Pushing Past Your Writer's Block Issues
BUT THE MUSE…
So you’ve created time for yourself but now your Muse didn’t get the memo? Hang in there! Let's explore how the Muse might be delayed in showing up due to traffic patterns and fake news prompts on Facebook. Hahaha, ok, just joking. But there ARE very real things that can prevent the Muse from helping you create. Read on as we look into how you might be affected by writer’s block and how to never give up in your quest to write and create!
Chicken Vs. Egg
Does your Muse create writer’s block? Or does your writer’s block banish your Muse? Chicken or the egg type of conundrum here. Well, if you’re stressed to the point where you can’t write, sit back and let’s do some hard self evaluating.
Now there are always a ton of outside factors that can prevent you from having quality writing or creating time. If you missed it, my previous blog talked about working to find time in your week to have ‘you time’ so you could write or create on a schedule. Please check that out – I’d love to hear what you think about that post.
If you have those outside factors under control, it might not be them…but you. (sorry to be harsh!) Are you hung up on being perfect? Hating everything you create? Afraid people will discover you’re a sham? Then read on. We have all felt at least one of those emotions at some point. You are NOT alone. And it’s not the end of the world if you feel all of this and more.
An important thing to remember is to NOT beat yourself up over getting ‘you time’ and then NOT creating a masterpiece in a week or a month. Nothing locks up my creative juices like hearing of November’s NANOWRIMO. ARGH! What pressure! Everyone’s creating but me! *throws pen*
Cultivate a dedicated schedule for ‘you time’ and even if all you do is doodle, allow that flow to happen. We don’t always maximize every day cranking out pearls of wisdom. (Certainly NOT me!) Allowing yourself to be creative in different ways can sometimes be the best way to recharge your batteries. Be gentle with yourself. Play with kinetic sand. Make shadowboxes with bits you found after a nature walk. Explore a passion that speaks to you. Research those stamps you collect but never assembled into a binder. Free yourself to enjoy this time!!
You are NOT a bad person for opening up ‘you time’ to allow yourself to be unfettered in ‘how’ you create something.
And if you spend every week writing what you feel is drivel, write it anyway. Don’t throw it out and don’t give up. Allow that to come out and save it. Date it. A year from now, look back and see how far you’ve come. You WILL evolve and those old attempts will prove it to you! Keep that crap in your portfolio, don’t share it online, but just tuck it away like those awkward freshmen pictures from high school – the ones where we had bad perms or mullets and crazy rock band shirts. Everyone has to start somewhere and it’s OKAY that you’re not perfect. Truly!
What if someone knew what you did in this creative ‘you time’? What if they saw what you wrote? Critiqued you because of it? Laughed at your sketches or your paintings? Should that inner dialogue be a force that keeps you from daring to have this time to create? Certainly not! But it’s there, chiding your efforts daily, isn’t it? I hear it and that’s the truth. It’s a buzzkill. It doesn’t go away.
You’re not alone in feeling that pressure, that fear. Look for writing groups that might offer support. Many exist on your favorite social media platform that can help you gain perspective, feel less alone and encourage you in pressing on with your projects. See how many others feel the same way.
Ask for an accountability partner in these groups. Read what they write; look at what they create. Share your own project. Find one thing to compliment them on. They will reciprocate. You’ll start to see you through their eyes. Open yourself to allow the compliment to drown out the criticism, even for just ten minutes. Feel that surge in happiness, however small, in accepting that compliment. Build on that! Don’t let the fear win. Accept their compliment.
Allow yourself to accept the fact that what you have created is NOT garbage!
More than simple fear, depression about other areas of your life can silence any attempt your muse might make of inspiring you to create. There might be money trouble, spouse situations, work stress, physical ailments – any number of things can depress us to the point of not wanting to create anything. It is a truly debilitating thing.
Again, be gentle with yourself. Show yourself some love. Understand that your creative process is a never ending learning curve. Allow yourself to learn from what you’ve tried in the past. If that means you want to spend a month of free time with adult coloring books because that’s the only thing that you feel like doing, then do that. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Write stories in your head. Sing songs to yourself. Capitalize on one facet of your creative passion that makes you happy and don’t worry about anything else, even if just for a half hour. Stick with your schedule. You deserve this time and you deserve to not worry about what you’re creating, as long as you are allowing the flow to happen.
Looking at these writer’s groups can be a two edged sword. You finally don’t feel as alone, which is good. But you see that everyone’s cranking out work by the truckload and you’re not. That’s bad. Comparing ourselves to other writers can be a death knell for our Muse. It’s a horrible thing to put yourself through on any personal or creative level.
There is literally no other person who has ever existed who has your combination of traits. Your viewpoint, your touch, your skill cannot be duplicated. How you see the world is totally unique. Are there thousands of vampire books already published? Yes. But none with your hero or your plot twist. Have garden flowers already been painted millions of times by other painters? Yes.
But this year’s flowers in your garden have never been captured on canvas, let alone captured through your unique eye by your own hand.
Don’t compare your passion to trying to perfectly create something totally new. Try to think of your creating and your writing as translating your inner world onto paper that can exist after you’re gone. Nobody knows that inner world but you. Communicating it into a tangible form provides you with a bit of immortality.
Your work might connect with someone else and help them in their own inner world. Validate yourself and write it. Paint it. Sculpt it. Don’t worry. Step out and create.
Atychiphobia is the fear of failure. It’s real. Your anxiety is real. So is mine.
