Sunday, January 19, 2014

Going to the Mental Spa by Jess Riley

It’s a new year, and along with the resolutions I’ve mostly kept, I’m also adopting a new approach to my writing. In the last thirteen months, I’ve released two full-length novels and one novella. The amount of work involved in the professional production, release, and promotion of each was exhausting, and it’s time for a break. Time to refill the creative well, so to speak.  I’ve got a bit of a forced break from my fiction for the next few months, because this is my busy season at the day job, which can be a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because uh, I like to eat and survive the Wisconsin winter in a warm house. A curse because my day job as a grant writer is a bit like being paid to write research papers for a living. Not much left in the tank for fiction writing after that. 

So I’m going to unplug until summer. Fortunately, I am 80 pages into a new project and am filing away tidbits as they occur to me, so it won’t take much to pick back up. But life happens; you have a baby or get slammed at work or move or lose your job or start a new job or fall in love or get divorced or are grieving or sick or whatever, and you have to shelve the writing for a few weeks, maybe a month or two. Some people can write through major stresses. These people are androids sent here to make the rest of us look bad. 

There’s a lot of pressure to write every day! Force it if it’s not coming to you! Fight that blank page and win, every single stinkin’ day! But I don’t do my best work under gunpoint.  Right now, I am Yukon Cornelius, spiking my pick in the snow and coming up with bupkus. So how will I recharge and refill the tank? I will:

1.       Plan my garden.
2.       Take a trip to New Orleans this spring. (Staying in a haunted hotel the last two nights!)
3.       Lose myself in more technical but ultimately satisfying grant proposals (God, I can’t believe I just typed that).
4.       Cook a buttload of healthful meals from scratch with things like shelled hemp seeds and mustard greens.
5.       Play Old Maid, Barbies, and Battleship with my darling nieces and nephews.
6.       Read a book a week, at least.
7.       In fact, I’m going to start my own book club.
8.       Plan a trip to Africa (for the novel I'll write in two years).
9.       Work out with the creepy new Xbox One fitness program.
10.   Watch Game of Thrones and spend LESS time on social media, which can stress me out when I’m trying to incubate a novel.
11.   And …not obsess about it, but keep dropping tidbits in the file as they pop up. 

I’ve been at this long enough to trust that good ideas will come to me when I least expect them (they’re kind of like love and cold sores that way) … I also trust that when I move past this current wave of projects, I’ll be ready for those daily, focused, butt-in-chair sessions. Because yeah, there isn’t any way around that eventually. 

How do you recharge your creative batteries? Do you write every day? Or are you not a superhuman monster? (Kidding! Totally kidding. I'm secretly in awe of you and want to smell your hair. Which is also kind of creepy.) 
Jess Riley is logging off now to make vegan beef bourgeois, which is like beef burgundy but meatless and kind of snooty. Her latest novel, Mandatory Release, is FREE via the lending library to Amazon Prime members for just 8 more days. Only $2.99 for Kindle users at-large. Available on all platforms January 31.


  1. I live in New Orleans, so please call me if you can while you're there! Great list---gave me incentive to make one of my own.

  2. I agree about those folks who write every day! Definitely sent here to make the rest of us look bad. Even when I'm in the groove (which is, sadly, rare) I don't write every day. I take the weekends off to hang out with the hubs. I'm coming off a big break for the holidays and just for general recharging (and general freaking out about how my WIP sucks...) but planning to get back at it come Feb. 1. Using this time to catch up on reading some of the writing books I've accumulated but never seem to make time to read!