Motivation · Writer Self-Care

4 Ways To Get Unstuck Creatively

This year, I’ve felt stuck and unmotivated to write or work on my writing projects more times than I would like to admit. There are a variety of reasons for this, sometimes I feel like no matter how much work I put in I’m not moving forward quickly enough, other times I don’t have the creative “flow” I wish I had. I’ve found some strategies to help me keep moving when I feel stuck though and I wanted to share them with you in case your struggling with the same sorts of feelings.

Make a list of what you’ve accomplished over the last year or so. Celebrate your accomplishments, even if they’re small.

I say the last year or so because sometimes it’s easier to look back at a longer portion of time, but you can go shorter if you need to. You can even review your goals for the year and take some time to pat yourself on the back for the things you’ve achieved. If you’re anything like me, sometimes you forget to stop and smell the roses and recognize the things you’ve accomplished.

Give yourself credit. Seriously, even if you’ve only hit 1/10 of your goals, hitting that one goal still puts you closer to your dreams than you were if you had not tried at all. You can also look at things other than your goals. This past April, I went to Wasatch Comic-Con, a smaller convention that focuses on creators. I went to workshops and hung out with creators in the industry I aspire to be a part of, I got great advice and I was brave to go to those workshops and do things outside the comfort zone. That experience has moved many of my comic projects forward and has helped me grow as a writer and creator. I may not be moving as fast as I wish I was in terms of getting things finished/published, but I can look back on that experience and acknowledge it helped me move forward.

Talk with other creators or creative friends.

This can be hard for those of us who spend a lot of time on our own during our creative process, but I’ve found that reaching out, especially when you feel stuck, can help immensely. Sometimes your friends can help you see your story or plot from a different perspective or by merely talking about what you’re trying to create, you can work towards clarifying your vision.

Ideally, it’s great to do this over the phone or face to face, because as humans, we’re social creatures and that social contact can help lift our spirits. For me, I live in a tiny, rural town so that’s not an experience I always have easy access to regularly. Sometimes I will contact a friend via email, Discord or other means and ask if I can chit-chat and bounce ideas off them for a bit. It always amazes me how sharing my ideas helps me improve them and make them more clear.

Read the stuff you enjoy.

I set a new goal for myself in the last couple of months where I try to read at least two books and two graphic novels a month, as well as trying to read for at least 30 minutes a day for pleasure. I have a terrible habit of feeling like reading is the time I could spend being productive, but by making reading for pleasure apart of my goals, it feels more like productive time. If you want to be a writer or author or creator, it’s good to consume books and graphic novels you enjoy so that you can see what other writers are doing and admire their accomplishments (and perhaps, learn from them).

Take a break. Or take some time to free write.

It can be tempting to sit at a desk and punish yourself for not being productive enough. If you find yourself doing this, step away from your work and try doing something else you enjoy for a while.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling stuck, but you still want to write something, try freewriting for a bit. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be great, you’re just putting words down on the page and acknowledging that you may have to edit or delete a good portion of them. Something I’ve discovered over the years is that self-punishment isn’t productive and it doesn’t help me motivate myself to do more, so sometimes I sit down and write for a bit, even if it’s not connected to my current projects. I’ve found that once you start writing, it’s easier to switch gears to one of your more cohesive projects and get going on it again.

Motivation · Productivity

Conquering The Fear Of Failure

At my core, I am a perfectionist, so failing scares the crap out of me.  I used to fall apart when I thought I had failed at things.

This month I saw Captain Marvel.   I was brimming with both excitement and fear, because it’s no secret to people that know me that I love the character and I also adore Kelly Sue DeConnick, the writer who helped to breathe new life into Carol Danvers a few years ago.  I’ll avoid spoilers, but in the trailer and in the comic, there are discussions and visuals about falling down and getting back up. Failure is falling down, but you can make the choice to get back up.  

