Being your own hero in the story of your writing is a big deal and it’s something we all shirk from. If we are the hero of the story, of our own life’s story, what does that exactly mean?
It means we are in charge of our story as much as we can be. It means that our actions and words and choices define what happens next in the plot of our life.
Yes, sometimes random horrors or brilliant moments happen and those things aren’t (or at least don’t directly seem) caused by us. But, those moment are still… They are part of our journey and who we are is determined by the choices we make as a reaction to those moments of random horror or beautiful brilliance.
One way to get a bit of traction in how your story goes in your literary life is to define what Todd Henry calls “The Big Three.” These aren’t exactly priorities. They aren’t exactly projects. They are the big loops happening in your creative life right now.
Here’s an example of a Big Three:
What is the problem I’m solving?
How do I add more value to the world?
How do I make what I’m doing matter?
Making your own big three is a big deal. It’s a bit like the six-month goal sheet that we make at the Writing Barn, but it’s more loose. And it’s best used when you apply it to every stimuli that you see. When you are watching a movie, think about your big three for a second. When you’re at a random meeting or a soccer game, think about your big three. How are you shaping your life and your art? How is your art shaping the world? Does it matter to you? How? How not?
What you put your energy and time into matters. The things you do, your commitments, have to not be so overwhelming that the creative part of your mind shrivels up and dies. You want to and deserve to flourish. Keep the things that matter to you, add value to you, and pluck off the rest.
And remember, so many ideas and epiphanies happen when your mind is at rest – in the shower, driving in the car (sort of at rest), at the edge of sleep, working out. There is a reason for that. It’s in the white space that ideas sprout, that innovation has the room to occur.
So what do you do when you can’t write? If our actions define us, then do we stop being a writer if we stop writing? It’s a good question.
Bring On The Pressure
Some of us kick butt when the pressure is on. Death. Pandemic. Job loss? For some of us those things actually make us run to the page and write and process and puke up all the words.
MAKE IT ALL GO AWAY
For some of us? Well, we can only write when we’re happy and excited and things are going in a kick-butt ways.
So What Do You Do If You Are In The Second Group?
It’s okay to take a hiatus. If you hold your breath, you don’t stop being a human. If you take a writing pause, you don’t stop being a writer.
Are you afraid that if you stop writing that you’ll never write again? If so, you need to get a support group to help you talk through that. You need people to keep you accountable.
Channel Your Inner Oprah
Be about the self care. That doesn’t mean binging Tiger King or running six miles while drinking green shakes made of kale. It’s about finding the right way to journey through your day, your week, your month and finding a balance. Find the things that make you happy and put them on your to-do list for a half hour a day. Make it a priority to make yourself happy and balanced. Don’t be all about work. Don’t be all about other people’s needs. Don’t be all about not writing. Take care of your damn self.
When people are hurt? They need to recover. Allow yourself to recover.
I am trying terribly hard to start running again. I am a person who actually has to wear knee braces when I run so my knees don’t pop out. Full disclosure: My knees pop out just sitting in a chair for three hours. And when they pop out? I can’t run for two weeks or so.
Running is my favorite thing to do.
But I have to pause every month or so and stop and let myself recover.
Writing and our brains can be like this, too. We need to give them time to revitalize, get strong.
So how do we do that?
Create A Plan Of Action
Let’s say you’re a writer as a full-time job. You kind of have to keep writing to keep paying for your food, your house, and so on, right? What do you do if you are having a crisis of faith and brain?
- Make a scheduled time plan and stick to it. Figure how long each tasks take and when the deadlines are and do a bit each day.
- Remember why you are writing in the first place.
- Try to remember that things are almost always temporary and change is a natural state. This is how I get through almost every bad feeling and experience. I know that it can’t last forever. Sometimes I have to chant that to know it, but it works.
- If something isn’t essential, put it at the bottom of your TO DO list. Like laundry. You don’t get to do laundry until you’ve written 300 words. That sort of thing. I do this all the time.
- Take care of your darn self. Drink water not just tequila. Have a salad not just Doritos. Keep your body strong.
- Check in with others. Find people who aren’t full of judgement and who are supportive. Check in with them every day. A little accountability and support go a long way in making you feel less alone. I promise.
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