How to Deal with a Lack of Inspiration, Motivation and Writer’s Block

Go hard or go home
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenpoff/

I have always been an advocate for the “Go hard, or go home” way of living. This has been my philosophy whether I am partying, traveling, working my passions, or exercising (actually for this one, not as hard as usual now that I am a full time working mother with a travel blog on the side).

I don’t like being a parked car, instead opting for a fifth gear kind of life. This philosophy works, except sometimes I’m driving too many roads in fifth gear which later converge into an intersection of carnage.

I usually don’t go through one life changing event at a time. It always seems to be overloaded with a pile of other monumental tasks. When Craig and I married, we also at the same time, were planning an indefinite move overseas and world traveling adventure, leaving only 3 days after the wedding. Not only that but we brought an investment property only weeks before the wedding which we were finalizing, as well as packing up and renting out our own house and organizing jobs in Thailand. Kind of stressful, but that’s usually how we play, and we cope pretty well.

The last two weeks for me though have been incredibly difficult, and I have found myself completely wiped out. I’m starting to realize the go hard or go home mentality is not really serving me very well anymore.

We’ve had a massive international relocation, and doing it with a 3 year old adds for some extra energy drain. Now we are back home, we are trying to get settled in, dealing with conflicting emotions, major readjustments, and attempting to get our life in order. On top of all the strain, I came down with a cold, other maladies, and simply felt exhausted. I’m sadly beginning to grasp the reality that I am not 24 anymore.

How to deal with a lack of motivation
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mastrobiggo

As a result, our travel blog,which I have always approached with enthusiasm and devoted every spare minute to, became something I could not even look at. Every time I forced myself to sit down and work, nothing came up for me except feelings of dread, disconnectedness, and self-doubt. There was just far too many other things going on that I had to deal with.

All motivation and inspiration had left me and I was left wondering just what the hell was this all for anyway.

But it was not the end of me, it is all just part of the process. I’m still here and I am writing again. Today is the first day I have felt somewhat normal since we returned home. This is the first fresh post I have sat down to write in weeks, and although I have had to get up from the table and take frequent breaks, and I feel kind of jittery, I am at least writing again. My focus is returning and I can see the light.

There is hope. You can get overcome the lack of inspiration and motivation. The blocks are really a message for you to slow down. You can only do so much at one time. Your motivation will dry up and your creative writing ideas will wither away when you need to put your focus into other things for awhile. It usually is an indication that you have some unbalance somewhere that needs re-correcting.

How to deal with a lack of inspiration
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dearbarbz365

Here are my tips on how to deal with a lack of inspiration, motivation or writer’s block:

Find the underlying cause: The best way to get over the lack of motivation is to work out where the block is coming from. There you should find your solution. For me, I was exhausted physically and mentally. I needed time to rest, deal with my life changes emotionally, and settle into my new home. I had to take care of me first.

Get rid of the guilt: Realize that the world will not fall apart if you miss a few days posting on your blog. I’m the type of person if I commit to doing something, I struggle with not following through with this. I have been posting almost daily on my blog for some time now. I know this is not necessary, but it was something I started doing in order to build my presence very quickly (Go hard or go home!) Now if I miss a day, I go into a panic, and I feel as if I am not just letting myself down, but the whole world. I’m sure no one would even notice if I didn’t post daily. This is a personal battle I have with myself, and while the commitment is a good thing, allowing it to throw your life out of balance because of it, is not.

Prevention: Whenever those beautiful creative flashes of inspiration come upon you then write. Take that enthusiasm and energy and put it into good use. Write as many drafts for future blog posts as you can. These will serve you well in moments of burn out. I was so grateful to have quite a few half or almost finished blog posts that I could play with and neaten up. These were the kind of tasks I could manage somewhat well during my burn out. That helped me to continue posting on my site daily and lose the guilt (or just cover it up).

Never give up
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frerieke

Don’t give up: This is the worst thing you can do. When you go through these burn out moments, doubt creeps in and you think it’s time for you to quit. Your mind is not shy in telling you that your ideas are ridiculous, your writing sucks, and its never going to work. This is just your exhaustion and fear talking and you can’t see the forests for the trees. Ignore it. The only way you will fail is if you quit. Know that everyone goes through these emotions. To make sure I never give up, I always make sure I do something each day for my blog, no matter how bad I’m feeling. The tasks I choose are really very simple, non-thinking tasks, like uploading pictures for future posts. This is usually a feel good task helps improve my motivation. Or I may focus my efforts on Stumbleupon or something equally stress free and enjoyable, yet productive.

