Tweet on Duolit about how to turn your summer reading into summer inspiration, and a lot of it makes sense. Writers sometimes stress about not writing enough - we seem to forget that if we write with the kind of zealous enthusiasm that we think we should, then sooner or later we'll burn out. Contrary to popular belief, you can't write ALL the time. Of course, it's all too easy for the Guilt Demon to start pouring its poison in your ear if you decide to use your spare time to do something other than writing, so here are things I do to help my writing when I'm not actually writing.
Read books about writing
My absolute favourite is still Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (which I reviewed over on Write Anything) but I'm happy to read most books about writing - I just choose to ignore or use the advice as I see fit. I subscribe to Writer's Digest, which I find both interesting and useful, and I'm currently reading Larry Brooks' Story Engineering. Whatever I'm reading, I make notes as I go, and I think about how I can apply this information to my WIP. I'm still in the planning stages for a brand new novel, and I've been doing a lot of the preparatory work using these kinds of books.
It goes without saying that a writer must read. I hear people coming out with statements like "Oh I don't want to read other novels in case it affects my own work" or "I don't have time to read, I'm too busy writing." BOLLOCKS. Architects can't design buildings without looking at how other architects have approached similar briefs, and surgeons don't tend to operate on patients without keeping up to date with medical advances. You're a writer, not a hermit living in a hermetically sealed bubble. Besides, how will you know if your spectacular idea has ever been done before if you don't read? You'll never get to understand generic convention, or even the process of storytelling, if you don't read. I pretty much read whatever catches my attention, and I do so primarily to unwind, but I also like to know what other people are doing. Hey, I'm nosey.
I'd actually venture to say that I read far more non-fiction than fiction. It's not even necessarily for research purposes, although that's often a reason for picking up a particular book. Sometimes I'm just interested in a particular thing. As well as Story Engineering, I'm also reading The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics by physicist James Kakalios. I have no intention to write science fiction, I just find quantum theory fascinating. Anything that expands or enhances knowledge can only be a good thing - and it often goes that the spark of a story appears while reading non-fiction. It's a veritable treasure trove of ideas!
I've sometimes read blogs about writing in which the blogger chastises would-be writers for watching films. Apparently, to them, the principles of filmmaking and the principles of writing are too far removed from one another. Cinema is "low art", considered to be tawdry mass entertainment, while writing is "high art", literature intended to elevate mankind. (These bloggers have clearly never read Stephanie Meyer) Well I thumb my nose at them because whether it's cinema or writing, it's all still storytelling. Sure, some of the conventions differ, but it's amazing how many principles can be applied to both. Of course, I am biased considering my track record in film studies academia, but it is true that I find it easier to absorb said principles if I'm watching them unfold. Plus it's a good excuse to watch a movie.
I've talked about this before, but I figured I'd mention it again. A lot of writing blogs advocate periods of "meditation" or "contemplation" - basically, sit/stand and think about your WIP while you're doing something else. So you can unravel plot tangles while doing the washing up, or consider characterisation conundrums when you're hoovering. I mull over my WIP while I'm knitting - there's something soothing about the rhythmic nature of the craft that helps me to understand my story in a clearer way. So I get to think about my writing AND I get to make something at the same time.
What about you? What else do you do when you're not writing?