Last month, I read Benjamin Hoff’s book, The Tao of Pooh, and realized many of the concepts and ideas presented could apply to us as writers and creative individuals. So, after I was done, I went back through the book and pulled some insightful quotes to explore with you from the perspective of being a writer or other artist.
Let’s get started!
Early on in the book, Hoff explains, “[T]hrough working in harmony with life’s circumstances, Taoist understanding changes what others may perceive as negative into something positive” (6). In a world where we are constantly bombarded by negativity, hate, and pessimism, it can be a chore to push all that aside, clear our heads, and dwell in a positive and healthy space that enables us to create.
But what if we used those horrible things to our advantage? What if, instead of being a distraction, they were the reason we needed to escape and create? What if we pushed them away and allowed ourselves several hours to write, draw, dance, sculpt, and do what we want to do for the joy of doing it? What if we allowed ourselves to create something good in the world?
The world and its events are ever-present, but you have the power in your personal space to do something for the good of yourself and the enjoyment of others. When we doomscroll the headlines on our phones or listen to the news, it negatively impacts us whether we realize it or not.
Allow yourself to break free from the world’s negativity and do something positive through your creativity.
Is it Writer’s Block or Something Better?
In keeping with the theme of the quoted passage above, we can also look at writer’s block from a different perspective. We usually consider it an evil force that prevents us from writing, but what if we considered it a challenge to overcome instead?
Writer’s block always has a root cause, and part of breaking through the block is discovering what that is. So, instead of focusing on the negative, explore the positive aspects of writer’s block. Yes, that’s right, the positiveaspects.
What is your writer’s block trying to tell you? The easiest way to find out is to write about it. Writing about the possible causes of your writer’s block can help you find perspective and hopefully assist in getting you through the block and back to your writing.
Is the block caused by fear? Caused by a story problem? Caused by outside forces? How can you spin those into positive and productive actions that will get you back to writing?
The key here isn’t to fight against writer’s block. As the quote says, we want to be “working in harmony with life’s circumstances,” which means finding ways to positively address and overcome the block so you can move forward with your creative process.
Take the time to explore the possibilities and find a positive solution to the problem. You’ll be back into your story in no time!
It can be tough to find the good and positive in the world today, but as creative people, we must take a step back and allow ourselves the ability and opportunity to do what we enjoy. Turn the negative news into the motivation you need to escape into a positive and productive work environment. Permit yourself to take a break from the real world and indulge in the creative process you need for your sanity and mental health.
By giving in to writer’s block and exploring its causes, you can begin to break through and get back to writing sooner. Allow yourself to positively push back at this force of negativity, and see how quickly you can climb over this obstacle to creativity.
Happy Writing and Creating, and I’ll see you next time!
Last time, we kicked off the final month of 2021 by exploring ways to set new writing goals in 2022. Below are a few more ideas to get your head in the game this coming year.
Always Be Thinking
We are surrounded by people, places, and events that have the possibility of inspiring and evolving into stories. As you go about your day, observe and later write down what you experienced that was noteworthy. Did something happen to you at work or school that could be the basis of a storyline? Did your kid say something funny that would work great in a script?
By being aware of the real world around us, we can create stronger and more grounded stories.
Work To Write Every Day
To write more, write better, and write longer, you need to make it a habitual ritual in your daily routine. Whether it’s for 30 minutes, an hour, or two hours, work to fit time into your daily schedule to write. Even if you write about your day, an experience you had, or on your big writing project, you are still working to develop your skills as a writer.
Numerous websites offer hundreds of writing prompts that can help you focus on what to write if you need assistance. The key is to commit to writing every day and stick to it. With each daily writing session, you’ll be amazed at how your writing skills grow.
Here’s a link to an article featuring 100 creative writing prompts from Writer’s Digest.
Have Side Projects Just In Case
I always like to have another writing project or two on the side if I hit a brick wall with my current project. The solution should never be closing the laptop and skimming through YouTube videos on your phone. A more productive way to deal with this issue is to have another project you can focus on.
I prefer that the second project is in a different genre and even another medium. For example, if I’m writing a novel that’s action-adventure, I’ll have a play that’s a comedy to work on as well. This gives your brain a rest and can actually help you subconsciously resolve issues you’re having with the primary project as you work on the secondary one.
