J. E. H U N T E R

A writer of young adult fiction specializing in self-publishing, creativity, and writing.

If there is a best season for writing, it’s Autumn. The summer is beautiful and warm, but too busy! There is gardening, camping, visiting, the outdoors! The winter can be too dark, not to mention all the hustle of Christmas. Spring, coming out of the darkness, can be full of new ideas. But if there is a best season for writing, it’s Autumn.

Autumn is a time to settle into a project. To watch the world change colour while sipping a hot coffee. It’s cooler, a nicer time to sit inside with some words, and figure out what all this change means.

A Writer’s Autumn

I’m very happy that Autumn is here.

I’ve been able to spend a bit more time at my writing desk this past month, which is why I’m finally putting some time in for a blog post. I’m getting ready to switch my job-balance again, and while I won’t be writing full-time this time, I will be writing half-time, which is something new for me. I’m excited to see if half-time writing, half-time day job, will offer me enough balance to complete some long-lingering writing projects. While I enjoyed being a full-time writer, there is the constant worry of bills. Being a full-time fiction writer means that paycheques are not steady. Income varies month to money, even though bills remain constant. Having a half-time job should negate this worry, but it won’t chain me to a desk where I’m thinking about working on my writing projects all day long. I’ll actually be able to go work on them (at least some of the time). And I should be able to also blog a bit more too!

The best season for writing, of course, is actually whenever the time and inspiration hit you. I’ve always found that for me, this is fall. What is your best season for writing?

JEH

It’s a constant struggle for all kinds of creatives. Something has to pay the bills. And while most of us wish it was our art, the disappointing truth is that it’s often a day job. Today, I want to talk about way to write creatively, to stay or get back into the creative zone, when you’re working a full-time job.

I’ve been a writer for years. Since I was a child, really, but only in the last nine or so years would I consider myself a professional writer. I’ve written and published ten books for young adults, and I have plans to write many more. However, I also have a day job — sometimes, anyway. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve received a couple arts grants that have allowed me to focus on my craft full-time. I’ve also developed a life where I work a day job for a while, and then go back to writing. This kind of cyclic work takes some getting used to, and still, for a year or more at a time, leaves me with the problem of: how do I keep writing creatively when I’m working 40+ hours a week for someone else?

Below I discuss five tips to get or stay in the creative zone before or after work, or on the weekend.

Return to the Basics

If you’re like me and you have an office job, chance are your eyes are completely burned out at the end of the day. The last thing I want to do is come home from working in front of a computer, to do more work in front of a computer. Good thing I have an addiction to pretty notebooks! (Seriously, I have sooooo many). But the point is that I use them. If I’ve been working on the computer all day, switching to paper and pen feels novel. And how many of us began writing because we love the feel of paper in our hands? (I’m thinking it’s most of us). Not only is paper a completely different medium without backlighting, it is also mobile. I can curl up in bed and write, I can write on the couch, I can write on my porch or my deck or in the park a few blocks away. Paper gives me options. It also smells nice.

Writing Basics

Go For a Walk Somewhere New

Sometimes I feel that every ounce of creativity has been sucked from my bones thanks to the office florescent and my heavy workload. Writing creatively when working a full-time job can even feel like another full time job. But being a writer means that words and thoughts are in your blood. Go for a long, or perhaps even short walk somewhere new — a street you never take, a new park, a new neighbourhood, and chances are you’ll come across something new or interesting. Something that will light a spark and inflame your blood with creativity. Just remember to bring a notepad or voice recorder to record your new ideas before they fly away in the wind.

Find a New Writing Spot

Make a Routine

Sometimes all I need to get into the creative mood and forget about office life is to return to my writing routine. This is the routine I follow when I’m lucky enough to be writing full-time. I go to my office, I light my coffee-shop scented candle, I put on some relaxing fantasy background music, and I sip a coffee. Ten minutes later, I’m ready to write. If you don’t have a writing office, you can do this at your kitchen table, or on the couch with headphones and a fragrant tea. Find physical cues for your body, something that tells it: now is the time to be creative.

