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How to Write Morning Pages In 3 Easy Steps (and 5 Inspiring Reasons You’ll Want To!)

Morning pages are something I mention fairly often here at Called to Write, but haven’t ever defined. Many writers are unfamiliar with the concept.

Morning pages are a writing tool created by Julia Cameron and described in her book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity*.

The core idea is to write three long-hand, stream of consciousness pages every day, first thing in the morning upon awakening, no matter what, even if you only write, “I don’t know what to write,” over and over again. 

If you have a comment or question about writing morning pages, make sure you leave a comment by Friday, March 10th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time because one lucky commenter will receive a copy of the 25th Anniversary edition of The Artist’s Way, as my gift. (And if you already have the book, I’ll send it to someone you want to share it with!)

How to Write Morning Pages in 3 Easy Steps

Here are three easy steps to help you get started writing morning pages:

Step 1: Get yourself a notebook to write in (and put it somewhere you’ll find it quickly and easily in the morning).

I like something with half-size sheets so that it doesn’t take me all day to fill the pages. My favorite is this steno notebook*, because I love the paper weight and the size of the pages. I prefer using something a little more disposable like this than a fancy journal since I don’t want to feel attached to them. Though I’ve kept all of my many notebooks so far, I expect to eventually have a bonfire with them and I don’t want gorgeous leather-bound books energetically stopping me from letting go. I keep my notebook with my favorite pen tucked into my nightstand for easy retrieval upon awakening.

Step 2: Write three pages — about ANYTHING — when you wake up.

I love to write morning pages before I do anything else other than make a quick trip to the bathroom and put in my contact lenses. Then I hop back in bed and write. My pages tend to take me about 20 minutes. Some writers prefer to get up and make coffee or tea, and sit in a cozy spot to write their pages. If you’re tempted to stop short of three pages, I highly recommend pushing through. There’s so much insight that happens once you get deeper in (usually about the 2.5 page mark) — don’t miss it. Don’t worry about what you’re writing — just write whatever is swirling around in your brain, even if it’s boring, whiny, ridiculous, or pointless. It doesn’t matter.

Step 3: Repeat the next day… and don’t look back. 

Write the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Morning pages are one of those tools for life that are worth holding onto. Especially in the early days of writing morning pages, don’t re-read your pages. Julia Cameron even recommends stapling the pages together when you first start so you aren’t tempted to go back. Just put the words on the page, and move on. It’s a tool, not a record.

5 Reasons You’ll Want to Write Morning Pages

Some pretty amazing and miraculous things start happening once you’ve been writing morning pages for a while. Here are five reasons you’ll want to make them part of your regular writing routine:

1. Morning Pages Lead to Creative Recovery

Morning pages are a powerful tool for creative recovery. Many writers and artists experience creative burnout at some point and struggle to regain their creative footing and orientation. Writing morning pages helps us find our way back to our creative selves.

Morning pages also are a way to “rest” on the page — a way to keep the words flowing even if you’re feeling blocked with writing your book or what to write next, and can be a “bridge” to keep you writing between finishing a draft and tackling your next revision when you don’t want to lose your writing habit and momentum.

Writing pages this way also helps free us from perfectionism. Since we’re writing without editing or for publication or even for sentence structure, it gives us great practice at letting the words flow freely without judgement or internal censorship.

2. Morning Pages Prepare Your Mind for Creative Insight and Discovery

Writing morning pages will help you clear away any angst, fear, worry, and doubt — in any area of your life. Morning pages are not journal pages — you aren’t (necessarily) going to be recording your life experiences through your morning pages. Instead, use them to purge the voices of negativity that hold you back. Get them out onto the page and out of your head, so you can move to your writing with a lighter heart and fresher spirit. So go ahead and vent and complain. Get it all out and leave it behind you.

What’s so cool about this is that it helps you quiet your mind. And a quieter mind is one better prepared for creative insight and discovery. 

