Success and your writing routine

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways.

In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be disruptive and how to pre-empt any issues and establish a routine which will stand the test of change.

Success and depression

Firstly, we need to discuss why success can have a negative impact on our lives. A great article by Forbes writer Alice Walton looks at why the most-successful people get depressed. In theory, they have it all, so what do they have to be unhappy about?

She identified six research-backed reasons for it. Some of these definitely apply to the successful writer too, while others are more corporate.

The fact that we perceive successful people unlike us, the regular people, adds up to two of the reasons Alice puts in her article. Successful people may feel detached from their former selves, leaving them with a fractured identity if the success is too sudden, or they can be less resilient because they’ve always had privilege propel them forward. Difficult times will get those people down easier than when their self-made counterparts experience them.

Successful people often work a lot and without taking too many breaks – this doesn’t allow them time to focus on the small things in life which normally bring joy and are natural anti-depressants. The industry culture and competition can also wear a person down to the point of depression, something which is less common in writing circles but still could be an issue depending on how writers see their peers.

Finally, the values of successful people can change, and they might find themselves in an environment they no longer want to be a part of. Which is terrifying, and can happen to anyone. Do any of these apply to your writing career so far? Let me know after this episode.

Avoid the dark side

A lot has been said in the media about the dark side of success. The evidence that succeeding is not just rose petals and prosecco is very obvious when one looks at child musician and actor stars. As these people grow up, they frequently pick up a number of unhelpful or downright damaging behaviors.

Are writers safe from that? Writing is, in its essence, something that requires a lot of practice so children authors who become bestsellers are rare. If you encounter success as an adult are you then safe from its disruptive touch? Children celebrities grow up under pressure and many have a skewed view of their worth because so much importance has been placed on their achievements. Unlike children, however, the pressures successful adults receive are not only external.

Writer Jeff Goins, speaking about his experience with success on his blog, argues that fear of losing what one’s gained and a desire to appease consumers is what sets a person on a dark path ultimately leading to their loss of creative self. When he reached what he thought was his success and he had a chance to ask himself why he was doing it all, the answers surprised him. He was doing it because of three reasons:

  • People expected it and he didn’t want to disappoint them.
  • He felt like this is what he had to do to succeed.
  • He was too afraid of being ignored or irrelevant to try something new.

And for many of us these immediately sound like the wrong reasons. But the key here is writers are often oblivious to their own ways, their own fears and the mental obstacles they set for themselves. It takes courage to stop for a second and evaluate your practice. Jeff Goins managed to avoid a full-scale descent into the dark side of success and I know you can too.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

The book to which you owe listening to this podcast. The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming romance thriller, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. It’s 25% off and if you preorder now, you can join me in my preorder giveaway and win some gift cards, books and tea.

All details can be found on my website www.laineydelaroque.com/books. The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.

Change spares no one

If you think perceived success pitfalls are for those of us who are just starting out with our writing careers, you’re wrong. Success, as we established, is a change in circumstances, and change spares no one.

Bestselling author Lorraine Mace faced a new challenge when she was signed on by one of the top-five publishers. It was the launch of her fourth book in a series, and she had gotten used to the marketing strategies of her previous small publishers. Part of her promotion plan was holding a book signing event in a bookshop.

Here is how she describes her initial feelings in Writer’s Magazine: “I was excited about the idea of taking over a book shop for the launch, but it didn’t take long for the doubts to kick in: what if no nobody turned up? […] What do people eat at these things? I asked the bookshop owner, but she only added to my anxiety. […] By the time it was necessary to make a decision about the drinks, I could barely think straight.”

This sounds exactly like the stress and anxiety that comes from new-found responsibility. And then unfortunately for her mental health, a series of things led to a lot of people canceling their attendance, leaving her fearful that all her nightmares would come true. This couldn’t have been easy, but she went through it anyway and ended up having a successful launch with lots of people who hadn’t indicated they were coming.

In the end, it was her willingness to push through no matter what that made her event a success. That attitude is closely linked to adaptability and grit, skills we established in the last episode were crucial to successful writers.

Your rough action plan

So let’s say I’ve convinced you that achieving whatever you perceive as success is not all fizzy drinks and rainbows. What can you do to prepare mentally for the time your hard work pays off? Or what to do if you’re already stressing out about it and kind of lost in your career because you’ve achieved great things but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore?

