I’m writing this blog post on Saturday, the day I planned to reorganize all my bathroom cabinets. I woke up this morning and decided I don’t feel up to it. Rather than beat myself up for a bad case of ennui, I holed up in my office to write instead. I may not have had the inspiration to do the big thing, but I’m doing something that feels comfortable– connecting. I’m guessing there are many of you who are struggling with those “don’t feel up to it” blahs in these unusual times, so I wanted to suggest some ways to keep moving ahead in spite of how you feel.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
These are unparalleled times for our world with the advent of the Coronavirus and the resultant quarantines and social distancing. Children are home with no regular school. Many adults are off work or working at home which causes a whole ‘nuther kind of upheaval. Foodstuffs and necessities may be in short supply requiring us to be ever more creative. If regular breadwinners are furloughed, financial troubles may be overwhelming. And not just current troubles but worry over the future can upend us. It’s no wonder we sometimes look at the task before us and decide “I don’t feel up to it.” That’s okay. Let’s put our heads together and come up with some workarounds.
If You’re Not on Deadline
If you should be writing but you don’t feel up to it, consider some of these alternatives:
- Consider reorganizing your files– computer or file cabinet files. You know you’ve looked at them time after time and known you need to add an “obsolete” file to every project so you only see relevant files. And do you have each project in a separate file with all material pertaining to that project in one place?
- How about your office. Could it take a cheery new coat of paint? Many home improvement stores are offering free delivery. Nothing raises our spirits quite like a beautiful place in which to work. That’s one of the reasons I came into my office this morning instead of tackling a messy challenge. This room is near perfect. I love being in here.
- How about reorganizing some of the research for your latest book? If you are a nonfiction writer, you might be up to tackling the “further reading” page or the footnotes pages if you’re not feeling creative. Those are tasks that must be done and what better time to do it when life is offering you a little extra time.
- This might be the time to just throw a blanket on the grass, look up to the sky and let your mind play with new ideas. Don’t mistake dreaming time or brainstorming time as unproductive. For a writer it is where the magic happens.
- Even if you don’t feel like it, you might want to sit down at the keyboard and instead of writing the next chapter outlined in your synopsis, write an outrageous scene that could never actually go into the book. You might just come up with a delightful new twist and have fun in the process.
- Watch movies, not just for the fun of it but as a writer. Cynthia Ruchti wrote a great blog post on the value of watching bad movies for the writer.
- Read! Nothing gets our juices flowing like opening a book and falling into the story. Reading is some of the most important work we do.
If You Are on Deadline
If you are on a tight deadline, you don’t have the same leeway. Here are some ideas to help you keep writing, even when you don’t feel up to it:
- Enlist the help of everyone in the house to help you keep on deadline. One child might be in charge of keeping track of your daily word count on a chart he or she made. Another child might be the one to bring you coffee during set coffee breaks. Your spouse could volunteer (with a little encouragement) to prepare meals with the children. Wouldn’t it be perfect to dedicate that book with love and gratitude to your Coronavirus crew?
- If you are alone (or nearly alone) on this writing journey arrange for an accountability partner– someone you can report to each evening.
- Take breaks to call or FaceTime friends to break up the writing if you are the type of writer who can break and still get back to it.
- If you are the type of writer who needs to write with no interruption, make yourself a bag lunch or gather snacks near your workplace and keep nose down until you get your word count for the day. Then, celebrate. Call friends. Order something online.
- Stay off the news and perhaps off social media. The grim reports can derail us in this time. Your knowing all the details won’t change a thing.
- It is far better to schedule time for Bible reading and prayer than to stay glued to the news.
- If, you don’t feel up to it, approach your regular quiet time in a different way. When things are confusing or discouraging, I often just take my fountain pen and my journal and copy whole Psalms into it. The Psalms are a mix of exhilarating praise and the deepest, darkest moans of the soul. Writing them is a different form of praise and prayer.
- Stay connected to everyone you love and everyone who loves you. Write letters that can be kept forever. Pick up the phone. Gather friends or family for a video conference.
- Remember that your writing buddies and your agent are here for you.
I said we would put our heads together. Now it is your turn to keep adding to this blog. What do you do when you just plain don’t feel up to it?
