Between the mad hustle that is the holiday season, between shopping and parties and travel, wrapping up business matters, reflecting on what this year was and thinking ahead to what the New Year might hold, we’re all mentally stuffed to the brim.
But it’s a busy, hectic time of the year that’s as good as any to discuss some hard truths on starting a writing ritual and understanding your creative practices.
Why? Well, because there’s never a time when we can’t find good reasons to be too busy for writing, too overwhelmed by obligations, to rife with responsibilities.
In you truly want to do something like explore your relationship to writing or start a new creative practice, sometimes the best way to dig into it is when your plate is already too full.
It will teach you how to let go of what’s unnecessary to make space for what you desire.
Q1) “How do I come up with a consistent writing practice?”
A: By writing consistently, or exploring what “consistent” means to you and why you want a consistent practice.
As a yoga teacher, I start every class by inviting my yoga students to either:
- express what they want or need as they practice, or
- explore what they want or need through their practice
You express what you want or need through movement. If you’re frustrated, you can bang out 5 pushups for every chaturanga during our flow. Or if you’re feeling weak, tired or run down, you can keep your practice pretty lunar or grounded and honor yourself with a more mellow flow.
If you don’t know what you want or need, it’s hard to express that intentionally, consciously, or in any way that’s genuinely rewarding.
In that case, you need to explore what you want or need. Which you can still do through your practice with self-awareness, and keeping conscious of how you feel as you move.
I give you similar advice for discovering a consistent writing practice.
- Start writing to satiate your desire or need for a consistent writing practice, or
- Use writing to define what feels like “consistency” for your writing practice
What, to you, is consistent? Why do you want consistent? Is consistency just having the feeling of a regular writing practice? Is it just feeling the reward of cutting one hour a few times a week for you to write for yourself? Do you feel some self-imposed pressure to have a crazy, daily, 3,000-word practice? If so, why?
Express what you want and need, or explore what you want and need.
I don’t meant to sound professorial by answering your questions by posing questions. But if you’re struggling to start a writing practice and want a more consistent one, you should get some questions for yourself to define what it is that you want.
You might also…
- Make the most of waking and writing in the morning time to fulfill your writing ritual at a time of day that one of America’s most revered writers called a time of “genius.”
- Try out one (or three) of my 7 best tips and techniques to help you start a new writing practice, even this holiday season, by honoring your personal desires, needs and schedule.
- Challenge yourself to more fully and consciously commit to the writing practice or creative goals that you say you want.
Q2) “How do I write a book without going crazy?”
A: By remembering that writing a book is really, really hard. By refusing to sink yourself into the woe-is-me routine. By making strides to make your book-writing journey a reward, in itself.
I’m not sure there’s any way around it. Writing a book is really, profoundly, excruciatingly difficult.
As a multi-published author, my experience with book-writing has been that it’s more complex to figure out what not to say in a book than what to say. You might feel similarly that book-writing is confronting the infinite potential of everything that could be said.
No matter what aspect of book-writing you find to be the toughest, you have to fight to make your book-writing journey a reward in itself, first. In the end, it’s all about the final product, sure–but that doesn’t mean your book-writing experience is destined to be a horrible one.
You’re making art, after all. Your journey deserves to feel artful.
My advice to you is to make sure that you honor your personal values–how you want your book writing or artistic experience to feel–especially with these three key influences that will shape your writing experience:
- Your book-writing environment(s): Where you’re writing and working, and if they’re nurturing or negatively affecting you.
- Your book-writing people: Those souls with whom you’re working, writing or relying on for support.
- Your daily (or sorta-daily) book-writing rituals: The time you’re spending doing the actual writing.
If you’d like to thoroughly analyze these three influences on your writing (or any creative practice), read this piece that I wrote for you earlier in 2014. It will help you honor your values throughout even a tough book-writing journey.
Q3) “What rituals do you do with your writing that keep you on track?”
A: I usually write every day, but don’t hold myself to it as a hard-lined necessity. I recommend trusting yourself and paying attention to the key moments when you feel very pent up, stuck, stagnant or antsy–those are usually queues that you need to express yourself or find a way to release stuck creative energy.
Give yourself the time and space every now and then to unload, download, unwind, pour words or mind-dump onto paper. I prefer to call it “pouring,” and thanks to reader questions earlier in 2014 I offered a write-up about this interesting art form.
No matter what you call it, most of the 100+ writers with whom I’ve worked have really found it powerful to engage in these short, sudden, instinctive efforts to “pour” onto the page. In fact, I believe it will help you sustain your writing practice over the long-term.
The key to “pouring” is to do so without judgment, self-criticism or editing yourself while you’re writing.
Hemingway once said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.”
That’s what pouring is. Writing drunk. Letting it all loose on the page. Just spew. Don’t worry about anything else.
Q4) “How do you chose what to write about for blog posts?”
A: After 5 years and 400 essays published, I use a pretty intuitive process to chose what becomes a blog post. Basically, I don’t try to write blog posts–I just make sure that I write often and a lot, and whatever stories, advice or essays seem to be helpful or interesting become the blog posts that I share.
Roughly speaking, half of what I share on my blog is related to something (work, travel, service, goals, advice, experiences) that I’m living right now.
The other half are intended to help what someone else (a client, customer or reader who may be a writer, creative, artist, aspiring author, yogi, self-employed entrepreneur, coach, etc.) might be struggling with or going through right now.
More, you say? More you shall receive…
- I have a great list of tips that will help you start (and maintain) a blog, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing (except for knowing that you care).
- You might also explore why I recommend writing and sharing the scary, vulnerable parts of your personal story–a blog is a great place to share those stories.
Q5) For your books/blogs, do you write all the time or only when you’re inspired?
A: All the time. You have to write all the time. Working only when you’re inspired is a recipe for disaster.
It’s a total myth that artists, writers and creatives only do their work when they’re inspired. It’s actually a really detrimental, self-sabotaging excuse that allows someone to put off doing the work that he or she needs to do.
“Inspiration exists,” Pablo Picasso once said, “but it has to find you working.”
There’s a delicate balance that I strive to live by, and it’s a balance that can only be discovered with practice:
- On the one hand, you need to write a lot. Often. Even when you’re uninspired.
- On the other hand, you cannot write so much that you overburden yourself with an endless compulsion to be creating–a neurosis and fear that “you’re not doing enough.”
By writing “often enough,” you ingrain in yourself a deep sense of self-trust that helps you remain self-aware, builds your self-confidence, and remembers the long-term investment that you’re making in yourself.
Try to find this gentle balance, my friend. Inspiration will find you working.
Holding yourself to ridiculously unattainable word-count goals is a slippery slope into the woe-is-me, tortured artist routine. It’s not fun. It doesn’t feel good. And, it’s not sustainable.
After all, we’re talking about using writing and creativity to shape a more rewarding life’s journey.
Writing is more than just writing.
We’re using this art form to experience our best selves, and to live our best lives.