In my last article, Why Are Writers So Susceptible to Toxic Ideas About Creativity? I talked about how easy it is to fall prey to the never-ending anxiety loops of the brain when we are disconnected from our own hearts. When you’re almost totally in the brain space, writing becomes much harder than it needs to be.
If this is you, you’ll know this is you, because writing just isn’t any fun anymore. It feels difficult and fills you with dread and makes you feel badly about yourself. This is the result of letting the brain run your creative show, and there is another result that is rarely talked about, but has an extremely damaging effect on writers.
In my last article, One of the Biggest (and Most Dangerous) Myths in the Writing Community, I talked about the dangerous idea that is so prevalent in the writing community that “creativity has to be hard.” This idea is so dangerous because it stresses writers out to the point where they are totally consumed with anxiety and they then bring a ton of resistance to their writing projects, or can’t write at all.
Today, I’m talking about WHY we are so susceptible to this toxic belief and why it can be so hard to uproot it from our creative practice, like a tenacious weed that just won’t let go.
The reason is because, as a society, we are almost wholly dependent on our brains. We use our brains to navigate our world, interpret all information, and make every decision, very rarely ever checking in with our hearts. We have been programmed and trained to operate in this way from an early age, and if we do, by chance, happen to be a person who has broken out of this way of doing things and has tried to find greater balance by reconnecting with our heart, we are usually shamed in some way, and told we are “too idealistic,” “too sensitive,” and made to feel that we’re even possibly just slightly stupid.
One of the biggest things I see all writers struggle with is the idea that creativity has to be hard.
Sometimes I see this in the way a writer works. They might set themselves up on a schedule—trying to meet a high word count every day, for example—at which they are bound to fail. Or they beat themselves up mercilessly for the messiness and flaws that they see in their first draft. Sometimes it’s more hidden, and while the writer might be trying to stay cheerful on the outside while they meet all their rigorous writing goals, on the inside they feel horrible because their inner critic is lashing out at them for not being productive enough, or original enough, or just plain good enough.
When writers who are struggling turn to the online world of writing for help with these types of problems, they usually only find a lot of blogs and articles that reinforce the very feelings that are making them feel so bad about themselves. There is just so much stuff out there telling us that creativity is not supposed to be fun, that creativity is work and you have to treat it like a job, or that we should always have an eye on how productive we are. We should track our word counts, days devoted to writing, number of rejection letters, and that we should take pride in feeling beaten down and discouraged because, on top of everything else, growing a thick skin is also something that a real writer has to learn to do, even if it’s unbearably painful.
This is all complete nonsense.
Nothing feels worse than being a writer who has lost all inspiration. Every time you sit down to write you feel like the well has run dry. You feel empty, disappointed, disconnected, and like your inspiration will never come back.
Is it possible to recover from this type of situation?
Even though it feels hopeless when you’re going through it, it IS possible to get your inspiration back as a writer. However, it’s not as simple as using good writing prompts or putting yourself on some sort of schedule to enforce discipline. Inspiration tends to shy away from too much structure and too many rules, so using these types of strategies may only compound the problem.
I’ve worked with hundreds of writers over the past eight years and one of the most common problems they report to me is overthinking. They might overthink the idea of their story, how the characters should act, who’s going to read their memoir, if they’re writing their book in the right format, or a dozen other things.
One thing is for sure, when a writer starts to overthink things, the writing goes downhill fast. This is because most of the creative “problems” that arise with writing are not issues that you can think your way out of, and this is so hard for so many people to grasp because we live in a society that tells us that thinking is the answer to everything. And if you’re truly stuck about something, well, you just need to think harder.
But thinking harder doesn’t get us anywhere. In fact, it only makes us feel more paralyzed, more stuck and frozen and scared, and more hopeless.