MOTIVATION: Productive Pastimes

By Alina Chase

Jester reading a book
Jester reading a book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you need well-deserved downtime, instead of completely shutting your creative brain down with mind-numbing movies or games, make quality time with your favorite (and least favorite) authors a creative learning experience.

Read A Great Book—Again.

It’s relaxing, entertaining and motivating.

For a quick shot of inspiration, read a few bookmarked passages to help renew your enthusiasm to write like the masters.

But when you feel burnout creeping in, plan to spend a whole afternoon or evening with an old favorite. This is not wasted time! The second, third or tenth time you read a book, you’ll notice more about structure and style, rhythm and pacing. How did the author build tension, stage humor? What is said, and not said, about settings and characters? Why do you care what happens?

And no writing is perfect. Can you find one way to make your favorite book just a little bit better?

Or Read a Really Bad Book.

Keep a few lousy books on the shelf to read when your ego needs a boost. Read a few pages, a whole chapter if you can stand it. Now you can write better than that, can’t you?

After you’re feeling sufficiently smug, read more, critically. Keep in mind as you bash the book that not only the author, but perhaps a traditional publisher, found it worthy of print. And you chose to read it. So, first, ask yourself what the author did right.

Next, consider when you began losing interest—and why. At what point did you stop reading the first time? Or did you struggle through until the end, hoping the book would get better. Why?

Then think about what could be changed (and how) to make it something you’d love to read.

So nix the guilt for taking time out. Let books you love inspire you, and books you don’t love serve as bad examples but encouraging reminders that your persistence will pay off. And remember that reading a book you’ve read before may reward you with both inspiration and energy—at least you won’t be reading into the wee hours waiting to find out how it ends!

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