In a Rut? Get Your Hands Dirty.

Paint. Clay. Ink. A new craft just might be the antidote to your boredom.

Letterpress printing is one of my favorite cures. Try a new craft to jump-start your tired burned-out brain.

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. I’ve been doing data entry so long that my hand is cramped in the mouse-holding position. I see spreadsheets in my dreams, and that’s a significant indicator that something has gone horribly wrong. 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 kicking things off by 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. A sampling: there’s the Penland School of Crafts, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Women’s Studio Workshop, and the Ox-Bow School of Craft. Check out my website for a more comprehensive list of places that offer workshops in craft for students of all levels.

Spring’s the time for rejuvenation, right? Get out there and get your hands into something. Your brain will thank you.

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