Monday, September 15, 2008

Muse Quest PDX

Romancing the Creative Life in Portland, Oregon

Kim Switzer

Lounging My Way to Inspiration

Here I am, returned from an unintended and rather extended hiatus. I’m feeling really ready to write and create and get back into the world, though, so my time off was a good thing.

I suppose planning this sort of break might work better. It would have led to more relaxation and rejuvenation right from the start, I’m sure, since at first I worried and stressed out over my lack of getting anything done. During the second week, though, I realized that this chunk of down time was really useful and necessary for me. A death in the family, two family members with serious illnesses, and an injury of my own had left me feeling really frazzled and depressed. Time to regroup was a brilliant plan; I’m glad my subconscious thought of it.
Looking back, I realize that I didn’t spend the past three weeks just vegging out and doing nothing, though. I’ve been thinking about what I did during my down time that helped me de-stress and start to feel creative again. Here’s my plan—which next time will (I hope) be put into play on purpose:
1. Recognize that you need some downtime to recharge yourself and your creativity
2. Decide how much time you’re taking off and when. And decide if it’s time off from everything, including the day job, or if it’s time off from extracurriculars, etc.
3. Decide how you want to feel at the end of your time off. Do you want to be energized, inspired, creative, rested? This decision will help you figure out what you will actually do during your break.
4. Make a list of things (books, movies, tv shows, music, anything at all) that you feel might lead you in the direction of the feeling you’re trying to achieve.
5. Spend as much time as you can reading, watching, listening, and letting yourself unwind. Don’t try to achieve any outcome except relaxing and enjoying yourself. If you’re not enjoying one of the things on your list, put it down and move on—this is all about the enjoyment and relaxation.
I did these steps unintentionally, but obviously what I needed was to stop feeling anxious and depressed and to stop feeling like my writing and other creative pursuits were just more things piling up on top of me, adding to the pressure, making me feel bad.
I found that my time was spent watching favorite movies and TV shows (Terminator 2, X-Files), re-reading favorite books (several by Charles de Lint), reading books on writing, a couple of books on fiber arts and collage. In other words, most of what I was spending my time on was very relaxing but still related to my writing and creative life (since I write contemporary fantasy and some dark fantasy/horror, the movies really do count!). By immersing myself in all of the pleasurable aspects of my creativity with no pressure to try to write or create anything, I ended up letting go of the pressure, and now I’m back to feeling creative and inspired and ready to write.
I hope this experience and the ensuing list is helpful to someone else. I know I’m printing this out to stick in the back of my journal as a quick reference if I need it again. Here’s hoping none of us needs to use it too much.

Kim Switzer is an aspiring novelist and avid dabbler in various visual and fiber arts, especially embroidery, beaded embroidery, oil painting, and her new-found love--art quilting. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her boyfriend, her cat, and various incarnations of her muse. For more information or to contact Kim, you can use the
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