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Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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You Too? What’s Your Writing Routine? (And a Giveaway!)

A woman writing in her diary.

Do you make an appointment with your writing? (Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art)

It’s time for another ‘You Too?’ post, where I ask you a writing-related question and you share your thoughts.

Today’s post is about your writing routine.

There are so many suggestions out there about writing routines. Some people say get up early and write before your household wakes up. Others say ditch the evening television program and write instead. Some say you should write every day. Other say you should only write when you feel like it.

In my experience, each writer is different. There is no one-size-fits-all writing routine. There’s the routine that works for you on this project.

With that in mind, I’m really curious to find out about your personal writing routine.

So here are the questions:

  • When is your best writing time? Early morning? Late at night?
  • Do you write every day? Every second day? Just when the mood takes you?
  • Do you aim for a word count? Do you set a time limit?
  • Do you find your routine changes depending on what writing project you’re working on?

Please feel free to add any details about your writing routine in the comments. If you’ve got any tips on how you’ve sneaked extra writing time into your day, or found ways to improve the quality of your writing routine, we’re all ears!

This post is yours to take in whatever direction you feel like. Let’s start discussing!

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Baverstock's Allsorts Cover Art

P.S. I’m almost ready to release Baverstock’s Allsorts Volume 1: A Collection of Short Stories. This week I’m giving away free copies of the e-book in exchange for honest reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. If you’re interested in getting a copy, e-mail me at jessica AT creativitysworkshop DOT com or leave a comment below and I’ll follow up with an e-mail.

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What’s on Your Writing Diet?

A half-eaten cookie on a book.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

I recently came across this quote by Ray Bradbury:

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

So, what’s on your diet?

When it comes to dieting, we’re usually encouraged to look at:

  • How often we eat,
  • How much we eat, and
  • What kind of food we’re eating.

The same holds true for our writing and reading diets. So for the next two weeks I’m encouraging you to take a closer look at your writing and reading habits.

Of course, it goes without saying that everyone is different. The diet that works for you may not work for me and vice versa. The principle is the same for writing routines and reading choices.

The trick with dieting (as well as reading and writing) is to tailor your habits to your own needs. This week we’ll look at the different aspects of a good writing diet. Next week we’ll tackle the reading diet. As we go, think about the tweaks you can make to your writing and reading habits to increase your creative output.

Ready?

How Often?

The first thing with any writing routine is working out how often you write. Most writers recommend writing daily in order to get into a good rhythm. But there are some writers out there who write less frequently What about you?

No matter whether you write every day, every second day, or only every week, the important thing is to make sure you are writing regularly. Why? As Ray Bradbury pointed out in his quote, this is a diet. Binge eating doesn’t work for your body, so binge writing doesn’t usually work well for your Creativity or your mind.

No matter when you plan to write, make sure you have a specific time and place in mind. Schedule it into your calendar or set yourself a reminder on your phone. If you only write when you feel like it, then it’s too easy for other things to take the place of your writing. Make an appointment with your writing and keep it!

How Much?

What about how muchyou write? Some writers stick to word counts. Other writers prefer to set a time limit. How do you decide how much you will write?

Whichever method you use, you want the amount to be achievable, something you can manage on a regular basis. Getting into a routine is hard, and there will be days when you miss your writing goal for whatever reason. Melissa Dinwiddie describes her goals as “ridiculously achievable” because they are easy to do every day and easy to return to if she misses a day.

Setting a goal for yourself means you can measure your success and improvement. You may start out with a goal of writing 100 words a day. Gradually that goal may increase to 500 and then 1,000. It’s great to have an overall goal of reaching a certain amount of writing a day, but remember to work you way up with achievable goals that you can realistically accomplish during each writing session.

What Kind?

Now, what kind of writing are you doing? Short stories? Novellas? Novels? Poetry? Songwriting? Are you writing romance? Science-fiction? Comedy? There are so many different writing forms and genres. Are you taking advantage of them?

A healthy diet encourages you to eat a variety of foods. So too a healthy writing life involves variety and even experimentation. We all have our favourite writing forms and subjects, but stepping outside our comfort zone from time to time not only allows us to learn and grow, but can also lead to very pleasant surprises. You never know whether you’ll enjoy something or not until you give it a go.

For example, I used to love writing novels and had no interest in short stories until several years ago. A friend of mine organised a “writers’ day” and requested each writer bring a short story with them. While preparing my contribution, I discovered I loved writing short stories and have greatly enjoyed writing them ever since.

