What do we do, then, when we don't feel like writing?
And no, this is not going to be one of those cheeky posts in which the author says, "Just keep writing! SURPRISE!" It is absolutely true that we should not give in every time, or even half the times, we feel the inclination to wander away from our work: if we have the ability to write and yet put it off over and over again, we're cultivating a spirit of laziness, which is no more acceptable for us than it is for a farmer. But all the same, there are times when it is acceptable to take a break, to rest the mind, to gather creativity once more for another foray into our books. So,
what do we do when we don't feel like writing?
1. Clean. I think Jenny may have mentioned this at one point on The Penslayer, but there are few things that rejuvenate the mind as well as a good round of cleaning house. As writers we tend to be fairly inactive - I know I do, at least - and it is good for the body and the mind to get moving and do something like scrubbing a bathtub or mopping a floor. (I like bathtubs as well as the next person, I'm sure, but scrubbing them is horrible. Its misery is only outdone by the task of formatting manuscript chapters in the body of an email.)
But at any rate, no matter how clean your home or your writing area is on a day to day basis, you can always find something to clean: it's a law of nature. If you find your creativity running dry, vacuum a few rooms! Dust bookshelves! Turn on a little music and scrub dishes! Honestly, they could do a government study on the creative properties of suds.
2. Organize. This may come from being a fairly organized personality, but I find the practice of organizing helps to cheer me up and get my mind working again. If you have a wardrobe or a closet, spend some time rifling through the clothes and sorting out things you don't wear: it is a productive task and has absolutely nothing to do with writing, which can be very nice.
Or, on a more literary note, tidy up research material so it isn't tumbling all over the place. This year I got myself a wicker basket - from Hobby Lobby; wonderful place, that - for some of the books that I use frequently and don't fit on shelves: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady and W. Keble Martin's The Concise British Flora in Colour; an atlas of the ancient world; a Smithsonian Handbook of Birds of the World; a box of rejection letters. It helps keep the room nice, and a clean room, I think, is far more peaceful than a chaotic one.
3. Exercise. I'm pretty bad at this one: I find exercising incredibly boring. But again, we tend to be inactive, and this is a good habit to inculcate no matter what your vocation is. Turn on the music again - preferably sprightly tunes - and do some aerobics or some weight-lifting or whatever it is you prefer. Go out for a walk, if you can, or just toddle out to get the mail (there might be books in it!). It is not always much fun (though it can be), but it is good for you!
4. Read. Some people find their reading increases when their writing is in a bit of a rut; I generally find that both flounder at the same time. But at any rate, if you find yourself with more time on your hands, allow yourself to settle down with a good book. Whether it is new or well-loved is not critical, although for myself I find that light reading is best. I can't say David Copperfield has been terribly beneficial, but The Inimitable Jeeves seems to be doing wonders at present. I think there have been splashes of Wodehouse in this post, actually.
5. Work. Writing doesn't compose the whole of our work: there are other facets of being an author that can be turned to when the actual business of scribbling has slowed down. If you have reached the stage of pursuing publication, take this time to work on query letters and research agencies or publishers. (I know for myself I have no inclination to do this when my current book is coming along briskly.) Spend a little while researching: more on that to come in a future post, I hope. Respond to emails or think about marketing. Edit a previous work, if you have the energy for it. You can generally find some neglected bit of work that wants doing when your creativity is sparse!
Just because we aren't writing doesn't mean we cannot be productive in other ways. There is nothing wrong with resting from one labor and turning to another for a time. Laziness is not acceptable, but a timely break can be both well-deserved and helpful.