I had a dream yesterday in which I was starting a new job. When I found my way to the office, I found the other workers all gathered around the perimeter of an open room–no desks, no cubicles, no electronic equipment. Everyone was chatting, but no productive work was being done. As I pondered the dream, I realized this is where I am with my writing; hanging around the edges, talking with myself but accomplishing little. Thus I find your not-on-deadline suggestions very comforting, Wendy.
Yesterday, I felt God’s nudge to start my new job, to settle into this new routine–butt in chair, do some serious writing. Not the old job–things have changed. It’s time for me to ease into this new normal.
What a good nudge. Shirlee.
Wendy, thank you for writing these words. I needed to read them. I’ve been hearing a lot about having more time to write. For me, the amount of time available hasn’t changed. What has changed is my ability to write. Writing to inspire others has been a challenge this past week, since I’m feeling anything but inspired.
You point to other things I can enjoy doing, things that need doing. I’m organizing files, etc., and—thanks to your suggestion—I’m daydreaming about paint colors for my office.
You plugged a lot of wisdom and encouragement into a tiny word-count. Thanks again!
You are not alone, Heidi. The reason I wrote this blog is that I was talking to a prolific writing friend who had been beating herself up that she couldn’t bring herself to write. Then she talked to a bunch of other friends who where feeling exactly the same.
Morgan Tarpley Smith
I do exactly as you suggested and try to do something else that is productive. I schedule Facebook posts for my readers group, organize my research, research a little on my next project, just to do something different but still productive. It also never falls that when I read a good book I’m inspired to get back to work on my novel.
This blessed me today!
These are by far the strangest days
the world has ever known,
and writer, there are many ways
to come into your own.
Write your faith and pen your hope,
and post them everywhere,
bright handbills telling how to cope,
that show how much you care.
You’ve been given, by God’s grace,
a skill that few receive,
and this is now the time and place
to show that you believe
not in tragedy and doom,
but in Easter’s empty tomb.
If I may leave a PS…(in prose?!)…
I’m spending the bulk of my time in the blogosphere, writing sonnet-comments that I hope give reassurance, and perhaps a smile. I know they may only be read by the blog author, but that’s OK…if that audience of one smiles, and perhaps feels a small lift, then she may pass those on to her family…and her family, to the neighbourhood…
I figure that This Is Our Time…we’ve been blessed with the skill of lighthouse-lensed words to shine God’s Light into a dark abyss.
So go forth with the torch held high, relentless in your joy, and forthright in your words.
“Torch held high.”
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Bless you, Andrew, for sharing your light with us.
Thank YOU, Shirlee. You are now, and ever, an inspiration.
So true, Andrew. We are the ones who do have hope.
Great posts, Andrew!
I agree, we need to be a bright presence, especially now.
People are waking up from a long slumber.
Sally, let’s be with them when they wake, with bright reassurance of God’s love, and a smile.
Morgan Tarpley Smith
Love this poem, Andrew! One of your best! You definitely could put all these poems you write here in a book. That would be wonderful.
Morgan, thank you so much! There will be a couple of volumes, I think…I’m coming up on 300,000 words, which is more than halfway to War And Peace.
All sonnets. I don’t now whether to laugh or cringe.
Morgan Tarpley Smith
I think we can handle a few volumes for sure! 🙂 Especially if they are ebooks. hehe
They will be ebooks, Morgan…I’m actually trying to get a short devotional finished in the next few days, for the current situation.
Morgan Tarpley Smith
Awesome! Please keep us updated, Andrew! 🙂
Will do, Morgan…and thanks so much for the encouragement. It means more than I can say.
Great ideas! I give myself permission to flit around like a hummingbird, work a few minutes on this and move on. Flitting addresses my restless frustration and adds up to productivity.
I love this! And so descriptive– flitting like a hummingbird.
Wendy L Macdonald
An especial amen, dear Wendy, to these words: “Your knowing all the details won’t change a thing.”
I’ve been forcing myself to have my quiet time before I turn on my phone or computer for this very reason.
This morning, after my be-still-and-know-time, I wrote the following words on Instagram and in my journal: “Quiet time with God helps us hear Him in the storm. Intimacy with the Lord is crucial because otherwise we won’t hear His whispers of comfort and wisdom over the roar of the waves.”
