Once upon a time, there was a creative-thinking human who never once second-guessed themselves, always grasped the path they wanted to take, and never felt intimidated by other people’s work. They didn’t procrastinate, spent more time actually creating than obsessively planning what they would one day produce, and under no conditions could they conceptualize a reason for why they weren’t as capable or as worthy of success as another of their breed. Now that is a fairy-tale if I have ever heard one. Recently, despite constantly coaxing myself to “just write one (GODDAMN) thing,” most weeks would see seven days come and go and…crickets. As someone who has to write in some daily form to live, this has been frustrating and worryingly troublesome. Despite a brief fling at seven years old when I wanted to be Prime Minister of England, I have only ever been able to envision myself as writing. And, while there are undoubtedly many paths to being a writer, the fundamental basis of all is that you actually have to write.
This past week has been transformative. I feel inspired, motivated, and am enjoying the process of ideas forming in my head, traveling through my veins, and bleeding out through my fingers. Gone are the writer-scaries that haunted me and obstructed me from believing I had anything to say. It has been a 6-month process (although I would argue I lost the rhythm of my voice a long time before that) and, like all valuable developments, it is only by looking back that I can see what transpired. The amusing part of re-finding your creative heart is that you can’t consciously be searching for it. While this is the process I took to get my writing mojo back, I also believe it could be adapted and tweaked for anyone who is experiencing any form of a creative slump. The art may be different, but the mechanics are similar.
1. I gave up my limiting expectations.
After weeks of not writing on my blog and getting frustrated with myself as a result, I realized that the partnership clearly wasn’t currently working and therefore a break was needed. Over the years of writing on the Internet, I have taken many, many breaks, so this wasn’t so difficult. I knew the world would keep spinning. In fact, it was a relief to not constantly be beating myself up over something that has always brought me so much joy. Recognizing that it was not currently working, I let it go and told myself that I could come back when I felt ready. There was no point in forcing something when I wasn’t even certain what I was forcing.
2. I started writing elsewhere.
That being said, since I was a little girl, I have had to write in order for my brain to keep functioning. Without some form of daily scrawl, I have a problem making sense of any of my thoughts. So, I went back to taking up daily journalling — the most important step in this process. During my journalling periods (morning and evening, most days), I throw down anything and everything that is in my head – things I have heard that day, what is pissing me off, how my legs are feeling, who I want to be. I write and I write and I write and, over the course of the past four months, I subconsciously directed myself back to clarity and understanding. On the pages of my notebooks are my original thoughts and my true inner voice. It is me without any disguise along with the wishes, desires, and struggles that I don’t share with anyone. Unedited and often rather rambling in manner, the journals are a place where I can write without fear and I have no doubt that this daily routine has helped me reconnect with my writing mojo both in tone, content, and regularity.
3. I spent a lot of time thinking about other things in order to arrive back.
Writing is a strange thing. It is like William Saroyan said, “I do not know what makes a writer, but it probably isn’t happiness.” Considering my writing is wholly based on my personal experiences, interactions, and thoughts, the act can be even stranger. In order to write, I have to spend time doing something other than writing to be able to have material to write about. As I had deemed myself incredibly uninspired, I figured that inspiration would come back at some point if I was to throw myself into other things; making Youtube videos was a welcomed alternative. Without pressuring myself to document and write about everything (which my journalling sessions proved is not even what I truly wanted to do), I just lived. And, the words started filling up inside of me until I couldn’t think of anything but letting them out.
4. I unfollowed everyone who I noticed threw me off.
One of the incredible things about the Internet is that it offers you a world of creatives at your fingertips. Yet, our constant ability to be consumed by their work is also one of the most challenging parts. I hate the fact that I consume significantly more than I produce and I know that this causes my brain to be filled up with what everyone else is doing which, in turn, leaves no space for my originality. People are always writing about the negative effects of constantly comparing yourself and your life to what you see on social media. And, while that is certainly a dangerous hole to go down, that hasn’t been my main problem. Instead, I found myself constantly distracted from what I wanted to do. I would know which lane was mine to drive in and be ready to hit the gas when suddenly I would scroll Instagram, catch sight of someone else’s engine, and immediately swerve off. So, I unfollowed 700+ people on Instagram, 300+ blogs on Bloglovin, and stopped watching Youtube. While I am slowly refollowing people (after all there are so many people creating insanely good content), I am doing it in a more mindful way that doesn’t consist of me believing I have to write, or film, or dress, or speak, or photograph, or travel, or do anything in that same way.
5. I spent more time reading those who inspired me.
The greatest thing about consuming less of this content was that I had more time to spend on other forms of content. Instead of my daily morning blog reading session, I read Joan Didion over and over. I read The Miracle Morning for Writers. I read fiction such as Pachinko and A Little Life. I am currently reading the non-fiction At the Existentialist Cafe and have a list of books to read over the next month. I had the minutes and hours to learn from everything Roads & Kingdoms publishes, to subscribe to Medium writers on subjects as varied as Astronomy to Productivity, to dive into more Joan Didion. In other words, I read things that comprised a range of topics. Books and essays that I could enjoy and appreciate without feeling as though I needed to do the same thing. This helped me to re-love reading, to be appreciative of beautiful words, to remember the basics of why I love reading, writing, and communication.
6. I found my muse again.
Travel has always been my writing muse. The hours spent on the journey, the eccentric collection of people I meet, the conversations that transpire at god-awful hours of the night. Buildings I climb, history I learn, snippets of culture I pick up, the food I taste. The books I read while on the go, the moments I feel high, and the occasions I feel low. From the everyday logistics of finding a place to sleep, to the awe-inspiring sights of the wonders of the world. And, most significantly, knowing that my home is within me. Living this way is when I am the most “me”; so, I had to get back to doing it (and doing it my way) for it to re-present itself as my muse.
7. I re-read old writing that reminded me of my voice.
One evening last week, I started to read some of my old blog posts from China (unfortunately they are no longer live on my blog). Having not glanced at them in years, I had forgotten so much about the experiences I had encountered all those years ago. After giggling about the time a friend and I planned on smuggling ourselves into Myanmar, the exciting moment when a panda waved at me, and my feelings upon locking eyes with seven severed bulls heads, I realized that in these posts my voice was undeniably prominent. The days when I used to write exactly how I wanted with no thought about what the rest of the world was doing or how I could write and “be successful”.
8. Inspiration struck, and I ran with it right there and then.
Upon recognizing my voice like a long-lost lover, I instantly was overwhelmed to write something then and there — “On Crashing A Bachelor Party” was the result. However, despite everything I have written here, I know that to be the best writer you can be you have to make a commitment to write every single day — even when inspiration doesn’t strike. Therefore, it is my goal to post something on here every day, Monday through Friday. Even if I only have time for a couple of sentences, it is the routine of writing that is going to ensure that my mojo is sustained for a long time to come.
Vintage Ralph Lauren jacket / Free People flared jeans /
Vintage clutch from my Grandma / Hat from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Jazz Age Exhibition
Photos by Mel Costanzo
*Originally published on Apr 30th, 2018*