Filling Your Well

While wrestling with my first novel rewrites, I had what could be called nothing less than a meltdown. To say I was in complete anguish over the novel would only be telling half the story. I debated with myself whether to scrap the entire thing or not, and was really pissed at myself for having written what in my mind was such a piece of crap.

I emailed my mentor Diana Rowland –  (author of Mark of the Demon, Blood of the Demon) and she, as always, had EXCELLENT advice for me, which she has graciously agreed to let me share with you. For any of you who have ever felt like I did, I’m sure it will help you as well.

She told me to step away from the novel. Speaking in terms I’d understand, she said, “you have overtrained and torn your write-isimus maximus.” She then forbade me to work on my book for one whole week.

During that time, she told me to fill my well back up. “Read, watch movies, torture your training clients. If you come up with brilliant ideas for your book, you can jot down notes, but that’s it.” It’s about doing things for you, things you enjoy doing, that give you renewed energy, peace and personal fulfillment.

To make me feel better, she also let me know that every single writer she knows goes through the “meltdown phase, where the book is such a complete ****ing garbled mess that they’re convinced that there’s no possible way it can ever be salvaged. It can be. Really. But you have to get some distance from it first.”

While I may be new to this writing business, I am smart enough to know to listen to those who have the experience and knowledge I lack. I detoxed  from my novel and attempted to fill my well. I’m happy to report that it absolutely worked. My novel is still a piece of crap, but I’ve got renewed energy to tackle it and make it great.

Filling our wells is important and I’m sure I don’t do it enough. Here a few of things I did and will attempt to continue to do to keep myself as sane as possible throughout this crazy journey.

  • Read: fiction, writing advice articles and books
  • Home spa (hot bath, facial, manicure etc)
  • Watch movies
  • Crochet (currently working on more cat blankets for the SPCA)
  • Play with my cats
  • De-clutter! This is a great one for feeling refreshed!
  • Meet with friends for coffee/lunch
  • Exercise (though this is a regular one)
  • Email friends, send e-cards
  • Blog

Diana recommended this article http://zenhabits.net/2009/09/the-world-needs-you-to-do-what-you-love/ which she said “is kinda ultra-sappy and new-agey, but it’s pretty true as well.  Especially #7. You’re a writer. It’s cool.”

What do you do to fill your well? (I’m always looking for new ideas.)

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  • Erika Holt

    Great advice and so, so true! (Well, except the part about your novel being “crap,” which I’m sure it isn’t). I think we all have moments when we’re not inspired, the words aren’t flowing, and we don’t know how to fix problems in our drafts. One of the most important qualities that separates a real writer (one likely to be successful in this business) from a wanna-be writer, in my opinion, is perservance. That means struggling through when it’s hard, taking breaks to refresh, then getting right back at it. Writing isn’t easy. Re-writing may be even harder.

    I’m still working on these things myself, but your work ethic is an inspiration, Sandra.

    Thanks for your post. 🙂

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence on my writing..I’m looking forward to rewrites on the novel I’m working on now, because that will mean the first draft is done! (again)

  • Erika Holt

    Also, spell check is useful… (“perserverance”)

  • I think downtime is an ultra critical part of the creative process, exactly for the reason you described. For me, I’ll watch tv or movies, but the big thing is video games. I’m not a huge gamer anymore but when I’m in that creative funk and don’t feel like working on anything, sitting down in front of the tv and firing up the XBox 360 for a while.

  • Leanne Tremblay

    What you say is so true! And when you’re in “meltdown phase”, stepping away or getting a pep talk from a mentor or writer’s group is invaluable. But it’s also important to know when you’ve heard enough…quiet time from all those other voices helps too.

    • Thanks, Leanne. I agree with stepping away from the “other voices” in writing groups sometimes. Not you, of course.. 😉

  • Amanda

    Great post. I totally know what you mean. I love the “tore your writi-isimus maximus.”

    • I know, hilarious, right? I shall not forget it and will watch for just such an injury cropping up again in the future. 😉

  • What, there’s no mention of alcohol? Wickham, I am ASHAMED of you! Alcohol is the writer’s #1 friend!

    Exercise is a huge one.
    Music
    Driving: somewhere, anywhere
    Working on jewelry
    Cooking

    But, the biggest one? Meditating. I dismissed this as New-Age crap for the longest time. With physical and emotional snags dragging me down, I started working on energy levels and focus. Amazing improvement!