For the last few years, I have had Jamie Raintree guest post for the upcoming new year. This is a tradition I am happy to continue this year, and she has graciously accepted my offer to do another Erindipity year-end post. Thanks again, Jamie, for another wonderful post!
The ABC’s of Writing – Always Be Creating
There is a lot of pressure on writers today. I know this is not news to you. Even when I first started writing novels about eight years ago, before I knew much about the publishing industry, I had the intuitive sense that there was a tough standard to be upheld. From the get-go, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be productive and to foster a deep understanding of the craft. Then, as I connected with more writers and got my first glimpses into what was expected on the marketing side of the author’s life, I added that weight to my shoulders. Before I even started to query agents, I felt the pressure.
A couple of years ago, I finally did become agented and quickly discovered that I hadn’t been wrong. There have been lots of edits, lots of strategizing, and LOTS of waiting. I know I speak for most writers when I say, it can take a big toll on your emotional and creative health. I spent several years putting every ounce of energy I had into revising my first book and at the end of it I felt drained, lost, and disconnected from the creativity that had made me want to write in the first place.
I’d been living in my left brain for too long and I didn’t know how to switch back over.
RECONNECTING WITH CREATIVITY
Luckily, my writer’s group and I decided to work through The Artist’s Way together and I began to write again, but the experience taught me something: I never want to stop creating again. Tapping into that right brain as much as possible is so important for artists.
For me, I’d gotten so involved in revising–knowing that getting my first book polished was the priority–that I let it take over everything. Sometimes we forget that revising isn’t really creating. Yes, there is a creative element to it, in a left-brained kind of way. Similar to solving a math riddle, we have to look at all the elements and see what’s missing, what needs to be subtracted, and which things should be moved around. What it lacks, though, is the unbridled freedom of creating without expectation.
And yes, sometimes deadlines become a priority and we have to set aside all other things to fulfill our commitments to our agents, publishers, or readers. Even if that commitment is writing new words, the pressure to put them out at breakneck speed can suck the creativity out of the process.
Sometimes we just feel blocked and we let ourselves sit in that space for so long that being a blocked creative feels more like our identity than being a productive creative.
The thing is, we aren’t able to bring our best selves to the table in any of our work unless we’re feeding our souls. And what feeds our souls is consistently tapping into our creativity.
MAKING CREATIVITY A PRIORITY
Since realizing this, I’ve made a vow to myself: that I will Always Be Creating. It isn’t an easy commitment to make. I’m only at the beginning of this life of deadlines and team revisions and marketing plans. What it is, though, is necessary. Over the last couple of months, as I’ve dived back into creating head-first, I’ve been more productive and centered in all other areas of my life. I’ve been getting more accomplished than during those long days when I wasn’t writing new words and had all the time in the world to revise, but none of the emotional energy. It seems counter-intuitive–adding something to an already crowded plate–but creating fosters the confidence and peace needed to tackle whatever the rest of a publishing career throws at you.
So as we begin 2016 and you set your New Year’s Resolutions, I encourage you to make creating one of your goals too. Here are a few tips I’ve discovered to make it easier:
- Time-Block your day. We have a lot of balls to juggle in this industry, but also in our lives. By chunking out your day, you should be able to create enough time to fit in a little bit of each thing every day, even if it’s only half an hour.
- Don’t set any rules about what creativity looks like. Maybe you’re a novelist through and through, but if a short story comes to you, don’t ignore it. Write a poem, sketch a picture, pick up some adult coloring books. All of these things tap into that right side of your brain that refills your well. Not everything you create has to be for publication.
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself first. Easier said than done, I know, but you can’t take care of anyone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Your emotional health effects the rest of your health more than you probably realize. Nurture it.
What are your writing goals for 2016? Will you accept the ABC challenge?
WRITING AND REVISION TRACKER
And if you want to watch your overall productivity grow, check out my newly revised Writing and Revision Tracker, a spreadsheet that calculates your writing and revision progress daily, weekly, monthly and yearly for up to 8 projects!
Jamie Raintree is a writer, a writing business and productivity instructor, and the creator of the Writing & Revision Tracker. She is represented by Regal Literary and is currently working on her second novel. Subscribe to her newsletter for more blogs, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Pinterest.