Don’t rule anything out until you’ve tried it. You might discover a brand new outlet for your Creativity.

So, to recap, no matter what kind of writer you are, the writing diet goes as follows:

  • Write regularly.
  • Write achievable amounts each session.
  • Use variety and experimentation in your writing.

Now I hand it over to you. What kind of writing diet works for you?


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday.

So far we’ve considered how a successful writer:

Now let’s consider how a successful writer deals with the fears and barriers that will inevitably come in the writing life.

Defining Your Fear

While every writer will face some kind of fear in their writing life – be it the fear of failure, the fear of making mistakes, or the fear of what others will say about their writing – each writer is different.

The subject of writing fears and barriers deserves a book of its own, so we’ll only cover the topic briefly here. If you wish to read more on the subject, try The Writer’s Portable Therapist by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.

Firstly, let’s define the two terms we’re using here:

  • Fear: In this book, when we refer to fear we’re usually talking about the worry or anxiety caused by perceived:
    • Difficulty,
    • Danger,
    • Potential for embarrassment, or
    • Potential for hurt or heart ache.
  • Barrier: A problem (perhaps caused by fear or a self-imposed limitation) that prevents you progressing with your writing project.

As we already mentioned, the fears and barriers that each writer faces will be unique to them. Our fears and barriers are influenced by our:

  • Upbringing,
  • Life experiences,
  • Beliefs (including the way we perceive the world), and
  • Habits.

What are your personal fears and barriers? You may already know, or you may need a little help to describe the feelings and thoughts you encounter on a regular basis.

Before you read further, jot down on a piece of paper the fears and barriers you feel you’re facing in your writing life.

If you’re not sure what to write, then try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What thoughts go through my head when I sit down to write?
  • Am I embarrassed to call myself a writer? If so, why?
  • What is the hardest part of writing for me personally?
  • What’s the worst thing someone could say to me about my writing?

Notice any reoccurring thoughts or words. Also notice how you feel as you write. Do your muscles tense up when you think about certain aspects of your writing? Do you feel your gut tightening when you approach certain situations?

You may be surprised at the things that concern you.

*****

Add your comment below. What fears are you facing in your writing life?

*****

Like most writers, I have to be frugal with my funds. So if you’ve enjoyed today’s post and would like to read more, I’d be grateful if you could leave a little in the kitty to help keep things afloat.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

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Creative Action: Say Can

A girl looking very grumpy. Obviously she's been saying can't too often.

“Grouch” by Greg Westfall via Flickr

Hi, I’m Jessica’s Creativity and today I’m laying down a challenge!

Are you a little petulant?

Do you say “can’t” too often?

Adults tend to associate the petulant use of “can’t” with small children who refuse to eat vegetables, take baths or enter indentured servitude.

But in my experience, adults are equally guilty of saying “can’t” when they really “could” if they got out of their own way, got off their high horse or got down to rainbow tacks (because brass tacks are sooo passé).

For example, have you ever finished reading a book and thought to yourself, “I can’t write something like that”?

Have you been blessed with the incandescent light bulb of an idea only to say, “I can’t do that idea justice, so I won’t even try writing it”?

Or what about the ever popular, “I can’t write today, because I promised to walk Aunt Mable’s tapir (or whatever common excuse you use)”?

If you spend your life effectively nipping yourself in the bud every time you come close to writing about something brilliant, you know what happens? You end up bushy with no flowers…because you nipped all the buds…

Yes…well…let’s pretend that little flop of a joke didn’t happen and move on, shall we?

Anyway, for this month’s creative action I want you to do one very simple thing which could make an incredible difference to your writing life.

Say can.

The next time you read an inspiring book, say to yourself, “I can write something inspiring like that.”

Why? Because you can. With your own unique writing voice and your own unique writing drive you can inspire someone with your words.

The next time you get a flash of an idea, say to yourself, “I can do that idea justice. I’ll try writing it.”

Why? Because you can. It may take time. You may have to learn some new skills and hurdle a few mountains in the process, but it’s possible.

The next time you’re tempted to find an excuse not to write today, say to yourself and anyone listening, “I can write today.”

Why? Because, you guessed it, chances are you can. Get out of your own way and settle yourself in front of the page. See what happens. Prove yourself right by writing at least one word. Then follow it up with one more. See?! You can!

Right, off you go! Say CAN!

And then don’t forget to pop back here and leave a comment telling us what you did. 😉


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – The Independent Writer (Part 3)

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. You can read the first two parts of this chapter here and here.

