Hello, blog readers. It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. I apologize for my long absence. But, I can explain, I swear. You see, I’ve had this excuse.
To begin, I want to give a disclaimer that I am not really writing a how-to blog so much as telling a story of what has worked for me recently to reclaim my creative writing when I haven’t felt like writing. By sharing my story, I hope you might find something that will work for you as well.
I said I had an excuse, and believe me, I’m full of excuses for not writing. There is one excuse that stands above all the rest, however, and I am sure some of you have used this excuse as well. I wouldn’t really call it writer’s block so much as creative straight-jacket syndrome.
It all started back in 2011 during my junior year of college. I was taking quite a few classes that required me to do this thing called “academic writing.” And night after night, I was reading and analyzing, writing essays and citing documents. One page after another. Then, when I would sit down to write something for myself, I found myself staring at a blank Word document. I might get a paragraph or two in, but all that by-the-books, almost-scientific approach to writing had dried up my creative juices and replaced them with analytical word vomit that saturated my sponge of a brain.
Fast forward a few years. I now work full time as a hotel manager. I write reports constantly. Add the massive number of hours I usually work, and, well, my same old excuse is still valid. My creative brain has been left out in the elements, going unnourished for so long that I feared it was dead. And the prolifically creative person I had once been had been replaced by a corporate American robot. If my middle-school self knew what I had become, she would scream, cry, and threaten to run away from home.
Being creative, writing, drawing, and dancing—things I once loved—had become an increasingly difficult chore. And it hurt. But still, I was unwilling to give up. I had to find a way to bring the joy of writing back into my life. So, I started journaling—something I hadn’t done regularly in about ten years. It was hard at first. At the end of a long day, I would sit down and write something short and boring:
“Long day at work today. Had to prep for the owner’s visit. Two extra reports due, and had to inspect rooms. Pretty tired. Splurged on some Starbucks, though, so that’s cool.”
There were nights when the last thing I felt like doing was sitting down to write about my day, but I made myself do it. I could not go to bed until I had written at least one sentence. After some time passed, it became easier. My entries gained some flair, and creative ideas started to come to mind while I wrote, and I started jotting down plot lines and character backstories—as well as doodling in the margins. My entries became much less tidy, much less about just me, and more about the creative being inside of me that was slowly coming back to life.
“Today was my day off. I walked around the front lawn with bare feet, the grass over-long because it has been raining so much that Rob hasn’t been able to cut it. The ground was so soft, and the grass so gentle against my heels, it felt like walking on a giant, fluffy marshmallow.”
Now, I’m not claiming any of my entries are writing gold, but they allowed me to start exercising my creative brain again. The simple act of writing just for me culminated into an ability to sit down and write again.
Creativity doesn’t always just happen. It’s something that must be practiced. And writing when you don’t feel like you have anything good to say is hard. Yet, journaling is fairly easy. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t feel the overwhelming need to go back and edit and reedit what you’ve just written before moving on to the next thought. Which is very liberating for me. So, now as I sit down to write, I’ve been trying to do it like a journal entry—get it all out, and then go back later to edit—something I have always struggled with. Without the practice of journaling, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that. It’s a simple way to keep your creative mind fed and alive while you wade through mundane daily life. And keeping your creative mind alive and well is the difference between a week-long writer’s block dry spell, and a lifetime of thinking you’ve lost your creative voice.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I don’t know where you are in your creative journey or on your career path. But perhaps the two don’t have to be at such odds. What I hope my experience might teach you is not to give up hope. Your creativity won’t lie dormant forever—not if you begin to feed it, and nurse it, and spend time with it. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it. Keep trying. Keep writing. And support each other. That is the biggest gift we as writers can give one another—our support. Whether a novice or expert, we all need a little encouragement now and again. Journaling is my way of encouraging myself as a writer, and something I hope I don’t forget soon, because supporting ourselves is maybe even more important than supporting each other.