Posts Tagged 'the writing life'

Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 3

Every year, I rerun my popular 4-part series on perfectionism and how to overcome its potentially crippling effects on creativity. Here’s the third installment:
(To read the first installment, click here. For the second installment, click here.)

I’ve been thinking (and writing) a lot about perfectionism lately, and I can see two particular ways in which it has hampered my creativity over the years: Needing my life to be in perfect order before I can really devote time to writing. And feeling my writing isn’t good enough, because it’s not perfect. In this post, I’m going to talk about the first issue, and I’ll discuss the second one next time.

abstract
Here are some things I’ve learned: Life is messy. Creativity is messy. Muses come to you at the worst possible times. They arrive when you can’t possibly listen to them because your world will fall apart if you don’t finish the big work project/get another hour of sleep/re-grout the shower right now. They arrive when you’re tired and cranky and you don’t care about their amazing creative insights. They come to you straight from a Paris café on a sunny afternoon where they were just biting into the perfect tarte au citron. They arrive with crumbs still falling down their chins because they had a brilliant idea for you that couldn’t wait. They expect you to drop everything and listen to their inspirational comments.

Alternately, muses are good at vanishing. They disappear just when you want them the most. They start pouting and storm off right in the middle of a wonderful creative session. Or they suddenly have pressing business elsewhere and won’t stay, even when you beg. They abandon you, leaving you astonished because you thought things were going so well. Or they never arrive at all. They stop taking your calls and won’t tell you why.

And here’s the thing. If you want to create, you must create anyway. If you want to write or paint or sculpt or make music, you must write or paint or sculpt or make music in spite of everything. You must do it when your muse is acting up, and you must do it when you’re cranky, and you must do it when you’re busy.

Because if you don’t write, you’re not writing. If you don’t paint, you’re not painting. In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard said “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” If you don’t spend your days creating, you’re not spending your life creating.

Not to put any pressure on you or anything.

puzzle pieces
Something else I’ve learned—and it’s taken me years to truly understand this—is that creativity can take place in tiny bites. You don’t have to set aside big chunks of time to write a novel. You don’t have to complete a short story in one sitting. Or a poem. Even a haiku.

I once completed a series of stories by setting aside 15 minutes a day when I was working full time and freelancing on the side and felt swamped all the time. I began stopping at a sheltered bench or a hotel lobby every morning after my commute downtown. I wrote for 15 minutes before heading to my office. Once I got into the flow of this daily writing habit, I was amazed at how much I could get done in such a short time.

You can spend five minutes creating metaphors twice a week, spend 15 minutes working on your memoir another three days, write a couple of lines in your head once or twice in the shower. If you engage in these small moments of creativity most days, a flow begins.

Soon the metaphor about the grandfather clock slips into your memoir as a pithy reflection on your family’s tendency to eat breakfast food at dinnertime. The quick description you wrote in your head while showering becomes a narrative about the bully who harassed you on your first day of elementary school. Before you know it, you’ve written the first five chapters of your book.

It really does work. And your days will feel richer because you’ve dotted them with creativity, and forced your Inner Perfectionist to go away and leave you alone.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 3

Every Fall, I rerun my popular 4-part series on perfectionism and how to overcome its potentially crippling effects on creativity. Here’s the third installment:
(To read the first installment, click here. For the second installment, click here.)

I’ve been thinking (and writing) a lot about perfectionism lately, and I can see two particular ways in which it has hampered my creativity over the years: Needing my life to be in perfect order before I can really devote time to writing. And feeling my writing isn’t good enough, because it’s not perfect. In this post, I’m going to talk about the first issue, and I’ll discuss the second one next time.

abstract
Here are some things I’ve learned: Life is messy. Creativity is messy. Muses come to you at the worst possible times. They arrive when you can’t possibly listen to them because your world will fall apart if you don’t finish the big work project/get another hour of sleep/re-grout the shower right now. They arrive when you’re tired and cranky and you don’t care about their amazing creative insights. They come to you straight from a Paris café on a sunny afternoon where they were just biting into the perfect tarte au citron. They arrive with crumbs still falling down their chins because they had a brilliant idea for you that couldn’t wait. They expect you to drop everything and listen to their inspirational comments.

Alternately, muses are good at vanishing. They disappear just when you want them the most. They start pouting and storm off right in the middle of a wonderful creative session. Or they suddenly have pressing business elsewhere and won’t stay, even when you beg. They abandon you, leaving you astonished because you thought things were going so well. Or they never arrive at all. They stop taking your calls and won’t tell you why.

