The In-Out Balance: Replenishing Your Creative Stores

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

As writers, we pour ourselves out onto the page on a regular basis.  While writing can be invigorating, cathartic, and even energizing, continual creative output can eventually lead to writer’s block and burnout.  So how do we avoid this?  By maintaining an In-Out Creative Balance, intentionally pouring inspiration back in to replenish your creative energy.


Here are a few ways to do this:


1. Read.


One of the most common pieces of advice given by established authors to new writers is this: READ.  Read books in your genre.  Read books outside your genre.  Read newspapers, billboards, flyers; read everything you can

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Shortlist produced a list of 40 famous authors’ quotes about reading.  One of my                      favorites from this list came from William Faulkner:


“Read, read, read.  Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.  Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!  You’ll absorb it.”

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2. Movies*


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Inspiration for writing doesn’t only come from books.  In fact, some of the most inspirational experiences I’ve had as a writer actually came from watching movies.  Movies, like books, tell stories.  And even better, they do so in a multi-sensory experience that can reach new corners of your imagination and perhaps ignite something that wouldn’t otherwise have been reached.   There are two ways to approach movie watching: as a viewer, and as a writer.  I suggest doing both at different times, depending on the level of energy you have and how familiar you are with the movie.


Watching as a viewer

This is simple creative intake, where you watch the movie simply to relax and enjoy it.   If you are watching a movie for the first time, I recommend this approach.  While it seems very passive, your brain can benefit greatly from the entertainment and stimulation of simply watching a movie, especially if it’s one you find particularly moving.


Watching as a writer

This approach takes more energy, but it is extremely beneficial, and it works especially well for movies you have seen before.   I recently came across a fantastic book called Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies by Blake Snyder. It is the second installment of Save the Cat, a series of books for aspiring screenwriters.   In this book, Snyder shows how all — yes, all – movies break down into just a few general plot categories, and how every movie follows a basic structure.  Just like novels, movies function within a framework that artfully builds connection and emotional impact for the audience.   Successful movies are structured a particular way because that’s what works.  And this structure works because it is based on how the human brain works.  Which is the same reason story structure is so important in fiction.  I highly recommend Snyder’s book, as it will change the way you see movies, and possibly the way you write as well.  But even if you don’t read his book, try watching movies as a writer from time to time.  Look for the plot elements, the structure, the framework on which all the emotional impact hangs.  This process can produce new, innovative ideas for how to approach your own writing.



3. Art and Music


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Oddly enough, producing art and music can also replenish creativity and refuel the writer’s mind.  Although art and music are technically output when you do them yourself, they offer variation from the act of writing and provide alternative creative expression that can recharge your energy for tackling your next writing session.  These creative acts can also provide valuable input by tapping into other aspects of your creative ability and helping you to see your ideas in a new way.



4. Nature