We all get stuck in artistic quicksand from time to time. That bored, uninspired, pessimistic fog can creep in and mess with the imagination. What do you do when you find yourself saying things like this?
- I feel blue and uninspired about what to work on next, but I don’t know why.
- I have no motivation.
- I don’t have any good ideas left.
- the project I just finished was a huge success, and I got lots of positive feedback on it–so now I feel gloomy and discouraged about the future for some illogical reason.
- My last project was a flop. I don’t feel like going through that again, but I want to work on something.
There are lots of things you could do to get yourself motivated and inspired. You might take some walks. Maybe talking about your struggles with a friend helps you get unstuck. For a lot of people, journaling is one of the best exercises to clear some debris and undergrowth from the creative path.
Maybe the idea of journaling sounds frivolous or boring to you. You might say, “Look, I’m not the type of person to write a hundred pages about how being a third-born sibling set me back fifteen years in my emotional development. And I’m not about to write out some plan for what I will do every day for the next five years. The last thing I want is some homework assignment to take up what little time and energy I have left.”
OK, none of us wants a boring burdensome introspection project, fair enough. But I actually have something simpler in mind. For me, journaling is writing down your reflections about yourself and your experiences over some time in order to maintain a broader perspective on yourself. It’s just using the act of writing to orient yourself so your moods and problems don’t completely cloud over your view of things. I’m suggesting that you simply spend time regularly reflecting and writing about yourself.
If you’re feeling stuck or uninspired right now, then start writing down your thoughts about that. Use the pen or keyboard to bring some order and logic to the problem. No deep self-psychoanalysis necessary, just getting your mind a little more focused on what you want to do about your quicksand.
Here are some practical steps for getting started with journaling:
- Next time you’re at the drug store pick up one of those 100-page composition books that kids use in school. The smaller ones with fewer pages are great so you don’t feel like you have lots of blank paper that you need to fill up.
- Pick a specific time and place to journal every day for a few days. Mornings are often a good choice, because that is when your mind is rested and not yet cluttered with the irritations and stresses of the day.
- Just write. You can ask yourself questions. You can talk to yourself. You can just write silly rhymes and weird musings that pop into your mind, if that is helpful or meaningful. No one else needs to read this, so just write what you need to write.
- Go into it with no expectations. The journaling might be a waste of time, or it might change your life. Everyone’s experience will be a little different. Try not to expect anything–just see what happens.
You don’t need to make journaling an intense, life-long commitment. I personally don’t like to journal much, but I do find it helpful from time to time. There’s no “should” here–just try it if you think it might be useful, and forget it if it doesn’t do much for you.
Try one of these prompts to get your words flowing:
Travel to the past: Think of someone from your past that is one of your heroes. What advice would this hero give you for today?
Travel to the future: Imagine a conversation with your future self–maybe yourself five or ten years from now. What wisdom and encouragement would you get from conversing with your future self?
Give it a try for a few days. Jot down a few paragraphs every morning for the next week or so, letting your past heroes or future self offer some advice and perspective.
And, while we’re talking about time travel, allow me to recommend my favorite time-travel novel, Borgel by Daniel Pinkwater. This little novel is no longer in print as a stand-alone, so you might need to look for a used copy to buy. Or, you can buy it as part of Pinkwater’s Four Fantastic Novels collection. Or, you can listen to the free audio book at pinkwater.com.