And here’s the thing. If you want to create, you must create anyway. If you want to write or paint or sculpt or make music, you must write or paint or sculpt or make music in spite of everything. You must do it when your muse is acting up, and you must do it when you’re cranky, and you must do it when you’re busy.

Because if you don’t write, you’re not writing. If you don’t paint, you’re not painting. In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard said “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” If you don’t spend your days creating, you’re not spending your life creating.

Not to put any pressure on you or anything.

puzzle pieces
Something else I’ve learned—and it’s taken me years to truly understand this—is that creativity can take place in tiny bites. You don’t have to set aside big chunks of time to write a novel. You don’t have to complete a short story in one sitting. Or a poem. Even a haiku.

I once completed a series of stories by setting aside 15 minutes a day when I was working full time and freelancing on the side and felt swamped all the time. I began stopping at a sheltered bench or a hotel lobby every morning after my commute downtown. I wrote for 15 minutes before heading to my office. Once I got into the flow of this daily writing habit, I was amazed at how much I could get done in such a short time.

You can spend five minutes creating metaphors twice a week, spend 15 minutes working on your memoir another three days, write a couple of lines in your head once or twice in the shower. If you engage in these small moments of creativity most days, a flow begins.

Soon the metaphor about the grandfather clock slips into your memoir as a pithy reflection on your family’s tendency to eat breakfast food at dinnertime. The quick description you wrote in your head while showering becomes a narrative about the bully who harassed you on your first day of elementary school. Before you know it, you’ve written the first five chapters of your book.

It really does work. And your days will feel richer because you’ve dotted them with creativity, and forced your Inner Perfectionist to go away and leave you alone.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
To learn more, click here!

Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 3

This week I’m rerunning my series on perfectionism, which struck quite a chord with readers last year. Here’s the third installment:

I’ve been thinking (and writing) a lot about perfectionism lately, and I can see two particular ways in which it has hampered my creativity over the years: Needing my life to be in perfect order before I can really devote time to writing. And feeling my writing isn’t good enough, because it’s not perfect. In this post, I’m going to talk about the first issue, and I’ll discuss the second one next time.

abstract
Here are some things I’ve learned: Life is messy. Creativity is messy. Muses come to you at the worst possible times. They arrive when you can’t possibly listen to them because your world will fall apart if you don’t finish the big work project/get another hour of sleep/re-grout the shower right now. They arrive when you’re tired and cranky and you don’t care about their amazing creative insights. They come to you straight from a Paris café on a sunny afternoon where they were just biting into the perfect tarte au citron. They arrive with crumbs still falling down their chins because they had a brilliant idea for you that couldn’t wait. They expect you to drop everything and listen to their inspirational comments.

Alternately, muses are good at vanishing. They disappear just when you want them the most. They start pouting and storm off right in the middle of a wonderful creative session. Or they suddenly have pressing business elsewhere and won’t stay, even when you beg. They abandon you, leaving you astonished because you thought things were going so well. Or they never arrive at all. They stop taking your calls and won’t tell you why.

And here’s the thing. If you want to create, you must create anyway. If you want to write or paint or sculpt or make music, you must write or paint or sculpt or make music in spite of everything. You must do it when your muse is acting up, and you must do it when you’re cranky, and you must do it when you’re busy.

Because if you don’t write, you’re not writing. If you don’t paint, you’re not painting. In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard said “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” If you don’t spend your days creating, you’re not spending your life creating.

Not to put any pressure on you or anything.

puzzle pieces
Something else I’ve learned—and it’s taken me years to truly understand this—is that creativity can take place in tiny bites. You don’t have to set aside big chunks of time to write a novel. You don’t have to complete a short story in one sitting. Or a poem. Even a haiku.

I once completed a series of stories by setting aside 15 minutes a day when I was working full time and freelancing on the side and felt swamped all the time. I began stopping at a sheltered bench or a hotel lobby every morning after my commute downtown. I wrote for 15 minutes before heading to my office. Once I got into the flow of this daily writing habit, I was amazed at how much I could get done in such a short time.

You can spend five minutes creating metaphors twice a week, spend 15 minutes working on your memoir another three days, write a couple of lines in your head once or twice in the shower. If you engage in these small moments of creativity most days, a flow begins.

Soon the metaphor about the grandfather clock slips into your memoir as a pithy reflection on your family’s tendency to eat breakfast food at dinnertime. The quick description you wrote in your head while showering becomes a narrative about the bully who harassed you on your first day of elementary school. Before you know it, you’ve written the first five chapters of your book.

