Self-sabotage happens when we set a goal, then proceed to make choices that go directly against the accomplishment of that goal. With writing, self-sabotage can look like procrastinating when we’re supposed to be writing. Or it can look like refusing constructive feedback, or failing to do necessary research before a big decision. There are many ways to self-sabotage, but let’s talk about one of the less obvious ways we self-sabotage: playing small.
Do you ever have that moment when the creative work just flows? When it’s easy, and effortless, and the words seem to show up on the screen all on their own? And they’re beautiful words, too. No toiling to craft the perfect sentence–it just appears.
In positive psychology, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi asserts that flow is the sweet spot between boredom and anxiety. You’re fully present, in the space between autopilot and overthinking.
In those moments, we know pure joy. We feel fully alive. We recognize the truth: that we are creative beings, meant to be doing this work. Those moments make the frustration and confusion of the creative process all worth it. When you’re involved in a creative endeavor and you’re in the zone, everything seems easy and perfect.
But it isn’t always like that, is it? In fact, I’d wager that most of the time, it isn’t like that.
WHY do we do what we do? What is it that drives us to write, or draw, or dance, or cook? When you decide to make a living off of something that brings you joy, you’re inevitably going to have moments of frustration and doubt, where you forget what made you even want to do this crazy thing in the first place.
Those moments are when you need to reconnect to your WHY, to the reason you love doing the thing, so you can keep going when the going gets tough. Have methods in place to help you reconnect. Re-read things you wrote in the past, or look at good reviews or comments. Take a break to do something fun and silly. Whatever works (and is healthy), do it!
“What a great idea! I’ll totally remember this in the morning.” How many times have we told ourselves this lie? I get my best ideas in the shower or right before I fall asleep, and chances are, if I wait too long to write down whatever plot twist or scene starter has occurred to me at those times, I lose it.
For this reason, I’m a big fan of jotting. Ideas, notions, characters, whatever – I write them down when they occur to me. Even if it means I have to drag myself out of bed and write for the next two hours. Continue reading
Today I want to talk about the impact of journaling on the creative process.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, advises writing “morning pages” — 3 handwritten journal pages — every day upon waking. I’ve done them faithfully in the past. They’re great. They get your thoughts out of your head and onto the paper, where you can either examine them or forget all about them. The pages allow ideas to flow, and epiphanies to appear. Sometimes you just write about how you don’t know what to write about. Other times, I found myself thinking, Oh, so THAT’S how I feel about that thing. Journaling is an incredibly helpful life practice.
I’d argue that anyone can benefit from journaling, but for writers it’s useful on multiple levels. The journal allows you the freedom to write without the mysterious future phantom reader looking over your shoulder. Writing by hand with a pen elicits different thoughts and sentences than typing does. Continue reading
I have a Shiny New Idea. A few of them, actually. I’m allowing myself to jot down notes and brainstorm during idle moments, but I’m holding back from diving right in. I’m so close to being done with Venus and having it ready to query. The query and synopsis are just about done. The manuscript is just about polished. So of course I’m beset by a multitude of plot bunnies. Continue reading
This month has been a series of upswings and downswings in terms of productivity. At the beginning of the month, I still felt burned out from the holidays and National Novel Writing Month. I had done the editing prep work for the novel I finished in November, and for the most part, I knew what I needed to do next. But I was having a hard time doing it.
Luckily, I have a lot of friends that I can talk about writing with. They’re not just writing friends, but real friends, people that I can talk deeply with. One such friend came over to my apartment, and we talked about our writing projects. We got real about the resistance we were feeling, and wouldn’t let each other shy away from examining it. Then we sat down side-by-side on my big sofa, set a timer, put on some music without lyrics, and got to work. In talking through my resistance, I was able to jumpstart my productivity again. But I was still falling victim to my own bad habits. Continue reading
How do you share in words?
1. How do you share yourself (or your life experiences) with others? In conversation (or status updates), do you complain about work, your health, your partner? Or do you share what’s going right in your life, what lights you up and makes you come alive?
This brought up a memory from June. Last month I had some overlap between work gigs, and I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I went out for a friend’s birthday, and I saw another friend I hadn’t seen for a little while. She asked how everything was going, and I answered honestly that it was hard for me to approach that question without complaining, which I didn’t want to do. She didn’t push, and we eased into the conversation from a different angle. I felt good about being honest (and not giving more energy to the complaints), and she was probably glad I didn’t bombard her with my frustrations.
It’s not about being in denial. It’s about giving attention to what really matters.
This week I’m reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I have to share this gem from the section on dialogue:
“You write a sh**ty first draft of it and you sound it out, and you leave in those lines that ring true and take out the rest. I wish there were an easier, softer way, a shortcut, but this is the nature of most good writing: that you find out things as you go along. Then you go back and rewrite. Remember: no one is reading your first drafts.”
You can’t edit a blank page. And unlike real life, the lives and worlds we create with our words can be revised, edited, even completely rewritten. That’s part of the creative process. The biggest part, actually. A coworker once told me, “Writing is 10% first draft and 90% revision.” He probably got it from somewhere else, but 10 years later I still remember him sharing that in the break room, so I attribute it to him.