Go out and find the inspiration: Get out of the house, office, or hostel, where ever it is you work from. Take time to breathe in the fresh air and just enjoy living. You’ll start to find that inspiration will come to you from the simplest things, from a magpie cawing at the beach to your little girls’ squeals of joy riding in the back of your bike. We are working on making our Facebook fan page more fun, and are putting new ideas in action to for more interaction and to promote our community members work. This inspires me and keeps me focused on my bigger vision as it involves helping others and brings some socializing fun into my business.

Lamai Beach Koh Samaui Health Retreat

Choose the right time of the day to work: Everyone has a different optimal energy time of the day. Work out what yours is and do most of your work then. I am a morning person. This is my most energetic time of the day and the time I want to be doing most of my writing as its when my mind is the freshest. For some people it may be midnight or afternoon. Plan those times for your most important work.

Sleep: You can’t function without it. Your body will start shitting down other areas to cope with the lack of sleep and energy, the ability to think being one of them. Just go to bed and rest. It will still be there tomorrow. This is something I’ve been doing a lot of lately and it’s definitely helping with my transition.

Stay for a week at a health retreat in Thailand: I’m working on it and I’m dreaming about it every day. I just know that that is what the doctor has ordered for me and for you too.

30 thoughts on “How to Deal with a Lack of Inspiration, Motivation and Writer’s Block”

  1. Great post about balancing your life when you are a writer. All of the tips you provided will help recharge you when the writing is sluggish. I would like to add a couple things here that might help out as well. First, writers shouldn’t use the term, “writer’s block.” Everyone has sluggish days of work, and giving a name to the a writer’s bad day adds a stigma that make those bad days special just because you’re a writer, and that’s just baloney. EVERYONE has bad days at work, you’re not special because you’re a writer (not you personally Caz, just anyone really). It’s part of the process to have frustrating times, so accept it, and when it gets to be too much, just turn off the computer and walk away.

    Second, don’t wait for inspiration. While its true you must get out of the house (or wherever) to jog your brain, again it is a truth for everyone regardless of occupation. The brain requires a change in stimuli to be productive, and sitting in one place too long will make you feel like mush. My personal method for dealing with brain mush and lack of creativity is simply carrying a small notebook. Moleskine makes some tiny notebooks perfect for this task, so get some if you can. Otherwise any notepad smaller then a policeman’s pad will do. When an idea strikes, write it down. Before you know it you will have a stockpile of potential article ideas, which will aid in overcoming that pesky inspiration bug and um… “writer’s block.” ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks for sharing your tips Melissa! Yes you are right, you always have to make sure you choose your words carefully. I love the notebook idea. I have a little one that comes with me and has oodles of scribbled sentences in it. It really is a great help to inspire future articles.

  2. Great post Caz. I have been going through these ups and downs for the past several months after I decided this is what I want to do. Since I’m not bringing in any money yet, though, I have to work another job for the time being. That coupled with trying to live life, still somewhat readjusting after our trip, and trying to figure out what our future holds has had me on a roller coaster. I have always had a plan. I’m an organized person, and I just function better when I know I have a plan. For the first time in my life, my plan seems to change on a near daily basis, and it’s frustrating and confusing for me. I keep thinking, “Is this really what I’m meant to do? Is this really something I can pull off? Am I meant for this type of work, or should I just chuck this sometimes seemingly ridiculous idea of trying to become a travel writer and just go back to my old career?”

    Sometimes it just sounds so much easier to just quit and take the easy way out. But I haven’t done it, don’t plan to do it, and just need to keep plugging away and remaining patient (not one of my top virtues). Reading others struggles, especially people I follow and read about regularly, really helps tremendously. So thanks for a post like this, it really is helpful to many of those out there, including myself.

    Keep plugging away, and just have confidence that you make good decisions. That’s one thing that usually keeps me going–knowing that I have typically made good life decisions, and just haveing the confidence in myself that I am doing the right things.

    1. It makes it so much harder Adam, when you have to work a job you don’t want to be working. That is a major energy drain. Just keep focused on your end goal and you’ll get there. I’m so glad my struggles can help others to see that it is normal and it happens to everyone. We can all work together to encourage us to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

  3. spot on! thanks for the reminder … and the encouragement to seek out the source of the block (whether it’s a writers block, a motivation block, what have you).

    1. Yes Naomi. In our ‘quick cover up the effect with a band aid’ society, we are often blind to the best solution for solving a problem. What is causing it?