Read the First Page of Your Favourite Books

Sometimes the best inspiration is the work of others. I keep a shelf of my favourite works of fiction. And sometimes, when I loose my creativity so much that I forget why I even want to be a writer in the first place, I pull out these books. It can be a fine line though. Limit yourself to one or two pages. Don’t start rereading the whole book. Save that for after you’ve written some words. Just enjoy the beginning of your favourite story, and then remind yourself that you’re writing a new favourite story, one that came straight from your imagination.

Read the First Page of Your Favourite Books

Search for Creative Writing Prompts

There are plenty of these online. I’ve also posted many in former years, and occasionally I may do so again. Or you could try these prompts from The Write Practice. Don’t settle for the first one you find, either. Keep looking for one that sparks your interest. Find a picture or a news article, or a single word that inspires you. Or think about something that happened earlier in the week and ask yourself, “but what if…”, and then just start writing.

No matter what method you choose for re-engaging with your creative spirit, remember also that consistency is key. Try to set aside a regular time each week for being creative. Make it a date night, just you and a perfect notebook, and your favourite words.

JEH

If you have an office job like I do

Hi All! Welcome to this week’s weekly creative writing photo prompt! I hope to give you a bit of inspiration to start your creative day, whatever that may involve, be it creative writing, journaling, drawing, painting, or even just something to think about.

You discover that the only way out of the forest is by walking in the river. You can’t step out of it if you want to escape. You step in, how does it feel? What lies around the bend? What challenges do you face on your way to freedom? Set a timer and write for ten minutes.

Sometimes to get anything done, I need to work fast. Not everyone has the same writing process, so take everything I’m writing here with a big of flexibility. A lot of my writing process is internal. I go for long walks, I drink coffee and stare out the window, I cook dinner and think about the problems or road blocks I’m facing in my books. Sometimes I write stuff down. I journal. And finally when I get to that point where I’m ready to write, and sometimes even when I’m not, I force my butt in my writing chair, navigate to the Google Timer website, and set a timer.

Sometimes using a timer means I don’t need quite as much coffee.

This is especially important when it comes to NaNoWriMo, that one time of year where I make myself write 50,000 words in a month. Because yes, I can handle one month of crazy creative productivity, and then take the remaining eleven months at a much more reasonable pace (especially when I have a busy day job.

Google timer, which you can find here is easy to use because I’m already working on my computer. Some people try to avoid the internet when writing, but I’ll admit that I don’t. I like to have the internet hand to research something that catches my interest, or something I want to know just a little bit more about, or, even more importantly, to find that word that is right on the tip of my tongue. I do try to avoid my cell phone though, which also has a timer. Because my cell phone has apps that are easy-access doorways to the world of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. So, avoid phone, but Google Time for me is okay.

If you’re just starting, maybe just start with 5 minutes. Be sure you are ready to type something—anything—the minute you press start. Begin moving your fingers and don’t let them stop. Even if you begin writing things that sound terrible or maybe don’t make a lot of sense. Just get the words out. See how many you can do in 5 minutes. Just don’t stop!

When the timer beeps (believe me, you can’t miss it), stop writing, but only if you’re not on a roll. Sometimes I find I’ve actually got going really good and I just keep working. So, whenever you can, stop and check your word count, see how many words you’ve written. Keep track. Can you beat your records?

Most days, I do my writing in 20 minute intervals because that is the limit of both my fingers and my ability to sit still. In those twenty minutes (if they’re a good twenty minutes), I write about 1,200 words. In those twenty minutes (if they’re a bad twenty minutes), I write about 800 words. And, if I’m writing by hand as I sometime do, I think I average about 500 words. Either way, I find using a timer greatly increases my productivity. It literally puts me on the clock, and if there’s one thing I like, it’s a deadline.

