According to Seth Godin in his book Poke the Box, “Without the spark of initiative you have no choice but to simply react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting to be shoved.”
I have been in reactionary mode the last couple of days. Yesterday, I had an entire day off of work from both of my part-time jobs. I spent the majority of my day catching up on sleep.
Too Much Rest for the Writer?
I had to get rest. There was really no way around it. Yet, I somehow felt lazy and unmotivated. Unproductive. I despise that feeling of being unproductive!
My plan for this morning was to begin the day writing. I had saved all these inspiring content ideas. I was going to make up for “lost time” and roar back with a productive tenacity.
Guess what? Sleep got the better of me again! My body needed additional rest. This was the beginning of a writing rut. I could sense it. “It is just one day. I have been busy with my jobs and I had earlier success last month. I deserve another day off. Another 30 minute or hour nap won’t hurt. I will get my article written later in the day,” I told myself.
Excuses Me?! Enough of the Excuses!
Chock it up to an irregular schedule or the beginning of the school year, but at the basic level those reasons were excuses. I lacked initiative.
Admittedly, I did seriously ponder taking another day to rest—to put off the initiative to write. Fortunately, that was a temporary attitude. I drive to my local library to check out some marketing and entrepreneurial books. Seth Godin’s Poke the Box was perfect tinder to reignite my initiative.
Taking time to rest is necessary. Be wary against going too far and letting that day of rest turning into a couple days, then a week, or even long.
Take Action Now not Later
You will experience ruts. It is natural. Don’t give up. Rest your mind and body. Regroup. Go back to your work with a ferocity. Start. When? Now!
Please share your strategies to get yourself out of ruts and how you balance the need to rest with the need to get work done in the comments.
According to Henry David Thoreau, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” I interpret the great American writer’s words to mean that writing without having living is a futile endeavor. Lately, I have been experiencing writer’s block. Promising ideas and topics spring into my mind; however, a few sentences in I encounter a cerebral roadblock. I stop and wonder: what do my better works have in common? This question weighed on my mind for several days. Finally, I had an insight, a spark of inspiration! My creativity stems from drawing on palpable life experiences and I write best when I do not force the pen to the paper. Here are three reasons why forcing ideas lead to bad writing:
Writing is Creative
Writing is a form of art. Like all other artwork, writing involves creativity. From my experiences, I find that I am most creative when I do not seek to be creative. Rather, I allow myself to be inspired. I found inspiration from other authors, the wonders of the world, and my life experiences. William Wordsworth once said, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Without breathing creativity into sterile words, writing is a lifeless process—there exists no meaning.
Creativity stems freely engaging with reality, yet also believing in the seeming impossible. “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You image what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will,” declared George Bernard Shaw. Forcing me to write when I am not inspired and when I lack the volition does not lead to a good essay.
Freedom over Coercion
To further the previous point, creativity only flows naturally with a will to write. In other words, authors tend to best write under freedom versus being coerced. Freedom presupposes a will. An author’s will to compose comes in ebbs and flows. Throughout this past month, I have lived in an arid climate—intellectually speaking. Previously, creativity freely flowed into my mind like an open spout. Currently, the creative spigot is dripping sporadic moments of creativity. Without having access to turn the metaphorical spout, I need to patiently wait for my natural ability to write to return. Waiting is a tough thing for me. According to the famous French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, “Patience is bitter, but its fruits are sweet”. I pray for the gift of patience from the Holy Spirit to withstand my aridity in authorship.
Real Life Experience vs. Fabricated Events
During the last few months, I learned that recalling past [and present] life experiences help me in sowing [and eventually reap the harvest] the seeds of writing. Concocting or fabricating an experience does not lead to a good piece of writing. A contrived event only breeds half-finished drafts and clutters my computer’s filing system.
Without leaning on real life experiences, my writing suffers immensely. Drawing on the wellspring on my life infuses hue, vibrancy, and emotion into writing. A large part of my childhood involved reading. Franz Kafka boldly stated, “Reading is more important than writing.” The German novelist is on point with his claim.
This month involved a ton of changes in my family’s schedules. As a result, I lack sufficient time to ponder my experiences. I also failed to read daily. To combat this aridity, I made time to read at least 30 minutes a day to end this week. Reinvigorated with fresh ideas, I finally am able to complete today’s post!
Because writing is a creative endeavor forcing ideas does not always lead to the best artwork. Creativity involves freedom and a willingness to write and draw upon past and present experiences. Useful tips to help renew my creativity wellspring include: retreating from the busyness of life to reflect in silence and read other great books.
