It's okay to stop pushing and create space.
Contributor
Written by
Alissa Johnson
December 2017
Writing
Contributor
Written by
Alissa Johnson
December 2017
Writing

I had a whole, glorious day set aside to write. It had been almost two weeks since I'd written something that wasn't an assignment or intended for someone else. I intended to revise the first few chapters of novel so I could send them to my reading partner. 

I settled into the big green easy chair next to the gas-burning stove in the house where Pete and I are staying (the latest stop on what I've come to call "musical houses", a game we are playing while he builds our home). The dog curled up in her bed and outside snow fell from the sky. I loved the way the moment felt.

But I had sooooo many questions.

Is this the story I want to write? What if I actually want to focus on short stories? A missing piece to a short-story-in-progress fell into place during the middle of the night. Maybe I ought to write that. But if I write that then I won't be writing my novel, and I just read a blog post about NOT switching projects mid stream.

I turned to my fail-safe method for finding clarity: free writing. Only it didn't feel like a fail safe. I followed dead end thought after dead end thought, waiting for an idea that felt like "aha"! It didn't come.


I took the dog for a walk and then turned to my other fail-safe: writing anyway. I opened the document but encountered more questions. Would she really behave this way? Or would she choose to do something else? And what about her mom? I'm not sure she'd be feeling that way, either. 

When I tried to write, it didn't flow. I stayed with it for a while, but when the morning passed and I wasn't making headway, I didn't force it.

~ I ate lunch.
~ I cleaned the house.
~ I brushed the dog, who's in the middle of molting season (one day I will learn to brush the dog before I clean).
~ I meditated.
~ It felt so good, I meditated some more.
~I did not fill up the afternoon with more assignments and items from my to-do list.

My goal? Leave enough time and space for insights and creativity to flow.

The insight I needed came in a blog post from Jen Lauden a couple of days later: How lowering your standards leads to greatness. I realized I was struggling because I was demanding perfection. Instead of trusting my instincts and seeing where they led, I wanted to KNOW that each choice was the right one.

When I returned to writing, I let go of the need to be doing the right thing. That led me to my short story, which now exists as a whole draft. That simple fact gives me a genuine sense of excitement, like  this one story creates so much potential. That tells me I made the right choice because that's why I write--to feel like the world is full of possibility.

What would a little space and freedom look like in your creative process? Where are you feeling stuck, and how might easing the pressure give you some relief?

P.S. Ready for a writing breakthrough? Break free from writing rules that don't work and find your way with my FREE three-part series: Inside the Writers Mind. The first insight (and writing prompt) could be yours today.

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