BOOST YOUR STARTING ENERGY
I don’t know about you, but I find a little magic in the start of the year. There’s some kind of special spark in the air as we head into 2023, and I don’t think it’s just the beautiful summer weather we’re having here in Australia or the indulgence in a glass or two of champagne that’s customary for me at this time of year. Instead, as the clock ticks over from 11:59pm on December 31 into the wee hours of January 1, I get all kinds of energy from the start of something new—a new year. You might be familiar with starting energy too. Chances are, as a writer, you thrive on it! This is that incredible burning desire you have to start your book before you begin to write. You know the kind—it takes up all your available thoughts. You’re so eager to talk about your story, to write it, to get it all out and start something new. There’s so much potential to be explored! So much to discover! So much opportunity to get things right!
Photo: Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
And then you start writing, and it’s good, dear author, it is so, so good. You love the way the words flow on the page. Your characters are witty and charismatic, and that meet-cute? It’s *chef’s kiss*. Pure writing perfection. And then … things might get a little challenging. The starting energy fades and you come up against a plot problem you either hadn’t thought of during your planning stage, or perhaps it’s one you only discovered as you wrote. That burning desire you had only weeks, days—no, mere hours ago—has gone. Instead, you feel … stagnant. Frustrated. And incredibly non-magical. And then the dark side of starting energy rears her head. A new idea beckons you, fights for your attention—and you’re forced to choose between the one you swore to complete and the sidepiece hustling for your love. Does this sound familiar? Are missing your starting energy right now? Here are four tips to regain some of that starting magic. 1. KNOW WHAT COMES NEXT Writing is, at its heart, a series of decisions an author makes. You decide what happens, who it happens to, when it happens, what the stakes are, and what the consequences will be. Likewise, your real life is a series of decisions. A study by psychology-based app Noom ascertained that an average adult will make 122 informed choices every day—but that’s not the final number. Approximately 87 percent of those polled admitted they changed their mind, making the real choice figure much higher.
An average adult will make 122 informed choices every day
Real-life decisions combined with fiction-writing decisions can be exhausting. And, for some of us, decision fatigue can drain that starting energy faster than you can say make mine a double shot latte. If you know what comes next in your writing, you can begin to ward off decision fatigue and try to recreate a new form of starting energy. When you write, try to only close your laptop or notepad for the day when you know what’s coming next—but choose the “next” point wisely. Don’t end on a scene closing and know that your next words will be “Chapter two”. Stop your writing session when you’re doing something you love. Maybe it’s a back-and-forth debate between your protagonists. Perhaps it’s a high-action scene. Possibly it’s a swoon-worthy kiss. By giving yourself something to be excited about when you return to your story, you’re not only more likely to return, but you’re likely to return with the sort of energy that will help you get your job done. 2. FILL YOUR CREATIVE WELL Imagine creativity is a well inside of you. It fills your body up until it’s sparking in your fingers, desperate to come out and be shared with the world. Yet in periods of creative drought, it can be harder to access that starting energy. The well runs dry. That old saying that you can’t draw from an empty well rings true. If you are not actively pursuing ways to revive your creativity, it may run out.
You can't draw from an empty well.
If you feel at a loss for inspiration, consider refilling your creative well. This could look like visiting a museum or an art gallery. It could mean watching a movie or binging a television series. It could involve talking to a friend or a stranger, or perhaps trying a different form of art to leave you feeling inspired. Try different creative pursuits to try and bring that starting energy back into your writing process. 3. TRY SOMETHING NEW Sometimes the starting energy won’t come back … and the best course of action is to listen to that little side hustle as she whispers in your ear. Maybe it’s time to try something new. Maybe you can get starting energy somewhere else—and then later, when you’ve had a break, you can jump back across to your original project. I think this works for a few reasons. One of the best ways to gain perspective on our current book is to jump into bed with another one. It helps break some of the emotional attachment we have to the primary project. Having a sense of detachment when we re-enter the project can then help us as authors to make plot or editing decisions in a more rational manner without those feelings of frustration that can sometimes cloud our path to decision-making. If you don’t feel confident to try another story entirely, you could try something new that’s adjacent to the project you’re working on to try and gain new perspective. Perhaps you could write a diary entry from the protagonist. Maybe your antagonist could write a letter to their twenty-year-old self. A newspaper article might take your fancy, and you could write up some factual events that occur in the town where your romance novel is set.
Showing up and writing something is always better than writing nothing. You will get 100 percent more words by opening your laptop than you will by leaving it closed.
4. TAKE A BREAK Sometimes, starting energy fades—and it just won’t come back. You try all the usual things that work for you but it has simply disappeared, and you worry it’ll never be seen again. If this sounds familiar to you, it could be time to take a break.
Too often, the word hustle is worn as a badge of honour—yet there’s no pride to be found in working yourself to the ground.
If you can’t find joy in the writing, why are you doing it? Question your motivation. Is forcing yourself to show up worth it? Or would you be better off taking a month, a week, or even a few days off to help gain some perspective? Perhaps a break would enhance the energy you feel when you open your project once more. What about you? What do you do to recapture that starting energy?