Well. This won’t come as a surprise – you need to take a deep breath and then a longer moment to evaluate your practice. Why are you writing? What are you writing and for whom? These all have to align with your current goals and aspirations – and if you’re not clear on those, don’t worry, we’ll tackle that issue in episode 4 of this season.

Consider if you have taken too many new responsibilities that are negatively impacting on your previous commitments. Be realistic about your time – you’re a writer and if social media, marketing or other activities keep you from writing, you’re going to become unhappy in no time. Decide what the main things are for you, and don’t neglect them – anything else can be a bonus for when you have some free time.

And last but not least, remember that you’re only human. Don’t get sucked in a fairytale – burnt-out writers stressing about life each day might be interesting to watch in films and series, but in reality, being one is not fun – and not sustainable.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Before I discuss how to set proper goals for a successful writing career, I will look at the other side of the success-failure coin. Next Tuesday, in episode 3, I will talk about how to accept criticism and avoid the mental health traps that rejection and critical feedback inevitably bring. Writers of any kind will encounter this at some point in their practice, be it from agents, editors, clients, readers or even family members and friends. Learning how not to be discouraged is immensely useful both for your writing life but also for your overall mental health too.   

If you haven’t joined my newsletter yet, you’re missing out. I’ve now sent my first few ones and I’m really enjoying the process. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. They all feature a cute animal and a book recommendation which can improve either your mental health or your productivity as a writer. Feedback about the newsletters has been really positive so far, so after you finish this episode, go sign up. And if you think they can be improved, email me and I promise that I will do my best.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    Keep your writing career expectations in check What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3:

 

 

 

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, for many, is the epitome of writing productivity. For anyone uninitiated, it’s a global challenge where writers attempt to write 50000 words in thirty days. The 50k is the base wordcount for what qualifies as a novel so, as the NaNoWriMo organization proudly states on their website, people “enter the month as elementary school teachers, mechanics, or stay-at-home parents. They leave novelists.”

But while this challenge is a great opportunity to become a better writer, meet new writers and feel a great sense of accomplishment, it can also create the perfect storm of self-imposed guilt, low writer self-esteem and eventually burnout. The idea for this episode came as I was preparing for my fifth NaNoWriMo. Out of the four NaNoWriMo I’ve participated in, I’ve technically only won once, felt really bad about it twice and did well with my writing and mental health once.

I recognized some unhelpful patterns in my thinking, some words I would say to myself that would hinder my progress. I call them mental health traps, because once you start thinking them, your mental health suffers and you’re trapped in an unproductive state.  So I wanted to make this special episode of the Pen Garden for all of you who are attempting NaNoWriMo this year and give you a chance at a strong start, particularly when it comes to your mental health. So here we go, let’s avoid all these traps together.

1. It’s too much, too fast

Maybe you’ve prepped for the whole of October. Maybe you haven’t touched anything but you’re super excited to begin. And then the 1st November rolls over and you start. Three days go by and suddenly, it dawns on you that you have 27 more days of this and you have no idea how you can make it. On the fourth day you begin your writing with dread, by the seventh you’ve convinced yourself there’s no way you can keep this up.

This scenario is quite common and there is nothing wrong with the people who face this. It is a trap because shows that the writer’s mind is not ready for the change in daily life which NaNoWriMo brings. People are naturally resistant to change because it’s more comfortable to stay within the boundaries of established routines and habits, be they good or bad. But research has shown that people can change their habits if they think about the change proactively and identify its benefits.

For NaNoWriMo, they are many and each can offer a unique boon to your writing practice – you get better at your craft, you meet new like-minded people, you have something big at the end that you can continue working on, you get plenty of inspiration and you also get a taste of what’s it like to have a high creative output every day. So make a mental list of all the good NaNoWriMo can do for you and ease yourself into it.

2. You don’t have time

‘When there’s a will, there’s a way’, people say and that is very true when it comes to finding a writing time. This is where NaNo Prep might really help you out but if you’ve not done it, no worries, you can still prep mentally for the time commitment at least. I guarantee you have some time to write, even if it’s not as much as you want.

Be both realistic and kind to yourself. Look at your daily life and identify any gaps where you could do some writing. Think about how you’re going to write – maybe if you’re often stuck waiting for something, you could knock out a couple hundred words on your phone, maybe you dictate to an app while you do housework you can’t avoid. Maybe you have lots of time but need structure – pick a time when you can sit down and relax enough to let the words flow. For this month, try to give up the idea of the perfect writing time and conditions – you’re working towards a massive goal so be creative.

