It was a Monday morning in late January after a full weekend. I didn’t get quite as much sleep as I wanted because the night before, my partner and I started watching Maestro (highly recommend!), not realizing it was over two hours long.
So, I was feeling tired and I had a long list of work items for the week ahead, plus some out-of-the-house errands that I needed to squeeze in. I was sorely tempted to just jump in and start knocking things off my to-do list. That dopamine hit of the checkmarks was calling me!
But I’d made a commitment to writing every morning for 30 minutes before my work day began and it had been going well. Until that particular morning. I just wasn’t feeling it.
It would have been so easy to succumb to the lure of that easy checkmark high (I’d certainly done it before!). But on this day, I made myself write because I knew that I wouldn’t be very happy with myself later if I didn’t. I tried to trust that something would come, even though, in that moment, I couldn’t imagine what it would be.
And I’m glad I did. The writing I did on that day was meh, but the rest of the week turned out to be full of flow. It’s impossible to know what would have happened if I’d skipped Monday, but my guess is that the week might not have turned out so well.
I love what Steven Pressfield (author of The War of Art) has to say about the power of showing up even when we don’t feel like it:
“When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favour in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
The act of being true to our good habits, and not simply waiting for inspiration to strike, is the topic of Day 9 in my book, Writing Your Way. It’s something a lot of writers find difficult because they believe (or have been taught) that in order to create, they have to feel inspired first. Not true!
But, HOW do we bring ourselves to the page when other things are calling us and when we feel blank and dry and not the least bit creative? How do we get the wheels turning, the blood flowing, and the pen moving?
Here is a list with SIX ideas that I hope might help you on your “uninspired” days:
Re-read something you’ve recently written. What did you write last week or even last month? Is there anything that jumps out at you? Are there any sparks you could follow? Any thread you can pull on and write further about? Sometimes, we forget what we’ve written and it can be surprising and delightful to re-read our own work.
If you are writing fiction and feel stuck, consider writing backstory for one of your characters. Ask yourself questions like these: What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to my character? What is their biggest secret? What do they most regret? This kind of writing can really get the wheels turning.
If you are writing memoir, consider writing something that you definitely don’t want in the book. Rattle your own cage. What do you really not want other people to read? Write it. Wake yourself up.
Find a writing prompt online or in a book. Tell yourself it’s okay to write something completely different than what you’ve been working on. Let yourself do “free flow” or stream of consciousness writing. Don’t stop. Keep going. Don’t edit. It doesn’t have to make sense. You never know – something you write today, that seems off topic, might make its way into a piece you are working on.
Reflect on your own life. Imagine something that you really don’t want to happen. Or what about something you really do want to happen? Or something that you wish had happened at a certain time of your life. Write about any or all of these scenarios or make up your own.
Write about the feeling of uninspired-ness. What does it feel like in your body? What is happening in your mind? Is your inner critic chiming in?
**Special note: Our critics love to jump in when we’re feeling uninspired. They can be quick to tell us that anything creative we attempt is a waste of time. Or they may try and convince us that we don’t know what we’re doing. Notice what your critic is saying and if possible, allow it to entertain you, rather than deflate you. Whatever you do, don’t fall into its trap. Our critics love to masquerade as the voice of truth.
Lastly, remember the word “practice” in writing practice. You don’t have to write the great novel today. You don’t even have to make complete sentences. You just need to show up and prove to yourself that it’s better to write—even if the writing is hard or not great—than not write.
You’ll feel better if you put your time in. I promise.
*If you want to receive these monthly letters on creativity, writing, and mindset in your inbox, scroll to the bottom of this page (or any page of my website) and look for Join My Community!