I want to read and learn all I can, write thoughtfully and truthfully, live according to reason and ever more mature wisdom, and savor every wonderful little gift of life.
Since I’m finally getting back into my writing life, I’ve pulled out some thoughts I jotted down last year about keeping up my writing energy. Maybe you will find them helpful, too.
1. Balancing Act
Maintaining writing energy is like riding a unicycle (at least what I imagine it would be like, as I’ve never ridden one): a constant balancing act of continuously shifting and adjusting one’s weight, speed, and direction in order to make forward progress on the road. With writing, sometimes I need a structure (a plan, system, schedule, program, set of goals, etc.) in order to thrive and keep up my momentum, but other times having a set structure to follow just stresses me out and therefore reduces my productivity. What I need then is to throw structure to the wind and just write whatever and whenever I feel like writing.
So the key is to listen to myself and accept where I am in relationship to writing (rather than judging or pressuring myself) so that I can tailor my approach to fit my needs, even if it’s slightly different every day. I don’t mean totally rethinking my approach to my writing life every day; that would consume too much energy! I just mean being sensitive to what sort of motivation and structure–or lack thereof–I need.
What also helps, when I can achieve it, is getting into consistent writing “flow”–that magical state where inspiration flows fast and keeps coming for as long as I can keep pace with my pen. (This is actually a studied psychological concept.) In those times, it feels like a cumulative effect: the more I write, the more I have to say. My writing energy then is like a rushing river in the rainforest (or in a pretty, fertile landscape like the painting above).
But in the busyness of life, something inevitably happens to disrupt that flow, and then I might go through a dry spell where my writing energy feels more like a crusty faucet dripping a few drops in a desert. Then, even forcing out those few drops feels like a monumental effort.
When that happens, sometimes I need to just sit through the drought and wait for the rains to come back, while focusing on taking care of myself in the meantime and getting through any life circumstances that have caused the interruption of the flow. But sometimes (once circumstances do finally allow me some time and mental space), I can help restart the flow by showing up regularly and patiently with a bucket–that is, pen and paper–to try to catch something from the dribble of my thoughts. When I’m lucky, the caught dribble will soon break open the flood gates!
What usually doesn’t help is to try to force things–to force my thoughts out before they’re ready in order to reach some set writing goal in my mind, or to please someone other than myself…
…such as a blog audience. I am sorry, dear readers, for my irregular posting this past year! But I’m glad I stayed true to where I was and didn’t force out posts for the sake of an active blog (as I sometimes did in previous years). And honestly, this year will probably be even more irregular, due to the fact that in less than two months, I will have twin babies demanding all my attention! But I do plan to get some more posts up before they come, since I’ve got a a backlog of things I want to post about. Maybe I’ll even find myself experiencing that wonderful state of “flow” again!
I would genuinely like to know–what strategies do you use to keep up your writing energy?