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Margaret Mizushima on Settling In

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries. You can find out more about her on her website at, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Creativity is an innate trait in all human beings. While some people create stories with words, others might use paint, glass, fabric, stone, or other media to produce their works of art. Some might design recipes to create delicious new foods or to structure fabulous meals. Some might create business plans or new ways to track data. Some create new machines or technological advancements. The list is endless.

But after my past year filled with the chaos and stress of uprooting and moving across country, I’ve realized that getting my creative edge back to write the ninth episode in the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries hasn’t been easy. I’ve needed a period of settling in to once again find my mojo.

As always, I’ve fallen back on setting up a work schedule, blocking my writing time out on my calendar amidst my other appointments and responsibilities. I’ve organized my own writing space complete with the candles that I light before getting started each day. And I’ve developed my systems for tracking plot points, clues, names of characters, and all those pesky details associated with writing so that I can remember where I’ve been as I continue to create the next stages in my story.

These writing tools help, but when I think of creativity, it brings to mind things such as getting ready or priming the pump—preparing the body, mind, and spirit for a dip into the imagination that will be sustainable enough to last through the six months or so that it takes to write a novel. Others have designed a framework that I’ve found helpful to me now. Maybe it will give you some ideas as well.

First, take care of the body. Be mindful of ergonomic positioning for working on your project. Plan breaks for stretching, taking a walk, or participating in other forms of exercise to relax muscles that are often held for too long in one position. Use the proper furniture and tools of your trade. Get a massage or other type of bodywork that helps with the tight spots. Eat healthy foods and stay hydrated.

Second, take care of the mind. Establish a meditative or prayer practice, something that calms the day-to-day inner chatter so your lively creative mind can work unencumbered. Try meditative practices that involve movement such as tai chi or yoga. Use whatever tools you like to organize your work—calendars, outlines, spreadsheets, etc. Experiment with this; ask your fellow creative friends what they like to use.

Third, take care of the spirit. What feeds your soul and fills your creative well? Maybe working in a garden, fishing at a lake or stream, or going on a hike in the mountains. Or maybe something more urban such as going to an art museum, taking in a movie or stage play, or attending an opera or symphony. Or how about going to a comedy club or streaming a stand up comedian on video? Create a list that is unique to you and refer to it frequently.

Sometimes it’s hard to find a creative groove, but a period of settling in helps me stay on track when I need to get started, stay focused, and then finish a project. How do you find your creative groove?

Margaret Mizushima

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, police procedurals featuring a deputy, her K-9 partner, and a veterinarian who live in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Great overview of what you do to find your creative groove. I do the things you mention, but I also like to read to find writing stimulation. Admiring writing by someone who is now on a bestseller list or who just plain touches me emotionally with a sentence will make me charge to the computer or write down my own beginning sentence for a scene. I’m glad you’ve settled in! And I love your books!

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thank you, Christine! Oh yes, I agree with you completely. Reading is wonderful writing stimulation. I’ve added that to my routine as well. Thank you for your comment.

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    Pamela Ruth Meyer

    So many great ideas on ways to foster creativity here, Margaret. Thank you. I’ll add one or two that sometimes stir me inside to get the deeper ideas flowing. Looking at art, like impressionist paintings or stained glass windows. Music is a big one. It’s so useful to me to let my intuition pick the song. It often matches my mood, the resonance with myself pulling me deeper into that mood but also into myself so ideas can flow out from a more core source. Your photograph of the woods is the final one that comes immediately to mind. Take a walk and awe at the world for a while. Often works wonders. Best advice of all was in your beginning, settle in. Love it.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thank you so much for your comment, Pamela. Yes, music is wonderful to feed the spirit! Your ideas are lovely for stimulating creativity and I really appreciate your mentioning them. Great!

  3. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Margaret — I enjoyed reading your post. Settling In. Ahh… Just saying it out loud—Settling In—is soothing and brings a sense of calm. I, too, have my settling-in ritual. It’s how I set the stage.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      And I know that walking and enjoying nature is an important part of your day. I admire your photos so much!Thanks for your comment, Laurie!