When I’m scared, I remember God isn’t.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
And you are so faithful at posting beautiful images to social media to lift all our spirits, Wendy.
Wendy L Macdonald
Thank you, dear Wendy. 🙂 That’s how I feel about Shelli’s and Beth K. Vogt’s uplifting Instagram posts. And the Books & Such site is a much appreciated anchor for so many writers. Especially now.
Yes, Wendy Mac … the news can capture and shrink us. Maybe if we limit ourselves until the news can encourage us instead. On Sunday, we watched our church service online, and we sang: “You are the God who saves us …” Like you said, He’s the God who isn’t scared. Hugs.
Wendy L Macdonald
I love that song, dear Shelli. <3 That's what I miss most about church: singing together. Our head pastor has been giving his sermons from beautiful wilderness spots in our valley. This is gold to my nature-loving heart. Plus, I can click "like" on YouTube, and therefore let him know he's appreciated. 🙂 Hugs, sweet friend.
Kristen Joy Wilks
It helps me to stay focused if I remind myself that I won’t have time to write as soon as my wild herd of sons wakes up! Occasionally there is time, but usually not, and so this helps me to get up early, buckle down, and type! And no, I am not a morning person, I stagger about making tea in a haze and trying to construct breakfast with my eyes still closed, ha! Also, a nice walk in the woods around our house can be inspiring.
As a fellow not-a-morning-person, I’m in awe of your resolve. Writer, Debbie Macomber says that because her children watched her working so diligently on her dream is why each one says they, too, are uber-productive adults.
I especially appreciate your thought on what to do when our “quiet time” is upended–as mine is with a spouse now working from home in a small house.
When I “don’t feel up to it,” sometimes I do some of the things you mentioned: work on a related part of the project. I like timers to get me started, walks to let ideas simmer, or the freedom to do something (like handwork) away from the computer with pen and paper handy. I do need help staying away from the news!
Timers are a good idea, Tracie, because hours can just slip away. I was thinking I need a 20 second timer at each wash basin for hand washes.Wonder if they make them?
Set your phone for 20 seconds to wash hands.
Having all three of my guys home has pretty much derailed my “normal” for writing and otherwise. I’m giving myself grace to not get things done as quickly as I normally would. I’m also time-blocking my days. I’m still figuring out what’s workable as far as what I can accomplish, but having activities (including writing) time-blocked is helping me a lot.
Same here, Jeanne … time to work and then we all meet up for lunch, etc. It works most of the time. I keep telling myself … last week went good. A few off days doesn’t mean things aren’t working. 🙂
This is a great perspective, Shelli!
I wonder how your boys will remember this time in the years to come, Jeanne. Long ago, in third grade, I think, we had a guest come come into the classroom to tell us what it was like during the London Blitz. I will never forget her description. It became a pivotal moment her life story. (And in mine because of her.) I wonder if this “plague” will feature in life stories.
Debbie T. Skinner
I loved your idea of writing the Psalms. I wrote Psalms 138 and 139 this morning. These are familiar psalms, but took on greater meaning. Thanks, Wendy.
I especially love Psalm 139. If the quarantine lasts much longer I may end up tackling 119. 🙂
Wendy, this was life-giving courage to my soul. The moments when my heart feels compelled to write is when I’m in bed without energy or it feels impossible to get alone. This morning as I felt defeat before I started, I reminded myself that it’s okay if I don’t know the whole plan. Sit down and write and I know it will come, because it always comes and because it’s not set in stone … it’s movable and moldable. Seeing something come from the nothing is the sweetest part. Virtual hugs to everyone. And I do believe I’ll throw a blanket on the ground today.
Morgan Tarpley Smith
Hugs, Shelli!! 🙂
Wendy L Macdonald
Amen, dear Shelli.
This morning I’m feeling grateful for the movability and moldability (I’m ignoring spellcheck X 2) of Microsoft Word.
Blessings as you keep showing up one word at a time ~ Wendy Mac
I ignored Spellcheck, too. ????
That’s such a good idea, Shelli. Dream. We’ll all be back, working hard again before we know it.
Thank you, Wendy, for good suggestions for this difficult time!