What do you do when your kid self – a.k.a. creative self – gets up on the wrong side of the bed?
Pull the covers over your head and overwork that snooze button? Hope to find motivation in a plate of bacon while binging on Netflix?
Or do you skip your writing session and promise to double your efforts tomorrow?
But with deadlines, goals to hit, and grown-up life vying for our attention, we don’t have time to wait for our kid selves to come out of their funk. And we can’t force them.
What’s the solution?
Steal my favorite play from Steven Pressfield’s, Turning Pro and…
Train like a race horse
In his book Pressfield juxtaposes a professional’s writing session with his experience watching a famous horse trainer work with young thoroughbreds.
“I had imagined that the process would be something hard-core like Navy SEAL training. To my surprise, the sessions were more like play,” writes Pressfield. “A horse that loves to run will beat a horse that’s compelled, every day of the week.”
In other words show yourself some compassion. You can pull your creative self out of a funk by making sessions feel like play.
I know just the girl to call on for ideas – my inner 6-year old. She gave me five… one for each writing phase.
Guess what? You get to pillage your kid’s playroom for supplies. No kids or playroom? No problem. I included alternatives.
1. Pre-write: brainstorm with crayons and construction paper
Does a lobotomy sound more fun than outlining your book, article or script?
According to my kid self, outlines suck, and mind maps rock.
Grab paper and crayons. Write your topic in the center and brainstorm around it. The key to success?
Keep your hand moving. Jot down anything that pops into your head. Use lots of colors.
I hand my kid self a drawing pad and Sharpies. This ups the chances of deciphering her handwriting.
- An app like MindMup (free) or Mindjet’s Mind Manager (Not free)
- Cocktail napkin and promotional pen (price varies;-)
2. First draft: cover the canvas in finger paint
What is it about the white page that causes our minds to go blank? Perfectionism or negative self talk, perhaps?
I haven’t figured it out. But my kid self has.
She loves to make like a little Jackson Pollock – finger paints in hand – and cover the canvas with whatever comes to mind.
Yep, finger paints are messy. So I open the Notes app on my Mac and let her free write whatever she wants.
If she wants to craft a showdown between BB-8 and L’il-Boom (my penguin-shaped kitchen timer), before the meet-cute I planned to draft for my screenplay, I’m not going to stop her.
You never know. Your cutting-room-floor fodder just might get called on for another project.
Alternative: Draft an email to yourself or your character. AND pretend the delete key is a self-destruct button. Don’t hit it, or else!
3. Rewrites: break out the Easy-Bake oven
Does molding your crappy first draft into something worth sharing seem harder than winning a pie-eating contest? I’m with ya. Rewrites feel impossible. Every Time!
Did you know that in the time it takes to whip up a tiny-cake in the Easy-Bake your subconscious can solve a structure, character or story issue?
True story. Sadly my parents sold my Holly Hobbie oven in a yard sale years ago.
But I’ve whipped more messes into shape while baking muffins in my big girl oven than sitting in front of my laptop. How?
I read what’s up for a rewrite and hand it off to my subconscious. Then I distract my meddlesome grownup self with tasks like vacuuming, organizing or baking. All use little to no brain power.
I just make sure I have access to my laptop, index cards or pen and paper when solutions pop into my head.
Writing at the office? Got it.
- Refill coffee.
- Take a pee break.
- Spitball ideas with a coworker.
- Submit one of those purchase order thingy’s for an office Easy-Bake.
4. Word Smithing: visit your kid self’s favorite doctor
Is the end near? Woo Hoo! Unless you’re stuck with prose that doesn’t flow.
Grab your favorite Dr. Seuss book and read it out loud. Not within reach? Okay. Try these…
“On you will go though your enemies prowl.
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl…
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)”
~Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
“And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzing and puzzling, ‘How could it be so?
‘It came without ribbons, It came without tags!
‘It came without packages, boxes or bags!’
And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore…”
~How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
“It all began with a shoe on the wall.
A shoe on the wall…?
Shouldn’t be there at all.”
Passages like these can help you find your rhythm and tighten your copy.
Alternative: Favorite words list. I keep a list of fun words on hand. Reading words like delicious, pithy and Galifinakus unlocks my inner thesaurus.
5. Any phase: decorate with toy box tchotchkes
Look around your writing space. Does it extinguish your creative spark?
According to the decorator in my head, a boring office inspires boring prose. My inner 6-year old agrees.
The fix? Raid your kid’s toybox for characters that make you smile. No kids? No problem. Amazon or your local toy store can hook you up with writing room mascots.
My couch-side office has felt much lighter since I adopted L’il-Boom for timed writing and a BB-8 just for fun.
I’m in good company. The kids at Fresh Off The Boat decorated their writing room with entertaining big kid toys like an authentic writer’s block and a shotgun filled with tequila.
And Steven Pressfield populated his office with treasures like a lucky acorn, a lucky cannon and a lucky charm a gypsy gave him.
Not into toys or charms? Got it.
- Fresh flowers, incense or candles
- Inspirational quote wall art
- Travel mementos
- Change of scenery like your kitchen table, local library or a coffee shop
Bonus: grab a beach read
On that day when none of the tips above can pull your creative-self out of a funk, read. Not just anything, but something fun.
No research materials. No courseware. No books, blogs or magazines on writing.
What’s that? It’s 6 a.m. and you can’t beach read without a grownup beverage in hand?
Cheers. No judging here. Just please, drink responsibly.
Over to you
How will you pull your kid self out of a funk and make sessions feel like play?
I double-dog dare you to share your thoughts with the Write 50 crew in the comments section below. Your comment enters you in a drawing for a free Ditch The Block game, your choice.
A playbook and game that challenges you to self-coach yourself through your writing blocks
Games like a Write 50 7-day challenge