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There’s only so much writing I can effectively get through in one sitting. I can compose a huge chunk at a rapid pace, but rarely can I write write write for a long period of time. A few hours of focus usually taps me out for the day. Sometimes I have just enough fuel left to burn another 45 minutes on editing and proofing, but after that, I’m spent.

In the process of writing a substantial project like a novel, that feeling of being tapped out NEVER goes hand in hand with feeling satisfied or complete. Quite the opposite, I feel frustrated and bummed I can’t keep cranking out good work. The gears of thought and imagination keep grinding even when I’m too beat to keep the words flowing in response.

I need a creative outlet to activate that residual energy and give it value – for my sanity! Since the novel is already enslaving me to words, it’s essential that outlet be non-verbal – photography works well, music even better. When I can’t type one more coherent sentence to save my life, I still have enough spark in me to spend another hour playing with sound. Sometimes when the writing isn’t revving up, I can start getting in the groove that way, too – I can approach it sideways through music.

It helps when the outlet isn’t tangled up in personal ambition: I need just enough skill at it to find the process satisfying while having a clear understanding this is NOT the thing I’m ever likely to be best in. This gives me the freedom to be playful, adventurous and delighted; when things actually turn out half-way decent, it’s a fun reward.

The perfect creative outlet releases nagging tension driving me to complete the central project without distracting me from that purpose or lulling me into complacency. Goofing off in sidebar arts limbers me up and expands the space in which new ideas about the novel can pop and thrive. A dedicated outlet serves as fuel for getting through blank alleys and blind turns in the imagination: the fearless push required to get to the really good stuff lurking in the shadows.

What are you working on? How do you stoke momentum? Do you have a creative outlet that helps you recharge? How has it been serving you? Share your ideas here!

I’ve been venting by creating an evolving “soundtrack” for the novel – you can listen on SoundCloud.