Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Helping A Writer’s Muddled Mind - Part 2

Last month I was lamenting the problem I was having getting going after the first of the year. I felt muddled during most of January and felt like I wasn’t making much progress with my writing projects. (Tweet this!) As a part of that muddle, I also couldn’t think of what to write about on this blog. When a friend suggested I write about that very topic — How to generate new writing ideas when we’re dry — and suggested others might be helped by my struggles, I gave it a go and, much to my surprise, ended up with such a lengthy blog post I’ve divided it into two!

If you wish to read about the first three causes of my thinking and writing-muddle I identified last month: 
  • 1. Not Enough Ideas 
  • 2. Too Many Ideas 
  • 3. Distractions, 

Here are the other three causes of a writer’s muddled mind that I was able to identify:

4. Things I Don’t Want to Do (But Need to Do)

It seems clear to me that whenever I get overloaded with tasks I don’t like doing or dread doing, everything slows and I can’t seem to get much done. (Tweet it!) I don’t think it matters if we’re creative people or business people or laborers or whatever, in every job I’ve ever held there have been tasks I enjoy doing and tasks I dislike or dread doing. It seems equally clear to me that we can all get ourselves to do those tasks we don’t like or dread. Because it’s part of the job.

But when everything on our to-do lists is stuff we don’t want to do, it can stall us out completely. We need a little bit of sugar mixed in, don’t you think?

I also think sometimes I don’t want to do things because there’s something else going on. It could be that I really don’t know how to do what I need to do. That’s my next point #5 below.

But it can also be that I’m stalled out on doing something I normally don’t mind doing. Such as, you ask? Last month I described how dry I was on ideas for this blog. Normally I enjoy writing this blog. I love sharing with you something I’ve learned or something I know which I think will help you.

Still, there are times when I intensely don’t want to write this blog. (Sorry. It’s true.) Why? Well that’s a very good question for me to stop and think about.

The “why” behind why I didn’t want to write this blog last month, once I stopped and gave some thought to it, turned out to be because I didn’t have a great idea that I felt would help you. I couldn’t think of anything new to share that you might need. I could think of things to write about, but not that I thought sounded profitable for you.

I was stuck. Stuck for a good idea. I needed to do it. But I didn’t want to do it because nothing sounded good to me.

So what’s the solution? If possible either mix in some things you want to do, or figure out a way through what you don’t want to do, or both.

If you’re stuck, ask for help. Ask your writer friends. Ask other friends. Ask a stranger if you must. Ask the person next to you the bus or the train or in the waiting room or standing in line.

I recently read a statement from a successful author who said that early in her career an editor advised her to ask everyone (strangers included):
“What book do you wish had been written for you to read?” 
Wow. I never thought of doing that. This author said it had served her well and had sparked many of her books. (Tweet that!)

So ask someone for help and see what you get.

Furthermore, if you’re a believer, ask God for help. He may have a great idea for you. And He just might be wishing you would ask.

5. Things I Don’t Know How to Do (But Must Do)

Sometimes I mistake a task as #4 above — something I don’t want to do — when the real problem is that I don’t know how to do it. And so I’m stuck. No matter how much I prod myself to get going, I can’t move forward. Then I realize the real reason isn’t because I’m lazy or don’t feel like doing it, it’s because I don’t know how to get over the mountain that is standing before me.

One such recent dilemma for me was this: My writing projects this spring include two film projects. I need to do a fundraiser for both of them.

Not a writer's usual work. I’ve never done a fundraiser before. I have so many questions. I don't know how to do this. I’ve observed others and therefore thought I knew how to do it and I have many ideas of what I can do to hopefully make it a success. But I kept not starting the project.

I had questions in my mind I didn’t know how to answer. Should I do this fundraiser? Should I not? I hate asking for money. What should I offer for incentives? I’m producing not one, but two, projects this spring — one with a larger crew, one with a small crew. I couldn’t see running two separate fundraisers and making them both successful, nor could I see how to run one and divide the proceeds fairly between the two. Help!

Then I asked God to help me figure out how to do this fundraiser. Before I got to bed I had an idea that could work. The next morning I spent an hour writing down all my ideas.

Incentives? Duh. I have books. And I have expertise. I can offer consultations, phone meetings with writers and filmmakers. Others on my film teams might be willing to offer the same in their area of expertise.

Which film project? I could let the donor tell me by listing the same incentive three times:
  • Choose this one if you want your donation to go to the narrative film team. 
  • Choose this one if you want your donation to go to the documentary film. 
  • Choose this one if you don’t have a preference and I can use your donation wherever it is needed most.

This fundraiser had me stopped for a long time because it was something I could not figure out how to do. But I kept seeking an answer and it came. (Tweet that!) Now I’m moving forward, excited about my FUN-Draiser!

6. A Writer’s Worries

Finally, as I was trying figure out why my writer’s mind was so muddled that I was having difficulty getting anything done, I discovered that the more difficulties I had getting going on projects and finding answers to my dilemmas, the harder it was to sleep at night. I didn’t want to worry about these things through the night but they wouldn’t let me sleep. That just added to my muddled thinking the next day.

So what was my solution to this? One night I made a rule: No thinking about the project allowed between the hours of 9:00 PM and 7:00 AM. This is sleep time. I can’t do anything about any of it during those hours anyway. So why lay awake worrying?  (Tweet it!)

My new rule works. Mostly. I still break it occasionally but I’m better for the rule and with practice it’s getting easier to enforce it. It’s about setting boundaries around our work and our projects. It’s about keeping good boundaries so we can have a life beyond our work.

What about you? What muddles your writer’s mind? What stops you from making progress on your writing projects? Can you identify different problems than what I did? What suggestions do you have to deal with the problem so you can get going again?

Related Article: 

  • Helping A Writer’s Muddled Mind - Part 1