3. Morning Pages Foster Self-Trust and Honesty

Morning pages require honesty. Writing every day about what bothers you and what’s going on has a way of surfacing truths for your attention and recognition. You just can’t get away with complaining about the same thing over and over again without feeling called to make a change. You’ll notice what’s working and what’s not working in your life. And as you listen to yourself, you’ll build trust with yourself and your inner wisdom because you’ll be noticing over and over again where your inner voice is giving you information about what’s going on — and you’ll see the evidence of it.

4. Morning Pages Are an Antidote to Self-Forgetting 

Morning pages are a powerful antidote to self-forgetting. When you write morning pages, you’ll reconnect with yourself. In my experience, it can be challenging to “come back to yourself,” especially in a world where busyness and materialism abound (and especially as a sensitive, intuitive, introverted writer). All the noise around us can make us feel lost and disconnected from ourselves, and morning pages bring us back to who we are.

A writer who knows herself is better able to deliver her highest quality work.

5. Morning Pages Are a Pathway to Self-Acceptance

Once you’ve stepped into this place of consciousness, it’s hard to go back. Fundamentally, morning pages give you permission to be who you are. They are a pathway to a radical form of self-acceptance. By being true to yourself and fully expressing all of yourself without judgment, you honor the truth of who you are.

Personally, I have found morning pages invaluable, from plain-old venting to accessing powerful insights. I use my pages to whine, moan, and complain. I unload my greatest fears and my deepest desires. And I ask for guidance from my inner self. It’s an incredible way to clear your mind and listen to your heart.

Answers to Common Questions About Morning Pages

  • Do I have to write morning pages in the morning? Yes. :) Though you get to make your own rules for yourself, and of course no one can tell you there’s anything you HAVE to do with your writing. At the same time, this is such an incredible writing tool it’s worth experimenting with as prescribed.  
  • Do I have to write morning pages long-hand? Julia Cameron (and I) both recommend writing morning pages long-hand. There’s something incredibly transformative about writing your pages out by hand. And… there’s a pretty nifty site called 750words.com as an option for writing pages online. You could certainly use ByWord or Scrivener as well (two of my favorite writing tools).
  • What’s the different between morning pages and journaling? The main difference between morning pages and journaling is that morning pages are about ANYTHING. It’s about clearing out, writing stream of consciousness style, about whatever is circling your brain. Journaling can be the same, of course, but it tends to more “about” something, such as recording your day, or exploring a particular issue. And while that happens sometimes in morning pages, it’s just as often as not complaining about errands we have to run or other things we’re processing. 
  • If your writing time is limited, is it better to just focus on your book than on doing morning pages? Maybe yes, maybe no. I’ve made the choice for the last couple of years since baby #2 to focus on my primary writing projects rather than doing pages because time (and sleep!) has been at such a premium. And… I’ve dearly missed them. I’ve gone to doing a morning journal check-in lately instead, but I’m going back to morning pages too.
  • Can I share my pages with other people? I don’t recommend sharing your morning pages with anyone else, ever. Part of the magic and what’s makes them so powerful is that they are completely private and sacred. We can’t fully reveal ourselves on the page when we’re holding back for fear of what someone else might think. So keep them just for you, and protect yourself that way. This is great practice for learning to more fully reveal yourself when writing stories and books as well.
  • Can I write evening pages instead? If you want to, though really, they ARE quite different animals. You might find that you want to do both. My colleague Jill Winski just wrote a post about writing evening pages in addition to her morning pages. Similarly, The Ultimate Writer’s Toolkit includes a set of morning and evening journal prompts, but focused on writing only. The Circle also somewhat fulfills the end of day writing “check-in” role that evening pages can play, but again, only around that day’s writing. My take: write morning pages to write morning pages, and use your other tools to fulfill their unique purpose rather than making substitutions.

Do you write morning pages? Do you have other questions about writing morning pages? Tell me in the comments by Friday, March 10th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time … and one lucky commenter will receive a copy of the 25th Anniversary edition of The Artist’s Way, as my gift. (And if you already have the book, I’ll send it to someone you want to share it with! I’ll send the ebook version if our winner is overseas.)

I’ll happily answer questions you have about writing morning pages here on the blog, too.

 

* Affiliate link

 

Your top “7’s” writing posts from 2014 (your favorite one is no surprise!)

Apparently I think in sevens a lot, at least when it comes to writing about writing. 

