Category Archives: Challenge

21 Ways for Writers and Artists to BOUNCE BACK!

by Vanessa Preston

Recover from setbacks, restore confidence and renew enthusiasm … whatever your brand of creativity!

You can’t decide what to paint.  Your characters aren’t playing nicely.  The flow of words has dwindled to a dribble.  You’re so sunk in this mood that you don’t even know if you want to be an author or artist anymore.  Have you ever felt this way?

Disillusioned, distracted, discouraged, doubtful, disappointed, deflated, disenchanted, discombobulated, down in the dumps and downright depressed.

Hopefully at some point in this downward spiral you notice yourself spinning your wheels and spiralling into despair … because once you’re aware, you can put the brakes on, stop the slide and BOUNCE BACK.

Get your journal ready, and let’s jump right in!

  1. Recognise … Identify the nature of your current predicament.  Write about it in your journal.  Scribble down everything that is going wrong … don’t worry, this is the only step where you’ll be dwelling in negativity.  Voice your frustration.  Why?  Defining a problem is also the first step towards finding a solution.
  2. Realise it hurts when you hit a roadblock.  Something didn’t work out.  Maybe it was just a hiccup that interrupted your flow, or maybe life threw you a curveball that left you reeling.  Either way, things didn’t go as planned.  Sit with your uncomfortable feelings.  Accept that you have reached this point.  You are feeling what you are feeling.  You won’t always feel this way, but now you do.  That’s ok.
  3. Reset … Forgive and forget.   Forgive yourself if you’ve landed here by self-sabotage.  Forgive someone else if they contributed to your slump.  Forget about wallowing in guilt, regret and shame.  Instead, allow yourself to declare that this is the right moment for a fresh start.
  4. Resolve … DECIDE to take action, accept the challenges and embrace the opportunities.  Resolve to do whatever it takes to get back on track.  Renae Marie Sutton shared this thought in my writing support group: “When you’re doing something bad, or falling off the wagon, limit the duration of the fail.”  Why wait until next month or next week to do the things that will make you live well and feel better?  NOW is the right time to stop the slide.
  5. Reassure yourself that you’re going to be ok.  Trust yourself to find a way forward.  By the end of this process you’ll be on track and bouncing back!
  6. Rethink … It’s time to identify some actionable steps.  Start a list now and add to it as you continue to read.  In your journal consider questions like:  What next?  What IS possible?  What would be helpful?  What DO I want?  How can I move in that direction?  Gather ideas.  As much as possible, phrase your answers positively.
  7. Rekindle your passion by sifting through your personal notebooks, sketchbooks and idea files.  Feel the sparks within you as you see these reminders of what you’ve already done.  Will you resist the urge to dive right in when something grabs your attention?  Or will you make a stack of possibilities and make a date with yourself to peruse them more closely?
  8. Reignite the spark of inspiration.  Visit a bookshop, art gallery or stationery store.  Attend a poetry slam, book launch, ballet or theatre.  Seeing other people do what they love is always uplifting and inspiring.
  9. Rejuvenate yourself!  Bring back the fun.  Reflect on what makes you feel alive, aligned and awesome … then do these things!  They might have nothing to do with your creative practice, but they have everything to do with being fully you … dance, strum your ukulele, wear your favourite bracelet, take a hike in the bush or play in the surf.
  10. Renew your enthusiasm by talking with a creative friend about what they’re working on.  Just listen, ask questions, be encouraging and be curious.  To give is more blessed than to receive.
  11. Reinvigorate … Identify an activity you can use during pauses in your creative routine that is energising and good for your overall health.  Maybe yoga, a quick walk, sweeping the porch or doing some simple stretches.
  12. Rediscover … Ask yourself “What’s Working”?  Journal about this once a month or so, then when you have a setback you can refer to these lists and get back on track more easily.  I’ll be sharing some of my ‘What’s Working’ lists soon.
  13. Reframe … Use your journal to reframe negative thoughts, worries and overwhelm, and solve your own problems.  I’ve done this numerous times, and it has become a habit.  Next week I’ll share some prompts and examples to get you started.
  14. Reimagine … If you still feel stuck on a particular creative project, sometimes it helps to reimagine the possibilities.  Maybe a change is needed … turn the canvas upside down or on it’s side;  cover your painting with clear perspex and sketch ideas right on top;  rewrite a chapter from the perspective of a different character;  try writing in rhyming verse for a while.  Without deleting anything, just play with ideas for a while and see what emerges.
  15. Remember WHO you are … reflect on the many facets of your personality, interests and abilities.  If you find meaning through your faith, also remember WHOSE you are.  Write about it in your journal.
  16. Reflect on times when you’ve overcome obstacles, big and small.  What helped?  What held you back?  Can you think of any turning points, or any strategies you employed that you can replicate?
  17. Review … WHY you do what you do?  What motivates you to do the work of being a writer, artist, musician etc.?  Or, what has been your answer to these questions in the past?  Are those reasons still relevant?
  18. Routines … Set yourself up for success.  Think about when and where you do your best work.  It’s ok to have an ideal writing or art making routine in your mind, but also consider what actually works in your current reality.  Brainstorm.  Experiment.  Learn.  Notice patterns.
  19. Restart … Give yourself a fresh start.  Reset yourself with a fresh, clean workspace and a positive mindset.  Add to your list of actionable steps from Step 6, and pick one as a starting point.  Today is a new day … you can make things happen!
  20. ResumeDO the things that work for you.  There’s no magic formula or perfect moment.  Just DO the next right thing!  Open your Scrivener file.  Take your layout book and charcoal to the park.  Set up watercolours and play alongside your children.  Jot down plot points on a notepad.  Put on a movie without the sound and write down what you think the characters are saying.
  21. Return to your creative work again tomorrow.  Return to a project you feel excited about.  Return to being the creative person you were born to be!

