A guest blog by Alison Strachan
Pursuing a creative dream can be liberating. It can breathe fresh air into your soul and fill you with the kind of mental energy that makes you believe your existence is worth something. For me, writing is how I am able to make sense of the world and express myself.
I believe that telling and retelling stories is one of the most important things we can do as humans. A great story can bridge divides of race, age and gender. Not only that, it can open people’s eyes to new cultures and enlighten them to different ways of thinking and bring comfort, hope, inspire empathy and so much more.
Being a great story-teller is something I aspire to be. I don’t aspire to be a writer, I know I am already one of those. But creating stories that really move people, that is something I want to be remembered for and it is the reason I write.
Since I began to take my writing more seriously my respect for artists of any kind has grown immensely. I can’t speak for every creative professional but I know from experience that there are many writers working at their craft in between family responsibilities and the jobs that pay their bills. Coupled with juggling everything, be able to consistently create, day after day is bloody hard work.
If you let it, the process can be mentally draining and stressful. We writers and artists tend to put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to consistently create work that meets a high standard and pushing our brains to perform under these stressful conditions can have a greater effect.
If we aren’t careful our confidence in our ability wanes and it isn’t long before we are fighting a vicious cycle of doubt and stress-related writer’s/creator’s block. The good news is, there are ways to stand up to our artistic challenges. We need to work with our lives to enable us to keep our imagination sparking new ideas.
“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”
FRANKENSTEIN, MARY SHELLEY
One of the biggest factors with being able to find our creative energy and keep writing is managing our time. I blogged about time here and will give a quick overview here before focussing a little more on the creative process. For the purpose of this article I will be focussing on writers but the tips below can apply to any artist.
We have to hold back our fear of failing and make the time to write. To do this there are a few things I keep in mind in order to juggle my personal, professional and creative lives.
- Eliminate stress: I find that when I’m stressed I tend to just work harder – which in a writing context does not always work in my favour. In order for me to switch everything off I need to sit still with a cup of coffee or close my eyes and meditate for a little while, go for a walk, or switch to doing something menial (and I’ll explain why menial tasks work best soon). I need to stop thinking about what is making me stressed. (Note this could also be your writing).
- Prioritise Commitments: I needed to work out what my commitments were, but then instead of focussing on them, I needed to work out how to work around them. Timetabling didn’t work for me. What did, was working out which of my everyday tasks I had to do and which tasks were things I was choosing to do. It was easy then to make a conscious decision to write more and forego some of my non-essential things (such as watching television). I then made a promise to myself that I would stick to a regular writing routine.
- Assess Writing Goals and Break them Down: Once I made a conscious decision to use my spare time effectively I needed to break my novel into manageable chunks – in advance. Then I would use this time I had to work on my smaller goals. Ie. Working on one chapter/POV/outline task at a time. I have found that setting weekly goals ahead of time helps me get right into the action when I find myself with the time to write.
- Being Honest about those Goals: There is absolutely no point in making time and assessing your responsibilities to fit in your creative goals without being honest about them with your loved ones. My husband plays a crucial role in giving me time on certain nights of the week so that I can work on my novel. Without his help – all of this would have been for nothing. He understands the time I need to achieve my goals and supports me all the way and I do the same for him.
It is easy to keep telling ourselves ‘when I have time I will…’ but I’ve discovered that consistently pursuing my creativity is what keeps me going. You just need to build momentum.
How do you keep that creativity turned on, and keep the ideas flowing?
Once you have established how much time you have to create, the next step is to look at how we will be able to use that time effectively. I will go over these steps in more detail in the next few posts but for now here are some of my ideas:
- Mental preparation. If you have scheduled writing time on a certain night of the week just as I do, you can prepare yourself before you sit down at your computer.
- Mind mapping. Once you have your ideas from above, you can begin to organise them into a coherent thought process and argument.
- Keeping a Visual record of your ideas. Words and images can have a completely different impact on us so in order to keep your ideas flowing it is helpful to have a visual inspiration board.
- Brain training. Using brain training exercises and pushing yourself to do things differently are a great way of keeping your ideas fresh.
Do you have a different process for getting the best results and meeting your goals? We would love to hear it!
Alison Strachan has been writing for many years. She considers herself an amateur writer, making progress with honing her craft, learning about the publishing industry and finding her voice. She is passionate about the environment, animal welfare and wants to make a difference with her writing.
She shares tips and excerpts of her fiction at Writing My Truth. You can also stalk her on Facebook, Twitter (@writingmytruth) and Pinterest and read the prequel to her fantasy novel here.
So true — “when I have time” never seems to get here! Just go!
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve found you can’t think of time as something given to you. It’s something you have to make for the things you value.
And it’s so funny how you can always find that “I don’t have time” excuse when you want it. The thought of exercise makes me want to say that…