As I was reviewing the most-read posts of 2014, apparently sevens were appealing to you, too. 

These “7’s” posts were among the most popular last year, counting down to your favorite (and there’s no surprise to me there about why that one was the favorite — it’s something we all deal with!)

So, in reverse order, our lucky sevens:

7 steps to recovering from creative burnout

reclinerWhen you get burned out, it’s hard to do anything, let alone be creative. In this article, I outline seven steps you can take to go from creative burnout to creative recovery, so you can bring back the joy you feel when you create. This is an important skill to master because sometimes — even when we’re doing our very best to keep the creative well filled and do our writing at a sustainable pace — resistance, deadlines, life, and fate conspire to the point where we’re scrambling to finish a project under a big time crunch, binge-write, and exhaust ourselves as a result (sometimes doing so for days, weeks, even months on end). And once we’ve hit that bottom of the creative barrel, writing anything sounds entirely miserable. Read this article to find out how to bring yourself back into creative balance.

7 ways to recommit to your writing

writing wordle 3Sometimes as writers we get into a good writing practice but still manage to become complacent about actually FINISHING projects and moving on to the next one, rather just making small amounts of progress or endlessly rewriting and editing. When that happens, it’s time to recommit, and raise the bar of our own expectations. In this article, I discuss seven ways to stop phoning it in and require more of yourself as a writer. Read this article to find out how to to recommit to your own writing

7 ways to overcome fear and uncertainty about writing 

Overcome fear and uncertaintyIn this terrific guest post, Writer’s Circle coach and produced screenwriter Sarah Newman talks about how to stay in action and keep moving forward with our writing even when fear and uncertainty rear their ugly heads. She shares a list of seven great ways to get unstuck and keep writing that I’m sure you will find both handy and inspiring. Read her article and discover how to get into action with your writing.

My 7 part series, “Make 2015 your year to write”

reflectionOur most recent “7’s” post was my seven-part series, called “Make 2015 Your Year to Write”. If you missed it, it’s not too late to work with the writing prompts in the series that will help you design and create goals and resolutions for your writing year (2015 or otherwise!) so that they are well-aligned with what you want in the big picture. That way you can make sure you’re working grounded in the reality of where you are right now as a writer and where you want to end up. 

7 tips for staying motivated by self-created deadlines

ticking clocksThis article ties in neatly with the article on recommitting, because self-created deadlines can be a powerfully motivating when it comes to hunkering down and doing the work. In this piece I talk about seven strategies you can use to make your inner deadlines actually mean something. Hint: It often involves turning those “inner” deadlines into outer ones. Read more about mastering your self-created deadlines here. (And see if you can guess which one is my favorite!) 

And your favorite “7” post: 7 ways to beat procrastination 

If the goal is too big, make it smallerThis article was your favorite “7” post, and it’s one of mine too. And it’s no surprise. Procrastination is one of the biggest things we struggle with as writers. In the piece I talk about the most common reasons for procrastination and seven ways to beat it, including some things you may not have thought of, like setting super small micro goals, telling others about what you’re doing to create accountability for yourself, and knowing when to STOP writing. Check it out here and bust your own procrastination habit while you’re at it

Enjoy, writers!

I hope your 2015 is off to a great start.

Happy writing.

sigwhite 

 

If the goal is too big, make it smaller

7 ways to beat procrastination

Ugh. Procrastination.

We’re all familiar with that simultaneous desire to write and the repulsion from writing that leads us into the nether realm of procrastination. We’re doing something else — ANYTHING else — and it can range from feeling like we’re doing something vitally important to just plain old digging our heels in and resisting.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we need to “warm up” first before we can write, with a little email, Facebook, or even a treat of some kind.

Or we decide we simply cannot tolerate the state of our physical space for a single minute longer — how many offices, bathrooms, and kitchens have seen the plus side of procrastination on a day when writing feels oh-so-hard to do?

Other things come up too, right? All those urgent deadlines, other people’s problems, our kids’ needs, that bit of online research you just can’t wait to do (you know, that one that snowballs into two hours of online nothingness — and yes, I speak from experience), or even bigger things, like that college degree you suddenly have to have.

