So you've done it. You've landed an agent, your book's gone out on submission. Any minute now a publisher is going to snap up your book, it will hit the book shops and immediately top the best-seller lists ... you're home and hosed and on to planning your JK Rowling-esque lifestyle. Right?
Sorry to burst your bubble but these things take time. Even when it happens quickly it's not really quickly in real time. Publishing can move at a snail's pace and I've been advised by my agent to sit tight, be patient, and move on with working on something else... preferably 'the next book'. Distraction is key.
Easy to say. Waiting is hard, especially if you have a creative brain and all kinds of things go running through it and around it, all kinds of insecurities, scenarios, craziness. Be patient, they say ... but I am not by nature a patient person. Even when I smile nicely and say, sure, I'll wait ... no problem. Not so much.
So of course I AM attempting to start work on other things. I have scripts to redraft, research for my next book and other ideas piling up. I'm not short of projects but for some reason I'm having trouble pinning one down. I'm having trouble getting my head back into the game. So, when the pressure feels a little much, I need a break. But ...what to do with my crazy brain?!?!?!
A fellow writer, and huge inspiration of mine, Elizabeth Gilbert, recently said, "A creative mind is like a border collie - you need to give it work to do." And it is so true. If you haven't read Liz's book Big Magic, all about living a creative life, get yourself a copy now.
I find this idea of giving your creative brain work to do true not only when waiting but also when I hit roadblocks with projects. If I am stuck on a novel, a story idea, or a screenplay, I try to find another creative project to work on - not necessarily another writing project, something completely different, but still 'making something' or 'creating something'.
Here are some other things I've done to kick start my creativity by stepping out of my normal practice. They might work for you too.
Write something else
If you're working on a novel, write some poetry. If you're writing poetry, try a short story. If you're working on a screenplay, write a comic. Do something different to what you're stuck on. Starting something new in the same format is just procrastination...and we all now how that works.
Draw or paint
I used to love art at school and, despite the fact I am no Leonardo Da Vinci, really enjoyed it. But for some reason I stopped for a long time as life side-tracked me.
But recently I've started again. It's wonderful how the singular focus of drawing or painting calms the mind. I've even bought some wonderful colouring-in books (for adults - and no that doesn't mean it's pictures of doodles - not the kind of doodles you're thinking anyway. People have such dirty minds).
I have been known to warble a tune or two in my time and to me there is nothing more freeing than singing like nobody is listening. Not caring if you hit a bum note or have perfect pitch. Just abandoning yourself to the song. Make it a favourite. Or go that extra mile and take singing lessons so that when you sing you have the added satisfaction of doing it well.... there's nothing more satisfying (on the flipside) than belting out a tune and knowing you've nailed it. Add a creative string to your bow. You'll never look back and regret doing it, I promise.
Take lessons, join a salsa class, learn to jive. Or do what I do when I'm creatively stuck or feeling a little low...
Throw on some Katy Perry - ROAR works a treat - crank up the volume, and go bonkers in your lounge room. I'm talking stomping, bouncing, jungle fever, joyous dancing. It will lift your mood like you wouldn't believe. And if you DON'T believe me, give it a go ... just once. You'll be a convert. It doesn't have to be Katy Perry ...anything that makes you feel good.
My newest obsession is LOAD (Lights Out and Dance) where you turn up in whatever comfy gear you want, they crank the tunes and turn out the lights, I'm talking pitch black, and you quite literally dance like nobody is watching - because they're not - nobody can see you. It is the most liberating, joyous, fun thing I have discovered in a long time. I may or may not pretend I am on So You Think You Can Dance or in a Broadway musical.
My ex-husband used to be a five star chef and he taught me not to see cooking as a chore or just a necessity but to see it as something inherently creative. And he was right. Whether it's baking a cake or trying a new recipe, there is a definite art to it. Also you get the added benefit of yummy treats. For even more satisfaction... making something with care and love and then seeing your family and friends enjoying it feels really good.
Needlepoint is great. It stills the mind and the focus that is needed simp.... oh who am I kidding...
Yeah, this one didn't take. I have quirky, gorgeous friends who love this and make the most adorable little framed cross stitch pictures. But I can't do it. I was bored. Plus I kept stabbing myself in the finger and then all the blood would get on the fabric and it was, well ... it was just a mess. But hey, if it's your thing ...go hard.
Tell me ... what creative endeavours give you a fresh outlook on things. What do you switch to when you need a kick start? And in the meantime, go make something, create something, draw, paint, photograph .... you know you want to.