It really does work. And your days will feel richer because you’ve dotted them with creativity, and forced your Inner Perfectionist to go away and leave you alone.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Turn Your Life into a Movie…a Book…a Fortune Cookie…

I’m traveling for a few days, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Sometimes, I need to jolt myself out of creative lethargy. It’s good to shake up your writing style now and then, and it tends to send a beacon to your muse. Muses love it when you try something new.

A while back, I started journaling in the format of the film synopses I write as one of my paying gigs. These brief daily entries combined true events from my life with movie language in a hybrid form I found surprisingly fun to craft.
clapperboard A few samples:

September 21:
While looking out her window during a break, freelance writer Sandy Ackers notices that every single dog who passes pees on the same corner of the building across the street. Launching a personal investigationdog to discover the cause of this phenomenon, she soon realizes the canines may be engaged in a mysterious form of communication. Meanwhile, her work remains untouched as she strives to unravel the deepening mystery.

September 24:
so tiredA weary writer drags herself out of bed Monday morning, her body wracked with pain from yesterday’s 20 hours at the computer. Why, she asks herself, didn’t she work harder last week? With a deadline on Wednesday, she faces two more dreary days of eking words out of her bleary brain, which has become stuck in second gear. She soon spirals down into an existential nightmare, with random words flying around her head like a swarm of angry hornets.

October 1:
In this tense drama, passionate freelancer Sandy keeps vigil at her living room window, waiting for the one man she desires. As if to torment her, he visits every home across the street, ignoring her completely.moneySandy knows from experience that hours may pass before the mailman returns, hopefully bearing the highly anticipated check that will mean the difference between dinner out tonight and another celebration of warmed-up leftovers.

October 10:
Sandy Ackers loves working at home—until the wacky lady across the street starts accordianplaying her accordion. 83-year-old German Anneliese enjoys sitting at her open window and regaling passers-by with her tunes. The only problem? She’s terrible! As Sandy flinches through every missed note during her 99th hearing of “Edelweiss,” she imagines a host of hilarious schemes to wrest the accordion from Anneliese’s grip and restore peace to the neighborhood.

October 14:
Stretching on a Sunday morning, Sandy expects to enjoy a lazy day with her husband. What she doesn’t yet realize is that a malicious fog has been gathering in the night, surrounding her and slowing down her brain. When she fully wakes, she’ll notice the viral cloud hovering around her — and she’ll have to fight hard to avoid becoming its latest victim. This disturbing spine-chiller co-stars Headache, Sluggish Muscles and Creeping Pain.

red movie curtains
Exercises like this can make writing fun when it starts feeling routine, or help nudge you out of a block. I find that keeping myself amused also facilitates my creative flow.

fortune cookieBut this concept can go far beyond movie synopsis journal entries. How about writing your autobiography in the form of book jacket copy? Or discussing your protagonist’s current dilemma through game instructions? You could explore your world or create a fictional one using bubblegum cards, a tarot deck, highway billboards, fortune cookies, horoscopes…the possibilities are endless.

As always, I’d love to hear about or see any creative efforts from people reading this.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 3

I’ve been thinking (and writing) a lot about perfectionism lately, and I can see two particular ways in which it has hampered my creativity over the years: Needing my life to be in perfect order before I can really devote time to writing. And feeling my writing isn’t good enough, because it’s not perfect. In this post, I’m going to talk about the first issue, and I’ll discuss the second one next time.

abstract
Here are some things I’ve learned: Life is messy. Creativity is messy. Muses come to you at the worst possible times. They arrive when you can’t possibly listen to them because your world will fall apart if you don’t finish the big work project/get another hour of sleep/re-grout the shower right now. They arrive when you’re tired and cranky and you don’t care about their amazing creative insights. They come to you straight from a Paris café on a sunny afternoon where they were just biting into the perfect tarte au citron. They arrive with crumbs still falling down their chins because they had a brilliant idea for you that couldn’t wait. They expect you to drop everything and listen to their inspirational comments.

Alternately, muses are good at vanishing. They disappear just when you want them the most. They start pouting and storm off right in the middle of a wonderful creative session. Or they suddenly have pressing business elsewhere and won’t stay, even when you beg. They abandon you, leaving you astonished because you thought things were going so well. Or they never arrive at all. They stop taking your calls and won’t tell you why.

And here’s the thing. If you want to create, you must create anyway. If you want to write or paint or sculpt or make music, you must write or paint or sculpt or make music in spite of everything. You must do it when your muse is acting up, and you must do it when you’re cranky, and you must do it when you’re busy.