Taking Control of Your Writing Life

The independent writer views their writing life as something they have control over.

  • If they don’t know enough information on the subject they are writing about, they will do some research.
  • If they have a weakness in their writing style, they will read writing books, take classes or do writing exercises to improve in that area.
  • If they are having trouble with a particular scene or writing project, they will turn to beta readers or an editor for further help.
  • If they aren’t able to learn a skill themselves, they will enlist the services of someone who can.

While this kind of writer understands that they have limitations, they do not allow these limitations to hold them back. They view the limitations as things to be compensated for, not as things that hinder them from reaching their goals.

They create a support structure of fellow writers, enthusiastic readers and other skilled people whom they can call on to fill specific roles in their writing journey.

Take a few minutes to consider the support structure you currently have in place. A good support structure may include:

  • A writing mentor – A more experienced writer who is able to guide you to improve in your writing and remind you of the progress you have made.
  • An editor – This may be a professional editor, or simply an eagle-eyed friend who is able to pick up on your mistakes.
  • Beta readers – People who are willing to read your writing and offer feedback. Ideally they should match your target audience. (We will look at more about target audiences later.)
  • Fellow Writers – These may be found in writing groups or online. They can offer sympathy, encouragement and advice.

Each of these support people plays a different role and fills an important need in your writing life. There are plenty of people out there who are willing to help you with areas you may be struggling with, so reach out and begin building your support structure.

Writing For Beauty, Not Perfection

An independent writer does not aim for perfection. They realize perfection is unattainable. Instead, they aim for beauty – a symmetry, trueness, depth or hue to their writing that is both faithful to their writing voice and appealing to their target audience.

This mindset is not only helpful when approaching the blank page, but also when making writing decisions.

There are many decisions involved in the writing life, from choice of genre to the placement of commas. The independent writer not only understands that they are responsible for making these decisions, but realizes that for many of these decisions there is no black and white answer.

They will work through their options for each decision and choose what they feel is best for the story.

We will continue to refer back to the phrase ‘writing for beauty, not perfection’ throughout this book to encourage you to be more relaxed and creative in your writing. 

Process Oriented Rather that Product Oriented

While writers usually work towards producing an end result – a book, a poem or simply the perfect paragraph – independent writers separate themselves from their writing.

They are a writer: They produce. Their writing is the production.

While they may be very enamored with the end product, they spend most of their time focused on the act of producing – the writing, research and editing that goes into that product and all that follow – instead of becoming bogged down in a single work.

Being process oriented rather than product oriented helps the writer:

  • Evaluate their writing,
  • Make needed adjustments to their work in progress,
  • Cope with feedback and criticism, and
  • Move on from a completed project to start afresh on a new work.

It also helps a writer adjust to changes life may throw at them. For example, perhaps due to a change in work schedule and increased deadline pressure a writer may temporarily be unable to work on his novel. Instead of focusing on what his is no longer able to do (product oriented) the writer can choose to move his focus to journaling or writing short stories for a few months (process oriented).

We will return to this concept later on in this book, as it is very helpful for coping with some of the stressors integral to the writing life.
*****

Add your comment below. What support structure do you have in place for your writing life?

*****

Like most writers, I have to be frugal with my funds. So if you’ve enjoyed today’s post and would like to read more, I’d be grateful if you could leave a little in the kitty to help keep things afloat.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – The Independent Writer (Part 2)

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday.

Avoiding Self-Defeating Thoughts

Here are some more truisms about the writing life:

  • Writers are usually their own harshest critics.
  • Doing something courageous means facing a certain level of fear.

Because of these two things, writers can often become timid, frustrated and even overwhelmed by the stresses involved in creating their work and sending it out into the world.

Common thoughts among these writers are:

  • I don’t have anything worth writing about.
  • I’m never going to amount to anything.
  • What if I can’t find an agent? Or a publisher? What if no one wants to read what I’ve written?
  • What if people ridicule me?

These destructive thoughts roam through the writer’s mind, quashing any motivation and remaining unanswered by positive rebuttals.

A necessary step in creating a successful writing mindset is to capture these thoughts and deal with them.

Capturing Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can pass so quickly through our minds that we may not recognized they’ve even been there. Writing about our concerns and worries often coaxes those thoughts back to the surface so we can start to understand why we’re feeling stressed or negative.

Freewriting is a wonderful tool at the Independent Writer’s disposal. It involves setting yourself a specific period of time and writing without stopping until the time has elapsed. This method encourages your mind to continue putting out words, even if you consciously feel you have nothing more to say.

