It’s not even “writer’s block.” You just don’t care. Writing no longer fuels you.
Stacks of boring papers.
Stacks of boring books.
Boring letters on the screen.
Blank, dead mind. Zero drive.
Someone please come distract me.
How to bring vitality back to your writing process
Every writer I know goes through ups and downs, phases of exhaustion or disillusionment.
Should you press on? Muscle through it? Or would it be better to take a break?
1. Set your friggin priorities
It’s time to dust off your to-do list, your planner, calendar, or whatever you use to navigate the various tasks and responsibilties that make up your day.
There’s not necessarily one right way to do this (though I am definitely capable of geeking out on the pros and cons of various workflows or planning methods — I use the GTD method for myself as a basic starting point). It’s all about what works for you. Everyone has their quirks and triggers and things that get them motivated.
Honestly, if colored labels and highlighters and dry erase boards are your thing, then don’t be modest about it. Go nuts with it. Put a dry erase board in your car. Have one in every room of your house. Figure out a way to rig one up to a cloud-based smart home system so that the contents of each dry erase board is synced with a cloud server.
If you like the minimalist and old fashioned approach, follow your whims and indulge your interest in the textures of simple things. Light a candle before and during each writing session. Make it part of a larger ritual that is integral to your life.
If you get inspired by taking long drives, then use a voice recorder in your car. Bring your notes with you and head out to a remote location and write there.
When you follow what really inspires you, you can be a thousand times more productive than if you try to fit your life into what other people will think is normal. Normal isn’t interesting. Normal gets overlooked. I’m guessing that you don’t want to be overlooked. I know I don’t.
It’s like the saying “how you do anything is how you do everything.” When you put passion and originality and interest into your engagement with something as ordinary and straightforward as writing, you can expect better results. You’ll feel better doing it. You’ll be happier, and you’ll bring that happiness into your writing. Your readers will feel and appreciate that.
Ride the wave of enjoyment to get your entire self interested in all parts of the process — planning, drafting, revising… everything.
Setting priorities, what are the absolute “must do” things for you?
If you are a writer or you want to be, then give yourself permission to be as ruthless as necessary to achieve clarity about this. How much writing is absolutely necessary for you to do? Don’t focus on all the baggage and extra stuff in your life. For now, focus on what you really deeply care about. When no one else is looking. When nothing else is in the picture. Just you and what you want to move towards.
See if you can find a bullseye target for each day and each week. What amount of output will you feel good about? Set that target and really hold yourself to it.
Acknowledge that everything else, important or not, will have to exist alongside this goal. It’s must, not a maybe.
2. Honor your friggin prioritiesThe only thing more painful than not having a clear sense of your priorities is not honoring them. Click To Tweet
Particularly when you do a lot of work to align yourself to your values and motives and goals, if you don’t follow through on them, it can feel devastating, numbing, alienating. Like you’re living some one else’s life.
Pro Tip: Work however you need so that you find joy
At this point in my life, I am fueled by my writing. I don’t distract myself because I get too much enjoyment from writing. I’m not really a master of time management. I spent a lot of time trying, but what I have learned about myself is that I carve out time for what I need to do. Even more than that, I definitely carve out time for what feels good to do. Even if it’s not in the calendar, some part of me is going to know how to sneak in the really fun activities. That’s just me knowing myself and how I actually operate.
3. Give space to what is irresistible
As a kid, I was worn out after a day of school. Then I rode the bus home, which was also exhausting and in a different way. You’d think that when I got home I would have felt tired, but I wasn’t. I was full of energy.
When I got home, I had freedom. I could do what I wanted. Stretch out, be myself. I didn’t have to fit in or be correct. I wasn’t being watched by my teachers and on a tight schedule anymore. When I had room to breathe, I instantly felt better. I did what I wanted.
And because I was sort of a nerd, the things that I did might have been considered work to someone else. Reading, writing, programming, building or making things.
