What is your biggest struggle as a creative? For me, no matter what the excuse masquerades as, it always comes down to the fear that I’m not good enough. Sometimes this sounds like “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have anything to write about” or “I suck at story structure” or “I need to research [fill in the blank]” or “Oh look, my web site needs updating…” All of these are just different versions of the same thing:
Nothing I write will ever be good enough.
Take a close look at the excuses you tell yourself (and anybody else who will listen) about why you don’t do the creative work you want to. Underneath excuses about tools, or education, or time, or anything else, are they really just masks for this same fear? If not, maybe you need to look closer. Or maybe you’re the most well-adjusted, prolific creator who ever made art. In which case, why are you wasting your time on my blog?
Over the years, I’ve come up with an arsenal of weapons to fight this fear though. Next time you find yourself making excuses or feeling blocked, you could try one of these out. The trick to good writing is practice, and the trick to practice is finding what works for you. If one of these methods doesn’t work, try another one. And don’t despair if an old tried=and-true method stops working after a while — just try another one.
Set a Timer. Don’t have enough time to write? Sure, I get that. Between a full-time job, being a full-time parent, going to school part-time, freelancing part-time, and just making time for my own creativity, believe me — I get that. So you can’t sit down for four hours, or even one hour. What about fifteen minutes? What about five minutes?
Carry Around a Small Notebook. It doesn’t have to be a full-length notebook. It could be anything from a school copybook to a pocket notebook. It can fit in your purse, or your pocket. Just keep it with you so that when an idea hits, you can write it down. Or if you find yourself sitting in a waiting room, you can take it out and jot down some notes or doodles.
Go Digital. Find a free notekeeping app, like Evernote or the notepad app that comes pre-installed on your smart phone or iPad, and use that instead of a physical notebook. If you really want to go high-tech, you could even dictate a note into a Google Doc using the their voice to text function. Or just record a quick voice note to yourself to transcribe later. (Hint: If you use something like Evernote or Google Docs, you can access them from your laptop as well as your smart phone.)
Journal. If you’re having a hard time coming up with an idea, or even just keeping your attention focused (been there, done that), just write whatever’s on your mind. Getting your mental chatter out on paper can help you find your focus — or not. You could just meander through ideas and thoughts, or you could just bitch about your day. Just write anything.
Delegate. Sure, you can’t necessary delegate your writing to another person. Unless you can afford a ghost writer, then go for it, I guess. But if you know you only really have time one day a week to devote an hour or more to creating, delegate other days of the week to other tasks. Brainstorm for a few minutes on Monday. Jot down ideas for future articles or stories on Tuesday. That thought that sidetracked you from writing last week? Research that on Wednesday. Spend a few minutes outlining on Thursday. Whatever works. Delegate other writing-relating tasks to the days of the week that you know you won’t have the time or mental capacity to sit down and put coherent words to the page.
Play. Spend some time deliberately playing with words or clichés or poetry. Write a haiku, or a dirty limerick, or some Dadaist poetry. Pick an old cliché and write a scene around it. Write a short scene breaking all the “rules” of good writing. Deliberately make mistakes. This could kickstart your creativity or just get you out of a rut.
Go to War. Find a friend — or a complete stranger on Twitter — to have a Word War with. Each of you agrees to set a timer and see how many words you can write in that time frame. Whoever writes the most words “wins” the Word War.
These are just a handful of tricks. The idea is to steal time whenever and wherever you can, let your brain play, play with new ideas, give yourself permission to write imperfectly. Do whatever it takes to get even just a little writing time in, any way you can.