Hi there, and welcome to The Daring Writer, with me, your host, Sherry Peters, of sherrypeterscoach.com, the show for writers looking to bust through the block, the self-doubt, and the fears holding them back.
Today we’re going to talk about making our writing time truly creative, fun, and playful.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that everything we do must be for a purpose. Emphasis is placed on learning what will be on the test. We are constantly being asked what we “want to be when we grow up.” The courses taken in high school determine what will be studied in college or university, or what vocation we will pursue. What we study must lead to a paying job or an increase in salary.
Our hobbies are now something to be monetized. I’d be willing to bet that if you do something crafty, you’ve been asked if you have an etsy shop or sell it at local farmer’s market or some other kind of fair. If you love taking photographs, you’ve probably been asked if you sell them online, or if you’ve had them published. Maybe you’ve even been hired to take portraits or photograph events.
If there isn’t a foreseeable, profitable, purpose to an activity, it is considered a waste of time.
It becomes so easy to dismiss taking time for anything creative. We should be spending our time working toward some immediate purpose that benefits everyone else.
A couple of years ago, I had just finished writing a novel and wanted a couple of days away from the computer before I started a new writing project. I still wanted to do something creative, just something different. I decided I’d try my hand at sewing a costume. I rarely sew. I haven’t done much of it since Ebby came into my life because I’m still terrified that if I drop a pin without realizing it, she’ll eat it.
Anyway, back to my attempt at cosplay. I had hand stitched a couple of throw-pillow covers previously, but this was truly my first major sewing project of any kind in years. But this was just for fun so it didn’t matter what it looked like, or how long it took me to thread the needle.
I bought the cheapest material and had a great couple of days to myself pinning and cutting and stitching the pieces together. As I was working away, having a grand old time at it, I began envisioning the beauty that the final product was going to be. I started planning which local cosplay contests I should enter. This was surely a winner! I had to admonish myself several times. This was just for fun. For the weekend only, then it was back to writing.
I needed to justify taking a weekend to do something other than writing, or working.
But when I started thinking about entering contests, I became anxious and a perfectionist, and needed to take a break. When I reminded myself it was just for a bit of fun, I turned the music back on, sang, and danced a little as I worked, laughing at the errors I made, and cheering my progress. I didn’t even mind that when I tried the costume on, I discovered I’d forgotten to cut a couple of the pattern pieces. Oops!
I have to admit, I’m still a bit bummed that I wasted that time and energy, and money, on a heap of material that amounted to nothing. Couldn’t even wear it around the house.
And that was just a weekend of creative fun. All too often, as writers, we fall into the same pattern of thinking.
Without a foreseeable promise of financial or social gain, it can be daunting, knowing that it could be months, at least, before you have a finished book, potentially years before it gets sold and is finally on a bookshelf with a royalty check coming in.
Freelancers have a hard time justifying writing time when they have paid work lining up. Why not spend an extra hour or two working on a project for a client and getting paid? Two hours of writing time when maybe 1,000 words get written, verses making an extra hundred bucks?
The unwritten rule that everything we do must be for some kind of purpose, some kind of gain, preferably financial, makes it difficult for us to see the bigger picture of what our creative efforts have the potential to be. Like my cosplay efforts, instead of enjoying our time creating something, experimenting, exploring, growing as writers, we pressure ourselves to be perfect from the start. This book has to be the one that is going to get published. This is going to the bestseller. This one is going to with the awards.
When we put that pressure on ourselves, we lose our incentive to write. And yes, we lose our joy of writing.
My good friend, Adria Laycraft, said something to me when I found myself in that kind of rut. She said I had given my joy away. I was depending on others to provide my joy. I needed to take my joy back.
She was right.
And then I kind of smacked myself on the forehead, because this is what I coach, for crying out loud!
If there is no guarantee of financial or social, or any other kind of gain, or that promise is months or years away; how, then, do you motivate yourself to keep returning to your writing? To see it through to completion? How do you take your joy back?
- No one can work 24 hours a day. We set aside meal time. We set aside sleep time. Set aside writing time. That writing time is your creative time, for you and you alone. When you sit down to write, be in the moment with your book. This is writing time, not research or facebook or email time. Think only about the project at hand. Writing time is yours to be creative. To express yourself. To play. Without any expectation. Yes, even editing can be playful and creative. There is a time and place for the business side, but not during writing time.
- It may take time to be anywhere near a promise of financial gain, but if it is what you really want to do, what you really want to accomplish, you can, and will, put in the time and effort. When you were a kid, you knew it was going to take you twelve years before you could graduate. If you went on to University, you knew it was going to be at least another three or four years before you graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. Each year saw you get grades and move up to the next year so you knew you were making progress. Writing can be the same. Every chapter is another stepping stone. Getting feedback is a marker of the progress you are making.
- Re-commit to your writing. To help you re-commit, I have a great freebie, my Jumpstart Your Writing guide. You can download it over at thedaringwriter.com/jumpstart. I’ll put the link in the comments. To re-commit is to tell yourself that this is worth taking the time for. Know why you write, and why this specific creative outlet is important to you. My Jumpstart Your Writing guide as a few great exercises to walk you through this process. Again, you can find it at thedaringwriter.com/Jumpstart.
When we allow ourselves that time to play, to be creative, we expand our minds, our hearts, and our souls.
I have to gush a little bit more about Adria. She is a brilliant writer, her first novel is coming out this fall, I believe. She is also a freelance editor. And she has taken her joy back by taking up a new creative outlet as a wood carver. Her carvings are spectacular. I’m going to link to her website and her YouTube channel in the comments, and in the transcript when I post this on my blog.
I’d love to hear from you! How will you keep your writing time as play time? How will you take your joy back?
If there are any topics you would like me to address in a future Facebook Live, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you this has been value-based to you, check out my coaching program at sherrypeterscoach.com. As always, I will put the links in the comments.
Until next week,