I have a whole episode from season 2 about how to find your perfect writing time according to your personality, so go listen to it if that’s a known issue to you and you want some practical ideas for your normal writing practice.

3. There’s too much in the way

This follows on from the ‘Not enough time’ trap and it’s all about seeing the countless things that can prevent you from achieving your end goal. So break it down one by one and think realistically.

Do family and friends usually interrupt you when you write? Tell them about NaNo and its time constraint and ask them to respect the time you’re writing.

Do you procrastinate often? Use the time to refill your creative well and think about your story. Inspiration will flow after this and you will be writing in no time.

Do you have no good space? Be creative when you evaluate your surroundings – many things can be a desk and many things can do just as well as a laptop if you don’t have access to one.

Are the days too dark and cold and sad, leaving you uninspired? Put a scented candle on and some music. Get in the mood, allow your mind to wander.

There’s never going to be a perfect month where nothing is in the way so make the most of it now.

4. It’s impossible

I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few years and trust me, something at some point in this month will make you throw your hands in the air in frustration. In this moment, maybe you will even think the whole thing is impossible. But a feeling like that can crumble your motivation to bits. What is the point of continuing something which is impossible?

Well, in a pep-talk a few years back, author Maggie Stiefvater said “I love everything about that word, impossible, and I love everything about slapping the ‘im’ right off its smirking face.” Some of you might raise an eyebrow at that statement, thinking, that’s all bold and motivational but you can’t just change your thinking like that. And that’s true. But it’s important to acknowledge what you feel first, then to try and break it down into smaller, more possible chunks.

Maggie Stiefvater tells us what and why: “It’s going to feel like the writing is the impossible part. But all of the puzzles you’re going to face—plot holes, characterization woes, bad pacing, words ceasing to make any sort of logical sense—aren’t even really problems; this is just what the writing process looks like. So learn to love that process.”

5. You feel alone

This was me a few years ago – I would get up, go to work, then come back and start writing. I would get my words for the day done, update my NaNo dashboard and then go and share this with my boyfriend at the time. He’s not a writer so had a pretty muted response. And by muted I mean disappointing. I didn’t know any writers at the time and as an introvert, wasn’t keen to go out and look for anyone. Writing is a task you do alone, right? Well, maybe not, because after about ten days of uninspiring responses from family and friends, I got really unmotivated. I felt what I was doing was pointless. There was no one to share the joy with. There was definitely no one to share the difficulties with, either. I did win that year, but I was very lonely. And the words I produced then weren’t great – I hid them on a hard drive and forgot they ever existed. But in my next NaNoWriMo, I joined a local group and I never went back to the solitary writing idea.

If you don’t have any friends you’re doing NaNo with yet, don’t despair. Just listen to the official stats:

“In 2019:

  • 455,080 writers participated in our programs, including 104,350 students and educators in the Young Writers Program.
  • 966 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 669 regions on six continents.
  • 968 libraries, bookstores, and community centers opened their doors to novelists through the Come Write In program.”

So trust me when I say you’re not alone. Go to the Community Tab of your NaNoWriMo dashboard when you next log in and don’t leave until you’ve made a buddy or two.

6. You can’t silence the editor within

If you return to your writing every day, only to read the last sentence of yesterday’s work and feel like everything is garbage, your inner critic might have come out. There is a time and place for that part of you, and NaNoWriMo is not that. Writing 50k in a month is hard enough, editing as much is not feasible. So push away the part of you that wants to change and swap and hone, and focus on getting your idea written out of your head and onto the page. 

Author V.E. Schwab suggests to change your mindset about what you’re doing this month: “You’re writing a story, not a book.” She, like me, is a lover of metaphors so she gives a great one in her NaNoWriMo pep talk: “You’re not making a whole body. You’re making its bones. You don’t need the muscle, the sinew, the skin. You certainly don’t need the makeup or the clothes. You just need bones. Something to work with. Something to build on. Something to make better, make whole. And you know the general shape of this body. You’ve read books, you like stories; you might not know every minor bone in a hand, but you know the big ones, the skull, and the spine, and the ribs. So go and make a body. There will be time to make it pretty later. But what good is smooth skin without a skeleton beneath?”