  4. Hi Caz,

    First I must just mention that I’ve been following your blog for about a week or two and find it absolutely inspirational. I’m a blogging newby – started blogging about 2/3 months ago on a local South African blogpage as well as WordPress (although in my native language). The reason for starting was that I wanted to get the hang of it before going on a planned around the world trip which we plan to start sometime next year. Only today I posted my first post to my travelblog…..still loooooong way to go before it is remotely something independant like yours.

    Anyway…now that the introduction is over ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve been struggling with almost all the points you mentioned as I’m trying to go hard at my professional job during the day, starting to train for half-marathon in October, arranging travelplans and also getting the blogs up and running – BUT I absolutely luv it!

    Your tips are very helpful and it is great to know that I am experiencing normal growthpains at the moment.

    Good luck with arranging the healthspa trip – definitely something I will look out for amongst your posts!

    1. Hi Nadia! Thanks for following our blog, I’m so glad you like it. You are extremely busy right now as well. It does take a lot out of you, but it’s all for a higher purpose. Good luck with your blog and good on you for taking the first step with it!

  5. I am totally with you on the multitude of half-finished posts. I am finally to a point where my Published Post number is bigger than the Draft Post number.
    While I ride my bike home on “post days” i try to come up with an idea that affected me that day or something that seemed relevant. I once ended up with an entire post on Travel Rain because I was riding home in the rain and trying to reframe the wet experience into something positive.

    I do like your tips. Been struggling a bit lately, but thankfully with tons of draft posts. Just harder to get them finished.

  6. This morning, Caz, I wrote a longer reply than the one that’s already posted, but it didn’t appear when I thought I was hitting “post comment.”

    Caz, your post brings tears to my eyes. Annie Dillard wrote that we should write about our pain till the blood dries up or resorbs. Now, perhaps more than ever, IMHO, you are writing in blood. Your own.

    If you had done nothing more in this post than tell us about the pain of your return, saying exactly what you say in the first part of the post, not a word different, it would have been enough. I don’t know enough about good writing to say whether that qualifies this post as good writing, but in my book, it’s good. This post, without the tips, puts me there with you. I would have wondered, how is Caz doing after her return, and I would have come back, as I certainly will come back, to see what your writing about how you’re doing.

    Then to see you still striving to make a contribution with your tips, excellent tips, when you’ve already given us the contribution of your heart’s response to this move. That was a tour de force, but I tear up when I think you seemed to think you had to add something “useful” to your wonderful, beautiful post.

    Three days after your wedding, you and your groom were off to Thailand. Now you are back, after, well, you don’t say how long. But it seems like several years.
    –You and your husband made the friends that count for both of you as a couple there. Now you have to do some or quite a bit of that again.
    –You made your own friends that Craig may or may not hold as dearly as you do. These are probably the women with whom you would talk about children, children’s illnesses, children’s sleep, and so on and on. The women you could call to talk about something when you needed a friend’s ear. Now you have to do some of that again.
    –You either had your daughter there or went back to Thailand after her birth. I have no idea what that’s like for a young mother of a young child.
    –And you write this mouthful that makes my heart ache, “Now we are back home, we are trying to get settled in, dealing with conflicting emotions, major readjustments, and attempting to get our life in order.”
    **What are those efforts of settling in?
    **What are those conflicting emotions?
    **What are those major readjustments?
    **How has the move back put your life “out of order”?

    But I’m not writing about getting back to writing. That will come. I’m writing about the grief we feel when we leave a place that is so dear to us that it’s hard to imagine not being there any more. Thirty-six years ago at this time in August, my wife, our son, our daughter, and I were packing to leave the best position I could imagine and the best place that had ever been in. Being in Germany fulfilled the life dream I had had since my father left us in northern New Mexico to work in Saudi Arabia, saying we’d follow in 2 y. When that didn’t happen, somewhere along the line I set a goal: Take my family to live abroad. Dad returned in 11 months with tons of slides that whetted my appetite to go where he had been.

    Grief drains us, just as surely as the overstimulation of resettling does.

    May you be blessed and upheld in this time, as you have put yourself out to bless and uphold us, your readers. Russ

    1. Thank you Russell for your kind words. It really gave me a boost to read this. Your other message somehow went straight to the SPAM folder which is weird. That happens to me too sometimes. Writing about your pain certainly does help. You have to get it out otherwise it just festers into something so much worse. Onwards and upwards!

  7. Great post Caz! I think this is the reality we all face at a certain point (if not many) of our blogging “career”. I too have these dreadful moments from time to time, and like you, I have the “Go big or go home” mentality. Sometimes that mentality works great, but when you’re going through those “low” moments it makes you feel useless…

    But, I’m glad you point these things out because there is no reason why the world should “fall appart” if we miss a post or two. Actually, even when I push to not miss my posts, if I feel like I’m forcing myself mentally to come out with it, I rather skip it for that day and retake it the next day or as soon as I feel like it.