Writing a stream of consciousness (recording the thoughts as they pass through your mind) provides you with an opportunity to see what your mind is doing. You may see how one thought leads to another – how the simplest of negative comments can grow within your mind until you feel unworthy or unable to write.

Recording these thoughts then allows you to work through each negative point.

Refuting Negative Thoughts

In the next chapter we will cover some specific negative thoughts you may have about your writing and the methods you can use to refute them. In the meantime, start taking note of your common thinking patterns and look for logical responses that will help you bring an end to the chain of thoughts that are causing you stress in your writing life.
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Add your comment below. What self-defeating thoughts have you faced as a writer?

*****

Like most writers, I have to be frugal with my funds. So if you’ve enjoyed today’s post and would like to read more, I’d be grateful if you could leave a little in the kitty to help keep things afloat.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online


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Gut, Heart and Head – Making Creative Decisions as a Writer

A sign offering two options: Warm and Cold

“Decision” by Tim Rizzo

There are countless decisions you need to make as a writer, ranging from the genre of your novel to the placement of punctuation. Some decisions come easily, others cause confusion and some perhaps even lead to sleepless nights.

When making a decision, there are usually three elements in play:

  • Your gut – What your instinct is telling you.
  • Your heart – What you’re emotionally attached to.
  • Your head – What options you have before you and the logical reasoning behind them.

How can you use all three of these elements to make the best decisions for your story? And where does your Creativity come into all of this?

Let’s look at an example.

The Beginnings of a Problem

For the past week or two I’ve been going through the edits for my collection of short, short stories called Baverstock’s Allsorts. Most of my editor’s suggestions were straight forward, but there was one suggestion which has given me pause for a number of days.

He suggested I change the ending to one of my stories…and at that point that my gut and my heart went to war with each other.

My gut reaction was that he was right. The change was essential. But my heart was too attached to the original version. It searched for every conceivable reason why I shouldn’t change the ending.

So naturally, being in a quandary, I looked to loved ones and beta readers for their opinion.

If you have ever had experience with this kind of situation, you undoubtedly know what happened next. I was presented with a number of reasons why the ending should stay.

On the positive side, my writing had enough emotional pull for my readers to have strong views on the subject. However, I was once again left in the middle of the war between my gut and my heart – with the added problem that my heart had brought in reinforcements.

The Real Problem

In the process of making the decision, I had to disappoint someone. I had to either go against what my editor said and follow the suggestions of my readers, or I had to trust my editor and change an ending that my readers liked. I also had to choose within myself – to go with my gut or my heart.

Last week I wrote about the independent writing mindset. In an upcoming section of that chapter, we will look at how an independent writer takes responsibility for their writing, especially in the decisions that need to be made in their writing life.

The reality of writing is that you will always disappoint someone. It is impossible to please everyone with what you write and how you write it. So you want to make decisions that are authentic to your voice and your audience.

You probably think that means my example decision should have been easy: Go with what the readers were telling me.

Well, there was one player missing – my mind hadn’t yet entered the fray.

Finding the Solution

After a fitful night’s sleep, I mentioned my conundrum to one last reader. Her response was unexpected – she agreed with the editor. But even more than that, she explained why she agreed. She finally put my gut feeling into words my head could understand.

Once my head was properly involved I saw the issue much more clearly. But, interestingly enough, my Creativity also joined in. With a bit of creative thinking I could see a third option – one that would allow me to incorporate my editor’s suggestions while taking into consideration the elements of the original ending that my readers liked.

Writing problems are seldom black and white (like deciding whether to delete or add). There are often creative solutions that allow you to have the best of both worlds. These solutions may take time to find, but they’re worth the extra effort.

Gut reactions are important, but so is the emotional investment your heart makes. When you are able to add bring your head and your Creativity into the mix, then you can create alternatives that will add depth and authenticity to your writing.

So, what ended up happening with the story? I changed the ending and ran it past my beta readers. Interestingly enough, they liked it!

Now as I sit here writing this, I can’t believe how much protest my heart put up about the change. I’m completely in love with the new ending and can’t imagine the story ending any other way.

Have you had similar experiences in your editing? What did you do to resolve your writing decisions?


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – The Independent Writer (Part 1)

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday.

So now our understanding of what is involved in being a writer and how that role affects your life is growing. We are starting to see the writing life as a journey – an adventure full of enjoyment and discovery.

