How writing cyclically saved a writer’s creativity

Suffering from burnout? A creative cycle can rekindle your love of writing.
By Victoria Fry | Published: December 19, 2016


writing cyclically

 

I’m thinking of giving up writing.”

It was a revelation I never saw coming – but after months of struggling to feel any joy for writing, there it was. I was seriously considering a life without something I used to love more than almost anything in the world.

Saying it out loud was a relief. A life without writing sounded like freedom. No more stressing out over why I hadn’t finished my novel. No more ignoring loves like knitting and board games because they took time away from writing. No more reading with half a mind tuned in to the how and why of the book’s structure.

Yet even as I reveled in the thought of what I could do with the time and energy I reclaimed from writing, I knew I had to give writing one last try. I wanted to reclaim my life, my creativity, my energy, and I couldn’t do that if I was always wondering, “what if?

One last try.

I released the pressure valve on this venture by setting no goals and making no plans. If I felt like writing, I would write. Otherwise, I would read, knit, work, and live my life. No strings, no pressure, and no objectives.

Choosing aimlessness is often a recipe for disaster. In retrospect, it was exactly what I needed at the time, though my inner monologue told a different story.

You’re being lazy. You shouldn’t just be dabbling, you should be writing a thousand words a day.

These thoughts stung like a wasp in the grass. But I discovered something wondrous as time went on: The less I indulged these thoughts, the less power they possessed and the more clarity I gained. When had I stopped writing for the love of it? Somewhere along the way, I’d lost sight of the joy, getting mired instead in pools of anxiety about revisions, literary agents, and publishing houses.

I knew now that if I wanted to stick with writing for the long haul, I had to rekindle the spark. Without it, any kind of quantifiable success in writing wasn’t worth having.

This revelation lit the way forward, and I moved onward without judgment or expectations. There were periods when I wrote constantly and periods when I brainstormed, read, or followed other creative pursuits instead.

I soon realized this journey was no longer aimless. Perhaps it never was. Instead, I was journeying through a creative cycle, divided roughly into segments that reminded me of the seasons, each with its own quality and purpose.

During a creative winter, I battened down the hatches, pushed other hobbies off my radar screen, hunkered down, and got thousands of words on the page.

After pushing myself so hard, I needed a chance to recover. I wrote if I felt like it and did writing exercises relatively consistently. I embraced the rejuvenative nature of spring, filling my free time with yoga, healthy meals, and piles of books.

When my mind no longer felt like a limp rag, I shifted into a playful summer season, toying with writing prompts and new ideas, noodling around with old stories and new settings.

Finally, I pounced into a pile of autumn leaves and started gathering nuts for the chilly winter ahead, shifting my focus to getting through necessary research, outlining, and organization.

The longer my writing flowed through creative seasons, the greater the sense of ease I felt. Writing was no longer about “should;” it was about tuning in to my needs and trusting my intuition enough to fill those needs without question. I started setting goals again, but this time they flowed naturally from what I was building, rather than some arbitrary idea of what I should be doing.

There were seasons within seasons, too, like a set of nesting dolls. In the midst of winter, if I set aside a weekend for writing, I didn’t smash the panic button if I got three hours in and started feeling antsy. Instead, I stepped away to brew and savor a cup of tea (spring), respond to a writing prompt or toy with my characters (summer), step back to the page and outline where I want to go next with the scene (fall), and roll right back into winter again.

It’s been a couple of years now since I first embraced the idea of writing seasonally. It took time, and it still takes work (as anything worthwhile does), but I’ve fallen in love with writing again, and this time it’s for keeps. Burnout remains a stranger, and living the life of a writer fills me with hope and freedom and joy, not dread and loneliness. When my creative winter rolls around, I tuck into those writing marathons and my productivity soars. I no longer dread the lulls, because I know they’re part of the process. It’s not just about running the race, it’s about taking time to stretch sore muscles, develop new routines, and learn new techniques. Creative seasons allow for all of that and so much more.

These days, I no longer entertain the concept of abandoning my writing. Writing seasonally combines the freedom and joy I felt when writing as a kid with the habits and routines I’ve developed in my adult years. It’s the best of all worlds, and it’s mine for the taking.

 

Victoria Fry is a freelance writer and writing coach. She has written for The Writer, GenTwenty, and numerous online publications.

 

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