“Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature – all are lottery tickets for creativity.”
Captives, in one form or another, has been a part of my life for more than seven years. The core ideas and obsessions have been with me even longer than that. So, in December, when I put the finishing touches on the manuscript and realized that it was as ready as it would ever be, I expected to feel both triumph and relief.
What I didn’t expect was the accompanying sense of loss. What would I do without it? I had a first rough draft of a second book after 2022’s NaNoWriMo, but for a while, I felt as frozen as the Ottawa landscape around me. What if I never found another major project that meant as much to me?
I’m certainly not the first writer to be in this situation, and there’s tons of advice out there, including from Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, which gives creative people full permission to “scratch” in search of their next idea. So that’s what I did, and here are the things that worked for me:
- Taking a (planned) break to recharge: I gave myself a couple of months to read from various genres, binge-watch a lot of TV, and take a trip to Costa Rica. I carried a notebook everywhere I went with no pressure to do anything except note down my (surprisingly many) ideas.
- Spending time in nature: I got outside as much as possible with my two somewhat-reluctant little pugs. It’s very hard to be in a bad mood on the trails at the dog park, even if they are packed with snow.
- Cross-training my brain: Focussing on other creative activities including art journaling, painting, and photography took the pressure off my writing mind. It didn’t take long for some new ideas to emerge.
- Hanging out with my critique group: for most of the writing of Captives, I’ve been a member of a small-but-feisty writers’ group called the PaperBackWriters (PBW for short), which has recently expanded from three to four members. Reading and commenting on their work is always a source of ideas and inspiration.
- Brainstorming: some of the exercises I’ve done, both with PBW and on my own, include timed freewriting, mind-mapping, responding to writing prompts, and doing Tarot card readings for my characters.
- Working on this website: the bulk of the writing of Captives was a solo project, but getting it ready for submission was already a collaborative act. Working on this website, which involved defining a visual motif to present the manuscript, took me into whole areas I’d never thought about. Thanks to Caro Begin, whose listing I lucked into on Reedsy.com, it has been a great experience.
Finishing Captives marked the end of a long cycle, but a new one is already beginning.
As Tharp says:
“Life is about moving. It’s about change. And when things stop doing that, they’re dead.”