A writer is an explorer – both of the world around them and of their own inner workings. A key part of being this adventurous explorer is an independent mindset.

When using the term ‘independent,’ I’m not talking about writers who self-publish (sometimes known as indie writers/publishers) – I’m talking about writers in general.

By using the term ‘independent,’ I am describing a writer who takes her writing life into her own hands – a self-reliant and perhaps relatively self-sufficient person who is able to make consistent progress towards her goals. A true explorer.

Successful writers are self-motivated – they set goals and work towards them until they reach the finish. How do they create that mindset? Let’s look a little deeper.

Finding the Right Fit for You

First, here’s an important truth: Being a writer will mean different things to different people.

  • Some people will feel that the writing life involves large word counts and many published works.
  • Others will feel that their writing life involves carefully crafting each project they work on, no matter how long each takes.

Living life as a writer starts with you understanding what kind of a writer you are.

Each writer is unique – that includes you. While there will be times when you’ll want to pick up tips and tricks from your favourite writers, the most important writer to understand and imitate is you.

As you read through these chapters, there will be points that resonate with you – that jump out and say, “This is just what you need!” – and there will be others that might not sit quite right with you.

Approach each point as a suggestion, one you can experiment with and incorporate into your habits if you wish. But in the process, be aware of the impact each little change has on you.

Notice the following and ask yourself these questions:

  • Habits – Does this piece of advice help me write regularly? Does it encourage me to move forward on my projects?
  • Mindset – Does this change make me feel positive, or is it bringing up worries and stresses that are having a negative effect on me?
  • Output – Am I writing more because of this change? Is my work improving? Or am I sacrificing my voice in an attempt to measure up to someone else’s ideals?

Being a writer means first understanding yourself.

While there is plenty of good advice in writing blogs and writing books, your writing gut is also capable of giving advice. Just because a particularly prolific author writes his best work at 7am, or a well-known creative writer outlines her entire novel before she starts drafting, does not mean the same will hold true for you.

An independent writer understands how her writing process works, and is able to maintain the habits and rhythms that bring about that process.

She keeps track of the writing advice that improves her writing process, and disregards suggestions that don’t work for her.

If something goes wrong with her writing process, the independent writer is able to deconstruct her writing life to pinpoint the problem and change whatever needs to be altering in order to restore writing equilibrium.

This takes confidence, self-belief and attention, but it is an essential element of being an independent writer.

*****

Add your comment below. What writing advice works for you? What writing advice doesn’t work for you?

*****

Like most writers, I have to be frugal with my funds. So if you’ve enjoyed today’s post and would like to read more, I’d be grateful if you could leave a little in the kitty to help keep things afloat.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online


3 Comments

You Too? How Do You Describe Your Writing?

A dictionary opened to the word 'invest.'

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Welcome to our second post in the ‘You Too?’ series, where I pose a writing related question and leave it to you to answer it. Last month we were talking about non-writing days. This month I want to ask you something even more personal.

I’m currently working with an editor on my collection of short, short stories called Baverstock’s Allsorts. (Keep your ears pricked, there will be more news about that soon!) The other day I noticed something in one of his e-mails.

He referred to the edited manuscript as a ‘battlefield.’

While I’d be the first to admit that some valiant little words have lost their lives in the process of a good edit, I realised that for me the word ‘battlefield’ seemed like an unusual word to use.

The more I thought about it, the more I discovered the words to describe how I felt about the manuscript.

To me, the edit was more like a good ‘exfoliation.’ I loved the process of removing words and reworking sentences until every single line read smoothly. It was ‘invigorating’ and ‘enjoyable’ to make these changes.

So it got me thinking about the words we use to describe our writing.

Do you find yourself using combative expressions when approaching the page? Do you ‘tackle’ a rewrite? ‘Slash’ words while editing?

Or do you find yourself using nurturing words like ‘coaxing’ characters into life and ‘unearthing’ plot points?

Do you think of yourself ‘spending’ time writing or ‘investing’ time writing?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the subject!

How do you describe your writing? What effect do those words have on the way you experience your writing?


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De-Stress Your Writing Life – When Life Creates Factors Beyond Your Control

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday.

(I’ve been battling with a viral infection for the past six days so the post below was a subject close to my heart this week. I’m also guest posting over at Helping Writers Become Authors today on the subject Why You Should Walk Away From Your Writing. For the record, I wrote the guest post before I came down with the flu.)

Every writer must come to terms with the fact that there will be times when it is not possible to write due to factors beyond your control.

