Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Guide to Creativity and Time

By Rochelle Melander, @WriteNowCoach

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: The "creative well" is an apt metaphor for writers, and when we don't take care of ourselves, the well dries up and our writing suffers. Today, Rochelle Melander shares tips on keeping your creative well full.

Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach, experienced book strategist, and the author of eleven books, including, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. She provides solutions for people who feel stuck, overwhelmed or confused by the writing and publishing process. She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that supports children and teens in finding their voice and sharing their stories.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Take it away Rochelle…

After a long week of work and a Saturday packed with family obligations, I desperately wanted time to write. On Sunday afternoon, I grabbed my computer and headed to the library. I sat at my favorite table and scrolled through what I’d written at my last few sessions. This practice usually sparked an idea for the next scene, but nothing came. I stayed at the library for more than an hour, trying all of my creativity tricks. No matter what I did, I couldn’t write. Had I been hit by a bad case of writer’s block?

When I talked about the situation with a colleague, I realized that my problem wasn’t writer’s block. I’d been exhausted. 

Rochelle Melander
After working for more than fifteen years as a professional writer and writing coach, I’ve learned that building a writing career involves more than just “butt-in-chair” time. If you want to regularly produce content, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, or social media copy, you need to consider adding the following types of time slots into your creative schedule:

Balcony time. 

The concept of balcony time comes from the world of business. Leadership writers Ron Heifetz and Donald Laurie said it this way in the Harvard Business Review:
“Business leaders have to be able to view patterns as if they were on a balcony. It does them no good to be swept into the field of action.” 
For authors, balcony time gives us the opportunity to plan our careers, plot out individual books, troubleshoot tangled narratives, and so much more. In order to take balcony time, we need to get away from the tasks of daily life (including social media and email).

Brainstorming time. 

In movies and books, we see artists having eureka moments—when a life-changing idea shows up out of the blue. But in real life, writers need to spend time generating ideas. As we imagine new projects and work on existing ones, taking time to brainstorm can help us generate new ideas, play with innovative approaches to our work, and solve difficult plot or character problems.

Planning time. 

As writers, we plan the next stages of our career and how we’re going to tackle our writing schedule this month. Whether we are a plotter or a pantser, we also need time to plot our books. The difference, of course, is when. Plotters tend to plan the whole novel before they write. Pantsers plan as they write, sometimes taking breaks from writing to imagine the next few scenes.

Idle time. 

Before the internet, Newbery award-winning author Madeleine L’Engle wrote this about busyness:
“When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.” (Walking on Water, p. 13) 
Today, media threatens to fill every waking hour, leaving little time to daydream. And guess what? Scientists have proven that when we daydream, the problem-solving function of our brain is hard at work. Actually, our brains are more active when we daydream than when we perform routine tasks. That means that we can daydream about anything and find a solution to our most pressing writing challenges.

Nourishing time. 

As writers, we throw everything into our work. And no matter how much we love what we do, constantly creating can be draining. Creativity guru Julia Cameron recommended that artists regularly take time to fill the well. Cameron championed artist’s dates as a tool for nourishing our creativity. We can also replenish our energy by resting, reading, and playing with other art forms.

(Here's more on On Maximizing Creativity)

But how do I fit it all in?


Designing a plan for your own writing life is the key to fitting in the sessions described above. You know what works best for you and can decide how often you need balcony or brainstorming time. Create a plan that includes your ideal schedule. Maybe it would include taking balcony time once a quarter and allow for idle time once a week.


I advise my clients to schedule writing time. When we know when and where we are going to do something, we are much more likely to do it. While we’re scheduling writing, we can also set aside time for the tasks mentioned above.
Pro Tip: I’ve noticed that my most productive clients and colleagues have developed systems to help them find time to do all of these tasks. One colleague takes the last week of each month for balcony and planning time. Another sets aside Fridays to generate new ideas. I’ve discovered that I need to spend a whole day offline each week. Sometimes I use this time to take artist’s dates but other times I am just idle.
(Here's more on Scheduling for Writing Success)


During my Sunday writing session, I would have suffered a lot less if I could have considered shifting my plan from writing to brainstorming or daydreaming. Next time you experience resistance, exhaustion, or disinterest, stop working. Take a deep breath. Then consider how using your time for one of the activities mentioned above might renew your energy.

A Final Word of Encouragement

Writers, if you’re struggling to find new ideas, develop your story, explore a character’s voice, describe a setting, or simply get something down on paper, you might need time to play, plan, or daydream. Take it!

About Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity

Do you struggle to:
+Find time to write and create
+Ditch distractions
+Overcome self-doubt and fear
+Believe in your strengths
+Silence the inner critic
+Stop procrastinating and write
+Focus on your work

What if you could find a simple solution to every one of these challenges?

In this book, you’ll discover YOUR perfect solutions. In our guru-obsessed culture, it’s tempting to think that if we follow the routines of successful creatives, we’ll be just as prolific as they are. But when it comes to creative productivity, a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all guide can’t help everyone. Each person has distinct needs and deserves a unique solution.

In Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination, and Increase Productivity, you’ll tackle quests to help you discover your ideal work rhythms, design a life that supports your productivity, and overcome any obstacle you face. Instead of playing someone else’s game, you get to design the game, create your own playbook, define the rewards, and reap them all! You’ll also adopt a secret identity, recruit allies, identify villains, and celebrate your epic wins. Because you’ll be using a gameful approach to shaping your creative life, taking on these quests won’t be a chore. You’ll relish investigating your life and playing with possibilities.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Kobo |


  1. Personal endorsement for Level Up! It's a must for anyone serious about improving their professional development. Great interview.

  2. I believe everyone has their own personal formula for creativity. I found a good way to find new ideas that work is to let go of ideas already made in hopes of being able to create better ones. It's interesting to know that a product has gone through multiple iterations and passes, but I find that people generally don't talk much about how long it took to make to the final product rather than the final product itself. It's important to observe yourself and see what triggers creativity.