7. Writer’s block I – you know what you want to write but can’t

I’m splitting writer’s block into two traps because it can feel different for different situations. If you’ve planned your story, know what you have to be doing but sit down to write and nothing comes, then there really is one way to break through – just keep soldiering on. I’m not often an advocate of forcing yourself to do things but this block is similar to when you’re running and just have the last stretch left. Yet you have no clue how you can do it. You can see the finish line but it feels like you can’t get there.

It’s the same when you hit a block like this – maybe you’ve lost faith in your story, maybe you’re not sure that scene is necessary, maybe you hate the words you have so far. Take a bit of time to reassess if you need to, and start typing. Leave the second-guessing for the editing stage. Writing month is for writing. So don’t overcomplicate it and put some words down.

8. Writer’s block II – you have no idea what to do next

The second scenario of writing block happens to pantsers and plantsers and sometimes to planners who decide to abandon their outlines and see where their story takes them. It’s exciting to write whatever comes to mind, joining the threads of your story on the page just as they join in your mind. But, what to do if you find yourself with no ideas one day?

Here’s what prolific fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson says about refilling your creative well: “One of the lessons I learned as a storyteller was how to refill the creative well while doing other activities. You can do it while driving, exercising, eating . . . anything that doesn’t take your full attention. During these times, many writers I know run through plots in their heads, feel out character personalities, think about conflicts. They make connections, overcoming blocks.

Personally, I’ve found this practice to be essential in promoting healthy writing habits. As a full-time writer, it can actually be harder to refill my creative well, as I’m working on my writing all of the time. One of the ways NaNo could help a writer is by training them to use off moments to delve, mentally, into their stories. Instead of turning on the television as you wash dishes, turn on some music and think through character interactions. Plan out what you’re going to write the next day.

Even if you don’t have much time to write every day, you can supercharge that time by planning out for hours what you’ll do. Teach yourself to think like a writer. It’s a habit you’ll find very useful.”

9. This year sucks

This is a super special 2020 mental health trap that we’ve unlocked collectively as humanity. The year has been horrible so far and no one really is at their best place mentally. We’re battling with difficult things like isolation, grief, illness and uncertainty.

 And maybe you’ve thought about NaNoWriMo and then decided that it’s just a bit too harsh to push yourself like that when you’re already in a gentle mental state. That’s absolutely valid. You know yourself best and if you believe taking part will impact negatively on your mental health and overall writing practice, please listen to your gut and take it easy. You can always give it a go next year.

Or if you’re still doing it but you feel kind of fragile about it all, practice some self-compassion and accept that you might not win this year, that the words might be less and the motivation – harder to find. That’s okay. Take part, write words, connect with people as much as you can. Read the pep talks and know you’re not on your own in this difficult year.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

NaNoWriMo is an amazing social phenomenon where masses of writers come together to attempt the same thing at the same time. Research has confirmed that “NaNoWriMo functions as a fandom, a participatory culture, an informal learning space, a writing group, and a community of practice. It encourages freewriting and positions participants as writers. The combination of intrinsic motivation, choice, and accomplishment provided by the NaNoWriMo challenge promotes participants’ feelings of self-efficacy and encourages persistence in a sustained writing project.” In three very non-scientific words, it is great.

So now that you know where things go wrong, go write. Be kind to yourself, don’t forget to eat and drink and refill your creative well from time to time. Respect your choice to do this and follow-through with your aspiration to get those 50000 words out of you. You will come out wiser, stronger and prouder at the end of November. And by December you’ll be a novelist. Connect with people, you’re definitely not alone. Share your progress and let’s do this together.

For anyone new here, The Pen Garden episodes come one a week on Tuesdays with a break every five episodes. There’s lots of episodes to listen to so when you have some spare time, go back and learn more about how to establish a good writing routine while maintaining good mental health. The next episode comes on Tuesday the 3rd of November and there I will look into how sleep, dreams and daydreams can inspire us. I’m very excited and hope you will join me.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. I will be tweeting my NaNo progress daily so come hang out with me on Twitter. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

This week, I will discuss a topic which all writers dread to think about – procrastination. It’s the enemy of productivity and inspiration and can leave pretty much anyone feeling like they can’t write. But it’s not all doom and gloom – I will teach you how to trick your brain into doing things that fuel your creativity while still indulging that need to procrastinate for a bit.

Procrastination is not laziness

Contrary to what some people believe, procrastination is not about laziness. Productivity is linked with our mental health and there are a number of reasons a person is not at the height of their creative output. One of those non-exclusive reasons is procrastination.

