What to do when you struggle to trust the creative process

writing-3I’ve been into astrology, tarot, and divination of all kinds for as long as I can remember. As an Aries, I love to learn more about myself, and as a kid, I would pour over all kinds of books to see what they had to say about my sign.

One detail I read haunted me for years. It said that impatience can be the downfall for an Aries person – that we love to start things, but sticking with them? Well, that’s a different story. Aries people want to know where it’s all going, and they want to get to the finish line as fast as possible.

If they don’t keep themselves in line, they are likely to have a trail of half-baked dreams but few accomplishments.

Talk about a dire warning. But you know what? I decided I wouldn’t let that happen to me. Especially as a writer, which, to be honest, has felt like a bit of an odd career choice for someone who prefers life to happen fast.

Because books take a long time to write. And once you reach the end of the story, you have to go all the way back to the start and edit it – sometimes again, and again, and again.

So I accepted that if I wanted to make things – books, art, a business, an interesting life – that I would have to commit to the process, even if it means waiting for the good stuff to arrive.

The truth is, starting something can be the easiest part (regardless of your sign). Who doesn’t love that first burst of inspiration and the promise of possibility that a new idea can bring?

But then, there’s the middle of it all. The honeymoon stage of a new project can fizzle out pretty fast. Ideas that you know are beautiful, brilliant, and important can suddenly feel a lot more overwhelming than you first thought, especially when you’re trying to figure out how to make it all work.

And it can feel so much harder when you can’t see where it’s all going. What’s on the other side of an idea? Where is it all leading to, and how long will it take before it’s truly finished?

Sometimes, impatience can be our friend. It keeps us pushing through, like a personal trainer who’s whispering in your ear to write just one more page, finish one more chapter, saying, “You’re almost there. Just keep going. As soon as you finish this, you can go home for the day.”

Other times, impatience can be a hindrance. It can make you rush through your work, or abandon it altogether to chase after a shiny new idea.

Impatience can also be an indicator that you need to rebuild some trust with your own creative process. Maybe you’ve been so eager to finish something that you’re pushing at it too hard, not listening when your words speak back to you and say, “Not yet. We’re not quite ready to fall into place.”

Maybe you’ve set an unrealistic deadline for yourself, not taking into account just how ambitious your project is, or what you really need to thrive creatively.

Maybe you’ve started to question whether you can really write this book: “I should be done by now. I could be by now. How come I’m only halfway there?”

So what can you do if your trust in your creative process is feeling shaky? Here a few tips that can help:

1. Remember that feelings are not facts. Yes, creating can be a very emotional, even intuitive, process. But whenever you start to “feel” that your book isn’t coming together fast enough, remember that impatience doesn’t always reflect reality.

Like every emotion, impatience has a job to do. It wants to hurry, and if it feels like it’s been hanging around in the same place too long, it gets restless. But it doesn’t mean that impatience has to get its way every time it speaks up.

Remind yourself that the book you are writing is going to be better off for you investing the right amount of time in it. Cranking it out might feel gratifying in the moment, but will it be the book you are proud of, or will you wonder what else it could have been if you had just spent another six months on it?

If you are feeling restless, why not try writing a new scene, or starting a new chapter, and come back to the one you are working on later?

That way, you can satisfy your need for something new without abandoning your work, or becoming distracted with something else.

2. If you are starting to question your idea, look back at how far you’ve gotten yourself so far. Read through the passages in your manuscript that you feel most proud of. Let yourself be excited by it again, and give yourself credit for what you have already created.

Review your notes, too. I find that when I look back to any original notes I made about a book, I am able to reconnect with the initial excitement and inspiration I had for it, and that helps me keep going.

It can also help to look at other things you have written outside of your current project. Make sure you choose a piece that you still really love, even if it’s something you’ve never shown to anyone else. Remind yourself that you’ve done this before, and you will do it again.

3. Take a break from your book. Sometimes, when we are pushing ourselves to finish something, the last thing we want to do is stop – especially if impatience is breathing down your neck.

But if things are starting to feel forced, then it can be best to step back and take a rest.

Go for a walk. (So many great ideas can be found while out on walks.) Read something just for fun. Hang out with some friends. Go see a movie by yourself. Read some interviews with other authors or artists you admire.

Allow yourself to recharge and get re-inspired. Trust that the momentum will return.

4. Remember that writing means embracing the unknown, and that’s why it’s okay if you don’t know how you are going to finish your book.

Sometimes, writers can start to worry about the structure and timing of a book, to the point where it stops them from writing the next sentence, or bringing in a new scene that they are really excited to get to.

You are creating something that doesn’t exist yet. There is no formula to follow for your book because you need to create it first. It will be unique because you are the only person who can write it in your style, from your perspective.

Once you reach the end of the story is when the puzzle pieces really start to come together, but sometimes, you have to surrender to feeling like everything is coming apart first.

Embrace the unknown. That’s part of the beauty of the creative process. And so is learning to trust in yourself as you go along.


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