This article is part of my series How to FINISH Your First Novel. They are the basis of a book by the same name, which will include expanded versions of the blog posts along with contributions from fellow writers. So if you have something you’d like to add to the conversation, or if there’s something you want to know more about, please leave a comment at the bottom of the post.
In this post on Making Space, we’re getting into a more metaphysical, but writing is a very internal process. And while it may be satisfying – it may even be everything you’ve ever wanted – the act of creation can be an incredibly draining process. Creative people like to think that their creativity is a bottomless font of genius, but the sad truth is that the well can run dry. Some rationing is necessary. We need to make the space in our minds, souls, or whatever nomenclature you use for your sense of self.
The foundation of this mental and emotional space comes in the form of being able to dedicate oneself to a creative endeavor without being afraid of holding back. Having physical space helps with this significantly, as we can associate a certain space with the action of writing. However, having a physical space just allows us to access our mental and emotional reservoirs of creative energy.
So how do you preserve your creative energy? Here are a few things that have worked for me:
Limit distractions. There are a-million-and-two different things to draw your attention away from writing. This includes everything from social media to your children. And while I think it’s a great idea to pay attention to your kids, writing your third pithy tweet of the hour can wait until that next chapter is done. Turn off social media, the television, and put the kids down to bed before getting down to write. (Or, if your family is made up of late risers, you can get up first and have the house to yourself. It’s worth getting up early, trust me.)
Work on one thing at a time. If you’re a full-time writer, then this probably doesn’t apply to you. (Very little of what I have to say is applicable, actually. I’m not a full-time writer yet myself.) For someone who is working on a novel around the rest of their life, however, I’d recommend working on only one thing at a time. This comes from experience. I often jump around to different projects, and I find it depletes my creative energies just making the transition.
Get your loved ones involved. This is one that I know would help, but haven’t managed to accomplish yet for myself. My wife is a supremely practical woman, and she does not see writing as a viable profession. Therefore, I get very little support to pursue my writing career. If you are able to get help and support from your loved one, however, then you’ll likely find that it’s much easier to write when they are taking care of whatever you’d be doing if you weren’t writing. Just remember to return the favor.
Make sure to take breaks. Writing is fun, for sure, but it is still demanding. You wouldn’t play a sport without taking a break, and nor should you perform any sustained mental activity without taking regular periods of rest. Believe it or not, thinking does actually burn calories (your brain accounts for about 20% of your caloric intake) and it needs rest to operate at peak efficiency. I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique.
Remember that first drafts always suck. This is definitely the emotional space side of things. You have to give yourself the emotional space to write a really shitty first draft. I’m talking absolute drivel. Because it’s important to realize that first drafts are almost universally crap. Even veteran authors write terrible early drafts. Give yourself your permission to write.
Now, I realize that this sounds a little like the nonsense I talk about in Pretentious Sh*t That Works. It is. However, a little self-care goes a long way in creative pursuits. It’s important to remember that writing a novel if hard. Really fucking hard. There’s a reason why most people never manage. Preserve your creative energy and use it correctly with some mental and emotional space.
And if that fails, there’s always caffeine.
Want more like this? Visit the page on How to FINISH Your First Novel. Or check out some of the other articles in the Make Space series:
So how do you make mental or emotional space? Let me know in the comments below.