Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Going Stale

Do you ever feel the need to shake things up? To shake yourself up? I've been feeling a bit that way lately. It's not boredom. I don't get bored when left to my own devices. It's more like I'm in a bit of a rut. Particularly in my imagination. I seem to be running the same scenarios over and over in my head, putting myself into the same old scenes. That doesn't bode well for writing a novel.

I’ve had such things happen to me before, usually after too long a period of sustained work that isn’t challenging to my imagination. But I’ve got a plan. Over the next few days I plan to 1) read stuff I don’t usually read, 2) listen to music I haven’t listened to in a while, 3) do some physical exercise, 4) write some stuff I don’t normally write, and 4) play. Let’s hope this knocks the cobwebs out.

How about you? What do you do when you want to recharge or realign? How do you shake yourself up?



Heather said...

Sounds like a great plan! I often pick up the paint brushes when I need a shake up. It forces my brain to work differently. Do you paint? Sculpt? That would fit in your 'play' category I would imagine :) Have fun while you are re-aligning!

Scott D. Parker said...

For me, I was stuck in a major rut with Book #2, a modern crime story. I couldn't get the details right, the characters were only doing things because I needed them to get to point B from A, and I had too many options for Act II.

For me, I put that story in a drawer and decided to write whatever came next. That was, of all things, a western story. *That* experience has, in turn, inspired a fantasy. Didn't see that coming.

So, I did what any writer would do: go with the flow. I'm exercising brain cells too long stored away and I'm having a blast. I think that enthusiasm will come out in the prose.

I'll return to my crime story because I like it and I think it's good. But I'm letting it rest.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy a good blog makeover, LOL.


the walking man said...

Uhhhh I grab myself by the hair and bounce me along the floor for a's fun until my knuckles hit the ceiling...I should do this outside like the old lady says but I never do.

Anonymous said...

> 2) listen to music I haven’t
> listened to in a while

Now, thats just retreating to the comfort of what you know ;-)

How about music you've never listend to before? I recently bought an ipod and started exploring music again after about 20 years of listening to nothing but chart stuff on the radio (British radio sucks)

Having read some of your horror fiction and knowing your taste for Black Sabbath I think you'd love some of the new Death/Doom Metal bands like Opeth or Agalloch

Then again, you could go really wild and try something totally different - how about some World music?

- Jon

G. B. Miller said...

Well....blogwise, whenever I found myself going stale, I would ask for suggestions on topics to write about.

No matter how wierd the suggestion was, I was determined to go ahead and write about it.

It helped me out quite a bit.

As for basic writing, I found that it was easier to get topics for my flash, simply either by listening to the radio or finding something through a casual conversation with a friend/co-worker, that it would be to sit in front of the computer trying to come up with something.

Sidney said...

Good luck with that. Seems like I'm in a perpetual state like you describe and battling it. Reading different books has been a good experience for me.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I get like this every now and then and can't write a word while it lasts. It's hard to explain but I feel down but not exactly depressed. I soon shake it off though and am back to the insanity of the writing life. A good physical work out is definately good for the mental condition.

BernardL said...

I clean and repair. It jolts me into creativity. :)

writtenwyrdd said...

I know what you mean and I've been feelign that way lately too. For me, the first thing is to listen to my little inner voice and follow its lead. If it wants me to be creative, I should do that. If it wants me to read or do household chores that's good too. But I need to do what I really feel like doing to recharge the batteries.

When I'm really stuck, though, I need to do housecleaning. That clears the mental cobwebs better than anything!

Chris Benjamin said...

Travel works for me. Camping in the woods or just hitting the road. Got a road trip coming up in July, can't wait.

You might try reading the old Winnie the Pooh books, that's always a joy.

Spy Scribbler said...

Good question. I tend to change things up somehow. I don't know. If it's short term, I go to movies, like four of them, all in a day. If it's long-term, I'll go away for a weekend.

I try to write "for fun," something completely untargeted for any market.

Greg said...

hope you can get out of that rut! sounds like you've got a good plan. i usually try to do a lot of different things to keep from "going stale" -- writing haiku, horror stories, greeting cards, articles or reviews, or drawing cartoons. it keeps me from getting bored with just one thing.

Charles Gramlich said...

H.E.Eigler, I’m not any good at painting or sculpting. I wish I was. I wish I had half of Lana’s talent.

Scott Parker, I’m probably going to try and write a few weird little shorts to help me switch gears. I once let a book sit for about 5 years before finishing it.

Wil, hum, I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe so.

Mark, yeah, beating myself up once in a while is a necessity. Lana never seems to understand. She thinks I should be “nice” to myself. Whatever!

Jon, I’m writing those names down, Opeth and agalloch. Gotta check those out. I used to listen to really heavy stuff all the time when I was plotting out stories and so on, like Danzig or White Zombie, and it really seemed to help. I haven’t done that in a while. So I meant I’d go back to some of those. I don’t even know what “world music” is my friend.

