Regain the Joy of Writing by Refilling the Well

We all go through spells when writing is a dead weary slog and nothing is fun. You’re not blocked, you’re just not enjoying it, not the work, not the daydreaming, not the words that come out of it.

Writing, then hating it, is normal. In his book Innovation on Demand Allen Fahden talks about the PEP cycle of creativity: Panic | Elation | Panic. It hits us all, and all you can do is wait it out and trust your processes and skills.

But when you can’t create, the solution is to refill the well. Spend time reading great books, listening to great music, watching quality movies that inspire you.

In her book Around the Writer’s Block Rosanne Bane describes the brain science behind play, and how spending time playing with no attachment to any creative outcome restores the creative circuits in our brain. Shaping clay, coloring pictures, playing a musical instrument just for fun.

Letting creative joy flow through you by taking it in and letting it flow out unhindered is the best way I know to fall in love with writing again. (And take a break from the work; don’t force it, you’ll struggle even longer.)

Emotions, Motivation, and Your Unconscious Mind

Motivation. Literally, that which impels us to move. That’s how we use the word: the feeling that makes us act—in that order: feeling, then action.

Motivation is also created by action. Ask anyone who has grudgingly started a project only to discover that going through the motions ends in motivation.

You’ve felt it yourself when taking on some new business, relationship, spirituality, or personal development challenge. Eventually you hit what Seth Godin calls the dip. We all have days where it’s hard to get going, to stay focused. Often it just takes a little push to get through the dip. Sometimes though, that off day turns into an off week or an off month. Instead of the upward spiral of motivation and action, we’re stuck. We need motivation to create action but need action to create motivation and we get nowhere.

Getting Unstuck

… more … “Emotions, Motivation, and Your Unconscious Mind”

Creativity Hallucination and Subsequent Punishment

Some raw unpolished thoughts on the article Secrets of the Creative Brain by Nancy C. Andreasen, subtitled A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.

Andreasen writes: I’ve been struck by how many of these people refer to their most creative ideas as “obvious.” Since these ideas are almost always the opposite of obvious to other people, creative luminaries can face doubt and resistance when advocating for them.

Powerful realization from that: much of my reality feels like hallucination because I’m the only one who sees it. When you go through life seeing things no one else does, and being mocked or pitied or shunned when you admit it, it’s no wonder we lose our emotional and mental balance.

… more … “Creativity Hallucination and Subsequent Punishment”

Lemon Juice: Not the Solution to Resistance

The Dunning-Kruger effect, in brief: those who know least about something have the most confidence, while those who are advanced in the same field feel the greatest doubt and indecision.

After decades of fighting Resistance, tricking myself (and, when I do it right, Resistance), finding tools, processes, and methods to make it irrelevant, I still face it. The past two years have been the single greatest bout of Resistance I’ve faced since I started writing.

… more … “Lemon Juice: Not the Solution to Resistance”

Feedback Fraught with Fear, False Findings, Fruitlessness

I know well the desire to have approval, the boost we get from a genuine compliment.

I also know that asking others for feedback when what we really want is a pat on the head is fraught with peril, asking for trouble, bending over and begging to be kicked.

Some general thoughts and specific comments on feedback:

… more … “Feedback Fraught with Fear, False Findings, Fruitlessness”

Entropy is Our Natural State

When you plant flowers, you get flowers.

When you plant weeds, you get weeds.

When you plant nothing, you get . . .

weeds.

In the absence of effort, weeds naturally grow.

Have you forgotten that everything is running down or growing weeds?

When you get frustrated that writing doesn’t come easy, that what’s in your mind doesn’t end up on the page, are you remembering that being less comes naturally, being more is very hard work?

Rudeness is easy. Manners take effort.

Fat and disease are easy. Health is hard work.

A friendless life will happen all on its own. Close long-lasting relationships can be the most difficult things we create.

Next time you feel the growing frustration at how your art is so much harder than you want it to be, you’re so much less than you wished, others aren’t doing their part, and everything is against you, remember entropy.

And remember that our purpose is to reverse it, to plant flowers and pull weeds, to create love and art and stamp out loneliness and pointless emotional pain.

As the good G. Matthew Sumner sang, when the world is running down you make the best of what’s still around.

That can be you, “the best.”

Fight entropy. Create art.

A Myth and a Puzzlement

I’ve often heard creative folks claim that producing art quickly or in bulk leads to lower quality.

It’s not true.

Creativity is like a muscle. Use it more, make it stronger.

Yes, muscles get tired. When’s the last time you spent so much time in creative pursuits that you were in any danger of creative burnout?

I just spent February writing 25 songs besides working on my novel and writing here and at my personal blog. Being more creative leads to being more creative. I’ll be physically exhausted long before I’m creatively exhausted.

Quality? Sure, some of the songs I wrote aren’t keepers. That’s the nature of the beast: not every song is. But when I write 14 songs in a month, 3 or 4 are excellent. When I write 25 songs in a month, 7 or 8 are excellent. Not only more excellence, but a slightly higher percentage.

I believe that if I wrote 100 songs next February, I’d create 20 or more that were as good as anything I’ve ever written.

Are You Not a Writer?

The first thing writers tell me when I say “blog weekly, two or three times if you can” is “I don’t know what to write about.”

You’re a writer, aren’t you? If the goal is to get people to part with their money for your writing, how about showing them, often, what you’re capable of?

Wrote a nonfiction book? Blog about all the stuff that didn’t make it into the book, about everything you’ve learned since it was finished.

Fiction author? Easy: make up new fiction. No, I didn’t say write a batch of deathless prose every day. Just write.

Blogging regularly is not that hard—you’re a writer.

This Story is Beneath You

A confused fan searches for one of my books
Almost two years ago I started my 6th novel. Plotting and planning, then writing like mad. Research, plot adjustments, pondering, and more writing like mad.

Somewhere along the way, it crashed.

More precisely, I crashed.

Flashback to Success

On November 11th of 2011 I released 6 books simultaneously. (11/11/11, get it?) In the previous 6 months I’d written (or compiled) 4 books and co-authored 2 more, all books about business philosophy and process.

I switched to fiction. Finally followed up my first Irish adventure novel with a second, then started another series, and a third.

It was like driving a Lamborghini steamroller.

Then, I got some professional advice.

… more … “This Story is Beneath You”

The 21st Century Creative: a podcast worth making time for

For the 3rd Monday in a row I’m taking more than an hour to listen to a podcast. I generally have little patience for podcasts; most have a very low signal-to-noise ratio. The 21st Century Creative, hosted by Mark McGuinness of Lateral Action, is all signal, no noise.

His first two guests were Scott Belsky of Behance and 99U, and Steven Pressfield, who doesn’t do interviews anymore—except when he does.

Eschewing the rush rush syndrome everyone thinks is appropriate these days, Mark takes his time, 60 to 90 minutes. Each guest ends the show with an artistic challenge; participate and you can win nifty useful books (and, not incidentally, grow artistically and personally.)

Make time for the 21st Century Creative podcast. Your art deserves it.