Monday, August 13, 2012

Kendra Leigh Castle: Refilling the Well


Of all the truths about becoming a published writer, there's one that is widely acknowledged but rarely spoken of.  It's simply this: as important and all-consuming as the work can be, sometimes, you just have to veg out.

Working authors are busy creatures, and in the digital age, it seems like we've only gotten busier.  We tweet, facebook, blog and pin, all while dealing with at least one work-in-progress, along with the usual regimen of edits, copyedits, galley proofs, promotion...it's an unending cycle.  Many of us also have families, which means you can add a layer of guilt on top of all this as we try to keep some sort of balance in our lives.  I've got three kids, all  between the ages of seven and twelve, and I always feel like I should be doing something other than what I'm doing at any given moment, no matter what I'm focusing on.  I would imagine some writers are more relaxed, but I'm naturally kind of a spaz.

In any case, sometimes there is a blissful lull, a point in time where there is no looming deadline, no pressing paperwork.  Things are humming along, life is good, and you might actually be able to—dare I say it?—relax.  And as hard as it might be to step away from the computer, I've found that forcing myself into some downtime is something I absolutely need to do for myself.  It's when I pause, breathe, and refill the well.

What's the well?  It's that impossibly deep conduit into the most creative part of yourself, bringing ideas to the surface.  I firmly believe that everyone has a creative well, writer or no.  And anyone can have it run dry once in a while.  It can happen at any time.  In the middle of writing a book, even.  Which in turn creates that lovely thing we know as "writer's block."  I've been there, in that place where you feel like you will never have another original thought again, where pages remain stubbornly blank.  It's ugly.

Over the years, I've found a few things that help me when the ideas aren't flowing like they should be, or when I have some of those precious days of downtime.  Everybody's different, of course, but if you're curious about what a stress case of a writer does to stay sane and productive, here's what works for me.

Read.  I admit, this is easier said than done for me sometimes.  When I've been staring at words for weeks or months, it's not unusual for me to want to run away from the written word completely.  And it takes more for me to get lost in a story, because I look at the construction of a story like...well, a writer.  But I still love being able to vanish into someone else's world.  And finding a story that totally blows me away is such a wonderful gift that I always have a hefty TBR pile to dip into, things I want to try.  That's the wonder of a good story...it's a trip, a vacation, experienced wholly in your head.  And I firmly believe we all need those little escapes sometimes, which is why I'll always be a reader.  And speaking as a writer, a good book can teach you a few things about craft even when you have no idea you're learning as you enjoy the story.

Listen to Music.  Not everyone is a music junkie, but I am and always have been.  My iPod is stuffed, and hunting for new music is one of my great pleasures.  Sometimes, just flopping somewhere with headphones on, or even listening to music while you're driving around, can get the creative juices flowing again, can reenergize or soothe you...whatever you need. 

Go Outside.  Fresh air is magical stuff.  Seriously.  Walking can blow the dust out of a tired brain, but so can simply sitting and listening to birds, or people watching.  Nature: it's good for you!

Watch a favorite movie.  We all have keepers, the comfort foods of the cinematic world.  You can disappear into a good movie just as easily as you can a good book, and if you're a visual person (I am), this can be just the ticket.  Sometimes, I need a good Lord of the Rings marathon.  And I always feel better afterwards.

Reconnect.  With family, that is, or friends.  I don't think I'm unusual in that sometimes it's difficult for me to really be fully present in my house, even when I'm physically there.  I have a busy brain.  I'm easily distracted.  But making the effort to stop and enjoy the people and animals around you is worth a lot when you're trying to re-center yourself.  It sounds easy, but for me, it isn't always so easy...simply being present, right there in the moment.  Loved ones can be a wonderful balm to a weary spirit.

Unplug.  I've gotten so I periodically take breaks from social media.  It's hard to get away from, between all the gadgets I have around here, but it's too easy to get sucked in and then waste a bunch of time with nothing to show for it but tired eyes.  I love people, and I love interacting.  But vacations from the digital world can be awfully liberating.  And it's lovely to remember you can do things besides type.

