2020 already getting you down? Me too. It’s only a little over 100 hours since New Year’s Eve. Images of the nearly 15 million acres burning in Australia resemble scenes of the apocalypse. The threat of war hangs over the United States like a cloud of smoke, this one manmade rather than the result of global warming. Not since 9/11 have I felt so uneasy. It’s hard to work on my #workinprogress, Chapter Nine of my memoir. I need to remember my own advice for avoiding writing paralysis, or for that matter, general life paralysis. Here are my go-to tips for overcoming ennui:
- Get outside. Walk to the mailbox, take a hike, shovel your driveway, whatever. One of the benefits of having a dog in the city is that no matter what the weather, I have to go outside multiple times a day. I often don’t want to. It’s too cold, too hot, too rainy, too snowy, too late, too early. My pooch, however, shares none of these reservations, and anyway, the prospect of cleaning up an accident in the apartment is a really good motivator. But you know what? I am never sorry that I got outside, out of my cocoon, out of my head. I always feel better afterwards.
- Move your body to move your brain. See above. Or do some yoga, or go to the gym, or clean your house or car or garage. (I’m going to clean out my refrigerator today).
- Stay off social media. No matter how hard we try, algorithms force us into silos that reinforce the information we are exposed to. Just until the mood lifts, no Twitter telling you how the world is coming to an end, no Instagram making you feel fat, poor or just plain boring, no Facebook. (OK, Facebook has been off my radar since 2016, but more about that in another post).
- Go to a museum, a play, a concert, a dance performance, a movie. Being in the presence of creativity sparks creativity!
- Get into the kitchen and cook some real food. I love cooking because it produces a tangible product, engages my creativity, saves me money over ordering in or going out, and is much healthier than reaching for that bag of chips I might call dinner as I pour a second glass of wine. My mood is always lifted after the ritual of chopping veggies for “mise en place,” or concocting something delicious from pantry staples.
- Pick a manageable task that will remind you of why you want to write in the first place. Some suggestions:
- Reread a short piece that you wrote that you are really proud of.
- If you have an inspiration notebook, reread it. Mine is filled with quotations that spoke to me, gathered over many years.
- Find a journal prompt that resonates and free write just to get the juices flowing.
- Do some research. Every writer needs to do research, no matter the genre. If you don’t have the mojo to write, then get busy doing background work.
- Start one of those books you couldn’t wait to get and haven’t cracked yet. Reading good writing is the predicate for writing good writing!
If all else fails, just call it a day. Don’t beat yourself up. Binge watch Netflix, get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is another day.
What’s your secret for beating the writing life blues?