When Writing Becomes Misery

Step back and get some perspective.

You gather your wits, strength, and courage about you. You’re going to need them. You check your equipment. You make sure you have everything you need – could possibly need. Then you check it all again. You say a quick prayer that you’ll be guided on this perilous mission. Your breath quickens at the thought of what lies ahead, the significance of this task, and what will happen if you fail. You shudder and your body constricts. You must not fail. But you can’t think about that now. No, you can only focus on the moment at hand. This moment. When you bow your head and brace yourself… you’re going in.

Since this is a writing blog, you probably know I’m talking about writing. But it doesn’t sound like it, does it? Sounds a bit like we’re diving into a live volcano to extract a nuclear detonator. Or something along those lines.

But that’s exactly what writing feels like sometimes. (If it doesn’t feel that way to you, um, good for you and please move along.) It’s almost ridiculous how difficult the simple task of sitting down before a computer and tapping at little buttons can feel.

When it gets to that point, when writing a book feels as heavy as saving the world from certain doom, it’s time to step back and get some perspective. I have to do this on a regular basis. Here’s how…

Bring in childlike curiosity and joy

Think back to the way you wrote as a kid or teen. Back in the days when you thought writing was awesome and easy and everything you wrote was the greatest thing ever created. Now, go and actually write a short little ditty from that place. For me, it would obviously be a ridiculous, unrealistic love story in which the hero shows up and saves me from… well, everything.

Then, bring that enthusiasm back with you into your heavyweight work-in-progress. What would the child version of you say about this story? What would they like to see happen?

Grown ups are too serious. Make it fun again.

Release the expectations

We struggle most when we put pressure on ourselves. It’s understandable. We want people to fall in love with our work. To cheer us, validate us, and throw money at us as we dive into another volcano to pull out another story. But that might not happen. People might boo us instead. Or not even read a word.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic (so good!) she writes that how others react to our art is none of our concern. Our only job is to create it, birth it, then do it all again.

You’ll have critics and you’ll have fans. In the end, it doesn’t matter what either of them have to say. It’s all subjective anyway.

The only difference between a flower and a weed is judgement. ~ Wayne Dyer.

Nurture your garden. Write the story that’s beautiful to you.

Change your attitude

This is a hard one for me. It’s also very effective when I manage it.

If you’re feeling miserable about your creative process, find a way to be grateful for it instead. Take a walk in nature and think about the art you have been inspired to create. Not everyone receives this gift. Many are too busy to hear the whispers of creativity, or they have simply shut themselves off to any possibility that they can create.

But not you. You are open to inspiration. You are birthing something into this world that will last forever. That’s a gift. If you can see your creativity as that, it takes on a different vibe.

We’ve all been conditioned to believe that the creative process is a burden. That an artist’s life is suffering. It is true that it can be hard at times. But if that’s all we focus on, that’s all we’re going to experience.

So what about you? How do you turn the creative process into something enjoyable after it’s become something heavy?

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