Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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December 26, 2016

Coffee, Chocolate, and Whine

Kathryn Craft

Turning Whine into Gold

chocolateIf Facebook posts are to be trusted, all a creative writer needs to be productive is coffee, chocolate, and wine. Rather than flow rich with ideas and possibilities, the creative blood of many writers is a biochemistry experiment gone awry.

You already know why we rely upon caffeine, nutrient-poor snacks, and a well-deserved depressant in the evening to ease us toward sleep. Which is elusive, because the processed foods and wine we’ve consumed have secretly messed with our hormone cycle and at 3 a.m., BAM! Eyes wide open. Anxiety about our ineffective lives sets in. Perhaps even before last night’s wine is fully metabolized, we start caffeinating again.

Meanwhile, the brain fog resulting from these practices obscures the path to completing our novels. Many of us are skidding toward the end of 2016 with an energy balance in the red. The trials of the writing life—whether that means the tight deadlines and marketing demands of the published or the myriad uncertainties of the unpublished—have left us feeling exhausted, emotionally spent, and used up.
img_1313We are left wondering what happened to that creative life we intended to live. The morning pages, the artist dates, the photography walks. Reading whatever tickles your fancy. Stimulating conversations with other artists at a Parisian sidewalk café.

Oh. That would take time. And energy. Which makes me wonder if our beloved armchair addictions may be draining us more than nurturing us.

What if we replaced some of that coffee, chocolate, wine—and the time we spend talking about them on Facebook—with food and activities that actually nurtured us? We’d have the energy to be more productive. And once we are more productive, space would open in our schedules to engage in activities that renew our creative lives. That would be its own reward, and we wouldn’t “deserve” so much stuff that harms peak performance.

(This is a theory, mind you. Still working on implementation here.)

Creative writing is problem solving

Think of the advice you might give your teenage son the night before he must engage in a massive amount of problem solving. Say, taking the SAT. Add stakes: the outcome of the test will likely affect were he spends $200K+, the next four years, and his career beyond. Would you tell him to make sure he goes drinking the night before, stays up late, and then hops up on junk food and coffee the next morning?

carrot-kale-walnuts-tomatoesOf course not. So why are we doing it? Think of all the problem solving required in our writing time alone: plot issues, word choice, scene structure, chaptering, pace, voice, and so much more. Then there is the energy required to keep you on an even emotional keel despite the head games inherent to a writing life. The energy required to come up with new ideas. The patience and stamina required to deal with day jobs, kids, spouses, elder care. We need healthy brains to effectively solve these problems.

I have a graphic representation of the creative life on my bulletin board. One arrow points to the top of a stick figure’s head, and says, “Fill your brain with all the information,” and another arrow points to the chair behind him and says, “and then sit a spell.” If your creative life is stuttering, how often are you filling your brain with new information and creative stimuli? How often do you give yourself time to sit a spell?

The irony here is that we all want to lead a creative life, but don’t give ourselves the time, inspiration, and nurturing that will allow us to do so.

What if we made the time?

If you are feeling stuffed, hung over, and sluggish after the holidays, you are ending the year at an emotional, psychological, and physical deficit. As we turn the corner, why not think about starting 2017 in the black?

What if we used the force of public commitment and state, right here and now, that we absolutely do have the time we need to nurture ourselves, accomplish our goals, and live the creative life we want—all while loving our families and friends?

It’s outrageous, right? But so is the notion that we will make enough money to become full-time writers, and we’re banking on that–while letting our health degrade.

freedomSo many voices fill my head right now. You will not part me with my coffee. Chocolate is healthy for you. I read about a woman who lived to be 110 and she had a glass of wine every day. And I’m well aware we all have ridiculous demands on our time that make us feel trapped. No need to share those, or to make excuses. Let’s head into 2017 with renewed optimism and commitment, shall we?

In the comments, write the words “I plan to recommit myself to a creative life by finding time to…” and then write one measure you could take to reinvigorate your writing life and/or improve the way you nurture your physical self. Let’s see if we can goose each other toward a more creative 2017!

About KathrynKathryn Craft

art-of-falling1.jpgKathryn Craft is the award-winning author of two novels from Sourcebooks:10685420_966056250089360_8232949837407332697_n.jpg The Art of Falling, and The Far End of Happy. Her chapter “A Drop of Imitation: Learn from the Masters” will appear in the forthcoming guide from Writers Digest Books, Author in Progress, available now for pre-order.

Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she leads workshops and speaks often about writing.

Twitter: @kcraftwriter
FB: KathrynCraftAuthor

34 comments on “Coffee, Chocolate, and Whine”

  1. I plan to recommit myself to a creative life by finding more time to write stories than time spent on social media (staring at my newborn but far away grandson excepted), trying to sync my devices, uploading, downloading, and one finger typing on minuscule keyboards.

