Friday, November 10, 2017

8 Non-Writing Activities to Help With Your Creative Process

I think it's a given that writers shouldn't be spending every moment of their lives writing. It's not healthy physically, and it's definitely not going to help your creativity. While we writers seem to understand that on a logical level, we still spend an awful lot of time on the computer doing writing-related activities (writing, pinning character look-a-likes, working our social media platforms, reading writing tips).

So here are a list of things you can do that aren't directly linked to writing, but that will still help with your mental process:
1. Get outside. Go for a hike. Or a walk. Or just sit and look at some trees or fields or bodies of water. Whichever one. Anything to get outside and away from your computer. No, you're not allowed to check your text messages or send out a tweet. Not only is hiking or walking good for you physically (exercise), but the amount of inspiration you'll get from the great outdoors is unlimited. It's important to unplug. Instead of staring at a computer screen, go look at a flower. Rather than hunching over a piece of paper, look up at the sky. There's an entire beautiful world outside of your writing space. Take advantage of it. 

2. Learn about something new. A few summers ago I took a world religion course that involved reading through this fascinating book. Not only was this a interesting topic that helped me have a better understanding of people (and the world in general), but it also gave me a lot of ideas for world building. Is there some skill you've been wanting to acquire or some piece of the world you want to understand? Then go chase it down. Read something by Plato, sign up for an archery class (bonus points if you dress up as Legolas while taking lessons), learn how to play the piano, practice some underwater bilingual basket weaving. Whatever it is that looks interesting to you. It's good to learn new things and broaden your scope. Writing is not meant to be a sole hobby. 

3. Do something artsy. Redecorate your room. Hang up posters. Paint a mug. Make a really pretty dish of food. Play a song. Crochet a giant X-wing blanket. If you have no artistic skill whatsoever, you can always dump glitter all over your bookshelf. That counts as artsy, right? Do whatever it takes to stop writing while still engaging in something creative. 

4. Do something with your hands. Gardening, cooking, washing dishes, rearranging your bookshelves, playing with a rubiks cube. There's something good about being able to unplug from everything and just engage in a simple, straight-forward task.

5. Watch a movie or TV series. I'm hesitant to include this one because it doesn't help with getting you away from a screen. However, on the off-chance that you're not feeling well: This is a good option. Try exploring foreign films or watching TV in an entirely different genre. This can help give you some fresh thoughts to bring to your writing. OR you could just watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight over and over again. What? You're trying to tell me that that would get boring over time?? All I can say is....

6. Exercise. You know all off that caffeine and sugar you're consuming because you're convinced it makes you more of a writer? That stuff isn't good for you and needs to be burned off. And you know how writing for hours on end hurts your posture and can even cause you to develop carpal tunnel syndrome? That can be prevented by stretching out a bit. Whether it's yoga or martial arts or cardio or weight lifting, exercise is really important for your overall health. And there's something about the hormones released during physical work that can clear your head and give you new ideas. It's a scientific fact. I'd explain it to you, but...I don't want to. Ask Google. He seems to have more time on his hands than I do.

7. Talk to other creatives. Go have coffee with fellow writers, artists, photographers. Visit comic cons and chat with the vendors in artist alley.  Join a writing group. Leave your writing desk and seek out other people who are like you: passionate about their acts of creation. Their energy and ideas will rub off on you, feed you, give you a new perspective. If you're feeling particularly introverted: Try visiting a bookstore, an art museum, an amusement park. Look at the work of other creatives, study them, learn from them. Be inspired. 

8. Do nothing. Watch rain run down a windowpane, crash on your bed, take a shower, go sit out in the sun. Don't bring anything with you. No books. No phone. No paper and pencil. Just give yourself some time to relax and think.

In addition to these 7 activities, I recommend you read and implement this post full of tips for a healthy lifestyle. It's by friend S.M. Metzler, who is a fellow writer. She knows what's up. 

A lot of writers feel guilty when they spend free time doing things that aren't related to writing. Don't. It's good for you and it's good for your writing. So get off of your computer and go do things that those weird non-writer people like to do on their free time. It'll work out. I promise.

