Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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March 11, 2024

Optimize Creativity During Life's Ups and Downs, Part 1

by Holly Lasky

In writing this blog, I was struck by the title of this group, which is “Writers in the Storm.”  In the “about” section of this blog, it states, “Along the way, we’ve discovered that there’s more to life than writing, and sometimes life can be the richest story of all… Every writer must weather the storm within: self-doubt, rejection, deadlines and balancing our writing passion with everyday life. Not to mention the storm raging outside — the paradigm shift in the publishing industry.”

Speed bumps on the writing journey.

It is exciting to consider, in the ups and downs of the storms of life, that our creativity can be an expression of the journey.

  • How can we bring “The richest story of all” into our writing?
  • What happens when those ups and downs don't feel very manageable or we're in crisis mode and all of a sudden, our best intentions go sideways?
  • What do we do when our carefully, meticulously plotted schedule takes a left turn, and we find ourselves at the end of a very busy day and still haven't accomplished any of the things we wanted to accomplish?
  • Instead of being tossed around in the storm, what would happen if we could ride the waves and be empowered instead of drowning?

It's easy to feel frustrated and beat ourselves up thinking there’s something wrong with:

  • Our ability to focus.
  • Our ability to organize.
  • Being able to do what we love in our creative expressions, be it writing or anything else.

Andy Andrews said, “If you're not in a crisis right now, you've just come out of one or you're about to be in one.”

This idea of crisis, or ups and downs as a way of life, can take on new meaning for us. It's important as we navigate these times to have tools and strategies so when we are in moments of:

  • Overwhelm.
  • Crisis.
  • Middle of those days that just go completely wrong.

there are ways to:

  • Create momentum.
  • Spark our creativity.
  • Encourage ourselves.
  • Be empowered in the choices we're making.

BREATHE!

The first tool is one that sounds really simple, which is simply breathe. We underestimate how valuable this particular tool actually is. When you have that moment where things are going wrong, stop and take a few moments to mindfully breathe.

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Find your own pace with the breathing. Check in with your body and scan your body. Just let the moment be.

One of the things that naturally happens when we do this kind of breathing is a reset in our physical body and in our system overall. It naturally creates a flow state. This kind of breathing creates all the happy chemicals in our brain that we're missing - dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin.

Breathe in through your nose and forcefully out through your mouth. Just breathing and having those few moments of quietness and introspection can work miracles as you naturally reset.

Getting out of overwhelm.

Being overwhelmed happens to all of us. Like having a huge list, and even though we keep crossing things off, other to dos add on. So, when we get to the end of the day, it doesn't look like we did anything, even though we've been busy all day long.

Maybe you have a big project or an approaching deadline and the mere idea of even beginning is unthinkable.

There's two different ways to approach getting out of overwhelm.

One way is to categorize and create lists or buckets of different activities, whether it's professional, personal, household, bigger projects, so you're categorizing the different things you want to accomplish.

A way to begin to use the buckets is to have the details of something. Some people need the big picture. So, if you're a big picture person, you would ask yourself,

  • What's important to me about this project?
  • What's important to me about this task?
  • How does this support the bigger vision of my life?

Then when you've reminded yourself of the big picture, then ask yourself,

  • What's my next best step, right now, today?

If you're a person who needs details and you've got a whole list of steps to do, you would look at the list of things, breathe and ask yourself,

  • What's my next best step, right now, today?

Your unconscious mind will automatically give you the next best step. Whatever pops up first is the next thing to do.

This question is important because no matter how you organize or look at the world around you and the goals and visions you have for your life, breaking it down to what's my next best step will always create momentum—forward motion to get us out of the overwhelm.

Eat That Frog for 90 minutes a day.

A technique that's become very popular because so many people struggle with focus (whether you have the symptomology of ADHD or not} is “Eat That Frog.” So often when we have a project, task, or something we need to get done. It's easy to start scrolling on social media, or watch the end of that episode on Netflix, or get really busy organizing that stack of papers on your desk that has nothing to do with what you actually need to be doing in that moment.

A great book to read is, Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. “The Frog” is whatever you’re procrastinating on doing. Start the momentum of eating the frog by setting your timer and for five minutes do that thing, whatever that thing is. Starting the timer creates forward momentum and we're able to keep going and do more.

Another variation of this idea is something that Darren Hardy, author and speaker in the personal and business development field, recommends. Mr. Hardy made a practice of studying success and productivity in many contexts.

If we spend 90 minutes a day of uninterrupted time doing what we need to do, we'll have more focused time than most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. When you structure your day so you have a 90-minute sprint in the morning as part of your morning routine, and perhaps do a second 90-day sprint later in the day, then you've already doubled your productivity.

You are now twice as productive as most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Final Thoughts.