G, yeah, I think I need to get out interact with the world and people a bit. I’ve been doing too much of that staring at the computer.

Sidney, I decided to read some graphic novels to see if that would help.

ARCHAVIST, I’m also going out for sushi today, get the brain juices flowing.

BernardL, I’ve got to do some chainsaw work. Maybe that will help!

writtenwyrdd, I washed all the dishes yesterday. It helped a bit but didn’t take me far enough.

benjibopper, Lana and I were planning a trip in just a week or so but it was down Mexico way and looks like it’s up in the air right now. We’ll go somewhere though. Strangely enough, it’s not Winnie but I’m reading the Harry potter books for a shake up.

spyscribbler, movies is a good idea. Maybe I’ll OD on movies this weekend.

Greg Schwartz, I used to do more of that broad range writing than I do now. These days it seems almost all my writing is targeted so that may be part of my issue.

SzélsőFa said...

Movies, physical exercise, strange movies, conversations with strange people, hiking and all those you mentioned.
I'm feeling quite tired these days and have to try one of these miracle cures for myself, too.
Perhaps, I'm going to dust one or two set(s) of the bookshelves in our living room.
I wonder why noone mentioned household chores as a source of inspiration and fun, heh.

Heff said...

I do EXACTLY the things you've listed...minus the reading, of course.

Shauna Roberts said...

I do some of the same things you're planning to do. I also keep a notebook where I jot down ideas and phrases that could spark a story (the newest one in there is "oral sturgeon," which is how my somewhat-dyslexic husband read a doctor's window last night).

I just bought 15 or 20 books (many for less than $4 on the Kindle) of folklore from around the world, thinking they would inspire me to try new settings and social organizations in my writing. I'll let you know after Clarion how well they worked.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Take a day away from all the usual stuff. Head for Ann Arbor and go to book stores, see a play and have a nice dinner. Just play.

laughingwolf said...

get a pup... between feeding, walking and cleaning up after it, there will be hours of fun just watching/playing... if that doesn't help, have another snooze... in the coffin ;) lol

moonrat said...

eat nothing but hardboiled eggs for three days. you start to starve and go crazy and it puts everything in perspective.

(you could also use packets of oatmeal. but only one or the other!! not both!!!)

this method is highly scientific.

Lana Gramlich said...

Since the cruise is probably off, perhaps we can make alternate plans to help "shake things up," too. A change of scenery & schedule, even for just a week, may also be a help.

Lana Gramlich said...

BTW, I'll trade you half of my alleged "talent" for half of your discipline. ;)

L.A. Mitchell said...

I watch movies...better for full arcs. Yoga. Took a walk in the warm rain last month. Good luck getting out of your funk.

What about watching a local play or playing laser tag :)

David Cranmer said...

I felt my writing was in a rut and I hit the bookstores and picked up three different books in genres I don't normally read to get a fresh slant on our craft. It seems to be working.

Scott said...


I know what you're talking about. I've been in a funk, and I'm trying to find ways to get motivated again. I recently got some Cds by some old bands I like that I haven't heard in ages, and that cheered me up some. I've also gotten back into my workout regimen.

Hope you get out of the rut, my friend. Take care!

Cloudia said...

Been feeling that way myself- I like your proposed cure and plan to try it, Charles.
Aloha & thanks!

Charles Gramlich said...

SzélsőFa, As the dormouse said, “Feed your head.”

Heff, well, no one’s perfect I guess. ;)

Shauna Roberts, looking forward to your Clarion tales. Yes, I’ve started reading some graphic novels to try and jumpstart me.

pattinase (abbott), Lana and I are planning a trip soon, although our Mexican trip has been cancelled.

laughingwolf, lol. That’s true. But I might not have any time to write then even if I get restarted.

moonrat, *shudder* Methinks the cure is worse than the illness. Hum, maybe I’ll try to substitute cheeseburgers. That might work!

Lana Gramlich, I like what we’ve decided on. I think that’s just what I need. Hum, together we might make one hell of an artist.

L.A. Mitchell, walking in the rain might do it. I haven’t done that in a long time.

David Cranmer, I tried reading some old timey stuff but that didn’t seem to help much. I’m gonna try some graphic novels.

Scott, say have you heard a band called “Vader?” There CD XXV kicks ass dude.

Cloudia, what do you do for the exotic when you live in Hawaii eh?

Erik Donald France said...

I'd say, got it -- and try some of the same things you intend. Plus maybe a little travel among "strangers."

ivan said...

Agree with Skyscribbler. Movies can be a good way out, and bad movies great for the imagination. Tell you you could do better. Might help your next script.
But my answer if more rococo.