By definition, it is the voluntary delay of tasks which are undesirable in the specific moment despite known possible bad outcomes later down the line. I won’t dive deep into the reasons why we procrastinate, because there are a myriad or personal and mental health reasons which might be playing a part in any given person.

What I do want to share though are the findings of a recent study. The researchers discovered stress and anxiety and procrastination are linked. Anxiety, intrusive thoughts, stress, depression and any other negative emotions motivate procrastination. So approaching your writing productivity from a place of self-care is essential.

And I’m not saying you have to always be jolly and beat your anxiety. That’s unfortunately unrealistic and as I said in the first season of the Pen Garden, good mental health is a journey. So knowing that you might procrastinate after a bad episode is empowering – learning self-compassion is great because it allows you to ride your emotions, positive or negative, and then return to a place of order without disturbing your overall creative practice.

Positivity memes can help

Following that train of thought, we can help our procrastinating brains change their direction by essentially tricking them to be productive. And no, I don’t mean by forcing you to sit down to write or edit or do anything else that requires high degree of focus and mental stamina.

I’m talking about creative procrastination which I think is closely linked to fostering inspiration. In the last episode of this podcast I talked about the importance of keeping our minds open to new experiences and exercising our imaginations. Creative procrastination is an extension of that – it’s taking the time you need to work through the issues you have which prevent you from being productive, while sneakily refilling your creative well with new ideas.

A study found that looking at a few inspirational memes or videos online every day improves psychosocial well-being and motivational intentions. So hop on the positivity train and go look at memes.

My favourite place to go for this kind of motivation when I’m down is the YouTube channel Daily Dose Of Internet. The channel shares impressive and beautiful things from nature and science and brings back our trust in humanity by showing us every day people who do amazing things or are just nice to each other.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Last week I mentioned I’m working on a novel. Things have progressed a little and now I have a page dedicated to it. It has the blurb and some mood images. Go check out The Lavender Phantom on www.laineydelaroque.com/books and sign up to the newsletter for updates if you like crime thrillers with a strong female protagonist.

Creative procrastination for writers

If memes and social media aren’t your thing, don’t worry – there’s plenty of other ways to procrastinate creatively and dare I say, even productively. Stephen King says: ‘If you haven’t enough time to read, you haven’t enough time to write.’ So return to an old favorite and pick it apart. Why do you like this book? Can you figure out the author’s secret? Why are the characters so great? Do you find the plot twist satisfying? What can be improved? Can you see any errors? When you disassemble a book like this you can later return to your writing and see your own mistakes more clearly.

If you don’t want to take this approach I suggest listening instead of reading. Listen to a podcast just as you’re doing now or listen to an industry craft book about writing. No matter if you’re an academic writer or a novelist, or even a hobbyist, there is always something to improve. Whether that is maybe tension, maybe characterization, maybe just style and grammar- listening like this will help you think systematically through your problems and provide encouragement or a new way of looking at things.

If you want to get away from writing as a whole, just refill your creative will or feed your imagination. Go to an art gallery. Binge that show on Netflix that you’ve been putting off for a whole month. Or look at the world around you. Julia Cameron, in her book ‘The Artist’s Way’, recommends ‘Artist’s dates’ – ‘a once-weekly expedition to explore something that interests you alone. It might be something as simple as going for a walk on the beach and looking for shells. Something you’d enjoy, but something that will feed your imagination. This sparks whimsy. Artist’s Dates encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative works by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.’

Get away from writing for a bit

My final suggestion for this episode is to believe that creativity breeds creativity. When your writing doesn’t go as planned because you’re procrastinating, pick up an old or a new hobby to jumpstart your writing creativity. Enjoying a craft you’re not so invested in has its benefits – there are no looming deadlines or targets, no one expects any output from you.

Try to remember what drawing or coloring or playing in the sand was like when you were a kid – it was a joyous, freeing experience. By adulthood most of us treat creativity just as an indulgence unless the outcome of it is something useful. But to clear your head and find inner piece you need to let go of that constant need to produce products and just embrace your creative journey.

One practice I find very inspiring is the making of the Tibetan Sand Mandalas. If you haven’t heard of that, it’s a Tibetan Buddhist tradition which involves creating a mandala from colored sand and then destroying it upon completion.