The idea of optimizing creativity when things are not going well in life is a priority. Often, in those moments, it seems like time has slowed or stopped. Maybe you’re dealing with a loss, illness, or the car broke down and you're stuck by the side of the road. Whatever it is that causes your day, week, or month not to be what you expected, we can get unstuck by taking small steps every day. The small daily decisions compound into massive growth, change, and progress in our life.

What do you do to optimize your creativity? How do you keep from being overwhelmed?

* * * * * *

About Holly

Holly is an Internationally Certified Master Coach, Professional Musician, Writer, International Speaker, Encourager & Founder of Aligned Optimum Vitality Coaching. Holly coaches Executives, Entrepreneurs, Coaches, High Performers & Creatives in eliminating blocks and trauma in the areas of life they most need & then create  intuitive, congruent goals. Holly helps her Clients achieve repeatable, optimum results without rah-rah motivational & accountability coaching, toxic positivity, unnecessary & unproductive busywork & years of therapy. 

You didn’t come this far to only come this far!

Click this link to learn more and to connect: https://linktr.ee/HollyLasky

Let’s chat and get clarity on what’s blocking you. Interested in one-on-one coaching or our new group coaching program? Click the link above to reserve time on my calendar.

BONUS

Go to https://linktr.ee/HollyLasky and click on "WITS Special Invitation". 

Submit your info and receive an email with a link to a custom meditation created especially for WITS to help build trust with and learn from your creative self.

Top Image by Tung Huynh from Pixabay

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12 comments on “Optimize Creativity During Life's Ups and Downs, Part 1”

  1. This is a very refreshing and reaffirming post! I look very much forward to the next installment.

    You remind me of something I used to practice, and have forgotten until now. I made a simple beaded bracelet and wore it daily. The beads spelled out the words, BE STILL. So when I found myself in a wild-paced chaos, I rubbed my fingeertips over the words. Knowing the words were there and feeling the smooth cold surface of the beads calmined me and provided direction for moving forward.

    I think I will make new bracelets - one for BE STILL, one for BREATHE, and one for WRITE DEEP.

    Thank you for empowering me to reconnect!

    1. What a beautiful reflection! I love the idea of the bracelets. Having tangible, tactile reminders can be extremely helpful. Some other ideas might be a favorite song or a piece of art. So glad you were reminded and are reconnecting.

  2. I am a big picture person, a romantic thinker as opposed to a classical thinker.

    When I feel overwhelmed, I take a breath and make a list of everything that's on my mind. Sometimes that list is long!

    I work through what I can and try to let go of the things I have no control over. It's definitely a process.

    Thanks for all the great suggestions, Holly!

    1. Yes! Writing down everything even though the list can be long is incredibly healthy. When we write things down like this, it does several things - it gets it literally out of our head, it speeds the processing of whatever is on your mind and it helps you to begin to think about the list strategically. Of course asking the question, "What's your next best step, right now?" 🙂

  3. As a disabled writer, my life is erratic, and I can never predict when the brain fog will dispel for a while so I can write.

    My solution consists of two pieces, honed over the years.

    1. Have a way to measure if my brain is on: I do hard sudokus for a while. If I solve them in under 6 minutes, I stop wasting time doing them, and get to work: we are good to go.

    2. And then the key part: I block the internet with Freedom for a specific number of hours. I've trained myself to then go to the file I keep for each scene with all its actions and progresses, see where I am and what needs to be done next, and get to work on the next piece. Somehow or other, most of that blocked time is used to make progress.

    Weirdly specific, but it works for me, several mainstream novels later.

    The main problem with the brain fog is that I can't make decisions, so an objective measurement has been a godsend.

    Sometimes some of those hours are spent in a nap - but it's still not wasting time on the net.

    1. I love how you have created metrics for yourself in your unique situation. Also, it may be helpful to keep in mind that decision-making and creativity takes glucose. We have a certain amount of optimum energy everyday. Doing the paced breathing exercise may also be of help to you as it naturally produces all the happy chemicals in the brain easily and effortlessly and puts you in a more optimum flow state.

  4. Thanks for the post, Holly! I was particularly mesmerized by this quote from Andy Andrews: “If you're not in a crisis right now, you've just come out of one or you're about to be in one.”

    I believe that, after navigating the cancer journey since 2022. You have to learn to set aside a portion of yourself, separate from the crisis, or you get lost inside it.

  5. Holly - you know you are an inspiration to me! I've been dealing with overwhelm lately, chipping away at a number of big tasks. I have systems in place to keep me focused... and then one day, I turned a corner and some of those big tasks started getting checked off. WOW that felt great. Part of what contributes to my overwhelm is that my tasks are long-term (books, helping people launch businesses...) and so they don't get done in a day. It takes days of tiny steps, pushing them forward... and then one day... DONE! I have a list that I work from, and I do have my projects in different buckets so I spend a certain amount on each bucket. I think you probably remember my "one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, one breath at a time" mantra. That has gotten me through a bunch of rough times. The breathing... that's such a great place to start!

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