Have you reached a milestone you never actually aimed for?
I wrote 11k words in two weeks, and it was completely unintentional.
After a few months of feeling creatively constipated, one day it all came pouring out.
I’d embarked on a month-long detox from social media. I’d logged out of my accounts and removed the app from my phone, and suddenly I had all this free space.
Not even space on my phone, although that is always welcome. Where my mind was overwhelmed with thoughts and captions and comments, I’d created space to actually think – and with that came my own ideas.
I’m a writer, a qualified one, an experienced one, a self-published one, so it would be easy to assume that writing comes easy to me. Sometimes it does, the words roar through my fingertips when I’m passionate about a subject. When I’m feeling inspired, the sentences ooze onto the screen or notebook, and it feels never ending.
Working in an office where my role is to create copy, content and emails, I’ve become quite disciplined in writing to a theme. Sure, my studies in Creative and Professional Writing helped, but after three years of academic writing I had fallen out of love. I had fallen out of love with blogging, social media, my website, anything where I had to think. My brain needed a break. My creativity had dried up. My ideas were missing. In fact, I think any independent thought around my writing had disappeared.
And this is what happens when we’re burned out. When we give and give and give, and leave no room to refuel. It’s like that with most things and it can be detrimental.
Being a writer without love for writing left me feeling incredibly lost. I needed to find myself, recreate Annika Spalding again, but I didn’t know where to start looking.
Fast forward to December 2018, and I’m a week into December Detox. I’d made a big deal out of it and turned it into a free virtual retreat for everybody who wanted timeout from the online world too. I’ll share more about it another time, but the biggest takeaway was this:
When we remove our distractions, our triggers, our perceived competition, our peer updates and our notifications, all we are left with is ourselves. But that is all we need.
I was a few weeks into intensive counselling, unpicking the painful experiences in my childhood and suddenly I felt a need to share. But I wasn’t on social media, so no captions to fill my experiences and no statuses to pour my thoughts into. I’d given up on blogging, I was so disconnected to what it had become and the theme it carried, I didn’t think to write my thoughts there.
So I started making bullet points on pieces of paper. I wrote down random thoughts, themes and ideas. I explored themes that I wanted to write about. I turned them into chapters.
I went over to Trello and I created a new board for my new writing. I created cards for each chapter and began to let my fingers tap away. I was inspired, not by any music or my (non-existent) morning routine, but by something else: my truth.
I hadn’t given thought to the outcome, hadn’t planned to write a book, ebook or blog post. I hadn’t created text to accompany an image for social media, or pretty words to put in my newsletter.
I wasn’t thinking of my audience, of potential clients or opportunities. I wasn’t thinking of local trends or responding to something I had seen in a newsfeed.
All I had was me. And in the absence of a major distraction, all my true thoughts began to pour out.
I didn’t do it once, I returned whenever I had something else to share, another part of my story to share. It wasn’t part of a plan or a process I’d created for getting through December. It wasn’t part of my goals for 2018 or anything I’d talked about with anyone else.
I’m telling you this because sometimes we plan our creativity, we create strategies and email sequences. We design quote images for Instagram and plan our captions in advance. We react to what everybody else is posting by creating more of the same. We create to-do lists, goals and daily tasks. We’ve become creatives who are led by structure, rather than inspiration.
All I did was remove all of that. I let spontaneity take over. I caught a whiff of creative energy and I ran with it. I had an idea for something new and I didn’t dismiss it. I could have told myself I’d schedule it into Wednesday mornings, a two-hour block every week to write, but that wouldn’t have worked.
Listen, I love to plan and I’m good at it. But we become too dependent on it, we rely on it to give us direction and guidance to build our portfolios and brands.
What about if we let ourselves get inspired? How about we take time to reconnect with ourselves and create space for new concepts to be born? Let’s make a promise to our inner artist that we will make room for spontaneity as we do for structure.
In doing that, I wrote 11k words of my story for pleasure, without effort, with ease. It felt like a release, a therapy of sorts, an act of letting go of so much that was weighing me down.
So, give yourself space, time and permission. Put pen to paper, put paintbrush to canvas, put your dancing shoes and switch your microphone on.
See what magic you can create when you make room for it to happen.
Have fun with it!