These are trying times for us creatives. The world is in upheaval, and our lives full of uncertainty. Cultivating creativity while juggling life, kids, a day job, and, more often than not, some anxiety level as to what the future holds doesn’t come easy.
The result is that most of us hit burnout fast because our heads aren’t in the game; our psyche is too preoccupied with all that’s going wrong around us to be able and produce quality content. After such an epic burnout in July, I decided to change my mindset, stop trying to force myself to create.
I’ve been struggling for a while, and lately more so. This post? I’ve been trying to write a different one for almost a week, and it just isn’t working. My headspace is too full of anxiety to force it.
A big part of why I started this blog is to help other indies in the self-publishing race, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one with these struggles. And this post is pouring out of me because it resonates with some raw crap I’m going through right now, and I feel like it will help more people than the other posts in my pipeline.
You won’t find any magic solutions in this post, just a few methods that work for me in cultivating creativity when my world is full of uncertainty.
7 Methods to Nurture Your Imagination Under Stress
Say goodbye to deadlines
Obviously, not 100% feasible, I still have external commitments that are imperative to advancing my career. Even so, I haven’t set a release date for my next book or taken on any obligations unless I felt it was within my current capabilities or that it’s a golden opportunity.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you do need a bit of a deadline motivation to get those procrastination juices flowing. So, I did two things with Harmony to make sure I get it out sooner rather than later, but with the least amount of pressure and stress.
First, I put it up for the farthest away pre-order as possible (one year), so I know it has to come out within that generous timeframe, lest I be fined by Amazon.
The second thing I did was block an editing slot with Gina at Killing it Write, with a feasible date in mind to finish the manuscript but knowing that worse comes to worst, it’s a flexible deadline.
This way, I combine that little bit of deadline pressure without the added stress of set-in-stone dates.
Ignore glorified productivity social media posts
Nothing in the world makes you feel worse as a creator when your peers are posting left and right about the 10K words they write a day since going into lockdown when you barely get 100 a week, or how they sit for four hours once a month and write blog post content for six months forward when you struggle to get one up.
And the worst posts? Those people who call you to get up and hustle, the infamous rise and grind.
In a recent Instagram post, I quoted Shaggy from Scooby-Doo:
"If you don't know which way is right, go left."
What I love about this quote is the simplicity. A mindset shift doesn’t necessarily have to be overly complicated.
Sometimes deep and profound is as simple as understanding that you can look at every problem from a few different perspectives.
Right isn’t just the opposite of wrong; it’s also a direction you can choose to turn away from.
Being stuck doesn’t just mean the inability to move from a certain point; it also means to fix something, as in – sometimes you have to stop pushing forward by force and let yourself adjust to whatever problems you’re facing now.
To grind isn’t just to work hard; it’s also to reduce something to small particles or powder by crushing it. Which is what will happen to your spirit and creativity if you don’t make time to recharge.
I salute those individuals who find their muse under extreme circumstances and have a creative burst when under extreme duress. This is in no way a judgment of their notable achievements.
This is me, telling you that it’s okay not to be one of those people.
With a little help from my friends
During this time of uncertainty, one of the most significant drivers was my friends from the romance indie community.
Joint projects such as anthologies, live writes, brainstorming, and more, have filled me with so much joy and inspiration.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, you’re not alone in this feeling. Many writers and creators feel the slump in energies and motivation, and collaborating with your peers will provide both a place to vent to someone who understands precisely what you’re going through and a sense of mission.
Because when you make a commitment to another person, it fills you with determination. Add to that the mutual cheering, and you’ll feel like you have a bit of wind in your sails again.
Find the right tools
A while ago I decided to scale back on my social media presence and concentrate on Instagram and Pinterest, which meant I needed to find the best tools to maximize and optimize my efforts on those two platforms.
It’s challenging to spend money on something that doesn’t necessarily show ROI during times of uncertainty, and a reason Tailwind is a top tool for me is that their free option gives high value for creatives.
Personally, since I started blogging, Tailwind pro for both Instagram and Pinterest has been one of the best investments I’ve made.
As Tailwind are official Instagram partners, they offer something that no other Instagram scheduling app can–auto-posting without fear of consequences for using a third-party app.
And by auto-posting, I don’t mean scheduling and getting a reminder, but setting up a post, scheduling it to the day and time you want, and forgetting about it until it goes up.
This has cut down my time on Instagram by a third. Not just the time it takes me to post, but because I don’t have to open the app, I waste less time mindlessly scrolling. Since I don’t live in the same time zone as most of my audience, this also allows me to post at high engagement hours when I’m usually not awake.
Tailwind is also an official Pinterest partner and they have branched out to Facebook as well.
Their most prominent feature that will save you the most time is Tailwind Create, which follows trends and helps you design on-brand posts across all social platforms.
I highly recommend you start your free Tailwind trial today. It’ll take so much off your plate, and I guarantee it’ll help you manage your social media workflow more efficiently.
[2022 update+disclaimer: since Instagram started favoring reels and I took down my blog due to time constraints so Pinterest has become less relevant, I’ve stopped using Tailwind altogether, but they are still a great tool for people juggling a few platforms.]
Connect with your audience
How often do you engage with your followers on things that aren’t your books?
People are looking for that connection these days. Social distancing has made one-on-one contact sparse, so many of them are turning online.
Initiating interaction with your followers can benefit you, not just for sales and visibility but also as an artist. Speaking with your fans and people interested in your work is an excellent form of motivation.
Do a Q&A, This or That, games, polls. Get your audience to react to you by letting them get to know you.
I use this method a lot on Instagram to start conversations on taboo topics (aka, my QOTD about anal sex in romance novels. Yes, I went there, and it was fascinating).
This is also a perfect time to develop a newsletter strategy, work on your existing subscriber’s list, and get new people on board. Share your journey and your struggles, but also your wins.
Struggling on this? So do I. Mailing lists are a big hurdle for me. But it’s learnable, which brings me to my next tip.
Time for growth
There is so much to learn when you’re a creativepreneur, which doesn’t necessarily come naturally to us creators.
One thing I started doing a lot during lockdown is online workshops and courses. I try to find as many free resources as possible, and you’d be surprised how many platforms for creators, such as Tailwind and ConvertKit, offer webinars and Facebook lives for free.
I’ve learned so much from these sessions, met wonderful people, and became part of the Creative Impact Collective, where I’m continually growing and building my name as a creator.
One resource you don’t want to miss as an author is the Killing it Write Workshops.
Gina has been my editor since day one, and she is a mentor through and through. Finally, caving into all her client’s pestering, she created online writing workshops, 3 distinct series with 3 courses in each, which she does live on Zoom.
As an avid supporter of our indie community, Gina is offering a course of your choice for free.
I took The Importance of Visual Effects. It was a wonderful experience that helped me see weak and strong points in my writing, fortify my confidence in my writing skills, and get to hear opinions and suggestions not only from a well-seasoned editor but from my peers as well.
Back to your roots
Another tactic that helped me get my mind back into writing mode is reading. I’ve been going back to all my favorite books, rereading the fabulous Dare to Love series by Mira Lyn Kelly, followed by her most recent release – Slayers Hockey Novels, which I adore.
It’s been a while since I made time for reading, and I could even excuse the downtime as research because you have to read in order to improve as a writer. So, I relaxed and developed my skills. Double win!
But more importantly, remembering what brought on my passion for writing romance in the first place helped me get out of my writing funk, gave me a bit of a boost that I needed to progress with my own manuscript. It was a small one, but more than I’ve experienced in a while.
At the end of the day…
I think the most challenging step for me was to understand that it’s okay to slow down. Once I did, my mind was in a much better place, and things started flowing a bit easier.
These are trying times for everyone. The uncertainty and chaos that seem to have taken over the world are not conducive of creativity. The stress levels and adjusting to this new reality, especially so close to the holidays, are difficult to process.
And it’s easy to lose sight of ourselves while trying not to lose our sense of self.
So, stay safe, stay healthy, and above all–