***“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”***
According to Winston Churchill, “The maxim ‘Nothing but perfection’ may be spelled ‘paralysis’.” As a recovering (and struggling) perfectionist myself, the English statesman’s words definitely makes sense. Perfectionists demand absolute flawlessness in all activities. Since I have focused more on making time to developing content for this blog and on social media, I have learned an important lesson. Consistency matters. Consistency allows one to produce more content regularly and in a fairly short time.
How Does Perfectionism Cripple?
The perfectionist in me used to (and still does on occasion) deliberate slowly and painstakingly over the perfect introduction to a post. Was it interesting enough? Was there that perfect balance between simple and complex sentences? Did I achieve the absolute lowest possible percentage for passive voice? My pernickety thoughts went on and on.
Is there a perfect way to write an article? Maybe. I honestly don’t know for certain. What I do know is that perfection 100% is not possible. Certainly, you will have those stellar posts that are simply gems. Flawless. But ultimately tough to replicate. Instead aiming to achieve perfection always, focus on excellence and be okay with your occasional (and sometimes rare) visit to perfection. Excellence is consistent. It is stable.
Practice Makes Excellence
Aristotle made the connection between excellence and consistency. He wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The following article Excellence vs Perfection details out more key differences between the two. A link to this resource will be listed in the Resources section as the end of this post. One thing that stood out to me was the excellence tends to focus on both the goal and the journey to achieve that goal, whereas perfectionism looks solely at the end result. I have had to adjust my mindset from perfectionism to excellence. The journey involves the process of learning. Excellence learns from failure. Perfectionism tries to avoid mistakes.
Failure is the first attempt in learning. Be excellent. Strive to create first-rate content. Just remember it need not be perfect. Perfection stymies creativity and growth. Excellence nurtures creativity and daily growth.
According to acclaimed entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, “No matter what you do, your job is to tell your story.” As a writer, this advice should be fairly straightforward. In theory this notion should be easy to implement. Practically, life tells us otherwise. At times work and family obligations make it quite difficult to create content.
“I don’t have time” or “I am too tired from work or parenting” are excuses. Valid excuses. But excuses nonetheless. American found Benjamin Franklin professed, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Ouch! His words certainly sound jarring. Sometimes we need to hear that severe truth to ignite the passion within us.
Coming off a long weekend, I felt the need for a second weekend to recover from my Saturday and Sunday. Again, I am coming up with an excuse. I struggled to develop a topic for content this week. Suddenly, I realized— how about I write about what to do when you struggle with developing content! This post will be centered on three strategies that you can use immediately to jumpstart your ability to create content.
I have learned that value of developing innovative strategies to write. I started The Simple Catholic blog in 2015. Four years’ worth of content! It gets tough to write about things especially when you’ve exhausted a lot of great ideas in the past.
One creative way I learned to develop content is to immediately jot down an idea when it pops into my head. Throughout the day I think about this idea. If it is a fruitful notion, I am able to develop a cohesive and understandable outline to then construct the post when I have time later. Driving, biking, showering, or in between calls at my job are great times for me to ponder and develop these nuggets of information.
Develop Time Savers
Some days I barely have 10 minutes to write. Honestly, these days frustrate me! As a storyteller, I long to have the ability to put down my thoughts, frustrations, joys, happenings, and concerns. Writing is therapeutic. It provides healing when I am distressed. Writing is cathartic—cleansing me of worry, doubt, and irritations. Because writing provides me that important function in my life, I make sure I take at least a little time to write daily.
Today was one of those rushed and packed days. During my job, my phone rang off the hook. I only had 30 seconds between speaking with customers. Along with being, creative, I had to seek ways to make the best use of my time. Below are a list of the best time management practices I have discovered:
Utilize outlines to craft the structure of an article
Use the voice-to-text function on phone/apps
Set a weekly post goal—meet this goal consistently
Develop flexibility to work in smaller chunks of time—this is especially key for writers who are also parents!
Make time for reflection/mediation
Exercise frequently—you will be quite surprised how a short jog or session at the gym will invigorate your mind
Set time limits for social media usage
Follow Your Mission Statement
A third strategy to boost your content creation is to write about your passion. What excites you? Which subject could you ad lib for 30 minutes? Why did you originally begin your blog? What motivates your writing?
These questions allow me to get back to the heart of my mission. My Catholic faith is more important to me than anything in this life. Possessing a Master’s degree in Theology and teaching experience provided me the initial foundation for my blog. Along with evangelizing and discovering the joy of the Gospel, I enjoy writing about my other passions as well: exercise, writing, fantasy, and comic books. I find joy in each of these subjects.
Gary Vaynerchuk say that “Passion is contagious.” Zest also leads to a more thriving life! Helping others learn to write and blog drive me to share my best practices. When we share knowledge and experience honestly and without any strings attached we all win. I would love to hear your own struggles and triumphs in the content creating process. Share your best practices in the comments below!