Be open, and let yourself love this.
I received the following question from a subscriber this winter:
Dear Sarah, I am really struggling... I am able to write a bit every day but I can’t seem to get enough words on a page. My thoughts aren't growing enough. I’m unable to give enough descriptions, etc. to help draw in the reader. Most of the time it’s coming out very matter of fact instead of storytelling. I am new to daily creative writing and my word count always seems stuck in the 500-word range. This is nothing. But my brain stops telling me I’m done. I've been able to write 1500-2000 words twice in two weeks but only because I had a moment of inspiration where it was just flowing.
I want to write at least 1600 words a day. I’d love to write more, but again, it doesn't seem to be flowing. How do I keep the flow? How do I summon the inspiration? How do I expound?
Hold up! 500 words a day is not nothing. It’s 500 words a day! It also means that you’re facing resistance every day. This is good. Now you want to sink into that rock hard practice you've developed and enjoy yourself more often.
1600 words a day is an awesome goal. I like word count goals: go for it. It’s good to get out of your own way and write whatever comes, and you can surprise yourself when you write toward a word count.
But if you, dear reader, can relate to this subscriber’s question, I wonder if you're being too hard on yourself.
Strictness and judge-yness kill creative joy. And play and flow are inaccessible without joy.
I know it can be frustrating! Showing up to write can feel like you’re pounding away at hard, dry, packed dirt with a little trowel and there’s nothing but dust coming up. And you’re there day after day, and still all of your sentences sound dead. Where is that luscious, rich, loamy soil you need to plant seeds in?
It’s there. It’s always right there for you. Maddeningly, it is your state of mind that is keeping you from the rich soil and the connection and flow you desire. You need to shift your perspective so you can see it. This is the struggle that writers face.
Writing isn’t hard work — you love writing. What’s difficult is changing the way you think about the creative act of writing.
First things first: please read this post and see if you need to do something about an inner critic.
Once you’ve taken care of your critic (nice work), you want to start to collaborate with your creative self. Respect it and remain curious about it. Do not beat it up. When you feel negativity, respond with kindness.
Your creativity will respond to positive reinforcement.
If you’re too pushy or demanding, if you have expectations before you even get to the page, then you’re not really collaborating with your creative self: you’re trying to be the boss of it. That's not good.
Nobody wants to play with a bossy control freak. Why do you think Smashing Pumpkins broke up? Billy Corgan wanted everything his way. It’s no fun to play with someone who won’t even listen to your ideas. And if you’re working with someone who ignores your fun ideas and you feel shut down over and over again, what are you going to do? You’ll stop coming up with fresh ideas. You’ll show up because you have to, but there’s no sparkle to what you make.
Sure, you can grind through 500 words every day, if you had to.
But what if it's not a problem that you are writing 100-500 words a day?
What if you enjoyed writing 500 words a day?
If you allowed yourself to enjoy it, you might find that you enter the flow state more often, and lo! end up writing more words.
The thing about flow is that you have to let go and surrender to process in order to find it. And there’s so much pleasure in process! Once you get over the discomfort of the uncertainty and risk involved, of course.
The antidote to that kind of discomfort is to enjoy yourself. Let joy happen.
Remember what you love about writing: making something out of nothing. Feeling something, or seeing something in your mind, and then finding the words to recreate it.
This is magic. You love it! Right? Remember how much you love writing?
Give yourself more of what you love.
Tell yourself that you’re doing GREAT.
Know it and feel it: you love what you’re doing!
When you show up to write, know that the writing is enough.
Feel how grateful you are that you make time to write every day.
Celebrate your love of writing — don’t punish it.
This is what you WANT to do. So want it, already! Want it like chocolate. Want it like romance. Want it like dancing to Santigold. Want it like tradewinds on Maui.
It’s there. It’s yours. You have it.