I am a blogger, novelist, poet, and non-fiction writer. I work on my blogs and my novel-in-progress daily, so on any given day, I will end up writing in at least two of these four formats. On occasion, I’ll take a day off from blogging, but that is rare. There is almost always something that I feel I need to express that will allow me to enjoy new insights or that will help someone.
The novelist, screenwriter, and writing coach Alan Watt says that we ultimately write in order to evolve. I believe this is true as well. Part of my evolution includes creative self-expression and helping other writers and artists by providing advice, insights, and encouragements.
There are days, though, where I have difficulty writing, and perhaps you can relate, too. Just yesterday, I wrote about how I struggled to find my rhythm with writing this past Saturday because I allowed my routine for writing to get hijacked. This can happen no matter what our profession, but writers and artists are particularly susceptible to giving time they have set aside to create to other people or other concerns.
This is one of the reasons why persistence with writing pays off eventually. Rather than aiming for perfection with adhering to our schedule or holding ourselves to an impossible standard as we write a rough draft, we are striving to take consistent action every week. We may not always be able to control when we write, but we can learn to write through the emotional issues that keep us from writing when we may be tempted to give in to feeling overwhelmed. And that is what I will cover in this article. I will discuss how to deal with the emotional issues that can prevent us from writing or creating.
Feeling Exhausted and Overwhelmed
Sometimes it can be difficult to find the energy to write when the dishes need to be washed, your kids need to be fed, or you need to work late to meet a deadline. There are days when life really does get in the way. But there are plenty of other ways in which our time to create just doesn’t happen for any number of reasons:
- Other people in our lives who otherwise mean well may not see what we do as “work” and feel okay about making demands on our time. We may feel pressured to go along to appease them.
- If we are not yet earning a living from our writing or our art, we ourselves may also see it as a hobby and not as important as pursuits that bring us money more quickly.
- If we are part of a large family (like I am) with many occasions to celebrate and relatives to visit, sometimes family gatherings are scheduled when we were planning to write or work on our art.
When these things happen, I find it difficult to re-schedule my writing sessions, and there are some weeks when I don’t get nearly enough writing done. Any break in my routine for writing can send me scrambling to “make up” the time. This leaves me feeling frantic, and it can take me some time to settle into my next work session.
Gradually, though, I am learning to let go when something unexpected comes up. I am also learning to forgive myself when I give away my own time, and hopefully you are, too. Beating ourselves up over not completing our word count after these things have happened can keep us stuck and have a negative impact on our abilities to use the time we do have efficiently.
So, if we’ve lost time to write or create, we won’t allow ourselves to worry about it going forward. We will just resolve to use what time we do have effectively rather than try to make the time up.
Have you ever gotten stuck in a rut when you’re writing? Do you find yourself writing the same things over and over? This has happened to me many times as a fiction writer, but it also happens with my blogs. When I find myself feeling bored with my writing, I need to recognize that I am not digging deeply enough. Often, there is something that I’m not yet ready to discover or an insight about one of my characters (or myself) that I’m not yet ready to reveal.
When our efforts to write fail to move our writing forward, it can be difficult to keep going. We may be tempted to scrap what we have written in favor for a new project that we find more exciting. Many times, though, we just need to write through it. We need to allow ourselves to produce junk and drivel until it is out of our systems. If I can find the will to push myself just a little further, I often find that my writing sparkles after a block of boring, repetitive writing. You can try that as well and see if it works for you.
Frustration and Writer’s Block
When we are in flow with our writing, it feels absolutely amazing. Our mood is light, and we often feel good in general. But when the blocks come — as they inevitably do from time to time — there is little else in our creative life that can make us feel worse. It’s like feeling thirsty for a big glass of water, and you’re holding your cup beneath a faucet that will only give you a few drips. I have read plenty of books that eschew writer’s block as a made-up condition, but it is absolutely 100% real, and I have experienced it many times.
When we are blocked, we are often aiming for perfection. We tell ourselves (perhaps unconsciously) that getting our thoughts down on the page isn’t enough. We demand that our prose, verse or art in its roughest form measure up to the greats.
So, what is the solution? We must give ourselves permission to write badly. When we remove the pressure of writing perfectly and just allow the words to come in whatever form we receive our inner message, we can work our way through our block. If this still doesn’t work, we may need to get out of our heads and out into nature. Going for a walk or a stroll through our neighborhood can provide the release we need. Once we have an inner shift during our walk or outing, we can head back home and try again.
Blocks can happen with other creatives as well, especially visual artists. The process for unblocking is the same: we must get out of our own way and let go of any demands we have placed on our inner artist.
Not Enough Time
If you don’t have enough time to write or create, it is a good sign that you are feeling overwhelmed. While there are times when not having enough time for our art really is an external issue, in most cases, we tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time and we choose to believe it.
Instead, we can realize that as writers and artists, there is a lot that we can do in a short amount of time. In just fifteen minutes, we can jot down a brief scene for our novel-in-progress or type up some words for our next blog post. If you’re an artist, you can create a little sketch to visually plan your next project.
On days when we feel we have one thing after another, we can chunk out our writing time in 15-minute blocks. Once we find three or four of them, we will have worked for close to an hour. I have taken plenty of writing courses where instructors said that in order to get any amount of writing done, writers need to write for at least two hours each day. I personally have not found this to be the case. The only time in my life when I really worked on my writing for two or more hours each day was when I was enrolled in an MFA program. These types of programs allow writers and artists to re-arrange their lives to focus on their craft for typically three years or so. It was a wonderfully productive time in my life, but it isn’t practical once you are out of school. I find that an hour each day dedicated to writing my novels is plenty of time, and most days, I can find at least three 15-minute blocks to move my story forward.
Tell Me About Your Experience
I hope this article has helped provide some perspective on what you can do if you’re feeling like writing is too demanding with everything you have going on in your life. I also hope that it has given you the inspiration to persist. If anything, it can be helpful to know that all artists deal with these issues. The writers and artists who find a way to continue to create, though, are ultimately the ones who will create a body of work.
I’d also love to hear about your experiences as a writer, blogger, or artist. How do you deal with writing when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, exhausted, or bored? Tell me about it in the comments!