This practice is meant to symbolize the transitory nature of life but as a creative person, I also find in it the joy of creation, freed from the need of approval from others or usefulness of the end results. It’s about doing the thing, not about what the thing will become and stay as. The mandalas are really beautiful.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Do you feel like the next time you procrastinate you will be sneakily productive, refilling your creativity? I’ve been trying it recently and it feels great to just relax with a film or a game and switch off a little without feeling guilty.

Next week on Tuesday, I will look into how sleep, dreams and daydreams can inspire us.

But before that, make sure you don’t miss the special episode on mental health when taking part in National Novel Writing Month. This Sunday, on the 1st of November, tune in to 9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them. It’s packed of useful stuff which can help you make the best start at the challenge and win it with your mental health intact.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

Theory of writing inspiration

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it is viewed as now and how can you fit this knowledge in your writing practice to empower your creativity. But before I get into that, I want to say that this week is special, because United States celebrates ‘National Friends of Library Week’. For people in the UK, that was two weeks ago. For everyone else, I’m sure you have one in your countries too – it’s a great way to celebrate one of the greatest social inventions as far as I’m concerned. Libraries are allowing many people access to books and that’s amazing. Go and show your local library some love. If there are any librarians listening, thanks you for your work you’re awesome. Now, let’s talk creative inspiration.

Vessel to the will of the divine

Inspiration has long been something mysterious for people, including the creative people themselves. Back in the olden days, when the divine was interwoven in many aspects of everyday life, for lack of other understanding, how creation took place in the mind of the artist was seen as a divine intervention.

An interesting work where this train of thought is recorded is in Plato’s Ion, a poetic dialogue from Ancient Greece where Plato and Socrates discuss how the poet does not have art, but merely inspiration. This is an important distinction because it’s argued the Muse (or God) is the one who gives power to the poet, who then inspires the actor who will perform. So the creativity does not come from within but from above, and the creative person is believed to be a vessel of some divine will.

This idea, I think, is easy to understand – if you try to think when you were inspired last, maybe you would say something inspired you; that something triggered another idea in your head and now you have this thing that wasn’t there before. Creative people are not great at explaining exactly what happens when inspiration strikes and many describe it as elusive. This is exactly why it has been linked for so long with supernatural intentions.

The Inspirational Triad

But that’s not good enough for the state of present day artists. We love owning our work, and it takes a lot of hard work to create and get it out – there’s no way we can let some deity take the credit for our efforts. A study examined how creative professionals feel about inspiration and found ‘The Inspirational Triad’ – ‘a threefold structure consisting of Altered Awareness, Energy, and Enabling Conditions’.

These three things are, briefly, what creative professionals feel they have to have in place for inspiration to strike. Altered awareness is when there is a change to consciousness associated with creativity – for example shifts in attention, sudden insights into an otherwise ordinary experience or even letting the mind wander free, unconstrained to explore new notions. This is the light bulb moment of creation.

Then inspiration is perceived to have energy, or I would call it strength of impact. This is the speed and intensity with which creatives go through feelings and charged emotions that go with their new ideas, the heightened motivation to create, and the increase in creative stamina and activity. This is the buzz of creation.

Finally, for all this to take place properly, there have to be enabling conditions. These could be for example social factors, like surrounding yourself with people who are an inspirational influence, or environments which allow the mind to wander freely without judgment. This is the actual moment of creation, when all comes together and pours out of you because there’s nothing to stop it.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Before I continue with why inspiration matters for writing and why knowing all this is beneficial, I want to name drop myself and say that I’ve said countless times I’m a writer but I haven’t so far shared what I’ve been working on.

Surprise – it’s a book.

I’m working on a romantic thriller and very soon it will be available for pre-order. Here’s a link to the blurb. It’s dark and atmospheric like Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House and packed with action like Alex Callister’s Winter Dark.

That’s it for now, I will let you know when it’s available to pre-order. In the meantime, share with me what you’re working on – I would love to support you and I always geek out when it comes to writing.

Inspiration vs. Effort

Many writers value their moments of inspiration but many, including myself, believe that inspiration is only a tiny part of the overall creative process. Thomas Edison, when talking about his work, said that “what it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration”.

But after doing the research for this episode, and thinking back about my own experience, effort only does not produce great work – that creative spark which we call inspiration is as vital as the work after.

Researchers say “effort is important to the creative process, but its role is different than that of inspiration. Whereas writers’ inspiration predicts the creativity of the product, writers’ effort predicts the technical merit of the product. Thus inspiration and effort are unique predictors of different aspects of product quality.

