I realize it’s mere days before Christmas and thus I should be blogging about something festive and holiday-related, or at least holiday-adjacent. But the pandemic often causes me to lose track of what day or month or decade it is, so you won’t be getting any candy canes or clever Santa references here today.
What you will be getting are some (hopefully) helpful and entertaining tips on how to continuously create even when you aren’t feeling continuously creative. Say, during an unprecedented global health crisis.
A question I’m commonly asked is, “How do you stay inspired to write?” or something similar—e.g., “What do you do to stay motivated?” or “Wouldn’t you sometimes just rather die than have to come up with the right words?” I understand why folks ask such questions, and only occasionally do these queries send me spiraling into an existential crisis.
When You’re Not Inspired
There’s no denying that continuing to create when you’re not feeling it can be challenging. That said, I’ve never been one to easily succumb to writer’s block. Those who know me well or who have ever gotten stuck talking to me at a party or on a plane know that I’m rarely at a loss for words. Now, whether those words are worth reading (or listening to) is another matter entirely. But that’s not what we’re discussing here. We’re talking about simply creating—not necessarily creating a masterpiece or even something that someone besides my own mother would enjoy.
Now, this is not to suggest that, as a writer, it’s okay to continuously bombard readers with unreadable drivel. If it were, I would dedicate 100 percent of my time to blogging. What’s important is realizing and accepting that not every word or paragraph or page you create will be brilliant. When you realize and accept that, it takes the pressure off and frees you up to let things flow. And it’s then that good things can happen. Readable things. Maybe even a masterpiece or something that someone besides your own mother would enjoy.
Of course, merely telling yourself to lighten up and relax to avoid writer’s block or creative stagnation is easier said than done. Following are a few unique things I do (or have done) to continue to create even when every atom inside me beckons me to call it quits and become a full-time alcoholic. If you are a writer (or some other creative type), feel free to borrow or steal any of these (or modify them to suit your activity/purpose):
Hang a sign on the wall of your writing area that reads, “Every day you don’t write, a puppy contracts Covid.” This one is enough to get anybody writing… unless they themselves are a sick puppy—which, conveniently, lends itself to great writing.
Put the exquisite pain of your writer’s block in writing. Charles Bukowski said, “It’s better to write about writer’s block than to not write at all.” And then he died alone, but famous and very widely read.
Reward yourself with a special treat for each completed paragraph, page, chapter, etc. For example, whenever you write a compelling paragraph, treat yourself to a bit of chocolate. Whenever you dash off a whole page, treat yourself to a small glass of wine. Whenever you complete a full chapter, treat yourself to some more chocolate AND a larger glass of wine. And whenever you finish your book, get treated for diabetes and cirrhosis.
Rig your writing chair or keyboard with an electroshock mechanism. Program it to zap you every 20 minutes you sit at your computer without writing a full and coherent sentence. (Please note that for this one you may have to bring in an inventive electrician, or a sadistic IT guy.)
Keep a list of really bad best sellers near your writing desk at all times. Being constantly reminded that such crap can sell millions of copies will piss you off enough to make you want to bring something of true literary quality into the world. Just be sure what you create is not of TOO high quality, otherwise it will have little chance of commercial success.
What kinds of kooky things do YOU do to inspire yourself to keep writing or creating whatever it is you write or create? Feel free to share them in the “Comments” section below.