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Building Creative Muscles: Embracing the Whole Journey of Writing, Breaks and All

We live in a fast world, where productivity often takes centre stage. We’re expected to get so much done, immediately, that we often forget skills like creativity are writing are muscles. And like our physical muscles, they need constant exercise, nurturing.

I recently touched on this in a tweet. Last week, my kid was sick. He’s only tiny still, so it means all-round the clock medicine, and this time it involved meltdowns at night and long midnight walks to calm him.

We were exhausted.

In that place, I dropped the extras in life and switched to survival.

It really made me realise the importance of forgiveness and gradual progress, whether you’re at the start of your creative journey, or in the middle of it like me and find yourself forced to take a break.

The writing journey: it’s gradual

You look at the finished book, and it’s natural to think of writing as a destination. But it’s not. It’s a journey. And like any skill, writing takes time, patience, practice.

I said writing is a muscle, and much like working out at the gym, with writing you need to build your skills gradually.

It’s okay to be at the start. To stumble over words, find word counts hard to reach, to grapple with ideas. Forgive yourself and commit to working on it little by little.

Creativity: a muscle to be strengthened

Sometimes we see people in the place we want to be and it seems creativity is that elusive quality we want and can’t seem to reach, possessed by a select talented few. Thankfully, it’s not. Like writing, and working out, you can develop it. Day by day. Whether it’s crafting stories, poems, or journalling — any form of expression — the more you engage with your creative side, the stronger it becomes.

If you’ve ever worked out, you’ll know workout routines are the same. Progress seems slow at first, but the effects start becoming more pronounced over time.

And then the best news is, this works hand-in-hand with your writing. The more you strengthen your creativity, the more in touch with your writing journey you’ll be, and vice versa.

Who needs perfect?

Forgiveness is crucial in this space. You don’t need to be perfect at the outset. (I had to tell myself that A LOT. I still do.) Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and progress is continuous.

Don’t be hard on yourself if the words don’t flow effortlessly.

Don’t be hard on yourself if the ideas are fuzzy.

Each writing session, no matter how short or light, is a step forward.

Bouncing back after a break

We know life is unpredictable, and there will be times when external factors demand your attention more than your writing or your creativity. At times like this, embrace the need to take a break. Athletes allow their bodies to recover, so make sure to remind yourself that writers, or creators in general, need to step away when they need to too. Or you’ll burn out, and it’ll be harder to return.

Returning after a break is challenging, but do your best to make the break as short as possible, remind yourself it’s an opportunity for growth and resilience, and then start chipping away at it when you do begin again.

Like you’re building a muscle. Little by little. Until you regain your writing and creative muscles.

For me, taking a week off to look after my sick kid was a must, but I also felt guilty for letting my writing habits slip. And it wasn’t just those. It was exercise, journalling, meditation. Everything I’ve been working on crashed down.

Now, I’m at the start again. Rebuilding those habits, those little daily muscles. But I understood I needed that time to prioritise family and health. Now, I can begin working again in the right mindset. And I’m not going to start by trying to hammer our several thousand words in a hardcore writing session.

I’ll start little by little, until I get used to it again.

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Great post. Win most ways writing is no different to any other endeavour in life. In the end it comes down to momentum. Keep the momentum, and it’s easy. Or, if not easy, at least the continued movement gives a feeling of progress. But when we stop it’s damn hard to get going again.

Nicely said Sarah.

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