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Swoon Author Lillie Vale: Refilling the Creative Well

“I should really be doing more. I should bang out another chapter today. Or revise another WIP. Or do some writing sprints.”

*turns on Netflix instead*

“Well, maybe after this one episode.”

Ha. It’s never just “one” episode.

Gosh, that’s a really good way to feel guilty, isn’t it? Why do our writer brains always come down on us so hard for taking some much needed R&R? Why are we so hardwired to focus on doing more, even when we already are?

I don’t mean we shouldn’t challenge ourselves or shouldn’t hustle or that we shouldn’t make better use of our time. What I do mean is that in maximizing our output, we shouldn’t forget to put an equal amount back in for our own wellness. In the past couple of years, I’ve criticized myself for not being productive enough. Like, I’ll write 5,000 words one day, and nothing the next, and my brain goes, “Now you gotta write 10,000 tomorrow to make up for it!” NO, BRAIN. STOP.

These days, I’m catching myself mid-criticism and telling writer brain it’s okay to turn off. It’s okay if I don’t hit my word count for the day. It’s okay if my mind is tired and the writing sucks. It’s okay to refill my creative well.

Writer friends, listen up. You are not a worker bee. Plonking yourself in front of your computer and logging butt-in-seat hours is great, but if you’re feeling drained, creatively constipated, burned out, bored, or looking at that blank page with a feeling of dread… maybe it’s time to replenish your creative well.

Here are a few things that really help creatively energize me:

TV. So your mom probably told you at some point that TV will rot your brain but I actually sometimes argue in favor of the mindlessness of television? I know it sounds so counterproductive, but clearing my mind and immersing myself in a good show is sort of my go-to reset button. It’s a great way to stimulate creativity in a passive way, and I’ve often found my mind makes connections and works more efficiently after I invest myself in somebody ELSE’s creativity for a while instead of my own. You could also play video games for the same effect!

Reading. Read your favorite authors or anyone who really inspires you. Writers are never done evolving and growing—read books on craft to improve plot, pacing, characters, etc. Read out of your genre, explore new authors. See if your CPs need eyes on anything—and while you’re there, check in with them, too! See how they’re doing. Remind them not to get too stuck in their own heads about doing enough. Whatever they’re doing is enough.

Creative exhaustion is a Real Thing. Forcing yourself to Just Keep Going probably isn’t the healthiest or happiest thing you could do, and it probably won’t produce good art. Take care of yourselves, friends. And remember to always, always, always, give back to yourself whatever you put out. It’s a balancing act, truly.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to Netflix. And then I’m getting back to work.

Author spotlight

Lillie Vale

Lillie Vale, upon discovering she could not be one of Santa’s elves or attend Hogwarts, decided to become a writer …

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