How much energy do you put into your writing?
I would wager that it is a fair amount, maybe even everything you’ve got?
How sustainable do you think that is in the long term? Doesn’t your creation deserve some measure of consistency? How do you get inspired when you need to?
I will attempt to answer those questions, and more, over the course of this article.
A couple of simple activities can provide you with a great deal of power. So much so that you will be wondering why you never thought to implement them before.
As we all know, in life you get back what you put in. The same is true for your writing. The more of your passion and love you put into it, the greater the end result will be.
This process is very energy-intensive. A day at the keyboard can often result in a day (or more) of recovery time. It is every writer's natural instinct to give absolutely everything you have got in the tank. Nobody exhausts their mind quite like an author.
Your creation, your current writing project, is your baby. You want to give it the best possible start to life. You are excited about what you will uncover as your story progresses. It is an exhilarating time.
You, as a writer/author, will burn brighter and hotter than the sun, but that flash will be as brief as lightning. Don’t be lightning.
I fell prey to the energy trap myself recently. I am currently in the process of writing about my experiences with overwhelm, exhaustion, and burnout. I went against my own advice and I charged on, unregulated and unchecked. Disaster struck.
Although I had a fantastic day (I wrote the first draft of two chapters) the days that followed were a different story altogether. I found myself slower on the uptake than usual, a little more short with the people I love, and my decision making was somewhat less rational than usual.
It took me a few days to fully recover and, in that time, I was unable to create anything of any real value. It was time to get myself in check, once again. I was letting my own principles around time and energy start to slide. I could not let that happen.
Everything suffered as a result of my lack of boundaries, my lack of self-care, my lack of thought outside of writing my book. My bad.
Sustainability is the part of creativity that people often leave out of the conversation. Some might say that sustainability isn’t even possible. I fervently disagree.
Working on your art in fits and starts is an inefficient and energy intensive process. It is the number one reason that writers and artists burn out. They throw everything they have got in the tank, and more, at their creation. They create something that starts off beautifully and ends with a crash. A crash that few recover from.
For those who achieve sustainability it is a very different story. There are many popular examples of this, like Stephen King and so many others who have put out consistently high quality work over a long and healthy career. Their art reaches the world and they are able to experience the impact their creation has on so many lives.
Longevity matters. Impact matters. Well-being matters.
If you are working on your project, your latest masterpiece, and you are working yourself to exhaustion, then you are denying the world your creation in its ultimate form and will likely see little impact from your work. It is just not a sustainable exercise and it is vital for your creativity and your well-being that you do something about it.
Creativity is just like anything else, it can be channeled and utilised just like any other tool.
The reason you currently work in fits and starts is because you tend to jump on the writing project when something inspires you. Inspiration is not some mystical force of the universe. It is just the result of something triggering the emotional component of the creative process.
You can recreate those triggers and set yourself boundaries around your time and energy. Doing this will mean that you can access your creativity on demand. Identifying and replicating those triggers is actually very easy.
The things that inspire you (or more to the point, trigger the right emotional response) will be of a specific theme. Figure out what that theme is by reflecting on the last few times you felt inspired.
What was it that inspired you in those moments and what feelings did they invoke? What, specifically, is it about them that made you feel inspired? More often than not it is linked to a specific memory or experience.
Find as many things as you can that are, to you, emotionally linked to that memory or experience. Create a swipe file, a sensory box, whatever you need. A sensory box is just a box full of things you can feel and smell etc. and is super powerful. For the purposes of this exercise, just some sort of vault to store your inspiration. You will likely end up creating several of these, over time.
When it is time to get inspired, open up your swipe file and/or sensory box and explore it. Don’t think too deeply about it, just experience it as it happens.
It may sound to you a lot like nonsense but if you test it, you will see it’s true power. You are a creative thinker, somebody who is able to uncover a story from the abyss. There is great power locked away in your mind, this exercise just helps you to understand and harness it.
This is something I do a lot and I have found that it has the added positive effect of helping me to lift my spirits when I am feeling low.
It’s all well and good replicating the conditions for inspiration but if you don’t enforce strict boundaries around your time you risk running yourself into the ground with your new found superpower.
To make the process sustainable all you really need to do is to set a start time and a finish time. It is very simplistic but it is really powerful, it just requires some commitment on your part.
That commitment to start and stop at those set times is not really a commitment to starting and stopping, you are committing to your future self's ability to create.
Set an alarm for your stopping time, you will need it. Once in the flow of creativity, time will cease to exist from your perspective. It’ll be hard to pull yourself away but it is vital that you do.
As well as making your creative writing a more sustainable activity, it will also help take some of the pressure off. On those days where things are not quite going to plan you will always have an exit in place. To throw in a cliche, you will always be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Check out this YouTube video for more on setting boundaries with your time and how it can help you.
Written By Mike on 10.05.2021