1. Sleep. Know how much you need, and create a schedule that allows you to get enough. I wish I was one of those people who can survive on 5 or 6 hours per night, but I’m not. I need 7, preferably 8 hours if I’m not going to fall asleep every time I sit down to the computer.
2. Eat. If you want to have enough mental and physical energy to do creative work, you need to feed your body healthy food. Too much sugar, caffeine, or foods you’re intolerant of (that cause physical symptoms or brain fog) will kill your motivation.
3. Exercise. Get your body moving. It will help clear your head, and it doesn’t have to be a hard-core workout to reap benefits for your writing. Many writers throughout history swore by their daily walks to gain inspiration and sort out their ideas.
4. Read. If you’re a writer, you need to read. Especially the type of work you write, but also widely – poetry, fiction, nonfiction, literature, more commercial works – let new ideas in. Most of us wanted to become writers from what we read as children, so keep reading for inspiration as well as knowledge.
5. Play. When was the last time you did something just for fun? Experimented with a new art form? Danced in your living room? Did something you loved to do as a child but haven’t done in years? Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, advocates a weekly Artist Date as a way to “fill the well” and learn to re-value the art of exploration and play.
6. Meditate. You don’t have to be religious to meditate. Just sitting quietly with focused attention for ten minutes a day can have a salutary effect. Sit up straight, close your eyes, and feel your breath go in and out. As thoughts arise, don’t engage with them, just view them as the normal mental events they are – watch them drift into the clouds. This can be a great practice before you sit down to write, as a way to calm and center yourself.
7. Daydream. This is the opposite of focused meditation – just letting your mind wander. Often when we sit down to work, we’re focused on getting something done, but it’s important to let our minds play with ideas, forms, stories, etc. with no agenda.
8. Solitude. In order to do any deep creative work, we need time alone, with no distractions (phones, email, etc.). Learn to love solitude, without focusing on “being productive” or what you “should” be doing.
9. Experience. Regularly indulging in new experiences helps keep our imaginations active. Learn a new skill. Travel to a new place (it doesn’t have to be far – a new neighborhood, a restaurant with a new-to-you type of food). Make a list of these, and a plan to try them (perhaps as part of your Artist Dates).
10. Nature. The benefits of being in nature are well-documented, and running water, especially, has a great affect on the mind and imagination. Fresh air, peace, and tranquility all help lower stress and enable creative thoughts to flow. Again, you don’t have to go far. Even a park will do. There’s a pond near my house that’s incredibly restful and relaxing to sit next to even for a few minutes. Make it a practice to get out in nature as often as you can.
Have other ideas? Share them in the comments!
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