Reclaiming the Spark from the Daily Grind
Reclaiming the Spark from the Daily Grind is written by Debbie Coll.
Something crazy happens when you turn a hobby into your everyday job--it somehow stops being fun. When you have to invest money and time into learning how to do it professionally, and when you have to do it every day to meet a deadline to avoid being evicted, it can quickly lose its appeal, and inspiration can consequently become scarce.
How can we get the spark back?
Hello! My name’s Debbie. I love animals, baking cookies and overthinking music.
I love both music and books, so it made sense to me to become a writer and musician. But, I admit, I often forget that it’s a privilege to study and work in music and literature. When assignments get busy, I’m quick to complain about my workload. I don’t touch my writing because I’m scared of finding mistakes. For a long time, I didn’t have any hobbies, because they’d all become wrapped up in my career.
Can you relate? Maybe you loved writing (or something else), but now that there’s the pressure of writing every day, meeting deadlines, and actually selling books, it’s losing its appeal. Maybe the idea of writing, editing or marketing fills you with dread and even fear. Maybe the thought of doing this forever haunts you.
How can we restore a love for something we have to do every day? I have five tips that won’t cost you a cent, and I hope you enjoy implementing them as much as I have.
Constantly Replenish Your Creative Supply
One thing that sucks the joy out of any writer’s job is writer’s block. Not only does it waste our time, it can develop into procrastination and a fear of creating.
Just this week, I sat down a few times to write songs for assignments. Usually song ideas come fairly quickly for me, and if they don’t, I have some back-up plans to get my imagination rolling.
But, each time this week, it was a struggle to get words on the page.
Why was it so hard? Like any good student, I’m going to blame my assignments. :P Because it’s the end of semester, I’ve had to come up with a lot of musical ideas lately, and now they’re starting to run dry.
But there’s also nothing going into my supply. I haven’t listened to songs for a while because I haven’t had time. I also haven’t been reading many books or watching many films in my genre, so it’s hard to come up with ideas for my novel, too.
Our imagination is like a car. If you never fill it with gas, it’ll stop running.
So what’s the solution?
We can use other people’s work to fill our supply. Watch a film, read a book, listen to music, or go to an art gallery. Don’t feel like you have to analyze what they’ve done, or take notes. Just enjoy taking in their work, whatever format it is.
Now that you’ve done that, make it a habit. One songwriter I know goes to the cinema every week to help keep her creativity in good shape. Many writers read a little bit every day. By doing these things constantly, you can allow time for your mind to rest, and fill your creative supply.
Commit to a Weekly Sabbath
‘Sabbath’ is a Biblical term that means a day of worship and rest. In my family, we go to church every week, but as I was growing up, we weren’t deliberately setting aside a day when we didn’t do homework or housework, we just used all the time that was available to do what we needed to do.
In my second-last year of high school, I wondered about the day of rest. On one hand, taking a weekly day without doing homework was very appealing. But on the other, I was scared of losing that work time. I thought I’d fall behind in my subjects, especially since I’d have one less day to work than my non-Sabbath-observing classmates.
But in my final year, I decided to try it out. Since I was already at church on Sunday morning, it made sense to set aside the afternoon for rest. And I noticed that, even though Year 12 is dreaded for its intense workload here in Australia, I coped much better than I had the previous year.
Many other factors affected my mental health those two years. But it made such a difference that I’ve never given my Sundays back to my homework. If it’s not done by Saturday night, it will have to wait until Monday morning.
Having a weekly rest is the ratio set by our all-wise Creator, and that’s enough science for me. I have to work a bit harder during the week and, with a lot of my assignments due on Sundays, I hand them in a day earlier. Even so, I love having a day to myself. I don’t feel guilty for not doing homework, but I can relax, worship God, spend time with my family, and pursue hobbies.
You can choose any day that’s best for you, and what counts as ‘work’ will be different for each person, too. I used the word “commit” in the title, because that’s what it will take if you want it to work. Compromising with “just one email” or “oh, but I need to finish this” ruins the effect. But, at the same time, you can try it for a month and see what you think.
Committing to a Sabbath allows a set time to get out of a work mindset and remember the world outside. :) If you set aside some time to rest your mind, you’ll find yourself enjoying your work more, because you’ve set aside guilt-free resting time one day a week.
Switch Up What You Write
Writing regularly is a great discipline, but we can run out of things to write about quickly. If you find yourself staring at a blank page for a long time, getting nowhere, try writing something different. Whatever you do, you’ll feel better once you’ve written something.
Some ideas for what else to work on are:
A song or poem
Journaling or flow-of-consciousness writing
Blog or social media posts
Plot/character/theme/etc., plans or brainstorms
Writing prompt or exercise responses
A book you love writing but wouldn’t publish, such as a fanfic. (This allows you to keep practicing writing, without the pressure of having to write a perfect book.)
Fighting to write your main work-in-progress when you can’t find the words will only make you feel worse about yourself, your writing, and your career choice. Even if you’re not working on your main project, you’ll enjoy it more when you’re making progress. And you might find inspiration for your main project if you try something completely different. :)
Remember Where You Came From
Why did you write the first story you ever wrote?
I was inspired by a series I was reading as a kid, and I started writing a spy book because the main characters were so much fun to read about. My main character was my best friend, and I was her sidekick (though, reading it now it looks more like the other way around :P). Together we got captured by our enemies, saved random animals, and used what little wit I had as an eleven-year-old to outsmart the evil and, honestly, quite terrifying villain.
But it was all because of the series I read. I love it so much that it still inspires me, ten years on, and the thought of my book having that much impact on someone else keeps me wanting to write. When I find myself wondering why I bothered to write a novel, I think of the impact that series had on me and the way I view what makes a good book, and I find myself loving my characters a little bit more.
So what about you?
This Isn’t the End
This distraction makes me see That I’m stronger than I’d say
This won’t be the death of me
It must be harder for the rain:
They rise to fall back down again
I wrote these lyrics about a month ago, and now they play in my mind when I’m feeling overwhelmed by things I have to do. That song reminds me that God created us humans more resilient than we realize.
I don’t want to make you feel pathetic for starting to be bored, or even hate a job you once loved. Tiredness and fear aren’t signs of laziness. They’re very common to people in creative industries.
In fact, they’re common in most, if not all, stages of life. Change is exciting; then it becomes hard; then it becomes normal.
If you’re in the hard stage of it, don’t give up. Sooner or later, you’ll start to enjoy it again. You’ll find little moments that remind you why you’re doing what you do. And you’ll get into a rhythm that will keep you pushing upward between those moments.
You’re stronger than you’d say. This isn’t the end. This will only grow you.
I hope this helps you feel a bit more encouraged and equipped. Hang in there; time can make all the difference. But hopefully these small tips will speed up the process even a tiny bit. I’m rooting for you!
What do you need to do first to reclaim the spark of writing?
Find Debbie's songs here! And check out her newest song, Giants.