Decluttering the Writer’s Mind

best“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration.
Those emotions are poison to any living goal.”
-Steve Maraboli

Hello, you.

I have attempted to start a blog post for weeks now. I’d sit at my computer, dawdle and tinker with a few items perched happily—expectantly, even, on my desk. I’d catch my reflection in the screen. My tired eyes drooped and heavy, my hair tossed into a messy bun atop my aching head—and I’d sigh and get up. I had nothing to give you. I had no words to write to convey anything of even minuscule value.

I was stuck. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m completely unstuck…and it isn’t writer’s block. It’s nothing special, either. Just bogged down by the every day. My work life has been a constant uphill battle as of late. In a way I am reveling in the daily challenges, but I’m depleted by the time I make it home.

Then the other day one of my IRL friends (yes, I have those!) asked me how my writing projects were coming along. Bless her, she had no idea how much I needed someone to ask me that at that particular moment. I blurted the truth: “They aren’t!” Then I realized that there is a good chance that my feeling drained and empty isn’t completely to blame on my nine-to-five or those other pesky adulthood obligations.

I need to write to feel complete.

But my first few attempts at getting back in the saddle haven’t been as fruitful as I’d like, so I’m on a quest to unburden myself while I am at home, gain perspective, and reclaim my writerly life. I thought I’d share my ideas in hopes they might help someone going through a similar dry spell.

1.| This one may sound strange but: Shower and change. I’ve got a bad habit of coming home from work, squaring up dinner, and then continuing to work. I check and respond to emails, work on spreadsheets, etc. I need to shed my work-self when I walk in the door. So, I’m going to change up my routine and wash away my day with a hot shower and hope that puts me in a different mindset.

2.| Sip a new brew. Whether it’s an herbal tea (Still love my green apricot and sour cherry blend), or a new coffee for some weekend morning writing, I think the prospect of treating myself to something new—i.e. something I don’t drink before work—will help separate those two pieces of my life.

3.| Get up. This one isn’t original, I know. Hear me out, though. I’m naturally a pretty early riser. The latest I like to sleep on the weekends is still only 7:00 and up until a couple of months ago, that was still pretty late for me on the weekends. In recent weeks, I’ve been allowing myself to stay in bed as late as 9:00…and I’ve been insistent on leaving almost as soon as my husband’s feet hit the ground. Because staying home meant I would inevitably work—and come Saturday, a spreadsheet may cause me to go into a fit of rage. So, I’m going to

4.| Groceries 2.0. What? I have discovered the joy of having others do my grocery shopping for me. I’ve been heckled about this from several people. “That’s so lazy. Are you kidding me?” “I could never let someone grocery shop for me. I need to see everything.” Look, I get it. This one won’t be for everybody. But it is mighty satisfying to get a phone call and someone tell me “Your groceries are ready!” I can swing by after work, and everything is loaded for me. I’m in and out within five minutes. No impulse shopping. More time for writing.

5.| Enthusiastically enjoy life. Oh yeah, this one is simple and easy to do. (Cue eye roll!) Recently I went on vacation. I should mention this is the first real vacation I’ve been on in at least five years—probably more. We didn’t go far, just about three hours away. In the three hour drive there, I stressed over what was going on at work nearly the entire way. It took considerable effort, but I successfully checked myself out of work while I checked in at the hotel desk. I need that more often. So, my plan to enjoy life has various stages. I will endeavor to do at least one thing every day to enrich my husband’s life. I will not check my phone when we are dining together. I will only check my work email on Sunday evenings, just to make sure there isn’t something unexpected I need to do first thing on Monday morning. (I’m trying to let it sink in that if something is urgent enough, they’ll call.) And lastly, I’m going to travel more. I’m 31. I work hard. I deserve to play.

6.| Ask for help. This may be the biggest no-brainer on the list, but it is probably the hardest for me to do. I get this from my father, as I do many things…but asking for help is really difficult for me. It makes me feel weak and less than. I feel whomever I’ve asked for help is automatically my superior. Depending on the size of the task I’ve asked to be assisted with, I can really beat myself up about it. I’m my own biggest enemy and competitor. I should probably seek help with this. 😉 But, this isn’t healthy, and I know it. I will probably never be comfortable asking others to pick up some of my workload, but trying to do it all is going to kill me. Aside from work duties, I am asking my husband to help by cooking dinner one night per week, and to block out a few quiet hours during the weekends to give me time to focus. Other family members will be asked (not expected) to take care of my dogs on occasion so I can work on #5. (One of the reasons it has been so long since I’ve been on vacation is because I hate asking people to take care of my pups!)

7.| Get dirty. Yeah, yeah. Snicker all you’d like. This one is a bit of #5, because I really need to go hiking more often…but I really mean I need to scratch my other creative itches. Painting, candle making, making shitty pottery. Now, you may be thinking that these creative endeavors, while fun and all, are simply just obstacles to writing. “Aila. Seriously. This is just you wasting even more writing time.” But, I don’t necessarily see it that way. Writing is the primary goal, but when I think over the last couple of weeks, I think I would’ve fared better had I kneaded some clay or filled my home with the fragrance of a batch of new Autumnal candles. Anything other than sitting here, stewing over problem #459281. Yes. I think it’s high time for a date with Bob Ross.

8.| Meditate. I suck at this. I am really, amazingly, monumentally terrible at meditating. My mind is all over the place. But, as with most other things in life, there is an app for that. Many, many apps.

9.| Reward scheme. Let’s be honest. Most of us really like rewards. We sign up for reward programs at the grocery store. We scribble our names and addresses on those cards at the mall kiosk in hopes of winning a candy-apple red Mustang GT. Hell, some of us are even willing to change banks if there is a free blender involved. So, I’ve decided to set up a rewards program for myself. The prize will of course have to reflect the effort. I can’t afford a fancy meal after completing every chapter. But most definitely so after finishing a draft. Perhaps after every five chapters I will treat myself to some new gourmet coffee or an interesting tea. This would help with the Sip a New Brew plan, anyway. If you have other reward ideas, let me know in the comments below!

10.| Write on location. The library is one thing, but I’ve never really attempted at writing anywhere outside the comfort of my home. Maybe a few sentences here and there—and I’m not including the notes app on my iPhone where I jot down story ideas as they come to me. Actually, I’m not even talking exclusively writing on an electronic device. The idea of sitting on a bench downtown with my laptop, or with pen and pad on a tree stump in the woods next to a gurgling river has immense appeal to me suddenly. Perhaps this is just the shot in the arm I need.

Have you ever been stuck before? How did you navigate back?

One thought on “Decluttering the Writer’s Mind

  1. thomasjast says:

    Some great advice here! I’m all about the environment I’m in: I can’t write in a messy room, even if and especially if it’s my mess. I’m more easily distracted, the older I get, it seems. Sometimes it’s as simple as writing in a dark room so the rest of your peripheral vision disappears. But… there’ll never be as big a distraction as other people!

    Good luck with your writing!


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