Sometimes when I wake in the morning I don’t give a hoot about anything except for staying in bed. I understand theoretically that I love and believe in all sorts of things, but they feel distant. At the moment, all I care about is snoozing.
It’s one example of a kind of behavior that we could label as limiting or self-defeating or even self-sabotaging. The truth is, though, once I actually get out of bed, I change states. I begin to feel roused and motivated. I become my waking self. That phase passes.
I don’t need to alter my self-definition simply because I go through different moods.
Sometimes it happens that I don’t feel motivated or clear about what I want to work on. I don’t feel inspired. The muse isn’t sitting on my shoulder, whispering sweet nothings.
So I have strategies that help me work anyway. I don’t want to rely on whims. I need to work. I need to pay the bills.
Strategies to get yourself to produce
The element to be cautious about here is really any trick which would feel controlling or might feed a sense of obligation or expectation. If we begin to feel like an assembly line or a machine, then our creative work will lack heart and lose its sense of richness and depth. Creators are not competing with machines unless we fall into a state of flatness with what we produce.
What I see happening is that we judge the parts of ourselves that are less than perfectly supportive of our creative work. We feel like impostors because we resist the creative impulse. We believe that true artists and writers always feel clear and motivated.
I think that’s BS.
A writer is not merely a writer and that’s it. They’re also a person. They have all sorts of other sides and pursuits and responsibilities.
It reminds me of what it was like as a kid to see an elementary school teacher shopping at the grocery store. Maybe you have had a similar experience. It was a moment where my view of the world was turned upside down. The teacher looked out of place at the grocery store. She was a teacher, not a grocery shopper. Since I only ever saw her at school, that’s all I knew of her.
Well, just as elementary school teachers also shop for groceries, writers are also more than just writers. And we’re bound to either get distracted by other things or lose the plot about our own writing, losing inspiration and focus — not because there is anything wrong with what we’re doing but because getting off track is a natural thing to do.
[bctt tweet=”We need things to jolt us awake, get a rise out of us, set us on the path. And then we can walk it.”]
So the first step is to be OK with where we happen to be and not expect that we should be someplace else.
If you want to write in the morning, then it’s likely you need an alarm clock. We need strategies that rouse the sleepy parts of ourselves. Just because everything doesn’t always come naturally for you does not mean you are an impostor.
The main point here is that if we have the expectation of ourselves to produce creatively, then we need something that brings us to the desk where we make things.
Make yourself start, and then be open
As an example: First you need to get out of bed, to rouse yourself to labor, and then you adopt the attitude that anything can happen.
Strategy: Have things that lure you towards what you want — the smallest or silliest things can work. They’re just as good or better than complicated or expensive charms because they are reliable.
Such as: A soundtrack you’re looking forward to playing while you work. Have several options. Keep a bag of tricks, carrots to dangle for yourself. Appeal to the part of you that likes toys, treats, games.
There’s no shame in tricking yourself to follow what’s in your best interest.
If I am drawing or painting something, I need that thing to be engaging to me. The pursuit of an engaging subject is going to get me to come back again and again.
Ultimately what I produce might not be about the subject, but it helps when I feel engaged by it. Otherwise it might not draw out much within me. So, for example, if I’m drawing a field of flowers, the drawing may be more about the strokes than what they represent.
The same is true when writing something. It’s why I always found it unappealing to write fulltime for a business. I just couldn’t personally get interested in that sort of material. It wasn’t that I am against a person making use of their words to make a living. We should all pursue what speaks to us and causes us to come alive.
Writing is not like any other job. It’s creative. On most days in the right setting I am prone to admit that I would call it a sacred act — though I do not mean this religiously I also don’t mean it in a watered-down way. For me writing is sacred in the sense that it is is protected, set apart. Creative production takes place where the outside world does not interfere. A place where I have the unique opportunity to explore myself through an external medium, to pursue the mystery of my own vision and style.
Some helpful tricks or strategies that get you to show up
- An appealing, invigorating, enlivening, mysterious enchanting subject
- A delicious, supportive, vital workspace
- A workable schedule or ritual or routine – for example, writing as soon as you wake, or otherwise having a morning routine you don’t have to deliberate about — no doubts or uncertainty — so you can dive right in, be spontaneous; your body knows what to do even when your mind doesn’t
- Goals. Or at least a trajectory or vision
- Accountability, community, support, encouragement This means: Other people. Real breathing human beings outside yourself who know what you are working towards and can help you realize your ambitions, goals, visions. We benefit tremendously from having other people help — not only to hold us accountable, but also to help hold our own visions. To help us see what we see. To reflect what we, without trying to be any different, naturally are.
The main thrust of this article is to convey the value of having structures that support us. Getting off track is a natural part of the journey, and it doesn’t have to mean anything negative. The more our systems and routines support our endeavor, the more efficiently we can return to the flow.