Understanding procrastination

There are a few of key things to understand about procrastination:

1. It’s (usually) driven by fear. There’s some kind of fear coming up that’s stopping you from writing. You may not be clear on what it is, but trust me, it’s there. Fears of success, failure, commitment, overwhelm, rejection, praise, inability to deliver, etc. are most likely to come up. (When it’s not fear-driven, there’s usually something significant going on, like healing from a traumatic creative wound or recovering from creative burnout, but I would call that a block, a subject for a future post.)

2. Not taking action on your writing will keep you in a low grade state of anxiety, guilt, and shame. I say “low” but it can skyrocket into a full-on painful squirming-in-shame. So even if you’re pretending you are just watching your favorite TV show for a little treat before you get started and that it will help you relax into writing — check in with yourself — are you really, truly, in your heart-of-heart’s feeling relaxed? Or are you twitching with unrest and discomfort inside?

3. It’s a lot easier to fix than you think it is. There are some days when it simply isn’t possible to sit down and power through tons of writing. That’s okay. There are days when you can’t face your draft. That’s okay. But you CAN write, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

And ultimately, making small moves will help you beat procrastination in the big picture.

Beating procrastination

Here are seven ways you can beat procrastination and get back in the writing saddle:

1. Have a short but honest talk with yourself about what’s really going on. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. But it’s worth acknowledging in the privacy of your own mind, “Yes, I’m procrastinating, and it feels crummy. I’m going to do something about it.”

2. Tell someone what you’re doing. Find an accountability partner, a writing buddy, or a writing group (like my online Writer’s Circle) that will help you commit to doing the writing and seeing it through. It helps tremendously to say to another person (even if it’s your spouse or best friend!), “I’m going to write today no matter what.”

3. Make a deal with yourself to write ANYTHING for 15 minutes. I don’t care if you write morning pages, a list of all the reasons you hate writing, or actually work on your current writing project. Just get out a piece of paper or open your Scrivener file or Word document (I’m a Pages girl myself), and put words on the page, even if they are crap. (Using a timer for your 15 minutes is a special bonus tip – it’s like pressing the “GO” button. Try it!)

4. If 15 minutes feels like too much, make it smaller. The goal should be small enough that you find yourself saying, “Well, heck, I can at least do THAT much.” So if 15 minutes sounds daunting, do five. Or write ONE sentence (I’m not kidding). The key here is to get yourself into action WRITING. Period.

5. If you’ve racked up a lot of frequent procrastinator miles, STOP when you meet your goal. There are a LOT of writers I talk to who commit to write for 15 minutes, do it, and then find it so easy they keep on going. That’s great, if you’re just jump-starting yourself after a day or two away. But if you’ve been in the writing desert and the words have been few and far between, when you meet your writing goal for the day, stop and celebrate. Don’t break trust with yourself and keep on writing — you’ll only set yourself up for a bigger challenge tomorrow when you feel like you have to “do better” and suddenly have too daunting a goal to face. 

6. Reward yourself for writing. One of my favorite writers, writer-director Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy, The Avengers), rewards himself just for having an idea. Don’t be stingy here. Writing each day is the equivalent of beating back the forces of darkness. You deserve to whoop it up a little once you pull it off. Give yourself a piece of chocolate, a stretch in the sunshine, or even those things you’d normally be procrastinating with. Remember the email, Facebook, and favorite TV shows? Make those your cool downs instead of your warm ups and you’ll be good to go.

7. Do it again tomorrow! You’ve beaten procrastination today, great work!! Now, when you wake up tomorrow, use these tools to make a shorter path to writing. It’ll feel great. Then once you get on a roll, start building up to more over time.

Thanks for reading!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

There’s no right time to write

Join the Writer's CircleWe often trick ourselves into thinking there’s a “right” time to write. We plan special writing days. We dream of far-off futures where we’ll have plenty of time to write. But there really isn’t a “right” time — there’s only now. Join the next Writer’s Circle session (new sessions start every 28 days) and get help to beat procrastination and write every day.

Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com

Writing even when overwhelmed

As writers and creatives with a certain sensitivity to life, we can get easily overwhelmed, which can be paralyzing, deeply uncomfortable, and hard to break free from.