You’re going to have tough writing days. You’re going to get writers’ block of some kind. You’re going to have personal things pop up that distract you. But when you’re at the desk, the table, or wherever you write, you have to have a positive mindset. You will get the writing done. You will get something on the page. Even if it’s not quality work, it; ’s still work you completed and can fix later.
Don’t get discouraged with the process. If you have issues with a story, step back and figure out why. Write down why you think the story or a character isn’t working (that still counts as writing).
The key is to not allow negative self-talk and other internal forces to win the creative war. Push yourself through the blocks, the doubt, and the problems, and you will come out the other side with work you can be proud of.
It’s hard in 2021 – and soon 2022 – to disappear from the world and just focus on your writing. It can be hard to shut the world out and focus with social media, the news, COVID, family, friends, work, and doom and gloom seemingly lurking around every corner.
I recommend finding a chaos-free zone where you have your phone off, your wi-fi off, and as few external distractions as possible when you sit down to write. You can fact-check your story later if you need to.
This is your time to escape the real world and live in your fictional universe with your characters and story. I can guarantee that you will not miss world peace being achieved or a cure for all illnesses being discovered while you’re hunkered down writing.
Give yourself the permission and the time to focus, and you will be glad you did.
This is the most essential aspect of writing. You have to have fun with it. You’re not writing 500-word essays for your high school literature class; you’re writing a novel, a screenplay, a play, short stories, poems, or non-fiction. This is the fun stuff. Enjoy the creative ride.
I believe that the passion, excitement, and joy you have while writing translates off the page to the reader or viewer. Creative writing shouldn’t be a torturous affair; it should be fun, invigorating, energizing.
While there is plenty of hard work involved, it’s work that should be approached from a positive place, not one of dread or resentment. Go into each writing session open-minded, ready to write, and have a good time.
I hope these tips help you plan out your writing goals for 2022. I know that I will make a concerted effort to write every day, complete multiple projects, and stay focused on creating fun, positive, creative writing experiences each time I start a new writing session.
Happy New Year, Happy Writing, and I’ll be back with more articles in 2022!
It’s been over eight months since the Coronavirus pandemic shut down businesses and schools, locked down communities, and created a culture of wearing masks, caused us to use hand sanitizer everywhere, and made us wary of being close to anyone we don’t know. Add to that protests for social change, a crazy political climate, and financial uncertainty for millions, and the very thought of sitting down to write and be creative can be off-putting to some.
While I understand that the world has its ebbs and flows of chaotic news and events, as writers, artists, musicians, and other creatives, we have an obligation to ourselves and our own mental health to continue to indulge in the creative process. Through our art, we can help ourselves and others make sense of the world, understand our emotions and feelings, and get our thoughts out in a tangible form.
It can also allow you the opportunity to escape the negativity of the world for an hour or two, to embrace an activity that provides a sense of normalcy in a world that keeps throwing pessimism at you 24/7. Like you, I get overwhelmed with the news, the images, the statistics, and the political noise, which is why I’m happy to share some of what I do to keep the world out and keep my sanity and creativity in play.
This has become a ritual for me on Saturdays. I turn off my phone, put it out of view, and either read, write, or do something that doesn’t involve continually scrolling my newsfeed or social media. It seems like a crazy idea at first since we all seem to be glued to our devices, but it can be mentally refreshing to distance yourself from your phone and not have the constant beeps, buzzes, and chimes of alerts attacking your brain every few seconds.
Even if you can only sit down and write, read a book, or even binge-watch a couple of episodes of something uninterrupted for an hour (not the news) or two, you will find that a lot of the noise in your mind will dissipate. You quite possibly will feel a bit calmer thanks to your phone being off and away.
Remember, even if you turn off your phone for a few hours to write or do something else, it’s not like the chaos will go anywhere.
If you have a family and they all have phones, plan a few hours each weekend to do things without phones and other devices. Connecting with people and not screens is a challenge these days for sure, but it’s a welcome respite from the constant barrage of news, politics, and pandemics.
