Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Weary of Writing? Put Down the Pen and Pick Up a Paintbrush by Jennifer Lamont Leo

There are times when it's helpful to step away from the computer and refresh our minds through another facet of creativity. Today, author Jennifer Lamont Leo shares her "refreshing" experience. -- Sandy

Jennifer: Eyes bleary and head aching, I shut down the computer, dissatisfied with the week's progress (or lack thereof) on my novel. Storyline snarls and a dulled creative spark had worn me down. My word count suffered as I deleted more sentences than I'd written.

The impetus for hitting "save" and shutting down was that I was heading off on a weekend retreat at a nearby campground. The retreat would be focused on paper arts--rubber stamping, card-making, and scrapbooking.

Now, I'm no artist. My talents are, shall we say, primitive. But I do enjoy making my own Christmas cards, and planned to use the retreat to get a jump-start on that rewarding but laborious process. It was already September, and time was a-wasting. However, this time I wearily considered begging off. After the lack of writing progress I'd been experiencing, how could I justify taking two whole days off to work on my Christmas cards?  I needed to be writing, writing, writing. (Cue crack of whip.)

In the end, I chose to go to the retreat, and I'm so glad I did. Although I did not write a single word the entire weekend, I made more progress on my novel than I had in weeks. How could this be?

(1) Visual art stimulates writing creativity by exercising a non-verbal part of the brain. To give words, sentences, paragraphs, and grammar a rest and focus instead on color, shape, and perspective helped me change my own perspective. The various aspects of my brain, estranged for some time, managed to reconnect in fresh ways.

(2) Working with one's hands helps the ideas flow. Once I was more or less forced to concentrate on something other than solving some hairy plot tangle, my brain went ahead and solved it without me, as if saying, "Get out of my way and let me work."

(3) To clumsily paraphrase John Lennon, creativity is what happens when you're making other art. In other words, ideas sometimes flow when you switch to working in a different medium. "Frankly, getting out of your comfort zone creatively will often lead to your most creative solutions," wrote Stefan Mamaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield in Caffeine for the Creative Mind

(4) Spending quality time among other creative people: priceless. Writing is a solitary journey. As an introvert by nature, I usually don't mind the isolation. But to be among artists in full working mode was invaluable for "catching" the creative bug myself. Being among so many talented people for a whole weekend opened my mind to new connections, observations, and ways of seeing that I never would have stumbled across on my own.

So if you find yourself mired in writer's block, try picking up a paintbrush...or a camera, a pair of knitting needles, a bottle of glitter glue, a skein of embroidery floss . . . and make magic happen. You'll be glad you did.

What's the "go-to" creative hobby that allows you to recharge your writing brain?


Jennifer Lamont Leo writes from her home in the mountains of northern Idaho, where she lives with her husband, two cats, and as much wildlife as she can attract. Passionate about history, she volunteers at a local history museum and writes history-themed articles for regional publications. She is also a playwright, blogger, and marketing copywriter. You’re the Cream in My Coffee is her first novel. Visit her at She is also active on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


  1. I was a pen-and-ink artist before I was a writer, but I can't do the intense repetitive motion that my work required any more. Now I make jewelry when I'm stuck. It frees the "thinking" part of my brain, plus I (usually) have something pretty to wear when I'm finished.

    Great post!

  2. Working with our hands does free up our "thinking" brain. I wish I could make jewelry. I've tried beading but I'm not very coordinated and kept dropping the tiny beads. I could only work with larger beads, so my jewelry ended up looking like Wilma Flintstone's. LOL!

  3. I'm not artistic, but working in my garden does the same for me. Very therapeutic and artistic in its own way.

  4. especially love #2!!! "GEt out of my way and let me work!" hahahhah

  5. I used to do so much more, creatively, than just writing. I probably should get back to some of that.

  6. Gardening is great way to "rest" our writing brains. So is least the relatively mindless parts of chopping and stirring. Music sometimes works, too.

  7. Like Terri, working in the yard gives me time to daydream, which enhances creativity. I also enjoy working on memes for my blog, Facebook, and promotions - and they're a visual art.


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