Julia Cameron, of Artist’s Way fame, recommends what she calls “artist dates” in order to “fill the well”–meaning you can’t create something if you are tired or empty, as it were. That state of “I have no ideas!” can be remedied by taking yourself out somewhere: to the movies, for a walk, working on something completely different.
Recently, on another writer’s group there was a writer who said he couldn’t put pen to paper. The biggest advice from everyone else? First: write anyway. Second: you may be burnt out and need to switch gears.
All of it boils down to the idea that when you put so much of yourself into such a large project for such a long time (a novel, a piece of music, a painting) you use everything up. Having just finished the rough draft of FJR I was feeling similarly to this writer. What was I supposed to do? I couldn’t imagine putting pen to paper.
So I picked up books instead. Right now I’m bouncing between two different books. Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez. And Year Zero by Jeff Long. Let me tell you about different writers! I’m halfway through Year Zero and about a quarter of the way into Cholera–which is further than I’ve made it in any of Marquez’s other work (excepting short stories). An interesting thing happened.
While driving, I had clear scenes for one of the books I want to work on next. In the shower I got another one. When talking to my writing buddies, just about everything they talk about is now short-story fodder. I wanted to reach for a pen. And I have made notes.
However, I’m keeping from starting the next big thing because the well is not nearly full enough yet. Right now I feel like I’m in ‘Receptor Mode’ (ha, sounds like a trasformer of some kind). The reading is triggering that inherent love of words and stories that I think is so necessary for a writer. And it’s fun. No pressure, no deadlines, just read and read again. If I’m getting this kind of material just from reading two books…well, let’s just say I’m really, really happy to have decided on a reading spree!