I recently read an article on io9 about how the body can survive up to 70 days without food. It goes through several stages where the body cannibalizes muscle and bone to keep the brain alive. As a writer, I wondered if this process could happen creatively.
I just exited a two month funk. I had just finished edits on a manuscript, but wasn’t due to hear from my agent for a while. (I’m a deadline person. Without one, I’m lost.) I worked up a new novel idea, but the routine of churning out pages each day wasn’t there. I felt starved.
Here’s how I think creative starvation might work on anyone art-minded.
1-2 days after finishing a project
You feel that high that seems to never go away. It’s like creative adrenaline. You feel pumped.
3-7 days after finishing a project
This is the hot spot. You either start something new (I mean just dive in) or you don’t. In physical starvation, the brain takes 25% of the body’s energy. In creative types, imagination takes the largest share. During this time, it’s spinning out of control because it doesn’t have a clear direction. It’s a wet paintbrush searching for a canvas.
1-3 weeks after finishing a project
This is when your imagination starts to cannibalize other ideas. You might find the novel you’re reading an incredible inspiration. Maybe you could mimic it somehow. Or perhaps you dive into blog writing. You convince yourself that it’s also creative and just the same as fiction writing. Yet all these endeavors further drain and weaken your creative spirit.
Onward past 3 weeks
There are a few options here. Unless a deadline or some event propels you back into writing, your imagination might perish. Without the fresh nourishment of routine and a clear project to work on, it starves.
Treatment: Take one chair. Apply butt. Type.
That’s it. Even if garbage comes it. Because it probably will. You need to type. Wake up the creative muse that’s comatose inside you.