Let’s talk about why that happens and what we can do about it.

There are a few different ways overwhelm happens, and they inform us about how to handle the overwhelm, so it’s useful to look at what’s gotten us overwhelmed in the first place.

1. We get overwhelmed by the size of a project.

When we’re taking on a big project (like writing a novel, for instance), if we look at the entirety of the thing, it can be overwhelming just to contemplate, let alone begin it. I’m reminded of the joke about how to eat an elephant. If we look at the whole thing, it feels impossible. But when we think about taking “one bite at a time”, we can begin to see how to start going about it.

Solutions

  • Break it down into component parts. For example, with a writing project, we can start with brainstorming, or an outline. Then we can tackle one scene at a time.
  • Make a list of everything you’ll want to do — then put it away. Focus on one thing at a time and stop thinking about the big picture, or you’ll make yourself crazy.
  • Look at working in small increments of time, as small as 5 to 15 minutes a day. It’s quite surprising what we can accomplish in these little chunks. I wrote my screenplay Rift in 15 to 30 minute increments, and it was thrilling to see the page count creeping up, day after day.

2. We get plain old overstimulated.

If you fall on the highly sensitive side of the spectrum, you’re more sensitive to stimulation of any kind, and have a lower threshold for stimulation than the rest of the population. This means that you’re more likely to get overwhelmed earlier than your peers, which can feel a little crazy making when everyone else seems to be able to handle it just fine, thank you very much. But overwhelm from overstimulation is just as paralyzing as the other types.

Solutions

  • Remove yourself from the source of the stimulation.
  • Give yourself time to recover.
  • Have a repertoire of soothing practices to get grounded, balanced, and present again.
  • Notice that writing will often help you feel more grounded, balanced, and present again.
  • Plan ahead to keep stimulation at a manageable level in the future and build in recovery time.

3. We get overwhelmed by life.

Then there’s the “garden variety” overwhelm we experience in our busy world. There’s always more to do, more to take on, more to handle. Someone always needs something, there’s a project that’s due, our kids are sick, you name it.

And it can be easy to let something like a writing habit or a passion project fall to the wayside in the midst of all that. But the cost is far higher than you might expect. It turns out that feeding the passion we feel and fulfilling the commitment to our deeper selves is critical fuel we need to actually handle the overwhelm. Even at a time when “one more thing” feels like way too much, putting ourselves first — just like we put our oxygen masks on first — is key to staying grounded and sane when the going gets tough.

Solutions

As far as solutions go, it depends.

First ask yourself, is this an ongoing pattern in my life? If so, the answer is to look closely at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, to see if there is anything you can let go of, delegate, or defer. Be willing to keep your passion project at the top of the list, and let go of other obligations. Your first obligation is to yourself. Choose wisely.

On the other hand, if you’re experiencing an unusual period of intense work, simply “contract” your expectations on your project to an attainable level. For example, write for 15 minutes instead of an hour, or pick out the tiniest piece of your project to focus on.

  • Be willing to look at what you might need to let go of.
  • Contract your project expectations to a reasonable, attainable level.
  • Remember the value and importance of feeding your soul’s passion.
  • Build up to more over time.

4. We get overwhelmed by major life stresses and events.

Beyond the “ordinary” level of overwhelm we feel in our day to day lives comes the extraordinary kind of stress and overwhelm we can feel when a major life event dominates our experience, like a parent being hospitalized, a major relationship upheaval, the death of a loved one, or personal surgeries or health issues.

During times like these, pretty much everything drops off the radar that isn’t “critical path” to handling the major life event. In my opinion, that’s okay, especially during the true crisis times. But once things start to settle down into a “new normal”, see if you can find your way to doing the contracted version of your project I mentioned under number 2, above.

Solutions

  • Give yourself time and space to deal with the major event.
  • Return to the project as soon as you reasonably can, at a minimal level of engagement.
  • Build up to more over time.

5. We get overwhelmed because we’re burnt out.

When we are creatively (and energetically) burned out, we can get overwhelmed by the simplest things. Keeping the house clean, dealing with paperwork, and handling the basics of daily living can make us want to crawl back into bed and hide.

