We’ve all been there.
You sit down at your computer, fully intending to get a huge chunk of writing done with the sudden free space that’s opened up in your schedule …
… and you can’t write anything.
It’s like your brain is just stuck. You want to write … but your mind just won’t turn on.
Most people in this situation start panicking about what they’re going to do if they can’t force themselves to create something right here, right now. They don’t take the time to think about what led them to this brain drought — what they did yesterday that might have used up all their mental resources.
Yes — yesterday does matter. Just as much as today, and tomorrow.
We each have a daily allowance of creative energy to spend on whichever activities we choose. Sometimes we use part of this energy for our day jobs (some are luckier than others in this regard). Many times we’re forced to figure out how to divide our energy and time between different elements of creativity — such as working on a project for school while also writing a book and trying to come up with a solid idea for that blog we’ve wanted to start for two years but haven’t yet.
Unfortunately, the reason so many people suffer creative burnout — and shy away from creating as a result — is because they don’t realize they’re trying to distribute their daily mental energy over too many different elements of their day.
It’s happened to me. It’s probably happened to you at some point or another — or it will. It’s a common mistake. But it can be prevented.
This is why I’m a strong advocate for time blocks. It’s the method I recommend to most writers struggling to manage their time (and, even if they don’t know it, their creative energy). You know that at some point today, you want to write a 1,000-word blog post. When you do that depends on your preferred workflow and your personal productivity “hotspot.” If you know you’re sharpest at 6 a.m., right after your morning cup of coffee, then no matter how odd it might seem, your best bet is to try sitting down to write that post at 6 a.m. If it works, you can choose to make it a habit — a permanent time block in your schedule.
The other issue with this method is that you can’t fill all your time with work — especially not work that spends your creative energy. You have to leave blocks of time open to let your brain decompress (sleep doesn’t count — that’s usually an automatic blocked-off segment of your day, at least I hope so).
Some days you might have to dedicate all your energy to one project and save other work for tomorrow — even though you might desperately want to work on both.
If you try to, and overspend your energy, you might wake up tomorrow mentally exhausted, unable to do anything at all. And that’s definitely not what you want (unless you’ve planned that intentionally — to which I applaud you).
You might really want to work on your novel today, but you’re behind on blog posts and need to focus more on that — even though you’re itching to write just one more scene.
You might want to get ahead on your work for the week on Sunday … but you haven’t touched that personal project for awhile, and know it needs some attention if you’re going to keep it going.
Priorities. Time management. All things most of us aren’t good at. But we really need to learn, if we’re going to successfully create even half the things we want to create in our lifetimes.
Here are my best time management tips for writers, if you’re feeling low on energy and can’t figure out where to dedicate your focus today.
And here’s how to get organized so you don’t wake up tomorrow feeling frantic about all the things you are (and aren’t) going to get done — and get more accomplished in the process.
You got this. Good luck this week — and happy writing!
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.