(1) Procrastination (ie, everything in my life, including the dishes, comes before my writing);
(2) High expectations, leading to paralysis (ie, I don’t want to write a shitty first draft and have some unfounded expectation that my first draft be perfect);
(3) I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings or mischaracterize what really happened (curse of the memoirist who’s trying to protect everyone else);
(4) I’m too busy with work, school, social life, kids, etc. (very similar to #1 as it also leads to paralysis, but these types of excuses often help us feel more validated because they feel very legitimate);
(5) It feels like an obligation (ie, you’re not having fun).
Do any of these barriers sound familiar? (And by all means, if you have others please leave them in the COMMENTS below! Who loves to commiserate more than writers, after all?)
So how do you pull yourself out of the funk? I talk with my writers extensively about scheduling, but that can only take you so far. Getting when you’re going to write on your calendar is critical, but it doesn’t solve the fact that all writing deterrents are psychological barriers, not actual time barriers.
Last month, one of my writers had a breakthrough, and she’s given me permission to share it here. She was struggling with a few of the above sentiments, and we talked about writing as meditation. I suggested to her, as I do to many of my writers, to create a sacred space. You can light candles, say a mantra before you start, do meditative breathing—whatever it takes to help you set an intention around your writing. And as you do all of these things, you commit yourself to your hour, two hours, three hours, what have you.
This process worked for my client, but she added a spunky twist, inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk, which I posted about in February 2009. She scooped up an uglydoll and named it Genius and placed it in her writing space. Not only does Genius delight her every day, he reminds her to have fun, that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and that Genius doesn’t have to look a particular way. After all, this guy is UGLY!
I love this extra little structure my client created because for two reasons: (1) It’s working for her. She’s more productive and inspired than she’s been in months; and (2) It’s a reminder to shake it up a little bit. I do believe in setting intentions and creating space—both physical and emotional—to write. But it’s actually quite difficult for some people to make this a priority, to really make it happen. Everyone likes the idea of cultivating space, of setting an intention, of writing their six or nine or twelve hours a week, but only the most disciplined writers I know succeed at this week in and week out—and that's because they live their practice.
For those of you struggling to live your practice, consider something special to add to your writing space. Invite in Genius, or Inspiration, or Creativity. Assign it to an object that’s going to make you smile or catch your attention. Have fun with it! If you’re anything like the writer who dubbed her uglydoll Genius, you’ll discover that motivation sometimes comes from the most unlikely of places.
Until next month!
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