When our writing jumps the tracks, it's easy to blame our work ethic, discipline, or inspiration.
But one of the huge players in this whole writing game is energy.
Writing a novel takes a huge amount of oomph, every which way. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and creatively. It's big.
You gotta have enough fuel for this game, and you have to have enough each day. We can't show up half-hearted.
I hate to point out the obvious but: Allllllllll that energy has to come from somewhere.
We can't be too drained and depleted from other, non-writing things.
This has been a huge focus for me lately. I have finally realized that I simply don't have the stamina to have much else going on during the week, if I'm also writing hard every day.
My work thrives on eight-hour writing days: my characters love the attention, and they give me amazing stories to tell.
But if my evenings are taken a few times a week, it cuts my writing energy in half. No kidding.
I fought that for a long time, but finally faced it a few months ago. As an introvert, I've had to back away from commitments where I was regularly spending time with large groups of people—because I just couldn't, and still get my work done effectively.
So part of this whole energy equation is: figuring out what drains your energy away, and limiting that.
Or, if you're in the midst of a big challenge, if you're doing something major, then don't stop at just limiting this. Do the scary freeing thing and step away from that commitment completely.
Then there's the other side of the equation. And it's the part that I need to challenge myself to do more of. We need to ask ourselves:
What gives you energy? What fills you up?
And—because it's 2016 and we've got some stuff to do—I'm not talking just a teeny little smidge of an energy buzz. This isn't just a bit of caffeine.
I'm talking more on the level of: A scandalous amount of energy.
Like, a two year old on a sugar rush. That kind of energy.
That's the kind of drive we'll need to meet these amazing goals.
So I've been asking myself some questions, looking at what's worked well for me in the past, and how that might look for me now.
If you're looking for a mega-boost of energy, join me for a bit of brainstorming. Sound good?
PHYSICAL: Can't get around the fact that all this writing affects our bodies.
- When was the time in your life when you had the most physical energy? What did that feel like, and what were you able to do?
- What were the components it took to get that level of energy? Such as:
- How much were you sleeping? Were you taking power naps?
- What were your eating habits like? Plenty of green veggies?
- What kinds of exercise were you doing? How regularly?
- What do you think would make the biggest difference for your physical energy right now? Any kind of adjustment in your habits of resting, eating, and moving?
EMOTIONAL: Writing a novel means we're playing all the roles of an entire cast of characters. We feel all the feelings... and that takes a lot of effort.
- When was a time when you felt really emotionally healthy? Low stress, low anxiety? Feeling peaceful, cheerful? Relationships going well?
- What else was going on in your life at the same time?
- Were you journaling? Practicing a degree of self-awareness? Pursuing a spiritual practice? Meeting regularly with a friend, a mentor, a counselor?
- What do you know is good for your heart?
- When do you have a chance to be around beautiful things? How often do you let yourself go and do something truly fun? When do you feel most peaceful?
- What are you craving emotionally? What do you think you need the most?
MENTAL: Obviously our brains are hard at work, and they need the energy to gulp down facts, to research, and to analyze our stories. We gotta be on our toes!
- When have you felt the most mentally sharp? When were you at your best thinking critically, analytically? When were you best at learning, at processing information?
- What else were you doing at the time?
- What kinds of information were you around? What were your reading habits like?
- Were you part of a discussion group, either formally or informally?
- Were there trusted people you bounced ideas off of (colleagues, friends, professors)?
- What never fails to bring out your best thinking? What kinds of books and media stretch your mind in the best ways?
- What concepts are intriguing to you right now? What mental habits are you interested in? What would you really like to learn about?
CREATIVE: We are problem solvers and image makers. We're constantly inventing! We have to be overflowing with creative energy to see these stories through.
- When have you felt the most dazzlingly creative?
- What's going on around you when you're most on your game as a creative? Are you doing any creativity exercises (freewriting, problem solving games, visualizing challenges)?
- How else (besides story telling) have you explored creativity? How else have you been a maker? What did you create? (Music, paintings, crafts, food, woodwork, kids, gardens, photographs... )
- Are you still participating in those creative outlets? Do they get a little chunk of your time still? Which do you miss doing?
- What topics do you feel curious about? What do you wish you were doing more of, creatively?
So, what did you come up with?
If any of these prompts made your heart leap, or excited you a bit, I'd say: do whatever you can to try and make that a reality for yourself.
What would happen if you picked one energy-maker in each category, and gave it a regular place in your week?
What would that look like?
You know I'm a big believer in starting small. If this is at all overwhelming, maybe pick a single tiny habit. Just one little thing to start doing, to bring a stream of extra energy trickling into your life?
But then, I'm also a big believer in going big: What is the most radical thing you could do, to make sure you have a scandalous amount of energy for your work?
Just think what would that look like! How that could feel, to have huge reserves ready to go straight into your writing??
What could you do this weekend, or during the rest of January, to move yourself closer to being that amazingly energized writer?
Oooh, this is the kind of thing that makes my fingers tingle.
So, what are my big energy initiatives? Because yes, I definitely thought my way through these questions too!
- Physically: I'm adding a lot more physical movement throughout my day (standing desk! dance parties! yoga! brisk walks!), and I'm drinking a green smoothie every morning. (Love that!)
- Emotionally: I'm getting back to journaling my prayers in the morning, and getting rid of extra noise in my life so I can feel more peaceful.
- Mentally: I've added some more challenging reading to my must-read list for each month, I'm listening to some great podcasts every day for new ideas, and I'm also dipping into some beautiful essays and poems every night.
- Creatively: I'm devoting regular time to exploring my curiosities, and I'm finding ways to make some art every day.
So far, I've been bouncing off the walls! (And I promise it's not just the vat of coffee I drink every morning.)
Your turn! What will you be doing to get yourself some extra energy? Share tips in the comments below!