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    Marie Sutro

    Feeding the soul is so important. I’m going to work on integrating some of these ideas into my daily routine. Thank you!!

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Marie! I need to make that soul care list and use it frequently. I do enjoy walks almost daily but overlook the “taking a break” part of it and mostly ruminate on what should happen in the story next. I need to do that too.

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    Avanti Centrae

    Glad you’re back in the groove. Can’t wait to read your next one! I too love meditation, walks in nature, and massage!

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks for your comment, Avanti! I gotta admit, that every other week massage is important to me. It keeps me going and adds that extra to my daily stretches.

  6. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Margaret, I’m so happy you’ve gotten back in your groove and admire your poise in doing so! I appreciate how you offered ideas based on the body, mind, and soul. I trust “heart” is included in your “body” ideas. Specifically, feeding my heart involves watching kids at play, especially my grandchildren. They motivate me to keep writing. Settling in for me involves first scheduling and diving into chores and have-to’s as quickly as possible to clear the decks. I just wish they weren’t so “daily”! Then, I can attend to writing. Can’t wait to read your new book! Thanks.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much, Sherrill. Oh yes, watching the kids at the playground is so heartwarming. I appreciate your comment so much!

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    Congrats on settling in. A few years ago, I moved five times in two years. I can totally empathize. Can’ wait to read your 9th book!

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Oh Saralyn, you must be an expert at survival! 🙂 Moving definitely shakes things up for a while. Thanks so much for your comment!

  8. tracey64p

    I am a believer in the power of massage and nature walks and settling in. Your post is a refreshing walk in the woods. It’s a fabulous reminder to take care of your body so that you can do the work. Thank you for sharing.

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    Laurie’s story

    I’d love to hear your ideas for tracking plot points— maybe in a future post! Wonderful ideas all the way around. Thanks!

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Thanks, Laurie! I’ve tried so many different things and then usually end up with my ring binder and notebook paper. LOL But sure…maybe in a future post, I can revisit all those things I’ve tried. Maybe I’ll go back to one of them.

  11. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    Great advice, Margaret. As the pressure builds to pub. date I need to use some of your suggestions about serenity. I find that periodically stepping away from the writing to wash dishes, etc. helps me come yup with new takes on the story. I also write first drafts by hand because my mind feels more free. I type it in the same day and get more ideas.

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Thank you for your input, Carl, adding some other good ideas for enhancing creativity. I have a friend who writes his entire manuscript in longhand. And…if you ever want to come to my house to step away to wash dishes, please feel free to visit. LOL I look forward to seeing you at Bouchercon!

  13. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Moving is so disruptive. I had to wait 5 weeks between selling one house and moving into the next. And while I had a vacation spot I could fall back on, it wasn’t the same as have a home. I didn’t get any writing done during that time. Fortunately, our new house is in my hometown so I settled right in. Thanks for the reminders on finding serenity!

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      Margaret Mizushima

      So you’ve been there too, Sharon! We were so lucky to find an apartment to rent with a fabulous landlady who let us have our dogs. I did manage to keep up with line edits and proofreading during that time, but I was so lucky that I’d finished the developmental edit. I don’t think I had that type of creative energy left in me. Thanks so much for your comment!

  14. joyribar

    Thank you for reinforcing the reminders of ways to “settle in.” I like the phrase. Life seems to offer many distractions and upheavals, so creating our writing routines becomes even more important. Like most people, I’m a creature of habit, and I realize my best writing comes on days I’ve stuck to my caring for my body routine (yoga with meditation, water with added nutrients, coffee, Wordle). Ah yes, now I can settle into writing. I hope your creative spark keeps glowing, Margaret.

  15. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    Thank you, Joy! I agree that taking care of myself helps spur my creativity, and I always wonder why it’s so easy then to skip certain things and routines that I know are best for me. Busyness does not help!

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