Monday, April 14, 2014

Writer's Block? Get a Creative Hobby!

By John K. Patterson

Writing is an act of creation. Letters and punctuation are weaved together to make worlds and people that weren't there before. We humans find joy in creating something. That's part of why writer's block is such a painful, frustrating thing.

Most of the time, we are told that the only cure for writer's block is to force ourselves to write something, even if it's gibberish. It always seemed to me like this would just drag out the editing process. That's what happened with my writing. The harder I forced myself to write past writer's block, the worse it seemed to get, and the less I enjoyed it. Inspiration and ideas fled from my presence, then stuck signs saying "Leper Colony" around me in a ten mile radius.

But then something changed. In September of last year, I started to paint. Those ideas have begun to return. I'm still not back up to my former speed, but there's definite signs of change. Positive change.

Copyright John K. Patterson

Thus began a long climb back up the mountainside. And if you're wondering: yes, I painted this.

If the encouragement to "write yourself into the ground" is leaving you six feet under, I'd like to suggest an alternative. Another cure for writer's block may lie in picking up a different creative hobby. What sort of hobby is totally up to you, as long as it requires some strategy and improvisation (creativity) from you. Photography, chess, playing the harmonica, embroidery, sketching, painting, swing dancing, clay sculpture, you name it.

It sounds counter-intuitive, since you're still not writing. However, what really counts isn't necessarily the number of hours you spend slaving away over a hot keyboard, but the quality of your work. Most writers tend to write better (and shrink their editing time) when they're enthusiastic about their writing.

So here are six reasons why picking up another creative hobby may help blocked writers get back on track.

1. Sometimes your brain just needs a break from writing, but still craves the joy of creating something. Take care of your brain and feed that craving.

2. It gives a chance for unexpected ideas to pop up. You never know when an unusual idea might whack you upside the head. For instance, you could make a pencil sketch of a red-tailed hawk in your backyard, and get the idea that your mystery's murderer is a falconer who kills her victims by tipping the bird's talons with poison and training it to attack them. Whatever works, right?

3. You are focusing your thoughts and actions toward something constructive, rather than going on a Netflix binge and beating yourself up for not finishing your novel. I've been there (sometimes I still am), and it's not pretty.

4. Your chosen hobby will likely give you something that takes less time to finish than a novel or short story. This means you can get a sense of gratification for finishing something sooner. Which, of course, motivates you. My own hobby of painting gives me a finished work in a few hours, and helps my novels and stories seem more manageable.

5. In a mental sense, it will make you more versatile. When you sit down to write, you'll be more agile in picking apart your story to see what works and what needs fixing.

6. Finally, this is a great opportunity for research. Do you have a character who likes to make stained glass? Take a class and learn the process. Is he a blacksmith? Time to head to the forge. If he likes to build model airplanes, head to the arts and crafts store and pick up a P-51 model kit. You and your characters can learn your hobbies together, in a sense.

Remember, this is merely a suggestion, and I welcome any feedback. It may not work for every blocked writer. But it seemed to help me with my storytelling. If you already have a creative hobby and you're still blocked, try a different hobby for a while and see if your writer's block starts to disappear. 

May you find success and joy in all of your creative endeavors!

Post Note from Writing From the Peak: John K. Patterson was featured in the April 2014 New Falcon Herald concerning his meshing of writing and art. You can read it HERE.

About the Author: John K. Patterson is an artist and sci-fi/fantasy author. His short stories "Escaping," "Refugee," and "Salt Flats" are available on Amazon Kindle, and he is writing a four-book epic fantasy series called The Wolfglen Legacy. Since 2007, he has volunteered for the Pikes Peak Library District as leader of the Scribes and Bards writers workshop. His addictions include painting, dinosaurs, nature, and coffee. More of his writing and art can be found at

1 comment:

  1. Your painting is lovely John. I've heard some writers say you cannot have a hobby, but I enjoy doing something different to improve my writing time.


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