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Fragments and Shrapnel: When It’s Not Shiny Anymore

We’ve all been there. We get an idea for a story or project that is so fabulous it will win awards and we’ll get accolades from our peers. It’s exciting! It’s something NEW! It’s fun! We jump in head first only to find the polish has worn off after a few weeks and this actually WORK and we’re going to have to put some muscle behind it. Yes, there are times when the words flow like a bottle of good red wine, but this post is about what to do when the newness wears off and we must decide whether to continue or run to the next shiny object.

I recently found myself in a similar situation with a book I’m currently writing. The idea was there, and it is a GREAT idea but the shininess wore off and now it’s HARD. I wasn’t working on it every day (or taking my own advice) and I didn’t know who my audience was for this book. I spun my wheels and avoided writing. Feeling I needed some outside advice, I presented my dilemma to a group of friends during our monthly meeting of the creative minds. We all had the same problem at one point of the other and came up with some easy solutions:

No Energy – The day job. The Spouse. The dinner to make. The pet that needs walks and love. There’s not much energy left to be creative once we’ve come home and met everyone else’s needs. It’s much easier to watch TV or play games on Facebook then do more work. Accomplished writers advise adjusting your sleep schedule or borrowing a cottage from Tori Amos (I’m look at you Neil Gaiman!) to get those words out. Since Tori refuses to let me borrow one of her houses and I have to go to bed early, I dig deep and just DO it. I use the same mindset for when I don’t want to run or exercise. I put my shoes on and just GO. Not finishing last in a race or not letting someone else steal my ideas is my motivation.

Rotate Projects- Remember that story you put aside months ago because you couldn’t figure out the ending? Or maybe those articles you have been meaning to write and are collecting dust on your hard drive? Now is the time to revisit them and see if you can figure out the ending or schedule an interview to finish an article. I like go back and re-read things I thought were crap only to realize they were quite good. It gives me the positive boost of energy I need to keep going.

Work with other mediums – When you’re two seconds from throwing your computer and inner editor out the window, take a step back and work on a different creative medium. Many of my friends knit, crochet or work with paper (collage, journaling, etc) when the words just won’t flow. I like to take out my stamps and ink pads and make cards or go around my house and neighborhood taking pictures of unusual or inspiring things. It calms me down and gives me the instant gratification I need to go back to writing.

Re-Charge Batteries – Stephen King highly recommends writers go for walks or exercise every day. It gets the blood and ideas flowing AND gets you away from the computer. I like to go for hikes or go to the ocean when I’m in a rut and need to recharge a battery or two. I have season tickets to a local theater and just the act of attending a play gets me excited about my projects. I also have a group of friends I meet with each month who are good for bouncing off ideas and providing fodder for blog posts!

Manage Project Overload – Learning new things is very important to me and I enjoy exploring all the different ways I can be creative. I have a long list of things I would like to do at some point like produce a podcast, write articles for magazines and publish a book. The problem comes when I’m staring at the pile of projects wondering where to start. I get overwhelmed and I end up not wanting to do any of it. I turn to time sucks like e-mail and Facebook and by the end of the night I have accomplished nothing. I recently expressed this frustration to my friend Jaymi who wisely recommended I plan out my weeks a little better. DUH! Sitting at my computer staring at a blank page is not progress. Deciding that Tuesday is writing day and Friday is creativity and networking day is a much better plan. I do it when I plan out my exercising for the week, why can’t I do it for my creative endeavors? It keeps me on track and focused so nothing gets neglected and I feel like I’ve accomplished everything on my list.

One of my literary heroes Oscar Wilde once said, Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more. How do you try and rule yourself without getting overwhelmed?

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About Anna Alexander

I am a freelance writer and producer living in the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I live with our cat Grendel who lets us pay his mortgage.

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