They say, “Writers don’t like to write. They like to have written.” Well. I say that’s bullshit. After years of tears, white-knuckling, and avoidance, I am now a writer who likes to write. You can like to write, too.
Here’s how to get stuff done in that time you've set aside for writing, with less pain, and more joy:
Step 1: Identify your symptoms of inspiration and fear.
Symptoms of inspiration are pretty easy to spot, but difficult to put into words. For me, a feeling of flow, confidence, and elation come to mind. Anything that feels like love.
While some of our fear is verbal, it mostly acts on us in invisible, instantaneous, insidious ways. Some of my symptoms of fear are monkey mind, humorlessness, a sense that there’s not enough time to get everything done, and distractibility. If it’s not actively love, it’s fear.
Step 2: Identify your uppers and downers.
Uppers are actions that move you from fear to inspiration. Some of my uppers are taking a brisk walk, taking a shower, spending time with nature, and reading certain blogs. If these things feel like treats, it’s because they are!
Downers are things that further entrench you in fear. For me, these include perusing social media newsfeeds and watching TV. Sometimes you may confuse a downer for an upper, thinking that that beer will actually inspire you. But that’s just the fear monster talking, because when you’re in your right mind, you know it will actually just drag you down.
Step 3: Do whatever you want to do.
Thanks to the awareness amassed in Steps 1 and 2, freedom naturally leads in the direction of inspiration. When I suddenly notice I’m compulsively checking facebook, craving a pound of chocolate, or itching to binge-watch Say Yes to the Dress, I tend to snap out of it more often nowadays and choose to take a walk or read a book instead.
Step 4: Repeat Steps 1 through 3 regularly.
Confronted with a hamper of dirty clothes, I used to say to myself, “But dammit, I already did the laundry!” Of course, I didn’t “already” do the laundry. Rather, I have to do the laundry “again,” and will continue to have to do the laundry again and again as long as I value having clean clothes to wear.
Lastly, I’ve found it helps to accept that you won’t always get it right, nor do you always want to (sometimes we just want to be very very naughty, don’t we?), and that that’s okay, and that being a coward from time to time won’t kill you. Again, the goal here is not to set rules, but to trigger awareness so that free will can be fully felt and exercised. The goal here is freedom. Because from freedom springs creativity, and a free, creative life is indeed a life worth living.
Try it out. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think.
Brooke Bishop is a writer, director, story consultant, and educator. She is a Founding Author of the critically acclaimed interview-based storytelling project How Love Lasts. A version of this piece also appeared on her blog brooke bishop where she writes about living a life after anxiety. She lives in Corvallis, Oregon with her partner, where the grass is actually greener.