    And like you said, it’s good to take those “ah-ha” moments and write whatever came to your mind… it’s good to keep the juices flowing. I too have like a dozen unfinished posts waiting to be taken care of… lol (glad to see I’m not the only one)

  8. I’m with you that when inspiration hits you, it’s the best time to write! Gotta seize those moments of clarity and crank out the work.

    I think overcoming the burn-out is something everyone faces, and you will too. Looking forward to hearing about your health retreat!

  9. It’s like you read my mind! I have been struggling with being inspired to write for my site or anyone for that matter lately. Great tips that I will take into account.

  10. Thanks for the advice Caz! I’m suffering from major post-travel and I-wish-I-was-travelling-right-now-rather-than-working blues. Your advice applies not just to writer’s block, but life blues too!

    I know that I need to start finding things in my life that I love – like travel blogging and learning about photography and learning languages – and pour my attention into those, the things that inspire and interest me. And, of course, start planning for the next big adventure in my life!

    1. No worries Rebecca. Post travel blues are the worst. I suffer from them every day I am not traveling. You are right about putting your attention into things that inspire you. That is where the magic lives!

  11. I am seriously right there now. We just returned from our trip and I went from having no job to suddenly having two (and I’m not complaining, I am so grateful to finally have an income!). Anyway, making the mistake of not taking my computer on our trip left me completely out of the travel blog community and I came back with that fear of being forgotten.

    Then of course all the things I saw deserve posts and I’m pressuring myself to make them better than they’ve been.

    I guess I just wanted to say that first I was comforted but then inspired by your post. Now I know that we are all human and I’m not any less of a writer for needing a rest. I just hope that it doesn’t last long and I can get some good content going now!

    Thanks as always and I hope that you are feeling better as well.

    1. I had been wondering why I hadn’t seen you around for awhile. I’m so glad my post has helped you, it is a hard thing to overcome. Just take it step by step and you’ll find your mojo again. If it’s any comfort to you I have not been feeling good for a month now and my turnaround is very slow. I’m still managing to get posts up but am not doing anywhere near the amount of work I could be doing. You can still do it.

  12. Hi Caz, I just came around you post and must say, thatks for the encuregement. It’s true, we all sometimes need an extra dose of inspiration.. or feel totaly without any. i AM in that state right now… cant focuse… but,and that’s a littel bit frustrating – as I am used to be in action constantly. Hope sunny days wil come soon.. I hpe you are feeling better too.

    Alex

    1. No worries Alex! Sometimes you just have to take the time out in order to help your eyes readjust so they can focus again. I’m someone who likes to always be busy too, it’s hard to take a break and rest, but you have to. Go for a nice long walk, do something enjoyable, even watch some of the idiot box!! Hope it gets better for you

  13. Hi there!

    Wow it’s two years since you posted this so I’m not sure if you are going to see this but what the heck… I just wanted to thank you for this awesome post! Sitting here in sweden a lousy evening full of work feeling my inspiration spiraling down when I misstyped on google and stumbled onto this. I mean wow, it was like sent from above ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m a photographer and I just feel that my pictures been missing that extra sparkle the last weeks. I’m thinking about printing your tips and put them on my moodboard so that I never forget not to quit.

    Thanks again ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sanna

    1. That’s so cool Sanna!! Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I am really glad my tips can help you. They continue to help me on a regular basis ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. What a wonderful topic of discussion because this surely is something most bloggers go through โ€“ writers block ๐Ÿ™‚

    I liked the ways you shared here, and while I do follow most of them when I get blank sometimes, I really believe that if you enjoy blogging and it becomes your passion with time, you have less of these blocks. I guess those who put up daily posts or every alternate days might be facing this problem.

    The key according to me lies in the fact that you should write when you are focused in your work. I donโ€™t think your mind would turn blank then, or you wouldnโ€™t know what to write. But I guess it differs from person to person too.

    Speaking of myself, I guess being a professional freelance writer and blogger โ€“ my work is to write! And I write a lot, whether itโ€™s my blog posts, project work, or even replying to the comments on my blog (which are mini posts in themselves!) โ€“ all of that is writing. I never really get into such blocks, or perhaps my mind is always floating around with creative ideas that are just waiting to be penned down. However, when these is work pressure and pending projects etc., and when thereโ€™s stress all around โ€“ I do experience writers block, though itโ€™s rare.

    Thanks for sharing these ways with us.

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