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Take a Deep Breath & Press the Creative Reset Button

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Raise your hand if you had a rough week. Or few months. Or year. Or it feels like things have been rough, in general, for a very long time.

Good, I'm not alone.

From being ghosted to an endless borage of rejections, writing hasn't been very fun lately. It's been one of those times where I'm baffled that I can put a sentence together let alone make a living off of writing in some capacity. 

If you've ever been there or are currently there, I hope you know that I understand.

I realized that when writing has become too much work and less creatively play, a sneaking feeling of being jaded comes in. In fact, I love Merriam-Webster's second definition of this word:

(2) made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience or by having or seeing too much of something

Ain't it the truth?

I've decided I need more creativity in my writing universe. In fact, I think it's a must. Here are a few ways I plan to do it, and hopefully, these ideas will inspire you too:

1. Read more.

Whether it's books, short stories, narrative essays, or poetry, reading can spark a fire in my creative self. I love when I become enveloped in a piece of writing in some capacity. It isn't as easy for me to make time for a book for a variety of reasons, but I want to make time for it. Even if it's during my lunch break at work, or while waiting on the Instacart shopper to finish, I plan to take more reading breaks, just for the pure enjoyment of it.

2. Collect words.

I write dental copy for my day job and there are only so many times I can say how a cosmetic service will "enhance" your smile without getting sick of writing it. So, I look for other words to use and collect them as I find them. Thanks to this habit, I've also begun to collect words for my creative writing purposes. Some words are objects, some are places, and others are creative ways I witnessed a writer describe something. Whatever word I see that strikes a chord within me, I keep it. Of course, this requires me to observe writing as well as become ensconced in it but I am trying to improve on that. 

Here are a few I've come up with lately: harbinger, darkened streets, tilt-a-whirl, an old suitcase, an old grocery list, and a zoo gift shop. Just looking at these words fills my creative side with delight.

3. Become curious.

While not entirely impossible, I don't imagine myself becoming a world traveler anytime soon. So, since I can't go to the world, I like letting the world come to me. I recently signed up to receive emails from Atlas Obscura which talk about different destinations around the globe. I also just signed up for National Geographic emails too. I worry as adults our curiosity instinct diminishes a bit unless we exercise it actively. My curious side is often a direct gateway to my creative side and so by feeding it, I believe I'll be more inspired.

4. Collect writing prompts.

I know not every writer is a huge fan of writing prompts, but I love them. In fact, some of my more successful short stories have come from prompts. Even if you aren't immediately inspired, if a prompt leads you to feel "Huh, that's interesting," then keep it!

If you find prompts hard to come by, you may consider signing up for "The Time is Now" newsletter from Poets & Writers Magazine. I also save clippings of articles found on Google News Archive Search. Other times ideas come from calls from literary magazines that have a  theme. Even if I don't imagine writing something in time for the deadline, I like saving the theme so I can remember it for later.

5. Allow false starts.

Sometimes the pressure of finishing something can be terrible for creativity. When I'm stuck in the weeds of revising and submitting, I often feel I have to complete all first drafts otherwise it will be useless. However, there is a lot to be said for half-finished stories. 

Letting myself be imperfect and letting go of the idea that my stories need to be finished no matter what is freeing. So, I'm allowing myself to have incomplete stories. Many times I'll go through old notebooks (digital and paper) and discover these half-finished pieces or snippets and feel inspired again. This happened with a story of mine that I found and ended up finishing years apart from starting it.

When you are having a bad season of writing, I think the crux of feeling better is by returning to that love of creativity you had before writing became a job. And remember, writing can feel like a job whether or not you are getting paid for it. 

So, even if you aren't able to take a long break from the work of writing, even a 20-minute break of wordplay of some kind, or reading a book for pleasure, can return you to your creative self. 

So, if you are having a bad writing time, take a breath and press the creative reset button.

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. When she's not hunting down the right word, she's talking to God, reviewing books on her writing blog, watching movies, hanging out with family, and daydreaming. Her work has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not, WOW! Women on Writing, The Voices Project, and Sky Island Journal. Read her musings at WorldofMyImagination.com.

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