The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
If you’re like me, and most of the world, somewhere around the first of January, you made New Year’s resolutions, and set a few goals. Maybe yours was to get into shape, travel or get that promotion you always wanted. This year, I want to write my next novel and another immediately after that. Anyone serious about reaching a goal needs to have a strategy—because ideas without a plan of action are merely wishful thinking.
I had a plan, had it all mapped out, and revved up and ready to roll, I sat down to write. I wrote a few paragraphs, but suddenly I had no interest in telling the story I’d started.
The next day I sat down to try a new story, but my protagonist, suitcase in hand, waved goodbye and sped off to the airport.
After a couple of weeks, I’d written nothing compelling. I literally felt empty, like I had nothing interesting or meaningful to share. Stressed and depressed, I started to throw darts at the whole idea of a writing career. It was too hard.
What to do?
After some contemplation and a great Sunday message from my pastor at church, I decided to give myself an out. I did something unexpected.
I gave up.
It not only sucked the joy out of creating, but out of other aspects of my life, too. It became difficult to summon up the enthusiasm to do anything, even the routine stuff. What I needed was a reset, and the best way for me to do that was to stop writing. Even if it were just for a while (as I hoped and prayed it would be), I had to walk away.
What Does Giving Up Look Like?
When I say I gave up, I didn’t start binge watching every show on Netflix in my pajamas. I didn’t give up on life.
If you decide this strategy is for you, fill up those hours with other options, good ones—like catching up with friends, exercising, or volunteering. Or maybe that project you’ve been forever putting off. I decided to focus on my family and to make myself available to other writers who want feedback or support with their writing.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s hard at first. I love writing, and after years of denying I was actually a writer, it’s finally how I see myself. But the level of stress and anxiety was too high for me to enjoy it anymore. I went through my author email and did a mass delete and unsubscribe. A clean inbox means no more requests for me to read, buy, sign-up or click on anything ‘writerly’—a first in many years. Albeit a bit unnerving at first, it is thoroughly liberating.
Clearing Negative Waves
After letting go of a stressful situation, work on your inner voice.We all have that voice. It’s the one that says stuff like I can’t do this. I’m not good enough…smart enough…creative enough.
My self-talk was negative. Every day, I told myself I didn’t believe in my journey to be an author. Who was I to think I could write a book when I had nothing interesting to say?
I started with journaling to acknowledge my fears. Then, I took a hard look at what makes me happy, what I love to do—and I realized that my writing is a big part of who I am.
I took a few days to assess and reaffirm my goals, and most importantly, identify my ‘why’ behind those goals. For instance, ‘Why do I want to write?’ I believe my ability to write well is a God-given talent. I have messages in my heart I want to share. I believe I am meant to use my writer’s voice to motivate and inspire people.
These answers align my goals with what I value. That’s important. Notice, I didn’t say anything about money or fame. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting notoriety and financial wealth, those are not values that inspire long-term transformation. I want to be rewarded monetarily for my writing, but it’s certainly not what drives my writing.
Refocused, I was ready to rebuild my inner voice. I started with positive affirmations, which can be thought of as a mental reset through positive messages you say to yourself. I give myself about 3 affirmations for the day. Every morning I get up and say them in the mirror. A few examples of my affirmations are:
I am creative.
I am blessed.
I trust the creative process.
Sometimes I repeat the same ones for a few days.
You can create an affirmation for any and every situation.
An affirmation can be about anything you’re are struggling with, such as patience, courage, strength to deal with a difficult situation. Choose a negative thought you have about yourself and write down the positive opposite of that belief, even if you don’t feel it’s currently true.
I am healthy.
I make nutritious food choices.
I am patient.
I am strong.
I am joyful.
It’s vital that while you say each affirmation, you summon a positive feeling. I often get a tingly sensation, and I feel happy and empowered as if I have spoken my destiny.
When doing affirmations, be consistent and 100% invested. Say them with certainty. So as to not forget, leave your list of affirmations where you absolutely won’t miss them.
Since I started this process, first with releasing myself from the pressure of writing, and then adding in journaling and affirmations, my stress has greatly decreased. There are still moments when anxiety rises up in me, but I can quickly counteract it with positive self-messages. And best of all, a new character has started talking to me. I take notes and let him speak without expectations. I feel happier and stronger than I have in a long while, and every day, my desire to write again grows.
How to know if you need a ‘Reset’ or to ‘Push Harder’:
Growth is uncomfortable. If you’re doing something new, pushing to learn a new craft or skill, improve your financial situation, or anything to better yourself, there’ll be times you feel like giving up. That’s growing pains. In cases like that, push harder.
If you feel joyless in the things that you once derived great pleasure from, you may need a reset. Pull back, quiet your mind, and nurture yourself until you feel whole again.
Resisting the pull of old habits:
In the first few weeks, I was constantly tempted to check reviews or my sales rankings online, but instead of berating myself for it, I acknowledged that I felt no happier after I looked. Remember: letting go is freeing, a heavy weight you no longer have to carry if you choose not to.