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A list like this is never finished.  I’ll expand on some of these ideas in future blog posts and add more links within this article.  Please write any additional tips you can think of in the comments, or share your own creative life ‘bounce back’ story.

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Get Set for Success!

by Vanessa Preston

Whether you have been writing for years or weeks, if you’re looking to take your writing to the next level there are 3 things you can do to set yourself up for success:

Step 1:  SET a SMART GOAL

It’s fun exploring all of the possibilities in writing (endless, exciting, inspiring possibilities) but there is also a time to commit to seeing a particular project through to completion.  And there IS a way to set a goal that maximises your chances of succeeding.

Make sure your goal is SMART … Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-sensitive.
Kacie Berghoef explains the concept beautifully here, or you may like to read here about the origins of the SMART goal-setting technique.

For example, during this challenge my SMART goal is to:

  •  Write a particular new non-fiction ebook (Specific).
  •  Finish the first draft (Measurable) by the end of January (Time-sensitive).
  •  I have written the outline and don’t need to do much research on this topic, so I believe it is possible to achieve my goal within the timeframe (Realistic).
  •  I am the person who will be doing the writing for this book … I have a plan of action and I know what I need to do each time I sit down to write (Assignable).

Step 2:  BELIEVE

If your goal is SMART, it’s time to believe you can achieve it!

It’s possible to replace your limiting beliefs with quiet confidence.  Believe you can do it, then act accordingly.  It’s that hard, and that easy.

If believing in your ability to reach your writing goals is hard for you, you’re not alone.  I used to struggle with crippling self-doubt.  I thought that to pursue my dreams with confidence was prideful and vain.  Now I believe that it’s ok to embrace who I am, share what I’ve learned and do my best to make a difference in whatever humble ways I can (one of those ways is through writing, yay!)

If you can relate to this, stay tuned … one day soon I’ll be sharing links to some resources and mentors that have helped transform my mindset in ways that are authentic and perfectly aligned with my values, personality and passions.

Step 3:  CREATE and COMMIT

Create the conditions you need to succeed.  Do the simple things, like making sure you have plenty of pens and paper, and that your laptop is charged.  Then take a moment to brainstorm what else you need, and how you can get as close to that as possible.

For example, at the moment what I need in order to succeed is:

  •  Self discipline around time – I need to act like the prolific, published author I aspire to be, planning ahead and choosing wisely how I use my writing time each day, taking care not to spend too much time writing at the expense of my other priorities.
  •  Space – I can easily organise my desk and I’ve already prepared a bag with essential supplies for writing when I am away from home.
  •  Energy – it’s time to put my good intentions into action with nourishing food and adequate sleep;  self-discipline seems to be a theme for me!

Create the conditions you think will give you the best chance of achieving your goal, then make the most of the days when things go according to plan.

And because life isn’t perfect  …

Commit to doing whatever you can when things don’t go according to plan.  My contingency plan for busy days is to squeeze in two 5 minute writing sessions and a 7 minute sprint.  I have also made a list of the biggest challenges I am likely to face and possible ways to deal with them.  Perhaps I’ll share more about that another day.

Set yourself up for success, then dive into your writing project!

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I wrote this pep talk for the “17 in 17 Writing Challenge” I am running on Facebook.  The purpose of the challenge is to establish a more consistent writing habit by writing on a specific project, for at least 17 minutes, every day for 17 consecutive days.  Not too daunting, but a pivotal step in creating a sustainable writing practice.   If you like the sound of the challenge and want to join in just follow the link to the Facebook group, and click ‘join’.