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Daily Methods To Inspire Your Inner Writer For Would-Be Authors


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I’m teaching a course entitled Women and Memoir this winter and I’m psyched! It has been five years since functioning as a professor of philosophy and for a good while I wondered to myself, “Without a job that pays me to research, write and publish, will I ever write again?” To wit: this is not a wise thing to think about when you’re jobless and utterly burnt out.
I have come to see that writing regularly, like our circadian rhythm, is something that we cannot neglect for too long without paying a high price. Daily writing, like daily meditation, can help me “treat” an exhaustion in me that more sleep simply cannot touch. Still, sometimes getting started can be challenging.
In order to bust out of feeling stuck, I’ve come up with these eight steps to keep myself energized as a writer. I’m constantly editing these steps so please keep me informed about what works for you.
1. Keep a consistent rhythm
Pick a few things to do each day that nurture you…things that you would encourage a child to do in a daily way, i.e., eat three small meals and two snacks-a-day around the same time (8am,12pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm). Sleep 8-10 hours a night. Did you know that Americans are the most sleep-deprived people on the planet?
Long-term disruption to our natural rhythm creates physical, emotional, financial and creative havoc, just ask the sleepless people hooked on The Home Shopping Network. When they wake up the next day, the only thing they’re writing is a check.
Daily writing, like daily meditation, can help me “treat” an exhaustion in me that more sleep simply cannot touch. Still, sometimes getting started can be challenging.
In order to bust out of feeling stuck, I’ve come up with these eight steps to keep myself energized as a writer. I’m constantly editing these steps so please keep me informed about what works for you.
I have come to see that writing regularly, like our circadian rhythm, is something that we cannot neglect for too long without paying a high price.
2. What color is your Lobster?
When you put a lobster in a pot of boiling water, it jumps out to preserve its life. You put the same lobster in cold water, turning up the heat gradually, and she stays in there, acclimatizing herself to the temperature, until, that is, she boils to death.
I can feel the temperature rising in my pot lately, so I’ve just ordered a bunch of ice-cubes – a week-long vacation, vitamin D supplements, and some Korean spa time – to cool things down. Being burnt (out) leaves me utterly empty of good stories to share.
3. Buddy up
When on field trips to The Woodland Park Zoo as a kid, we were told to “pick a buddy and be accountable.” Teaming up with someone offered each one a chance to pay attention to another human being. To stay well, we have to stay connected. Writers who check-in with someone – preferably an ally – tend to get their work finished and, as a result, they are more likely to get that work published.
4. Squeeze in some “Useless” Time
In Chinese philosophy this way of being is called wu-wei or “actionless” or unselfconscious “action.” Non-doing is often necessary when we find ourselves spinning with worry and exhaustion. Even the most selfless Mother-Teresa type needs to charge her batteries.
If your body is without a cushion for too long, you’ll get sore, brittle and perhaps feel like you are falling apart, like Humpty Dumpty. And, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes doctors – even new age healers – can’t put you back together again.
5. Know your triggers
After 20 years of therapy and 24 years of hanging out in some kind of support group, I think I have finally located my triggers that suck my energy:
a. going too long without eating protein;
b. being on an airplane (or good restaurant) with screaming children amped up on sugar, and;
c. having (or overhearing) conversations with people who think that absolutely every challenge (physical, mental, financial, creative) can be fixed with the right thoughts or positive self-talk. Grrrrrh!
6. Know you don’t have to know it all
Needing to be brilliant as a writer is as practical as needing to have your own way at all times. It is a nice idea but it’s not going to happen. Energizing your inner writer – getting her to need to communicate – is an experiment. It’s not like knowing everything and then sharing this wisdom with the world…pedantic writing is NEVER good reading.
7. You don’t have to have will power, just willingness
Making inflexible rules about writing is similar to being on a permanent diet. If you start off determined to avoid your favorite binge food by eating a salad for lunch every day, your diet will last approximately three days. At least that’s when I threw out the bowl of lettuce and reached for a gigantic tub of popcorn with a lot of melted, sharp-cheddar cheese on top.
You have to pace yourself-chunk down your writing goal to something small (and put the goal in WRITING and say it out loud), Declare it, Do it, Report it to an ally, Repeat it-so that you keep the generative momentum flowing. My own coach, Molly Gordon, says, “By doing this four-part routine you’ll be creating new neural pathways!” Plus, trying and fulfilling on what you say you’ll do builds integrity; it feels good to be someone who does what she says she will do. Don’t believe me? Try it.
Science supports my claim here: Humans have a limited amount of will power. It’s like oil. Instead of setting yourself up to fail with impossible expectations, make your writerly goals measurable and ridiculously easy to complete and don’t forget to celebrate ANY progress along the way.

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  • Posted On July 5, 2012
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