So that's what I do when I need to refill the well.  They all seem like simple common sense, but you should see me try to peel myself away from my desk.  It's not always so easy.  I'd love to hear what you do when you need to recharge!  Tell me about it in the comments.  I'll be here all day, and I've got a signed copy of my new release, Shadow Rising, to give away.  Thanks for having me here, and happy reading...and relaxing!  

Kendra Leigh Castle is the author of the Dark Dynasties series from Forever Romance, as well as several other paranormal romances with Harlequin and Sourcebooks.  She lives in Maryland with her husband, three kids, and menagerie of pets.  Kendra can be found at www.kendraleighcastle.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

***Kendra's winner is Rose_Wardell!  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details.  Thanks!***

18 comments:

  1. Perfect - thanks, Kendra. There's nothing like getting outside to get a new perspective on things. Taking a break from social networking for a while is a wrench, but that's good too!

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  2. When I need to recharge I generally get out of the house & go for a walk. It clears my head & invigorates.

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  3. Morning! Christina and Marybelle, yes, I think that just getting OUT sometimes is the best thing you can do! I think we all turn into cave-dwellers sometimes, but you really start to feel the effects of it after awhile. And the social networking...I'm as addicted as anyone, but it's kind of a relief to just step away sometimes. Last night I ignored everything, stayed up late, and reada book in my nice quiet house. It was AWESOME:)

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  4. When I need to recharge I take a bath with bubble bath or bath salts. It's very relaxing. :)

    rockchick531@gmail.com

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  5. THAT sounds fabulous. Of course, I rarely get a bath where someone doesn't come looking for me at some point:)

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  6. Relaxation can be hard to find at times but I have found that if I sit on the beach and let the waves take the stress away, but when thats not possible I find that putting on some good music and dancing around the kitchen with my kids works wonders for both cardio and huge laughs.

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  7. Rose, I think being able to sit peacefully on a beach sounds ideal...love the sound of the waves. But dancing in the kitchen is always good too!

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  8. I do a lot of things when I need to recharge. Like listen to music, eat a lot of sweet food, sleep :P and play online games.

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  9. Music and reading both have recharging
    functions for me. Add a corner of my
    big comfy couch, a cup of tea, and I'm
    into renewal mode!

    Pat C.

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  10. My best way to recharge is to turn on the radio and dance. Can usually get the kids and husband involved in the fun.

    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

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  11. My work comes with lots of stress so when I need a recharge I tend to clean, read, or listen to music. I found that cleaning and reading has helped the most. For me it's escaping mentally, giving my brain something else to think about instead of finances, budgets and contracts.

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  12. Lory, I have definitely been known to park it with a bag of bad-for-me food and play video games:) Playing a warrior chick with a sword and slaying evil is cathartic!

    Pat, mmm, tea. I love to curl up with a hot cup of Chai.

    Lil, I love to dance too, though the rest of the family usually looks at me like I'm nuts if they catch me. Which is fine...at least I'm entertaining someone;)

    Laura, cleaning is a good one! I really should try to channel more of my stress into energy for cleaning. When I manage, it's really invigorating!

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  13. Hi

    Reading is the best for me to recharge. I love escaping into a book, especially if the world is very different than the one I live in.

    Thanks for the chance, I have read the first in this series - need to catch-up. :)

    Pam
    tpibrew@msn.com

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  14. Listening to music and reading is what I do to recharge

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  15. Watching a funny movie can help - when I laugh it seems to help clear the brain.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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  16. When I need to recharge, I either sit and relax with a good book - getting totally immersed in a story takes me away from whatever stress I may have, or I get out and take a nice walk around the neighborhood - that always makes me feel good and I feel refreshed when I get back.

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  17. pamerd, me too! I curled up and read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman last night, and it was a wonderful, one-sitting read. His writing is so beautiful. And kind of creepy. I love it:)

    megblod, those are always good ideas!

    Di, I agree...my husband made me watch Hot Tub Time Machine this past winter when I was in the middle of writing something and as stressed as I usually get, and I DIED all the way through it. Lightened my mood a lot. Laughter is fabulous.

    Barbara, both of those things work for me too. I love fresh air. Unless it's really cold. Then I hide;)

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  18. sometimes talking/chatting with friend is good, to exchange an advise and other things :)

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