Usually this happens for a couple of reasons, including dealing with the ongoing high level of expectations we have in our culture about what we should be able to do in any given day (see #2, above), and dealing with major life events (see #3, above), but it can also include the creative backlash that comes from pushing ourselves to the point of burnout.

In other words, if we’re working crazy hours to meet a deadline, we become exhausted when it’s done, and no surprise there either. But few of us allow ourselves to take time off when that happens.

Solutions

  • Plan to take at least one solid day off after a big push, maybe a few more.
  • If you’re creatively burnt out, give some thought to how you’ll refill your creative well with interesting and inspiring ideas as you recover. My favorites: museums, art stores, toy stores, TED talks.
  • If you’re energetically burnt out (which usually goes hand-in-hand with creative burnout), seriously ramp up your self care for a while. You’ve just taxed yourself and you need time to bounce back.
  • Keep the writing going by doing morning pages during this time, or if you already have a next project to work on, put in the minimum amount of time on it and then take the rest of the day to renew. But do it first, so you can fully enjoy the time without the low level of stress and anxiety that procrastination creates.
  • Transition yourself to a regular writing habit so you won’t have to work so intensely in a big burst all at the end (if you need help with this the Writer’s Circle may be just the ticket for you.)

Your turn

What works for you? How do you deal with overwhelm? We’d love to hear from you in the comments on the blog.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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Do you have accomplishment amnesia?

Accomplishment amnesia is a common ailment that strikes many of us, particularly those of us that are highly conscientious, responsible, talented, and highly sensitive. It seems to run in parallel with these traits.

What is accomplishment amnesia?

Accomplishment amnesia occurs when we get so busy meeting our obligations and moving on to the “next thing” that we quickly forget what we’ve done in the past (however distant or recent) that has value.

I find this malady particularly comes up when we get into a place of self-doubt — we can’t remember a single thing we’ve done or accomplished. We feel useless, talentless, valueless.

We might even feel creatively blocked or numb because we are devaluing the work we’ve done but are not appreciating.

A darn good job

I’ve been going through a rough patch lately, and I noticed recently that as I’ve been starting to feel better, I’ve been berating myself for not having done more lately. “Why am I so behind? How have I let things get like this?”

I stopped myself and noticed what was really going on: I had accomplishment amnesia.

I quickly reminded myself of all the personal challenges I’ve faced over the last couple of months, including having surgery on my wrist, and shifted the conversation to noticing what I have done: filed my taxes, settled a car accident claim, dealt with an intensely difficult emotional time, never missed writing a blog post, coached my clients, continued running my Writer’s Circle, and carried on writing my screenplay no matter what. Wow! I’ve accomplished a lot under very difficult circumstances.

Sure, there’s more, there always is. But look at what I’ve done!

Does this happen for you too?

Most of my clients have this kind of accomplishment amnesia. They’re so focused on what they haven’t done, that they forget to celebrate what they have.

Here’s how you can start to shift out of this delusion that you haven’t done anything worthwhile:

1. Catch accomplishment amnesia early.

When you notice yourself falling into the pattern (like I did), stop and take stock. Is it really true that you haven’t been doing enough? Take a few minutes to review what you actually have done. You’ll be surprised.

2. Don’t buy into the standard definitions of success and accomplishment.

Don’t limit yourself to society’s success definitions. Instead, think about what you’re proud of. Create your own definition of what it means to be successful.

Just yesterday, my writers and I were discussing what it means to claim the title of “writer.” Many of us are discovering it has much less to do with being a published or sold writer (though many of us are striving for those), and everything to do with showing up and doing the writing regularly — having a writing practice.

3. Set small milestones.

Increase your sense of accomplishment by setting and celebrating small milestones as you attain them. Instead of only celebrating when you complete the book, whoop it up for every chapter. Then when you do hit the finish line, make sure you celebrate that point too.

I’m rewriting my screenplay using Chris Soth’s “Mini Movie Method,” which lends itself nicely to this sort of milestone assessment. Every 15 pages I complete another mini-movie, so it’s easy to create a sense of accomplishment as I go.