Get out some paper. Write failure across the top. Now describe failure to yourself. If you wrote a story that was bad, and you put that manuscript into the drawer…is that how you describe failure? If you published that book and it didn’t sell, describe that type of failure. Would the family ride you out of town on a rail? Tar and feather you? Ridicule you at every subsequent family gathering? If you tried to get a publisher to take you on, and you only get rejections, write about that level of failure. Paint that worst case scenario picture of failure to yourself.
Now, step back. Are all of those things REALLY going to happen? Is the family REALLY going to heckle you from now until the end of time if you write a book that doesn’t sell? And if they will, is the answer to this problem to never write anything at all?
Why not publish under a pen name and don’t tell them. If they never know, they can never rag you about it. Then, if it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t sell. Nobody will know but you. Wouldn’t that feel better to at least try than to give up on your dream altogether?
If you never land a publisher, is the answer to that failure to give up? Why not publish on your own? If you can’t ever finish a novel, what about a short story? Flash fiction? Magazine articles? Not everyone is cut out for fiction - and that's OK. Maybe your talent lies in non-fiction or even ghostwriting. What if you had the opportunity to get paid for your writing and you sold the work for someone else to put their name on? You’d be provided anonymity AND the chance to explore your passion.
Don’t let that fear dictate your only solution. Come at things from a different angle. What if you tried HelpAReporterOut.com and landed quotes in articles while writing your novel behind the scenes? Then if your family asked about your writing, you could show them that you were just quoted in the Wall Street Journal if you don’t have your book done yet. Show them that article you landed through HARO so they can see you’re getting noticed. (It’s free to join, btw!)
Think outside the box. Failure can be trumped. Those thoughts can be overcome. Break down a huge goal and simply take the first step. One inch forward is still movement forward.
Do you start and find that, halfway through a scene, you’ve painted yourself into a corner? Research can suck hours out of our life as we find out just how little we know. But the answer is not to ditch the research. Allow yourself to break up your free time in half so you can research just enough to finish that scene. Set a timer if you need to. Don’t let time get away from you. Learning about our passion is intoxicating. Do it in chunks so you can stay focused on the task at hand.
TRANSLATING ONTO PAPER
Your notes go on for miles but when it comes to fleshing out the scene, you fall flat on your face. It happens. Characters don’t want to cooperate. It’s hard to see the setting of each scene. Don’t get discouraged. If you can hear the dialog but not see the room they are in, just write the dialog and get through the scene. If you can see every inch of the room but can’t hear what they’re saying, write what you see and get it down.
As long as you can flow with what you DO feel, you can get through the scene and come back to it later. If it takes weeks to flesh that out, so be it. But if you at least have the barebones of that scene down, then you can get past it to move on without grinding to a complete halt.
Seems our phones are always buzzing with some kind of push notification lately. There is always another new Instagram post or Tweet to check. During your creative time, if possible, turn the WIFI off. Turn the phone down to vibrate. Lock the door. Unplug the TV.
Show yourself that your creative time is important to you.
You know what distracts you. Don’t let it win everyday. That show will be rerun or it will show up on Hulu later. DVR it. Your friends won’t die if they don’t hear back from you for 30 minutes. Let the phone take a message. Let the dishes sit. We make tons of excuses throughout the day that other things are more important. Make yourself as important.
Can’t you be the center of your universe for 30 minutes once a week? Aren’t you worth that?
If you feel it’s a matter of being lazy, consider that this passion might not be your true passion after all. Hobbies that no longer interest us are OK to set aside. What really grabs your attention these days? If you used to love making jewelry and are bored by it now, pack it away. If you’d rather not be into collecting anymore, pack it away for a while. Look for something new.
If your story doesn’t grab you anymore, start a new one. If you’ve already done this 20 times and never finish anything, sit yourself down. Talk to yourself. Why do you feel this keeps happening? Is there an underlying fear or perfectionism issue going on? Introspection is vital! Just don’t give up on yourself. It’s worth it to figure out what’s going on so you can get to a point in life where you’re loving what you do and doing what you really love.
WORK OR SCHOOL
Maybe you’re not hung up on a personal issue, you just have too much on your plate. Many of us have careers or degrees we’re working on and that can take up a lot of time and energy. You might finish a day job and have plenty of time at night to create but are mentally drained. You might not have 10 classes a day, but the classes you do have push you to the limit mentally.
Be gentle; give yourself permission to be tired. You are turning into something. You are evolving. You are working hard. And that takes energy. Don’t criticize yourself for not having endless energy. Rest your mind, first, then evaluate where you can cut back on things that eat up time, such as social media.
Are you in the line at Starbucks for 10-20 minutes each morning? Download their app and pay ahead of time. Jumping the line can save you a TON of time so you can get going faster and avoid the stress of waiting in line. Pre-order lunch or pack a lunch. See if you can find time during a morning train commute to make a journal entry or sketch a scene. Maybe give up on checking LinkedIn first thing in the morning. Don’t sit mindlessly in front of the TV watching news you can skim online in a few minutes. Examining how small things eat up our day can help us carve out a half hour a week for our passion.
No matter what your issue, understand that nothing is concrete for all eternity. If you have a situation going on that demands your free time, then the universe is telling you that now is not the time to start a huge personal project. Get your priority taken care of and don't beat yourself up. If all you literally have time for is 10 minutes on your phone before bed, at least spend it looking at something uplifting and positive.
Be kind to yourself no matter what hangup is keeping your creative Muse at bay. It WILL return. Don't feel you have to try someone else's solution; this blog was just a guideline. Embrace your own solution. Trust that you know you better than anyone else. Get on your own team and be gentle with yourself (I can't say that enough!)
Your Muse will feel that love.