It’s not writing.
It’s doing anything but writing.
Let me back up. Since I’ve transitioned into full-time freelancing, I’ve had more freedom than ever to focus on my own projects, but with that freedom comes responsibility (and how this is turning into an Eleanor Roosevelt quote-off, I have no idea). Now I feel a weight when choosing what to focus on, knowing that I’m solely responsible for generating my income. Every minute I spend working on something for free is a minute taken away from looking for paid work.
Ironically, I made this move specifically so that I’d have more time to focus on my own projects. I was feeling completely overwhelmed trying to balance a full-time job with blogging, podcasting, writing music reviews, writing scripts, making videos, etc., etc. But once I got here and it started to feel like there were infinite possibilities and more unstructured time than I’ve had in years, it was overwhelming in a completely different way. So of course, about two weeks ago it triggered a total creative block.
I was still able to do what I needed to do, to write my Housewives recaps and album reviews for Bust and posts for All Things Go. Let me be clear: I ALWAYS get my shit done. But when I sat down to make something new, it was like wind whistling across the Arctic plains in my brain. And it was like that way for about a week and a half.
Then one day I started doodling. I was tired of trying to come up with The Next Big Thing That Will Launch My Career And Be A Perfect Use Of My Time, and doodling is relaxing. I’m not great at it, and I don’t aspire to be. I just sat on the couch and started drawing weird social situations I’d been in recently and funny things started coming to me again. From there came my #AmtrakResidency post. Suddenly ideas started flowing at their usual pace, and I realized that the cure to writer’s block is doing something creative that isn’t writing.
Drawing, writing a song, making a dress, painting, sculpting, redecorating your apartment, choreographing an interpretive dance, coming up with an amazing new recipe for pasta sauce… these are all activities that tap into your creativity but don’t put pressure on you to produce your Next Big Thing. I think that ideally the activity should be in an area in which you have no serious ambitions, so that it’s not another source of pressure.
I’d imagine that this approach would work for musicians or artists or other creative types as well. If you haven’t written a song in weeks, try writing a movie. If your dog fashion line has gotten stale, try writing a poem. If your floral arrangements are all dull and embarrassing, make a zine about the people in your coffee shop. Go outside of your discipline. And remind me to do the same the next time I get stuck.
But no clowns, please.