Look for similar small milestones in your own work.

4. Celebrate your accomplishments in the moment.

I watched a fun video of Tamara Ireland Stone, author of the young adult book, Time Between Us,* which I just finished reading and very much enjoyed. She had just received her box of copies of her book and made a point to celebrate with her husband and friend and glass of wine. I hope she’ll do the same for every future book as well.

When you do have an accomplishment, STOP what you’re doing and celebrate. Build the muscles of appreciation for yourself and your work.

5. Create a “brag book.”

I’ve forgotten where I first heard this term, but the idea is to create a scrap book of your accomplishments so that you can go back and remind yourself, “Yes, I’ve done some amazing, wonderful things.” And you have. Include anything and everything you can think of that you’ve accomplished. On my list: birthing my son, finishing my first screenplay, completing graduate school and earning two master’s degrees, nurturing an incredible friendship with my best friend, becoming a certified life coach, etc.

Bottom line

It’s all too easy to think of ourselves as never reaching the finish line when there’s always so much more to do. Rather than thinking you’ll never get there, remember to enjoy what you’re doing along the way. It’s the journey, after all, that counts.

Your turn

Click here to tell me what you think. I always love to read your feedback.

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

 

 

 

 

7 Steps to Recovering From Creative Burnout

Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing about creative depletion and the cycle of creative burnout, and creating a cycle of creative renewal.

Today it’s time to talk about recovering from creative burnout.

As I said to one of my Circle members the other day, it’s a matter of rebuilding trust with yourself and coaxing yourself back to the table.

So how do we do that?

7 recovery steps

1. First, acknowledge the exhaustion and aversion to the work that’s developed.

It’s real. It’s normal, and it’s totally understandable. 

Burnout happens from pushing ourselves too hard for too long and expecting that creative well to remain topped off. Doesn’t happen.

2. Next, make a plan for recovery that includes down time.

…even if it’s in the smallest of moments every day. Give yourself permission to close your eyes in a comfortable chair for a few moments allows your mind to let go, and relax. You’re exhausted, you need to rest.

Ideally, you’ll also want to schedule some full days off — and vacations, if possible — where you do nothing that’s not just for you. Over the last month, I’ve taken two full days, mid-week, just to put my feet up and watch movies, eat great food, get some body work done, and saunter through the day at my own pace.

In other words, go for full out indulgence from time-to-time. You’ll work harder, better, and faster, when you’re rested. Not before.

3. When you feel ready, remind yourself why you love your craft.

Just today I was watching some clips from my favorite show ever, Firefly, and felt an upwelling of inspiration and passion come surging back through me.

You do love this work, you’ve just temporarily forgotten why.

Figure out what your jump-starts are, and go back to them when you need one.

4. Don’t expect new ideas to come flowing back to you immediately.

Give yourself time and space to recovery, trusting that your creativity will return. Remember: you’re not blocked, you’re exhausted.

When my writers don’t know what to write and don’t have ideas flowing, I encourage them to start with a practice of morning pages (Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way* is the seminal book on the subject).

5. Find ways to regain your inspiration.

Go on “Artist’s Dates” (again, see The Artist’s Way*), take yourself out for walks, movies, book signings, and speaking events. Consider attending events that have nothing to do with your craft. It’s amazing how other topics, knowledge, and ideas can reignite your own originality.

6. When you feel ready, make a baby steps plan to get back on track with your work.

In my Writer’s Circle, we recommend working in the smallest possible increment of time that you know without question, that you will actually do. It’s okay if it seems ridiculously easy (that’s the point, in fact). You’ll slowly build back up to more over time.

7. Give thought to how to prevent burnout next time.

In other words, plan ahead. Learn how to pace yourself properly and deal with the natural resistance and procrastination that comes up around creative work so that you don’t put yourself right back where you’ve started.

If you do get into a situation where you’ll be pushing to meet a deadline, think about how you can counter-balance the effort on the other side.

The bottom line

Creative recovery requires patience, permission, and a great deal of self-care. You, and your work, deserve it. Please give it to yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Click here to tell me what you think. I always love to receive your feedback.

And Happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating here in the U.S. and abroad. I’m grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for being part of my life.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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Creating a cycle of creative renewal

In my last post, I wrote about the cycle of creative burnout and how our creative inspiration becomes depleted when we push ourselves too hard and for too long.

I’m well acquainted with burnout; it’s a cultural norm in the field of urban design, my last “real” J.O.B. The writing profession has its own set of deadline-driven, high-stress work.

In the creative realms, including writing, artists are often seen as people who work in fits and starts, pulling all-nighters when they suddenly become inspired (or finally stop procrastinating).

I’ve allowed myself to enjoy the feeling of heroism that comes when I swoop in and save the day, meeting the deadline with just seconds to spare, but I’ve paid high prices for every single one of those dramatic experiences: apathy, resistance, confusion, grief, exhaustion, and lifelessness.

And truthfully, I STILL feel like I’m recovering from the bad choices I made working 60 and 70 hours a week more than 10 years ago.

Balance is a myth? I don’t think so.

It’s been said that balance is a myth and that passion should reign supreme.

I disagree.

Imbalance is an amateur’s gig.

Balance — an ongoing cycle of work and renewal without resorting to extremes — is part of not hitting bottom in the first place.

Balance is about staying sane.

It doesn’t mean that we don’t work hard and play hard at different times.

But it does mean keeping an eye on the greater whole and not bingeing on any one thing at any given time.

So what DOES a cycle of creative renewal look like?

The cycle of creative renewal

It looks like this:

 

 

Tell me what you think

I love to read your comments on the blog.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

~> November 15th. Join my free Writer’s Chat on Vokle.com TOMORROW. Sign up here: https://calledtowrite.com/writers-chat

~> November 21st. Register by WEDNESDAY November 21st (a day early because of the U.S. Thanksgiving) for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle (starts November 26th). Build a solid habit of daily writing and finish all your writing projects: http://JustDoTheWriting.com

 

What I'm Up To

~> Daily (back at it now that I’m more or less recovered from my wrist surgery). Working on rewriting my script, Progeny, with my mentor Chris Soth after finishing the ProSeries.* Working on “mini-movie 4!”

~> Reading: How to Train Your Dragon with my son. Back to watching Big Love.

 

* Affiliate link

 

 

 

 

When you have nothing left

On my Writer’s Circle we’ve been talking a lot about creative burnout lately.

In our Western culture we work hard, driven by puritanical work ethics, cultural programming, keeping up with the Joneses, guilt, etc. It’s no wonder we’re exhausted.

We push and push ourselves, expecting our wells of creativity, resourcefulness, and inspiration never to run dry.

And then one day, we turn to the well and find it empty. No ideas. Maybe even a sense of dread and apathy.

The only way out is through

In a recent blog post, Mark Sanderson talks about his experience with this kind of creative depletion and how he recovered from it. Interestingly, his solution had to do with carrying on and doing the work no matter what.

He said:

“Some call it ‘writer’s block.’ I call it sheer terror. When this happens you need to relax and continue to work at your process. I know this too well from experience, but it still proves true every time – the only way to solve specific problems is to sit down and focus on the work.”

It seems the only way out is through.

It takes courage

Writing — for that matter doing anything that calls us to step out of our comfort zone — requires a great deal of courage. A willingness to be uncomfortable often. To sit in it, do the work, and get to the other side.

No wonder we tend to procrastinate rather than facing that terror and doing it anyway.

Procrastination and burnout are close cousins

I’ve observed that procrastination plays a key role in creative burnout — part of a vicious, intertwined cycle:

 

The reason we work past the point of endurance and exhaust ourselves is that we have procrastinated for so long that we are forced to push ourselves. And the reason we procrastinate that we are afraid.

I love what Steven Pressfield says about fear in his book Turning Pro:

“The professional, by the way, is just as terrified as the amateur. In fact the professional may be more terrified because she is more acutely conscious of herself and her interior universe. The difference lies in the way the professional acts in the face of fear.”

Coming up in future posts: Recovering from creative burnout and creating a cycle of creative renewal.

Tell me what you think

I love to read your comments on the blog.

Warmly,

Jenna