  2. I am heading to the desert today. I find it a wonderful place to recharge. To gorge on the beauty of its serenity and peace. Try the desert. It will delight you. Thank you Kathryn for affirming the writer's need for dreaming and sitting a spell.

  3. I plan to recommit myself to a creative life by finding time to read something I love every day. (and to toss the remaining pumpkin pie sitting in my fridge right now.)

    Thanks for this. I think your theory is true.

    1. I'm happy for you Kathy! Our reading demands can grow so prescribed. Something you love is just the ticket!

      As for the pumpkin pie: have you ever heard wisdom that you weren't ready to utilize, yet you recall it over a ridiculous span of years nonetheless? The parent of a college friend (so I'm talking 40 years ago!) once said to me: whether you throw it in the trash or down your throat, if you don't need it, either way is just as wasteful.

  4. Kathryn, thank you for this timely post! I discovered Julia Cameron's 'Artist Way' this year but have too often put my precious, daily replenishing time on hold. Thanks for the gentle reminder that I need to take care of myself and trust that good writing will flow.

    1. I first encountered Cameron's book in the mid 1990s and its lessons--even when ignored!--have beckoned ever since. We must keep returning to the creative well. We simply must--it's who we are.

  5. I plan to recommit myself to a creative life by finding time to meditate--and then to turn my curiosity into action.

  6. I plan to commit myself to a creative life by CREATING time to embrace the stillness; as a result I can continue towards a new practice of being present and not perfect.

  7. Since I got to read your post early, Kathryn, I left all the leftovers from the chocolate fondue I took to dinner last night with my friend and her family. Trust me, there was a lot of yummy stuff. But I've known for a long time that, for me, writing and sugar-brain can't coexist. Here's to feeding my body with healthy foods to fuel my writing!

    1. "Chocolate fondue"--just the words had me drooling! But so many of these are trained responses. Wouldn't it be cool if we said "chocolate" and the muse showed up?

  8. You're right, you're right , you're right.
    I've been running on close to empty for a while now, sort of like taking your foot off the pedal to save gas downhill, hoping to make it to the next station before you give out of gas. I know what plan works for me, just need to implement more fully. It's not getting sucked into the black hole of time waste that is the hardest part. for me.

    1. Shelley we can only run on empty so long. Then we run on adrenaline, and that can really mess you up. Wishing you full implementation of your plan to restore for the New Year!

  9. Lovely post, Kathryn! I plan to recommit myself to a creative life by finding time to nap when I'm tired instead of surfing FB endlessly.

  10. I really appreciate your post today, Kathryn! I'm recommitting to a healthier lifestyle in general: eating better, more active, and fewer calories eaten. Brain food is my best friend! Have a happy and productive New Year!

  11. I'm committing myself to be less earnest in 2017. I'll be starting that by doing one frivolous thing every day. Not sure how this might relate to increased creativity, but I have a feeling it will help. I also plan to keep having coffee:)

  12. Today, I realized for the first time in awhile, I feel happy. I mentioned it to my husband, who immediately wanted to know why I haven't been happy, and I replied, "I just want to enjoy this feeling I haven't had." And I feel bubbling with writer's energy. One blog post just completed, ready to start another, and then on to my WIP. Why now? This may sound petty, but having a gift accepted and appreciated by someone important to me who is difficult to buy for, buoyed me up and made the world shine. And I could definitely cut down on the chocolates.

  13. I decided I had to take a walk with the dog before I responded. My good eating plan fell of the rails this holiday season, but will be resurrected since I gained back so hard lost pounds. I will cut down on chocolate and alcohol as the holidays wane. But coffee--nope. A cup or two a day, every day.

  14. I plan to recommit myself to a creative life by finding more time to meditate every day, to boost my focus and concentration. Then I can truly use my morning writing time for productive work on my current project. Today was the first day I haven't had any chocolate all month. Sugar is my enemy and I know that. Tomorrow I intend to ignore the chocolate that is calling my name. And see how many days I can resist the temptation.

  15. A timely post, Kathryn, as we head into 'Resolutions' territory. I plan to recommit myself to a creative life by ensuring at least a short period of daily quiet to simply think. Too many days are simply a mad scramble. (It was great to meet you in Albuquerque!)

  16. Love this post, Katherine. That "extra" pumpkin pie is going in the trash. I'm feeling sluggish and run down from so much celebrating and a lingering cold. I plan to recommit myself to a creative life by looking up at the sky every day. Clouds and birds helps me breath, which I hear is crucial to living and creating 🙂 The coffee stays but the wine could dry up a bit. xo

    1. Dana your comment reminds me of something. I haven't had a dog since 2006, but one reason I miss having one is that the last thing I did every night was go outside and look up at the stars, and feel the cool air against my cheeks. Without the dog I forget to do that. It's hard to create such stimulating sense memories while sitting in front of the computer all the time! Clouds. Birds. Lovely.

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