Because if you don’t write, you’re not writing. If you don’t paint, you’re not painting. In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard said “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” If you don’t spend your days creating, you’re not spending your life creating.

Not to put any pressure on you or anything.

puzzle pieces
Something else I’ve learned—and it’s taken me years to truly understand this—is that creativity can take place in tiny bites. You don’t have to set aside big chunks of time to write a novel. You don’t have to complete a short story in one sitting. Or a poem. Even a haiku.

I once completed a series of stories by setting aside 15 minutes a day when I was working full time and freelancing on the side and felt swamped all the time. I began stopping at a sheltered bench or a hotel lobby every morning after my commute downtown. I wrote for 15 minutes before heading to my office. Once I got into the flow of this daily writing habit, I was amazed at how much I could get done in such a short time.

You can spend five minutes creating metaphors twice a week, spend 15 minutes working on your memoir another three days, write a couple of lines in your head once or twice in the shower. If you engage in these small moments of creativity most days, a flow begins.

Soon the metaphor about the grandfather clock slips into your memoir as a pithy reflection on your family’s tendency to eat breakfast food at dinnertime. The quick description you wrote in your head while showering becomes a narrative about the bully who harassed you on your first day of elementary school. Before you know it, you’ve written the first five chapters of your book.

It really does work. And your days will feel richer because you’ve dotted them with creativity, and forced your Inner Perfectionist to go away and leave you alone.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Turn Your Life into a Movie…or a Book…or a Fortune Cookie…

Sometimes, I need to jolt myself out of creative lethargy. It’s good to shake up your writing style now and then, and it tends to send a beacon to your muse. Muses love it when you try something new.

A while back, I started journaling in the format of the film synopses I write as one of my paying gigs. These brief daily entries combined true events from my life with movie language in a hybrid form I found surprisingly fun to craft.
clapperboard A few samples:

September 21:
While looking out her window during a break, freelance writer Sandy Ackers notices that every single dog who passes pees on the same corner of the building across the street. Launching a personal investigationdog to discover the cause of this phenomenon, she soon realizes the canines may be engaged in a mysterious form of communication. Meanwhile, her work remains untouched as she strives to unravel the deepening mystery.

September 24:
so tiredA weary writer drags herself out of bed Monday morning, her body wracked with pain from yesterday’s 20 hours at the computer. Why, she asks herself, didn’t she work harder last week? With a deadline on Wednesday, she faces two more dreary days of eking words out of her bleary brain, which has become stuck in second gear. She soon spirals down into an existential nightmare, with random words flying around her head like a swarm of angry hornets.

October 1:
In this tense drama, passionate freelancer Sandy keeps vigil at her living room window, waiting for the one man she desires. As if to torment her, he visits every home across the street, ignoring her completely.moneySandy knows from experience that hours may pass before the mailman returns, hopefully bearing the highly anticipated check that will mean the difference between dinner out tonight and another celebration of warmed-up leftovers.

October 10:
Sandy Ackers loves working at home—until the wacky lady across the street starts accordianplaying her accordion. 83-year-old German Anneliese enjoys sitting at her open window and regaling passers-by with her tunes. The only problem? She’s terrible! As Sandy flinches through every missed note during her 99th hearing of “Edelweiss,” she imagines a host of hilarious schemes to wrest the accordion from Anneliese’s grip and restore peace to the neighborhood.

October 14:
Stretching on a Sunday morning, Sandy expects to enjoy a lazy day with her husband. What she doesn’t yet realize is that a malicious fog has been gathering in the night, surrounding her and slowing down her brain. When she fully wakes, she’ll notice the viral cloud hovering around her — and she’ll have to fight hard to avoid becoming its latest victim. This disturbing spine-chiller co-stars Headache, Sluggish Muscles and Creeping Pain.

red movie curtains
Exercises like this can make writing fun when it starts feeling routine, or help nudge you out of a block. I find that keeping myself amused also facilitates my creative flow.

fortune cookieBut this concept can go far beyond movie synopsis journal entries. How about writing your autobiography in the form of book jacket copy? Or discussing your protagonist’s current dilemma through game instructions? You could explore your world or create a fictional one using bubblegum cards, a tarot deck, highway billboards, fortune cookies, horoscopes…the possibilities are endless.

As always, I’d love to hear about or see any creative efforts from people reading this.


STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.


Download a Free E-Book! Click on the Cover Below for your Creative Bursts Workbook

And get fun 15-minute creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week

About Sandy Ackers

Sandy

Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

To learn more about Sandy, click here: About Sandy

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Click here to read the post discussing my relationship with my somewhat pesky male muse.

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