Writing a novel or downing a bottle of whiskey amount to the same thing. Insight and experience either way...There is, of course the hangover, both from the book and the bottle. Either way, it shakes you up.
Still going from baroque to rococo, I sometimes wish the horseman's mistress in Von Sacher-Masoch's Venus Wore FursWould come over and beat the shit out me, but I've probably got a Masochistic streak in the first place.
Heh. Whitney Strieber: You are a novelist. I am afraid you are going to have to take a little heat!
Ah, the heat of being a writer (Masochist?); Same as a newspaper edior, and I've been that. Talk about taking heat!
Ah, if we only had stayed in our little rooms...But then here she comes with her riding crop anyway!
Small wonder I like the cartoonist R. Crumb!

Lauren said...

Going on a vacation always helps to get my creative juices flowing, but that is a pretty expensive way to recharge. lol

I think that your ideas sound great. I agree that working too much can zap those creative juices. I'm sure yours will be back in full force in no time :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik Donald France, yes, Lana and I are planning some of that travel. We'll see how strange it gets.

ivan, I've gotten so bored with the usual round of movies lately, especially the comic book inspired ones. I'm gonna watch a romantic comedy or something. Geeze, who'd have thought I'd ever say that.

Lauren, well, Lana and haven't had a vacation in quite a while so we'll be going on one in May. Just not quite the one we expected.

Lisa said...

I'm right there with you... always the one shaking things up. ;)

but i'm appreciated for it!

no, i do not normally get bored.

when i do and to recharge, music is definitely at the forefront. i'm uber social.. and reading something inspiring.

go with it... i'm sure something new and fun will come about.

Lisa said...

oh, and I'm sure the vacation will bring it! that definitely works every time...

have a great trip.

relax, refresh, reconnect.

Lana Gramlich said...

Agreed...if you'd stop beating yourself up! (Yes, I saw that comment!)

j said...

Thank you for the heads up about the comment link. Another reader had mentioned the same thing last week and your comment spurred me to action. Comment link is now RED :)

And when I need inspiration I get in the middle of people - quietly. I observe behavior and conversations that usually inspires me. I'm not sure that would work with Science Fiction though.

Have a great weekend Charles.

laughingwolf said...

they stay 'pups' a good three years, for the most part... unlike our own kids who may never 'grow up'! ;) lol

Charles Gramlich said...

Lisa, I'm uber-unsocial myself, which is one issue. But it does help at times to get interactions going with others. And thanks.

Lana Gramlich, well, when you beat me up so nicely. ;0~

jennifer, ahh good. I ended up having to reload the page today to get it to show up. But I think I missed a couple of days when I couldn't find it. Unfortunately for me, when I observe human behavior I tend to focus on the negatives and it doesn't always energize me. I do like it when folks do good things though.

Laughingwolf, you got it there. Course, my mom might have said something of the same thing about me!

jodi said...

Hey Charles, I think you are on the right track. What works for me is Sudoko and crossword puzzles. Laughing helps, and always when everything else fails--meditation. OH! And also finding a child to read "Curious George" to or at least exploring the kids section at B and N! Have fun!

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

If you figure it out, let me know! I also like being bored and don't mind being left to my own devices, but I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes you feel like that line in Groundhog Day, Rita, I've come to the end of myself. The times I have managed to get myself out of such a place is by doing something totally weird for me. That's how I started taking pictures. I wanted to see something different.

Merisi said...

I go take a hike, literally.
Thank heaven I can just step out the door and have to walk only a few blocks to where the meadows and hills of the woods begin. Or a metro ride to the river.

I hope you found what you were looking for!

Lisa said...

uber unsocial and you're a teacher... that's kinda odd... but i guess not. teaching isn't quite like your 'normal' social situation... but at the same time, it is social.

I'm curious to know how you feel the first day with all new students that you haven't already met.

Charles Gramlich said...

jodi, I've never really tried word puzzles. I should do that. Lana always beats me at Scrabble.

Michelle, I used to drink a bit to alter my brain chemistry, but I don't much like doing that anymore. I'll find a way.

Merisi, back when I had my motorcycle I'd take long rides. That did it for me too.

Lisa, when I first started teaching I would be almost physically sick the first few days of a new class. I'm longggg since over that. I play the role of extravert while I'm teaching and interact fine with students, but it's not my preferred outlook.

Mary Witzl said...

This is a great idea, Charles, and you're going about de-rutting yourself in a good way.

I swim; I dig up dandelions; I go for long hikes in the hills and I bake bread. Reading books you might never read is a good idea, but it's harder for me to indulge in that one right now.

Steve Buchheit said...

I tend to watch "Auntie Mame" and remind myself that "Life's a banquet, and most people are starving." And that gets me going to do something different and break my own mental chains keeping me in the ruts.

Either that or (if you can) walk around the house naked for a day or two.