Moreover, screen capture data indicates that inspiration is involved in the automatic/generative aspects of the writing process (e.g., inspired writers produce more words and retain more of their original typing), whereas effort is related to controlled self-regulation (e.g., writers who exert effort delete more words and pause more to think.)”

Foster Inspiration

Now that we know inspiration is important, I want to leave you with a simple three-step action plan on how to ensure it doesn’t escape you. Inspiration can’t be forced but it can be fostered.

So, first step is to keep your mind open, exercise your imagination. One thing I really like to do when I’m somewhere waiting for example, I imagine myself or the building from above or from inside, I imagine what the person in front of me might be thinking about. Anything could be inspiring if you’re open to see it.

Second step is to make sure you have the time and place to capture your inspiration and work on it. You shouldn’t let that buzz fizzle away into oblivion. So have a notebook with you, or reach often for the notes app on your phone. If nothing else is to hand, tell a friend, two people remember things better than one.

Finally, the third step is to surround yourself with things that can inspire you. This means other writers, groups, places, items, media – anything that exercises your mind in a positive way. This step is well captured by the words of Nobel prize winning author Toni Morrison. She said: “Your life is already artful—waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.” So all we need to do is to open up ourselves to the experience of finding the art that awaits all around us.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

I want to leave you with some further reading and listening which will maybe help you be more inspired more regularly. For me, being able to foster inspiration is very important for my mental health because when I’m inspired, my focus shifts to creating, I’m buzzing with positive energy and tend to forget about the other problems of my daily existence for a bit. It’s a great feeling and of course if I can help more writers feel better for longer, I will do my best.

There’s a great article about all I talked about, together with more examples on the Harvard Business Review website, called Why Inspiration Matters. Go check it out.

Next week, I’ve picked a topic which all writers dread to think about – procrastination. It’s the enemy of productivity and inspiration and can leave pretty much anyone feeling like they can’t write. But it’s not all doom and gloom – I will teach you how to trick your brain into doing things that fuel your creativity while still indulging that need to procrastinate for a bit. Join me in the Pen Garden next Tuesday 27th October.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!

 

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In this season, there is going to be a secret bonus episode.

Learn about inspiration and capture it

Inspiration is mysterious for both creators and scientists but absolutely essential to the creative process. In this season I will try to de-mistify it and offer you some practices which might be useful if you want to foster inspiration in your writing routines. 

In the next five episodes, you will learn about:

  • the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it is viewed as now and how can you fit this knowledge in your writing practice to empower your creativity. I learned a lot while researching this episode so make sure you take a look – I bet there will be at least something new and unexpected there for you.
  • procrastination and how we can trick out procrastinating brains to be creatively productive. There I discuss what I call productive procrastination, or consuming inspiring media to ensure you are at the top of your game when your procrastination subsides.
  • dreams and their day cousins, the daydreams. Dreaming opens the door of our subconsciousness and lets us tap into the hidden depths of our creativity. Many of my writing ideas come from things my mind has shown me while I’ve been asleep so I can’t wait to delve into this topic and how it relates to inspiration.
  • how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how writing exercises can get you out of a slump and into a new dawn of creativity.
  • the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. There I will talk about the benefits of writing retreats, writing groups and writing friends and how their mere existence around you can be inspirational.

BONUS Episode ANNOUNCEMENT

On the 1st of November, many writers will be starting a massive undertaking. They will be trying to write a novel in 30 days. And that’s fantastic.

I’m of course talking about Nanowrimo. I have taken part in National Novel Writing Month four times so far and will take part this year again. It’s an amazing time which can leave you buzzing from all the words you’re putting down on the page every day, all the friends you’ve made, all the things you’ve learned. Or it can be extremely demoralizing as you try to reach the daily wordcount goal but the graph slips from its intended trajectory, leaving you feeling deflated and unmotivated.

The bonus episode will look into how you can be productive during this month and keep your mental health, optimizing your chances of winning Nanowrimo. And if you’re not participating, come listen anyway – there will be lots of useful suggestions which can help with the mental health side of writing, no matter what kind of a writer you are.

Listen and Join The Conversation

Episodes come out weekly on Tuesdays, with episode 1 available to listen right now. After each season, there will be a one-week reflection break, for me and for you guys, and then a new season will be available the Tuesday after the break. I will explain more about this in the final episode of this season.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy. If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque.

Episode 2 comes out next week

Join me on your favorite podcasting platform!

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2: