One of the hardest things about writing is getting into a rut. Too little variation (even in my day-to-day patterns) creates a breeding ground for a funk. We all know that the easiest way to get out of your rut is to shake things up and do something different, but sometimes it’s hard just to think of what that different “something” might be.

[Sidebar: I say this is about a writing funk, but really, it’s about any funk.]

Sometimes, the answer is quite literally at your fingertips. There’s something to be said for the tactile—for gripping, holding, touching, grasping.

See, you’re excited already, aren’t you?

After a long winter of being cooped up inside (compounded by a temp job that had me sitting at a desk for 10 hours a day), the solution for me is to get moving. Not necessarily to get outside and exercise and hike my 100 miles in the national parks (though I need to do that also). No, I mean touch things. Build things. Make things. I say ‘things’ because what I make in this scenario really doesn’t matter. It’s time to engage a different part of my brain so the part that’s overheated doesn’t go kaboom. Because believe me, it’s close. We’re at DEFCON 1.

If you’ve had a winter like mine, you know what I mean. So it’s time to use my hands to create something physical. Gardening would be an obvious choice, but since I inherited a black thumb, that’s out. I know I said the “thing” didn’t matter, but I’d prefer to avoid casualties—flora included.

So. Drawings, making prints, carving linoleum blocks. These are things I do better than gardening. This is how I get my hands moving. Today I spent an hour printing book covers for my new batch of Migration books. Small step, but it’s a start.


Next week is when I make bigger steps toward my normal. I’m fortunate to be teaching a short printmaking workshop April 18-22 at the lovely and amazing Wildacres Retreat in western NC. I’ll be teaching some simple monoprinting and block printing techniques for students of all ages and interests who are attending the “Try It On” program, which for me is the perfect get-out-of-your-rut program. It’s not quite an annual event yet, but the workshop offers classes in photography, pottery, painting, writing, and more. It’s the perfect opportunity for folks who are in a rut and want to jump start their creative spirit and try a new craft for a few days. Get your hands into some clay. Or paint. Or ink. (Want to join us in the mountains? There are still spaces left. Go to the Wildacres website to check out the details. Did I mention how affordable it is? Meals are included, you stay in adorable mountain lodges, and the people are unforgettable. This place will seriously change your life. It did for me, but that’s another story.)

Need something closer to home? Check out your local bookstores, art centers, and community colleges—lots of places offer short workshops for beginners that are 1-2 days and perfect for trying your hand at something new—without spending a lot of money and making a huge time commitment.

So get out there and get your hands into something. Your brain will thank you.

A shorter version of this post appeared in my April newsletter. Want to subscribe and have things like this sent to you 1-2 times a month? Click that big orange box on your right.