Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Month: July 2016

7 ways to write when you just don’t have the energy

So life has gotten a wee bit hectic around the Winter household. I really don’t want to think about this becoming the new Normal, because if I look back, life has been a constant state of “rolling with the punches” for the past, oh, 20 months. A lot of it has been good, but even good stress can still raise its scary scaled head. Is this the new Normal? Yikes.

All of which is to say that I managed to finish that story written ala “Writing into the Dark” style, and instead of being a 4,000-6,000 word short story, it ended up becoming a monster 17,000+ word novella. Technically that’s still a “short story” to some, but it is a length way beyond what I’ve been usually writing of late (which is probably kind of funny coming from a novelist).

After that mini juggernaut, my Muse said she was taking a break. I hadn’t tasked her with that constant of attention (and wordage) since Nanowrimo, so the girl deserved some time off.

But it’s been over two weeks and I’m feeling the itch* to get back into writing (it’s not the same as book formatting, which I’ve been focusing on), but my time and energy are limited (see the first paragraph).

How do you write when you want to but you don’t have the energy?

  1. Pick up a notebook and write the first sentence. Seriously, write a single sentence. It doesn’t matter what it is or what it says. Just start.
  2. Start an email to a fictional friend. This could be a literary character, your Invisible Friend from childhood, or a character you make up.
  3. Write a diary entry. Bonus points if it’s from a point of view not your own.
  4. Jot down all the reasons you don’t have the energy to write. Then laugh at yourself for having written.
  5. Take your shopping list and add descriptions to the items. Bonus points if they get particularly effusive and purple.
  6. Create a list of five favorite books, movies, and TV shows. Pick two. Combine those two in your mind. Now write the first sentence.
  7. Start with a dead body. Literally. Introduce a dead body in your first sentence. Then see what happens from there.

The best way I’ve found to start writing, regardless of time/energy constraints, is to sit down with a notebook and a pen, put the pen tip on the paper and see what happens. This works for those times you are waiting in line, experiencing quiet moments at the office, on lunch breaks, sitting in a car, riding the bus, boiling water — anytime you’re in life’s margins.

How do you create when the interest is there but the energy isn’t? Do you create, or do you take a time out?

 

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*If I’m feeling the itch, it means Muse is making her way back. And I do NOT want to piss her off, so I’d better start writing right now. <note to self>

Why you procrastinate

Why do we procrastinate? For things we don’t enjoy doing, it makes sense: because you don’t want to do it. It will be work, or take a lot of time, or geez there are so many other things you’d rather be doing.

But what about for things we enjoy doing, that we want to do? Why do we procrastinate doing those things?

Fear.

There. I said it.

It’s all about fear. Call it what it is.

FEAR.

With something you want to do, and even enjoy doing, what is there to fear?

Types of Fear

Oh, let’s see. Here is a short list of sample fears:

  • fear of failure
  • fear of embarrassment
  • fear of success
  • fear of wasting time
  • fear of what others might think
  • fear of the unknown
  • fear of discomfort
  • fear of change

What does fear do for us? Fear is a wonderful alert — it warns us that something is dangerous. This is often helpful: walking alone in the dark is a vulnerable experience, so by Fear alerting us, we can pay closer attention to our surroundings.

Wanting to paint that picture or start writing a new story? Watch out! Fear roars into life, warning, “Danger! You don’t know what you’re doing! You’re wasting your time! Don’t you have more important things to do? What would your mother think? You’ll only embarrass yourself!”

Yeah, not so helpful.

Our lizard brain can’t distinguish between actual physical threat and an imagined threat. It’s all about Fight or Flight, and the adrenaline rush. This is great when your child is trapped under a burning car and you need to lift the car to free your child. This is terrible when you’re just trying to make a little art.

How to handle fear and do the thing

You could fight it.

  • Talk back to Fear and let it know that you don’t care. So what if you fail? It’s not the end of the world. So what if you make a fool of yourself? So what if your mother sees your painting? So what if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing?
  • Ask yourself what the worst case scenario would be. Writing the world’s worst story? Painting a picture that your mother sees and then refuses to speak to you? Wasting time that could have been spent “more productively”?

You could acknowledge it.

  • What are you feeling? What exactly are you afraid of? Where are you right now? Are you okay? Is anything actually threatening you? Name the specific Fear.

Or you could embrace it.

  • “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”* So move closer to Fear. Get familiar with it. Treat it like a good friend. If it’s hanging around you so much, you might as well make friends with it.

These are all excellent ways of handling fear and coming to understand and appreciate it, and thereby take the wind out of its fraidy cat sails. But do you know the one thing that will stop Fear in its tracks?

Take action.

Pick up a sketchbook and a pen. Open a blank notebook. Get out the toolbox. Start the application.

Just take the first smallest step. It doesn’t have to be big, and it’s better if it isn’t. Fear recognizes Big Moves, but for some reason it tends to ignore tiny actions because it doesn’t see them as a threat. Sometimes you have to be sneaky if you want to get something done, and this is one way to do that.

When Fear steps in your path, take a moment and see it for what it is: a Protective Gatekeeper. Know that it is doing its best to guard you and keep you safe, and be thankful. Then take a (small) action. And then another. And then another.

Has Fear stepped in your way recently?** How did you handle it?***

 

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*Pema Chodron quote from her book “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”.

**Fear constantly steps in my way, which is why I wrote this post: as a reminder to myself to acknowledge it and keep moving (slowly) forward.

***For a longer take on fear and creativity, take a look at Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

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