When You Want to Write, But You’re Just Too Overwhelmed
What to do when you’re just too tired to be creative.
Anyone who has followed me for any length of time knows that I’m all about teeny, tiny goals. You can write an entire novel every year if you really write for ten solid minutes a day.
But what if ten minutes is too much?
If you’re ill. If you’re overwhelmed with non-writing work. If you have a bunch of kids and a mountain of laundry and volunteer work and a job.
If you have all those things, asking you to give your art ten minutes can feel like asking you to give your art ten hours. Impossible. Just more than you can handle.
And when you feel that stuck, it can be super easy to just skip the whole thing.
Only skipping it doesn’t feel good. Because writing is your sanctuary. It’s the one thing you do for yourself, maybe. It’s your dream.
Is ten minutes your real goal?
It’s not enough to give a tiny goal lip service. If you find yourself saying that your goal is to write ten minutes a day, but inside you feel like a failure if you don’t write 1000 words a day — you need to recalibrate.
Your teeny, tiny goal should be your actual, real, goal. You get full credit when you reach it and it’s 100 percent fine if you have days or weeks or months where you never go beyond it.
If you set a timer and write without stopping for ten minutes, you should be able to write at least a page. Maybe two.
If you can write 250 words in ten minutes (one double-spaced page), you’ll write 91,250 words in a year.
That’s a novel. A real, honest-to-God, novel.
If you’re beating yourself up for not meeting your real, bigger goal, focus on trying to cut yourself a break. Your tiny goal is enough. If you write more (and you will sometimes), that’s a bonus.
If you’re in one of those seasons of life where you are wearing yourself thin, giving your art even a few minutes a day can be a lifesaver.
Let Your Writing Off The Hook
Storytelling is fun. When you’re just starting out, that’s all it has to be.
Putting pressure on yourself to create something you can sell might be sapping your creative energy. Especially if that energy is already exhausted by whatever else is going on in your life.
If something has to give, let go of worrying about things like being published or finding an agent. Keep the fun part that feeds your soul and actually makes it easier to manage all the things that are wearing you down.
Just write your story.
Revisit Your Goal
I believe pretty strongly that it’s important to tap into the creative part of your brain every day. A creative habit matters, a lot.
In fact, if you’re finding yourself exhausted and worn out and all-around miserable — it’s possible that part of the problem is that you’ve completely disconnected from your creative energy.
If ten minutes really feels like too much and you find yourself skipping it, the problem is that you haven’t found your teeny, tiny goal yet.
A teeny, tiny goal is one that it’s easier to just do than it is to skip. For me and my life, that’s ten minutes of fiction writing every day. For you and your life, it might be five minutes. Or one minute. Or one paragraph. Or one sentence.
Just keep tweaking until you find that sweet spot where even on your worst, most exhausted, most overwhelmed day it’s easier and happier to meet your goal than to skip it.
It’s Okay to Be Selfish
One last thing. In case you need it, you have my permission to protect your creative time. Go ahead and be selfish. It’s ten minutes, man. Maybe less. You’re allowed to own that and use it to stoke your creative fire.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s represented by Elizabeth Bennett at Transatlantic Literary Agency and her most recent book is The Astonishing Maybe. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.