Create a Creative Space
Maybe you’re not ready to sit down and write or create at the moment. That’s fine. Unplugging can benefit you no matter what you do with the time away from your phone. However, if you are looking for an escape to a creative place, I recommend creating a space for you to work and be creative in your home or apartment.
It doesn’t have to be big, just a place where you can go and sit with a laptop, a pad and paper – or, if you’re really old school, a typewriter – and write for an hour or two. This should be a space void of your phone, social media, and the internet (yes, you can turn it off on your laptop or desktop), especially the news.
In this space, you are the boss. You make the rules. And you are there for one job: to create.
So, I have a studio apartment, but I have a space where I keep my laptop and a VARIDESK to stand if I feel like it. I have a comfy chair, as well. I have a legal pad and pen to jot down questions to look up later online, and a bottle of water. That’s it. Everything in the space is geared toward writing and creating with as few distractions as possible.
Now, once you’ve created your space, choose a time that best suits your schedule. If you have young kids, this might be in the evening once they’ve gone to bed, but the key is to enter the creative space and make the time to create. I write best at night, so I usually work for a couple of hours in the evening as often as possible.
Use Music/White Noise to Stay Focused
I just started doing this this past year and have found that it really helps me stay focused when I’m reading or writing. There are many, many ambient noise choices available on YouTube, but devices like Alexa also provide a library of ambient noises as well (and yes, if you want to use the ambient noises found on YouTube, you can leave the Wi-Fi on on your computer, but do your best not to go down the dreaded YouTube rabbit hole and become distracted).
Personally, I prefer listening to a thunderstorm or snowstorm, but there are hundreds of these ambient noise videos to choose from that you can have on in the background as you write. Most of these videos range from one hour in length to ten hours, and the ones I have used don’t have ads that blare to life in the middle of the video. I highly recommend headphones or earbuds to help immerse yourself and block out any external noises.
Here are two that I use most when writing and reading:
Music is also a great choice, but make sure what you choose isn’t distracting. It should be music that helps you focus on your creativity and not pull you out of it. Music can also be a great way to set the tone or mood for what you will be writing.
Consider Your Time Writing as an Escape for Your Own Mental Health
Being creative is not a selfish act. It is a way to refresh yourself and your mind. We use films, TV, and books to escape reality, so being creative should be seen as another form of healthy escapism.
As a writer and artist, you form new worlds, new characters, new stories, and new relationships. You can’t control the world around you, but you can – even for an hour – be the creator of your own worlds and give the real world a timeout.
Stay Positive. Enjoy the Time Creating
Even though 2020 hasn’t been a great year for most of us, we have to remember to stay positive. It is the arts that have sustained societies for generations through song, dance, painting, sculpting, the written word, theater, film, and TV. Humans who love to create and have a passion for creating must take the time to create.
You must give yourself permission to enjoy the time when you are writing and creating. It’s a welcome respite from the chaos that has enveloped us this year. You can’t let doom and gloom consume you. It’s no way to live, it’s not a healthy way to think, and it can be detrimental to the creative process.
There’s an exercise I once read about for people who overthink when they are trying to sleep. They are to keep and pad and pen by their bed, then write down what is keeping them up, and that is supposed to help them sleep better, knowing they can now save that worry for the next day. In the spirit of that exercise, if you feel the world creeping into your creative space, keep a pad and pen handy and jot that item down. Then if you want to think about it later, it’s written down for you to think about once you’re down writing or creating.
Finally, If You Still Have Anxiety or Anger About What’s Going on In the World…
Write about it. Get your thoughts, your emotions, your solutions down on paper or on your computer screen. Venting about the world is okay. It’s a healthy way to process what you are feeling, and you should take the time (maybe the first ten minutes of your creative time, if needed) to get these thoughts out.
You could also practice journaling as a way to express these thoughts and ideas.
I’m human, just like you. I see things on the news or read about events in the U.S. or around that world that upset me, anger me, and sadden me. But as I said before, you can’t allow those negative emotions to consume you, especially if you need to write and create. If you can channel those feelings into what you’re writing, do it. Just don’t let the world creep in and prevent you from being creative.
I hope you found these tips insightful and helpful. If you have other tips about how you have stayed positive and focused on creativity during 2020, please leave a comment.