Do you writer under the pressure of a timer?

JEH

Hi All! Welcome to this week’s weekly creative writing photo prompt! I hope to give you a bit of inspiration to start your creative day, whatever that may involve, be it creative writing, journaling, drawing, painting, or even just something to think about.

You get lost in the woods, and arrive at this little clearing beside a lake. It looks like the best place you’ve seen to take shelter for hours. You settle in. How does it feel? Name each tree, what makes them different? Set a timer, writer for ten minutes.

So it begins again! Another year, another NaNoWriMo! This year, completing NaNo is pretty important to me, because it’s just about the only way I get a big body of work done when I’m working a full time job. Last year, during my full-time writing life, completing NaNo was a breeze. I had 6 hours a day to write 1,647 words, which, if you do the math, is only 274.5 words an hour. Completely doable for me, even if I’m writing by hand.

This year, as I’m writing and holding down a very busy full-time job, I have maybe about an hour every day to squeeze out those same 1,647 words. But yet, it is only an hour a day. So a bit less sleep, a bit less cruising around on my phone, and certainly less Netflix. But it is only 1 month of my life, and writing another novel to tell a story that I love is definitely worth it!

Working away on NaNo. I’ve got a fan!

So what am I working on for NaNo 2021? This month I’m aiming to finishing up with the drafts for the rest of The Gemology Saga, which I began with By Sapphire Light. If you haven’t read that one yet, you should, because it’s amazing. It’s out-wide now, which means you can find By Sapphire Light on for Kindle, Kobo, or whatever e-reading app you use. One day I will get around to doing the print copy. But I just haven’t had time for that. And, as a self-published author, I find that the majority of my sales are in e-books. Let’s be real, most people who want a paperback go to the bookstore where they can hold it in their hands first. I know I certainly do. But either way, I am going to do a paperback, once I find all that fabled time that is.

I know I’m a bit late in posting my traditional NaNo post, so I’m just going to let that speak to how busy I am. I’m also currently behind on my NaNo word count by one day, which means I’m 1,647 words short. The goods news is the weekend is just around the corner and I have a bucketful of candy bar bribes from halloween. So—all in all—I know I can do this! I can do this, because I want to do this! And as long as I keep that in mind, I know I’ll get to the end!

Are you doing NaNo this year? How are you planning to meet your goals?

JEH

Hi All! Welcome to this week’s weekly creative writing photo prompt! I hope to give you a bit of inspiration to start your creative day, whatever that may involve, be it creative writing, journaling, drawing, painting, or even just something to think about.

Do you see the frog? Describe how it is hidden in the forest. This frog is a forest guardian. What does he see? What is he going to do about it?

Set a timer. Write for five minutes

Hi All! Welcome to this week’s weekly creative writing photo prompt! I hope to give you a bit of inspiration to start your creative day, whatever that may involve, be it creative writing, journaling, drawing, painting, or even just something to think about.

You character is on a journey with three others. They must climb to the top of this waterfall. They cannot go into the woods because of poison spores that will kill them. Present the character’s discussion as they plan, then attempt, to climb this waterfall.

Set a time and write for ten minutes.

Hi All! Welcome to this week’s weekly creative writing photo prompt! I hope to give you a bit of inspiration to start your creative day, whatever that may involve, be it creative writing, journaling, drawing, painting, or even just something to think about.

Start outward, describe the scene, working toward the pot. Then focus on the pot. What is inside? Who is waiting for it?

Set a timer, write for five minutes.

Hi All! Welcome to this week’s weekly creative writing photo prompt! I hope to give you a bit of inspiration to start your creative day, whatever that may involve, be it creative writing, journaling, drawing, painting, or even just something to think about.

These are your character’s initials.

  1. Think of an extremely unique name.
  2. These initials are followed by a prophecy. What does the prophecy say?
  3. Your character did not write their initials here. Nor the prophecy. How do they react and what do they do next?

Set a timer and write for ten minutes.