It’s been a long summer and the kids are just settling back into their nursery and school routines. I have yet to find my writing rhythm, the one where I feel no resistance, where I believe in myself and the work is a joy. More than a few days away from my desk and my creativity is sluggish, as if I am a musician who has failed to practice or an athlete who has been missing training. It is disconcerting to find that the creative side of my brain is hibernating, and only comes forth spluttering in fits and starts, unreliable and sad.
Trickier still is the trap door that is left open when my writing routine is interrupted. Doubts that visit so regularly that they have become boring. You know, those old demons: I’m not good enough; I will never be able to pay my bills with writing; I started too late. Or worse still, the excuses: I don’t have enough support; I don’t have enough time; no one cares about words. None of this is true, except that my fear of being ordinary is holding me back. That resistance and change are inextricable entwined.
Photo by Hartwig KHD
The Trap of Inertia
Inertia is a thorny bedfellow. His guise is to make you feel comfortable and safe, but thorns lurk beneath his winning exterior. He’ll tell you that you’re fine as you are, to bunker down and stay within the same landscape, the same confines. But you might find that you just can’t escape the niggling feeling you are going nowhere. That’s when you know it’s time to act and seek growth. Once the comet is in motion, the hardest part is done. You just need to hold on.
Gratitude and Celebration
The journey of a writer is a continual one, and sometimes it is easy to lose sight of what we have already achieved. I’m a great advocate for writing down what makes you feel good: a beautiful sentence you have crafted; a perfect piece of dialogue; a poem or blog post complete; the offer of a collaboration; a comment about your work; a reader who has really engaged. When progress is slow, don’t erase your memory of how far you have come. Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes, you need a break and that means you will shine all the more brightly afterwards.
Photo by Trey Ratcliff
Taking Writing Too Seriously
When you feel passionately about something, it is easy to lose your sense of perspective and humour. That’s one of the reasons, for example, that my dad and I are good at pushing each other’s buttons when we talk politics. The same goes for writing. Taking our passions seriously is admirable. It allows us to prioritise them, be disciplined and improve. Taking things too seriously, however, can lead to excessive pressure resulting in burn out or blocks. Or they just might make you smelly (In Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist, read to be an allegory, serious writers are advised not to take baths. “Serious writing comes from intense pain and suffering. Bathing is pure joy. Leave it for the happy and shiny.”)
While my words might be important to me, and I believe that communicating ideas is a beautiful calling, there is freedom in remembering that we are not saving lives here. There is freedom in restraining feelings of self-importance that sabotage our work. If you are creating anything at all, it is dangerous to care what others think. Have fun, distill the truths you find, create the best possible work you can, but throw all delusions of perfection and grandeur away. They will only limit you.
Ignoring your doubts
It’s easier said than done isn’t it? Do doubts and fear ever go away, or do the most successful people just learn to override them? One thing is clear. Over-thinking weakens us. Sometimes, the best approach is ignore fear and act anyway. In the case of writers, that means sit at your desk and feel your fingers glide over the keyboard. It means do the work and apply yourself to a routine until it feels natural again. It might mean setting yourself small targets or making yourself accountable to a writing partner. I don’t know about you but I’m happiest when I am productive, creating. Did you work on your dreams today?