That doesn’t mean everyone should be a workaholic. You decide the right level of engagement with your writing. If you are feeling burnt out then see what happens when you give yourself permission to never write again if you don’t feel like it. It’s your choice, an action you take of your own free will. For your writing to bring you vitality, your engagement with it must be authentic.
For the sake of balance, there’s something to be said for introducing variety into your life so that you don’t get burnt out or develop tunnel vision. But at the absolute center of your decision to fill your life with your core pursuits there must be passion, delight, indulgence, care, satisfaction, fulfillment.
When you are driven by an authentic internal motivation, you can work from dawn till dusk and be more full of vitality than if you had the day off but were lackluster about what you should do.
4. No more low-priority obligations!
See what happens when you give the best of yourself to what fuels you.
You’ll come up against blocks — limiting beliefs, issues with confidence, fear, and maybe your friends will not understand what you’re so ape about.
When in doubt, ask yourself how your activities make you feel deep down.
Take the deathbed approach. Seriously, what matters? Will it matter when you’re on your deathbed?
Drop the stuff that doesn’t fill you with good vibes.
As you do this, you’re bound to come up against all sorts of excuses. These low priority obligations are going to fight for their existence. Stick with your certainty and just let it drop away.
When you do this, it’s hard at first, but it gets addictive. It begins to fuel you the more you clear the clutter from your life and your schedule.
5. Restore polarity to your writing process
Like a magnet that has lost its charge, everyone is bound to lose their drive. Something they had been passionate about no longer does it for them.
Maybe you were following a good idea but not your authentic heart’s desire. Maybe you’re just tired from other things and you’re projecting that exhaustion onto your writing.
You deserve a break, but that break should also reboot your relationship with writing.
A break can last five minutes or several days, depending on how deep the problem runs.
Return to your writing with a different approach. Try freewriting. Maybe you don’t believe me now, but trust me. Freewriting can open doors and blow out the cobwebs more reliably than anything else.
Freewriting isn’t difficult. The hardest thing about it is the discipline it requires to write without stopping even when it seems like you aren’t saying what you want to.
The ideal freewriting flow isn’t forceful. It requires that you are willing to move through things. It’s not about pushing willfully but rather being pulled and enticed deeper into the flow, discovering, letting go.
Freewriting like this allows you to follow your attraction, letting yourself be drawn toward engaging ideas and phrases.
This method of writing restores polarity.
In a typical male-female relationship, there’s a that initial sense of polarity and charge. The man feels like such a man, and the woman such a woman. That strong polarity invites a sense of attraction, intrigue.
With familiarity, polarity can kind of dwindle. Making intentional changes and taking time away can restore it.
Freewriting gives each pole of your writing identity space to be totally what it is.
They can dance rather than get in each other’s way. Neither is stepping on the other’s toes. When your creative impulse is driving, your critical self is passive.
You don’t want to get rid of either half because they are both essential parts of you. They’re two sides of the same coin. We want the whole coin, just one side at a time.
In freewriting, we go ladies first: Create first, then invite the critic.
6. Cultivate a friggin attention span
Freewriting is a beautiful way to cultivate a richer attention span. It’s basically built in to the structure of the exercise because it requires you to write without stopping for a length of time.
Here’s another easy way to make a huge improvement in your attention span: Replace social media with freewriting.
The average person wastes/ spends an increating amount of their time each day on social media.
In my personal experience, I found that when I deleted Facebook, my life was richer for it. Looking back, I can’t believe the amount of time spent on a platform that I didn’t believe was remotely important. I gave it numerous slices of time and energy throughout my day and it gave me very little in return.
The result is that I have more time for depth activities. Freewriting, working on myself, meditating, working with clients. Quality time with my girlfriend. Reading a physical book. Surfing. Making the most of this life.
Don’t just look at what you’re already doing or what you used to do. Look toward the horizon. Focus on what you want. Clear the clutter. Be ruthless. Take some space from everything to restore polarity. Freewrite regularly. Follow your inner knowing.