Failure is a tool that teaches us more about ourselves, about what we need to learn and how we need to grow.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from the Captain Marvel comics that outlines the concept very well:

“Have you ever seen a little girl run so fast she falls down? There’s an instant, a fraction of a second before the world catches hold of her again… A moment when she’s outrun every doubt and fear she’s ever had about herself and she flies. In that one moment, every little girl flies. I need to find that again. Like taking a car out into the desert to see how fast it can go, I need to find the edge of me… And maybe, if I fly far enough, I’ll be able to turn around and look at the world… And see where I belong.”

– Captain Marvel Vol 8 Issue 1 – Kelly Sue DeConnick

If we don’t fail, we don’t grow.  Though we can definitely learn from a variety of sources, I think it tends to be the times we make mistakes or fail that we learn the most solid lessons.  

We also learn from feedback on our mistakes or failures. I am a big fan of constructive criticism because it can help you gain skills and knowledge you did not have before.  It’s like sharpening a knife. If you put a knife against a soft surface it’s not going to get any sharper. It has to be put against a rough surface over and over for the blade to get sharp again.  

So how do you conquer the fear of failure?

I am by no means perfect at this, but these are the things that have helped me:

  • Fake it till you make it.  If you want to be a writer, write and tell people you are a writer.
  • Remind yourself that failure is a part of the learning process.  
  • Give yourself time to feel the fear, then move on and push through.

And lastly, don’t forget to enjoy those moments of freefall, when you’re soaring for just a second.  The world will get hold of you again, but you’ll never know what you can accomplish until you push your limits.

Motivation · Productivity

Picking Your Team: Connecting with People Who Motivate You

Surround yourself with people who motivate you.”  I’ve heard this sort of thing at a lot of the panels and workshops I have attended.  It is often easier said than done.

I live in a tiny town in South-Western Wyoming.  When we first moved here, I joined a writers group and hoped that I would find that sense of kinship with them.  Though they were fantastic people, most of them wrote poetry not fiction.  I continued to attend the group for awhile but eventually, I stopped going because I was on a very different path.  I did end up finding someone to help me though, and truly, having an accountability partner makes all the difference for me.

Find Someone Who Helps You Stay Accountable

The awesome thing about the age of the internet, is that you don’t have to live close to someone to find a person with common interests.  I met one of my best friends in an online writing community.  She had just started her PhD program and I had just gotten serious about pursuing this writing thing and getting more stuff published.  It was a good match, because we decided to pull each other along.  Even though our goals eventually caused us to go in different directions, for two solid years we emailed and chatted on the phone about what we were working on and the progress we had made.

I think that’s truly what you need to find, a person or group of people who help you stay accountable to your goals. This should be people who make you feel good about your craft and aren’t afraid to be honest with you.  It can take time to build these relationships, but they are great for motivation and These relationships do take time.  Right now, a writer friend and I share a google document that has weekly, monthly and yearly goals.  Each Friday, he and I check in with each other and report back on the progress we’ve made.

He and I cheerlead, scold and motivate each other, because we both know that if Friday rolls around and we haven’t done anything, we’re going to have to admit it.  This accountability will make it so I get 1-2 things done off my list, which is 1-2 things more than I would have done if I didn’t have to report back to someone.  There are lots of great ways to check in, you can use email, a google doc, a weekly call or coffee date.

Some People Probably Won’t Help You Stay Accountable

As a writer, I often interact with people who say things like “Oh, I want to write, I have a whole novel planned in my head but I have never started it.”  These people are nice, but they aren’t the kind of people you want to connect with.  They are what I would call “dreamers” and though there’s nothing wrong with being a “dreamer” but you likely want to take things further.

You want to be both a “dreamer” and a “do-er.”  If you get an accountability partner and weeks go by without them making any forward progress, it may be time to gently let them go.  If they shift from being a dreamer to a do-er in the future, you can absolutely pick them back up again.

The main thing you want from an accountability partner, is someone one who pushes you to do more and be better.  Once you’ve found that, you’ll find it helps a ton in progressing toward the goals you have set!  Now, go out and find an awesome person who motivates you!