This year has been marred by a string of technical difficulties. Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, months, or even years where nothing seems to be going right? Your creative life seems to be ruled by Murphy’s Law? You’re not alone — and there’s a way out.
If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed a peculiar silence here last Monday. Most of my posts are scheduled for Mondays at ten in the morning. Last Monday, I was behind schedule and crunched for time. I wrote a post about a tricky editorial question, scheduled it for ten a.m., then went on with my morning, confident that my post would be broadcast on time. When I had time later in the day, I check my Web site. No post. What? So I logged in and checked my editorial calendar. No post. Not a single trace of it. It was as if I’d never written it in the first place. Enter panic, anger, and frustration.
Rather than focusing on what went wrong though, I’d like to use this as an opportunity to show you how you can overcome difficulties in your creative life.
Take some time to vent your frustration when you feel it. A small circle of my closest friends received a “colorful” message from me expressing my frustration with my lost post last week. Another fantastic place to let off your frustration is in your journal. I often refer to my journal as “detox” because I use it to detoxify my brain. I unload all of my frustrations, anger, and despair into it. You can also release your frustration through something more physical, such as running, working your garden, or exercising. They key here is to release it, though. If you hold onto your frustration and anger, it is not only physically damaging because of the hormones that stress releases into your body, it’s also creatively damaging. This leads to the second step to overcoming creative difficulties.
Focus on Success
We have a saying in our house: The Universe will give you what you ask for. Release your frustration, then let it go. Once I expressed my frustration to my friends, I let it go. Set your mind on success — or if you find this too difficult, at least take your mind off of failure. Get yourself a mental boost out of a failure-rut first by thinking yourself out of it. If you focus on your failures, or your fear of failure, you will see failure in everything. If you focus on your success, no matter how small, you will start to see your successes. Either way, you have the power to create a snowball effect. It’s up to you whether you succeed or fail.
Make a Plan
I’ve found, in both my personal and creative life, that when I feel stymied, frustrated, or lost, having a plan will instantly lift my mood. I quickly evaluated my options and made a mental list of what I needed to do. Your plan doesn’t need to be too specific or too detailed. Spend some time brainstorming ways that you can foster creativity in your life. Start with something as simple as a list. If you’re feeling particularly organized, you could put that list in order, but you don’t have to. Even if the plan is as simple was one small thing you can do next, having that plan will help get you out of your creative rut.
Pick something from your list, and do it. Last week, the next thing I needed to do was move on to a project with a fast-approaching deadline. I couldn’t waste time or energy on my lost post, no matter how much I wanted to. Identify what is the one thing you need to do next. It could be the most important thing, the next logical thing, the most pressing thing, or the one thing that excites you. Decide what your next step should be, and move on to it.
You don’t need to take a big step. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. Thing big, but start small. To keep this from happening again, I’ve decided that I need to get my posts written well ahead of time, at least a month ahead. But last week, I didn’t have time to sit down and write a month of blog posts. I still don’t. I do have time though to brainstorm ideas for them though. I can do that in my free time between other responsibilities. Then, when I can carve out the time for it, I’ll have my road map at hand and can start the next step of my plan. Say you want to write a novel but feel like you never have the time? Don’t expect yourself to write a perfect first draft. Don’t expect to to write 10,000 words every day. By starting small, you can build small successes one on top of the other. Set goals like “I will write a crappy first draft” and “I will write 100 words every day.” As your small successes build, your confidence and creative muscle will grow stronger and you’ll be able to take on those bigger steps. After you’ve proven to yourself that you can write a crappy first draft and 100 words a day, take another small step: “I will revise my crappy first draft” and “I will write 500 words every day.” In fact, that’s exactly what the Writing Streak is about: starting small, creating a series of small success that built upon each other to become bigger successes.
Whenever you find yourself stymied by difficulties in your creative life, try applying these five steps: Express yourself, focus on success, make a plan, do something, and start small.
Don’t forget to enter the #JustWrite Challenge for a chance to win some cool prizes. Click here to submit your entry to the challenge. (You many need to login or register first.) The challenge will remain open until the first of next month, when I select the winning entry.