol…and then I usually snap out of it.
    Sending you HUGE hugs and I hope you feel better soon and if you have to go off the grid for awhile darlin’, please go do it guilt-free and know we’ll all be here when you get back. Take care of you….


  14. kerrymeacham says:

    I’ll just say ditto to all the above, and “get well soon, Jenny.”


  15. Catie Rhodes says:

    Sorry to learn of your health problems. What a stinking bummer. I hate this getting older business. The other night, I decided it was too much trouble to keep bending down to pick up things off the floor…so I crawled.

    As for these suggestions, they’re great! I never thought about trying to think through my problem as my protagonist. She’d probably say, “Quit whining. There’s bills to pay. Let’s go buy cigarettes.”



    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, Catie! I wish I could blame this on getting older, but alas I can’t. Pleurisy for me is just the by-product of having previous blood clots there and this bionic cold/flu thing kicking my ass.

      I love your protagonist! 🙂


  16. Feel better soon, Jenny. This has been a rough month here as well. I’ve had the creativity but the physical difficulty with getting words to paper or computer. I’m excited to heal and get back to work. Best medicince ever, writing your heart out!!


  17. Way too cute baby pic! I can only imagine you feeling that tired multiplied by 700. Glad you were able to get by a doctor for a diagnosis. Now, hunker down, stay away from large crowds of germy folk and eat dark chocolate. And ice cream. Well, no, it doesn’t kill yucky internal bugs, but it will make you feel better. Alternate days with DVDs and popcorn. 🙂 Do feel better!


  18. I love Leann’s writing suggestions, thanks for the great links too. I too, feel better when I’m working. Weird, huh? Oh and sleeping. That’s good too. Get better soon Jenny and sorry I was so late chiming in…


  19. Lena Corazon says:

    I’m totally behind on my blog reading, so I just got around to seeing this. Crossing my fingers that you’re doing better, and that the yucky lung infection is on its way out. As someone who frequently gets respiratory illnesses (I blame the asthma for that) and sinus infections, I sympathize.

    Great list of writing tips and suggestions, and timely, too — my muse decided to flee a few days ago, which made dealing with NaNo a little challenging. I’m a big fan of creating book soundtracks, and I really like making digital scrapbooks of pictures that remind me of characters, settings, costumes, and other details from my WIP. Pinterest and Tumblr are my favorite sites to do that.

    Get well soon, Jenny!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’ve got some steroids now, baby! I’m not “better” but at least I’m on the mend. Pleurisy hurts like a (insert really bad word here) but there is relief in sight. Thanks for the Pinterest/Tumblr recommends…I haven’t explored either yet.


  20. Nancy J Nicholson says:

    Jenny, take the break your body’s telling you to do. Glad we can help keep your creativity going. Keep a notebook hand and jot down those things your mind is telling you to pay attention to. When you’re back on your feet, there won’t be any guilt because you’ll know where you need to go based on your notebook. Here’s to getting well soon.


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