I’ll start by saying it’s okay not to write. There are periods in your life when you don’t feel like it. Every writer has a different process, and for some writers, part of that process is taking a break from writing.
It’s my belief that if you’re stuck in a creative project, something is blocking you. It’s not a lack of talent. Someone who is stuck in a rut lacks a support structure to ensure they can engage in creative practice.
Let’s adopt a Maslow Hierarchy of Needs approach. His original version had five tiers. Subsequent research and theories have added three additional tiers. I’ll use the expanded version. The premise until the primate needs are met, it’s impossible to meet social, psychological, and emotional needs. I’ll present the needs in sequence from bottom to top.
If you want to write but find it difficult to connect with your creativity, begin with the basics. It’s hard to be creative when you’re sluggish from too little sleep, too much sitting at a computer, or facing a vitamin deficiency. Ensure that you exercise, get enough sleep, properly hydrate, and eat a balanced diet.
You need a safe space to write. If you’re stressed about paying the bills or having a place to live, this will naturally draw down your inclination to write. There are some things beyond your control. You can apply for jobs twelve hours a day, every day, but there’s always a lag between an application, the interview, and starting the job.
There are community services to provide food security, municipal services for housing and rent.
Pre-pandemic, I suggested people go to the library to write. It’s a change of location, and it can help take your mind off other stressors. In the pandemic, where you can go is subject to closures. Sitting in your car, bundling up on your balcony, sitting in a park for fifteen minutes to jot down some notes or to dictate are some safe places you can go.
Don’t worry. With how 2020 and 2021 went, no one will think twice about a person speaking to themselves in a park. It will probably be one of the most normal things they see that day.
If you can’t find a suitable location to write, do what you can to change your office (or writing space). Add a few plants, brighten up the colours, change where you sit, or remove clutter. These changes will help clear your mind of distractions and make your space a stronger reflection of you.
Belonging and Love Needs
Human beings are social creatures. The last two years have been hard on everyone. It’s hard to write when you’re depressed, anxious, lonely, or feel like you don’t belong.
The only advice I have is to keep looking if you haven’t found supportive people with whom you’ve clicked. Join different hobby groups, book clubs, chat with people you meet in the park. Eventually, you will meet people who want to see you thrive and will support you on your journey.
Publishing work is a daunting task and can be hard on your self-esteem. Most writers are concerned with how readers will receive their writing. It’s important to have a strong support group and review your work several times before publishing.
Remember, even Nora Roberts and Stephen King have harsh critics, but they keep writing.
You can't please every reader.
Keep track of your accomplishments. View writing as a journey, not a destination. Compare the quality of your work today to ten years prior. You are a work in progress, constantly learning and improving. Engage in activities outside of writing to boost your self-esteem.
People need mental stimulation to grow and thrive. If you’re bored all the time, it’s hard to find inspiration to write. Excellent writers read a lot. They take workshops, join associations, network with writers, critique others’ works. Mental stimulation is needed to hone craft and develop self-confidence.
How do you engage in your craft? How do you hone it, practice it, experiment with it?
Are you engaged enough with other writers? If not, how can you expand your network?
This need refers to improving aesthetics and balance in life. Perhaps you’re working too hard at the day job and need to carve out more time for self-care and hobbies. Perhaps you need to spend more time with your friends and family to recharge.
At this level, you may consider changing how you dress or getting a new hairstyle to feel yourself again. It’s been two years of zoom calls and living in cramped spaces. Many of us are wearing sweatpants and hoodies and have COVID shaggy hair when we used to wear clean blouses/shirts with neatly pressed trousers.
Perhaps it’s the other way around. You’ve been wearing a suit and tie when you’re most yourself wearing jeans and a tee-shirt.
Find (or reconnect) with a sense of dress that you feel proud to wear.
Once you’ve grounded yourself, you’ll likely have time and energy again to write.
Writing is one form of creative expression. It’s a form of aesthetics. If you’ve met the other needs sufficiently, then take a closer look at what you want to create. Perhaps there’s something in there that you fundamentally don’t like. You can’t relate to the characters you’ve created. The conflict or backgrounds are meaningless to you, or the story has the wrong mechanics. In other words, the story you are writing is somehow ugly to you.
How can you make the story more appealing?
Sometimes that means letting it go and starting something else. And that’s okay.
Transcendence is the highest level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Individuals who have reached this level are confident and capable. They have plenty of ideas and are implementing them. They have successfully integrated the various levels of the pyramid of needs and led fulfilled lives.
You’re welcome to reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron
I want to thank @TonyaAtki for the topic suggestion.