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Play Your Way To Writing Success

November 13, 2018



Note From Rochelle


Dear Writers,


When I was a kid, I often did my homework with friends. Although we probably goofed off as much as we worked, the time always went faster—and we always finished our homework.


write-inThat’s the principle behind write-ins: when you write with another person, the time goes faster, and you’re more likely to get work done. For the first time ever, I’m offering a series of write-ins. Held on Zoom, we’ll meet online, check in with each other, learn a bit about how to defeat that nasty inner critic, and then get to work. If you’re interested in joining us, check out the details at my website.


Today, I’m talking about how play can help you get stuff done!







Play Your Way To Writing Success!

By Rochelle Melander


In September, I attended a book-making workshop. The promise: learn three ways to create a small book out of one sheet of paper and invent your own. Being goal-oriented, I wanted the instructor to begin class by teaching us his three techniques.


But no.


createThe teacher had other ideas—and I’m thankful for that. We began class by observing our paper and jotting down ideas, images, and phrases. Then we experimented with folding our paper into a structure. Later, we’d get a chance to refine our design. But for these first attempts, we just played—trying out unique folds and patterns.


That workshop taught me so much about the creative process. Here are two bits of wisdom I picked up that afternoon.


First, and with apologies to Stephen Covey, when we start with the end in mind, we’re more likely to finish—but less likely to invent something new. When we start by observing and experimenting, we can end up in a new place.


Second, play and experimentation are a necessary part of the creative process. Playing opens us up to interesting paths, solutions, and products.


If you’re struggling with your writing project, whether it’s for National Novel Writing Month, work, or another purpose, here are two ways play can help you move forward.


Make writing fun again

While deadlines can release a rush of adrenaline-fueled creativity, when you’re up against the clock, you don’t have the time to play around with different ways to tell the story or give the talk or anything else. You need to be done—today.


Creativity takes more than innovation. It takes time to play. Because National Novel Writing Month is all about amassing words, it doesn’t matter if the words you write make their way into the finished product.


Try this. Approach your writing sessions with this question: what would be fun to write about today? Then play. Add interesting characters. Take them on unique adventures. Try writing in a different genre or format.


Get out and play!


At Murder and Mayhem this year, author Victoria Thompson said, “Writer’s block is actually burnout.”


No kidding.


If we show up to our writing day after day, year after year, and never take time to prime the pump, we are not going to be able to access the deep well of wisdom and creativity inside ourselves. We need to get away from our desks and immerse ourselves in life.


Over the years, I’ve noticed that my most productive writing sessions followed inspiration breaks. When I took time to nap, see art, hear live music performed, read books, and connect with friends and strangers, I left those experiences refreshed and renewed. While it may seem like a good idea to work without stopping, it is not. It is a recipe for burnout. Find an adventure instead!


And here’s an added benefit: New experiences stimulate our brain and help us connect ideas, information, and experiences.


Try this: Take a break and do something fun and interactive. Take a workshop. Volunteer at a pet rescue. (Kittens! Puppies!) Visit a gallery. Volunteer at a school. Take a trip to a tiny town and have lunch at the café. See a sing-along play or musical. Build a table. Paint with your fingers! If you’re stuck and cannot think of anything unique to try, ask a friend to take you on an adventure.


Your turn: How has play helped you create and finish projects? Leave your tips in the comments below.





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