Being a writer means that some part of the brain is always at work. Stories take shape in the unconscious mind, storehouse of memories and ideas and sensations and emotions and patterns and insights. This means it takes more effort to actually take time off and recharge that brain consciously so that the unconscious always has lots of raw material to work with.
So what does a writer do on a weekend? Probably, writes. Writing is just not a 9-5, M-F kind of gig. I even get business emails on weekends I have to respond to. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I went through a major holiday or long weekend without edits or something to proofread or something I had to just stay with, even if it was only to write 100 words, so the story would stay fresh in my head.
But writing and proofing and researching and revising can’t be done 24/7, either, so when the writing is put away, it’s time to go get immersed in sounds and sights and sensations, emotions, experiences. Hang out with friends and family. Cook a meal. Go to a museum and look at art. Study the lines of sculpture. Wander a fabric shop and touch the different textures; feel the difference between denim, linen, fleece, velvet. Look at the range of colors; not just blue but indigo and turquoise and sky blue and navy.
Wander through a store and really look at clothing. Have all your characters started to sound generic in their dress? Examine something different. Try to find an outfit your character would need for a given scene.
Go to an art store. Look at all the different paints and charcoals, all the pastels, all the papers. Buy some to play with.
Get your camera out and shoot whatever catches your eye. Take a close-up, then a wide angle view. Write about the difference in what you can see from just changing perspective in the same scene, a little five minute exercise.
Read. It doesn’t matter if it’s history or poetry or science or astronomy or astrology or a mystery or science fiction or fantasy or a book written for middle grade children. Read. Watch a movie and see how visual information is conveyed. Listen to the way music creates mood and heightens drama.
Take a nap. Sit under a tree. Look up at clouds in the sky. Sit in a chair and do absolutely nothing but breathe. Listen to music. Really look at a blade of grass, a leaf, a flower.
All of these details and images go into the unconscious to be drawn on the next time we describe a setting, bring a scene to life in words. How a writer spends a weekend determines how the writing goes when official work time rolls around again. It’s easy to say that writing consists of butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, but the raw material of fiction requires getting out of that chair and touching something else to gather in.
Charlene Teglia is the author of multiple romances for multiple publishers. Her most recent title, Claimed by the Wolf (St. Martin’s, Dec. 09) is in stores now.