Six months ago, a friend who's a talented writer, came to an abrupt halt halfway through writing an autobiography of his extraordinary life. I was disappointed. I wanted to read it!
Last night I tried to cajole him into picking up his pen again. To no avail. He was very straightforward with his reasons.
‘You know what I’ve realised’ he said, ‘is that it’s too much effort. It takes too much out of me. It takes everything'.
I respect that. As someone who historically will always push forward with a project, regardless of whether ‘I have it in me’, it was permission-giving. I thought, how wonderful just to be able to put it down when it’s too much.
I thought about the reasons I've sometimes pushed on through, despite exhaustion. It's because I fear failure. I fear disappointing myself. I fear losing the sense of identity and purpose that comes with a project. Those things can drive us on. They can cause us to lose touch with the inner wild animal, which functions 'attuned to its environment', not despite it.
Writing in this way is an addiction. It can sabotage health and relationships. One day I will start a 'Writers Anonymous' group, to support the many writers in that situation!
It's important to realise that writing can be tiring work. The energy of hope, excitement, or fear around the process, as well as the extremes of emotions that accompany our character’s journeys, can take a great deal out of us.
It’s taken me years to learn the following lesson:
If we work, when we are not sufficiently resourced, then, when even small problems or stuck points come up, we will quickly reach overwhelm.
How do we recognise overwhelm? It's characterised by freeze, the inability to think and act clearly, indecisiveness. It also manifests as tiredness (the switching off from overwhelming emotion that we cannot manage). You know the point when you can't see the wood for the trees? That's a form of overwhelm.
What does it mean to be resourced? It means to do things that relax us, that nourish us, that make us feel happy, without feeling like we're 'wasting time'.
Only when we are resourced are we truly acting in accordance with our needs as a human animal. It's only then that we will write truly wild words- connected, passionate, alive.
Most of us can probably name the things that resource us, but nearly all of us underestimate how much resourcing we need, in proportion to undertaking activities which demand we face difficulty.
We need much more resourcing than we think, because we go into overwhelm much more quickly than we realise. The more resourced we are ongoingly, the easier it is to spot that things are 'too much' before they disable us. We can then unwind them. That's much better than getting to a point of crisis management.
It's here I think, we can support our fellow writers. What gifts can you offer a colleague or friend who writes? It's not necessary to be in the same room, or even the same country to offer another person something that nourishes them. You can offer virtual gifts. We're writers, we know the power of the imagination!
Sometimes I put little gifts on to the Wild Words Facebook page. A picture of a flower. A photo of a mountain view. I do this with the sole aim of resourcing my fellow writers.
What could you offer another writer today? A pair of soft slippers? A sheepskin blanket? A heart meal? The sun through their office window?
Close your eyes. Imagine you're receiving these gifts. Do that strongly enough and it has the same effect on your metabolism as if you were receiving them for real.
Conversely, what would you like to ask for from another writer today? What virtual gift would bring that edge of overwhelm down, just enough, to keep you writing? Just enough that ultimately, you'll be able to deliver to the world, the invaluable gift of your story.
Happy writing today.
The Monthly Writing Prompt
One of the greatest gifts you can give your reader, in this modern, fast-paced world, is a sense of relaxation and nourishment. It gives the story breathing space, and the reader time to reflect. It acts as a springboard for cranking up the tension later on in your story.
What small details can you bring into your story or poem that achieve that? These are the same kind of things that you might like to offer yourself or your fellow writers to resource them. Some ideas might be: a beautiful sunset. The touch of a warm gentle hand. A smile. The sound of laughter.
Make sure, as you write these small events, you really feel them in your body. Revel in the experience :-)