But, before unplugging, leave a comment below with your favorite non-writing activities! What are some things that get in the way of you engaging in them? How can you overcome these obstacles? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!
Related articles:
How to Stay Motivated to Write When Life Gets Hard
7 Tips for Balancing Writing with the Rest of Your Life
Why You Need to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Writers (And How to Do It)

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  1. Favorite NON-writing activities.... Really, Hannah, you know you're talking to writers, right? ;)
    My favorite non-writing activities involve dance. Doing dance, watching dance, looking for other awesome dance get the idea. Pretty much what I also do with writing. Dance and designing all sorts of bags. That I never use.
    Thanks for the post, keep up the good work!

    1. Haha! I'm trying to keep you all from going crazy. It is a losing battle, I know. =)

      Dance sounds like an awesome non-writing activity! Creative, but also a form of exercise. Good for you!

  2. My favorite things to do to help my writing is stuff like exercise, stretching, doing art, or going to a museum. Museums can give tons of story inspiration. So can the people you see there.

    1. YES. Museums are awesome for writing inspiration. Or just people-watching in general. Thanks for the comment, Rachel!

  3. I'll add one more: go to a fair, museum, or exhibit. In the past year, I can count at least three art exhibits (or maybe two, do steampunk motorbikes count as art?), one art museum (modern art, I didn't really care about or grasp, still don't, but can understand someone else grasping), two history museums (one was in a real medieval castle!), a Nightwish concert (was boom, an excellent band), one book fair, one food & wine fair, and one arts & crafts fair I took a friend with me to since I got two free tickets for helping an antique jewellery seller couple identify some gemstones (they had a bracelet set with an obsidian that was half "midnight lace" obsidian and half "mahogany" obsidian, I've never seen that before or after). All of these events were very inspiring and I got the writing mood going during the trip back home (for some reason, I really like to write while in the bus, train or rapid transit, and I'm planning to go interrailing sometime before Christmas for this reason, as trains are perfect for both writing and drawing, which I often do back-to-back as they sorta cancel the stress from each other).

    1. Steampunk motorbikes totally count as art! That sounds so creative and fun. I love going to fairs, museums, exhibits, etc. You are so right: They are very inspiring and fun. It's for this reason that I like going to Comic Cons (especially the Artist Alleys there). I'll have to keep my eye out for more local art exhibits and museums.

      Interrailing sounds amazing! I hope you have lots of fun. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    2. I personally can't attend cons: too much impatient youths weaving in and about, then a smell of sweat and deo and perfume, and a level of noise that, mixed with my hypersensitivity, can literally cause me to faint of sensory overload (I fainted in the Nightwish concert as well, they had to get the medics to pull me out of the crowd, was fine except my bag got a bit bruised). I know both of my local fair centers (Turku and Helsinki) well enough that I know a quiet place that I can go to and calm my nerves. I do like fairs a lot, and all my friends attend cons, cons are fun but it is just usually everyone is highly noisy and younger and less patient than at fairs that makes it too high of a fainting/panic attack risk for me.

  4. I like belting Broadway tunes at the top of my lungs. Not only am I practicing another skill (and indulging my dream of being in a stage musical one day), I'm also practicing getting into the minds of characters, as Broadway songs are usually quite introspective. Also, have you noticed most songs in musicals mark a turning point for the plot and/or the characters? So it's great story planning practice. Only two problems... firstly, it's hard to find a place where you aren't blasting out someone's eardrums; and secondly, sometimes it makes me want to write musicals instead of novels...maybe that'll push me to learn music theory someday :-o

    1. Ooo. This is so cool, Faith! I don't watch a lot of musicals, but the ones that I have have been super creative. I can see how it would help with writing: both planning and executing plot points.

      Music theory sounds fascinating! I bet you could write some stellar musicals.

  5. Cooking. Listening to music. Playing with my daughter.

    1. YES. Family time is a perfect one. *smacks forehead* I should have included that. Thanks for the comment, Tamara!

  6. think it's a given that writers shouldn't be spending every moment of their lives writing. It's not healthy physically, and it's definitely not going to help your creativity.

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