Factors Beyond Your Control

The complications of life vary from person to person. Here are a few examples of factors that may impact your writing life.

Illness

Be it the common cold or something far more serious, illness negatively impacts our lives and causes stress.

The rule of thumb usually is: If you’re too ill to work, you’re probably too ill to write. No amount of positive thinking can clear your mind of a head cold or lift the genuine fatigue of sickness. Your body requires energy to recover and heal.

Medication

Some forms of medication can have a negative impact on your creative skills.

Medication that causes drowsiness, nausea or brain fog will likely interfere with your ability to write. There is often little you can do about this, especially if the medication is essential for your health.

Grief

Dealing with intense emotions can leave you numb and exhausted.

Grief comes in many types, whether it’s due to the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship or even the loss of a potential future. Grieving is a process your body and mind needs to go through in order to heal and during that time you may find your ability to enjoy other activities is limited.

Children

Raising children impacts every part of your life – especially activities that require ‘me time.’

Being continually on call with a million little jobs to do means it can be very difficult (if not impossible) to focus your attention on a writing project long enough to make meaningful progress. It may even be necessary to put certain creative projects on hold until your family situation changes.

These are just a few examples of stressors many of us face. Your life may present you with other stressful challenges that are beyond your control – perhaps difficult living arrangements or a challenging job. But just because these factors impact your ability to write doesn’t mean you should just throw up our hands and give up on writing.

How to Cope

What can you do to cope with these influences in your writing life? Here are five suggestions.

Don’t ‘Should’ Yourself

‘Should’ can be a motivational word at times, but it can also be dangerously hurtful. Telling ourselves we ‘should be writing more’ or ‘shouldn’t be letting this affect us’ only serves to cause frustration. Just because one writer can pump out novels while caring for a house full of toddlers does not mean you ‘should’ be able to do just the same while caring for your three-year-old.

Rather that beating yourself up over what you can’t accomplish at the moment (because there will always be things you realistically can’t accomplish at this point in time), it’s far better to focus on what you feel like doing. If your body or mind doesn’t feel up to writing, then ask yourself, “What do I feel like doing?

When dealing with illness and grief, it’s often important to follow what your body is telling you. If your body needs to rest, then allow it time to heal so that you can return to writing in the future.

Redirect Your Energies

If you’re not able to write, could you perhaps spend your time feeding your Creativity with reading material and movies?

When I am too ill to leave the couch, I imagine myself as a caterpillar curled up in a cocoon. I transform myself with the books I read, the movies I watch and the ideas I toy with. When I can finally return to my desk, I am filled with fresh thoughts and vibrant new plans so I can plunge straight back into action.

Remember, ask yourself, “What do I feel like doing?” Follow the answer. Paint. Sew. Draw. Cook. Allow yourself the room to be creative through whatever method your body and mind sees fit.

Write ‘Inwards’ Instead of ‘Outwards’

The act of writing provides us with one of the best coping mechanisms – it allows us to disgorge our thoughts onto the page, leaving room in our heads to cope with the situation.

As writers, we often write ‘outwards’ in that we expect our words will at some point be read by others. That can impede our honesty with the page, especially if we’re suffering with grief or other strong emotions we may not want to share with others.

Writing ‘inwards’ – perhaps in a journal or in personal letters – allows the act of writing to nurture us and help our healing without having to worry about what other readers will think.

Record What You Have Accomplished

During periods of increased stress, we may not be able to meet our writing expectations. Our word count may drop. We may not be writing new words at all. Under those circumstances it’s very easy to become discouraged – believing we have accomplished nothing.

Instead of allowing your mind to dwell on the things you haven’t done, make a list of things you have accomplished no matter how small. In fact, make sure to especially list the small accomplishments.

Perhaps getting out of bed in the morning is an accomplishment. Note it down. Maybe reading a page from your favourite book is an accomplishment. Note it down. Finding an inspirational quote on Pinterest could be an accomplishment. Note it down!

Fill your list with the smallest accomplishments and then congratulate yourself on each one.

Look Forwards and Continually Re-Evaluate

Just because your current situation is having a negative impact on your writing life, doesn’t necessarily mean it will always be this way.

Many of the stressful factors beyond our control will change in time, even if we don’t expect them to. An illness may pass. A new opportunity may come along. Our body and mind may grow stronger. Children go to school or leave home.

Continue to ask yourself, “What do I feel like doing?” It will change from day to day. Keep asking.

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Add your comment below. How do you cope with stressors beyond your control?

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