When my oldest daughter was one-year-old, it snowed that winter. Now, this may not be a big deal to you, but that is a big deal to this South Carolinian girl! Naturally, my husband thought it would be a great idea to take our daughter out to experience her first snow. I had been fortunate enough to witness every “first” for my daughter, so you would think I would be gung-ho about teaching her how to build her first snowman. Wrong! Instead of being present and excited about some fun in the snow, I was stressing about lesson plans, cranking out new assessments, and grading the never-ending papers that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Sad, I know.
As writers and creatives, we can easily get caught up in the things that don’t matter most, like spending five hours deciding which font and picture look better on your blog graphic. Don’t get your torches ready yet, friend. There is nothing wrong with having a professionally polished site (I want mine to look absolutely radiant, too!). You just don’t want to get burnt out on the things that detract from what matters most--like changing someone’s life with your words.
It’s easy these days to get caught up in email marketing, SEO, creating courses, and so much more. Yes, these things are important and do have their place, but what about the real reason you started writing in the first place? What made you decide to pick up your pen (or keyboard) and write? If what you’re doing now doesn’t align with that, then I suggest you take some time, my friend, to reassess some things. As writers and creatives, we must make sure we don’t sacrifice our craft for the sake of a few George Washingtons (or Benjamins!).
When you take your focus off what matters most, it can be easy to feel uninspired after a while. You may even catch a case of the B.S.S. (Blank Screen Syndrome). I know because I’ve been there, too. I had it for about a month once, and it wasn’t fun at all. The good news is that you can overcome B.S.S. How? By being present.
Be present to your readers’ needs and thoughts. You can do this by reading comments on your previous blog posts, book reviews, and social media posts. What stands out to you in these comments? Does your reader share how your content helped them through a problem? Does she tell you she would love your advice on a similar problem? Which posts have your readers shared? You would be surprised at how reading these types of data can inspire you to write additional content.
You also can find inspiration by being present to your circumstances, emotions, relationships, and to your surroundings. You may not know this, but I’m a huge fan of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory. This theory simply states we are shaped by everything in our surroundings. This includes the relationships we have (and don’t have), the jobs we have, the shows we watch, the music we listen to, the schools we’ve attended, and on and on. Your perception of reality is based upon your connection to people, events, and social norms. You may be wondering why this matters. It matters because you can use this knowledge to inspire your writing!
Sometimes we as writers and creatives can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we feel uninspired. We hit a creative wall and wonder when we'll get our mojo back. Well, I’m here to tell you that if Stella could get her groove back, there is hope for you and me, friend. All we need to do is be present to what is going on in and around us.
You may be thinking, “Look, JaQuette. I need a little help. How can I be more present?”
I’m glad you asked, friend! If you’re still not sure how to do that, I’ve created a free, five-day photo prompt challenge to help. In the Present & Inspired challenge, you’ll take a picture of anything in your surroundings. It could be a sunset, traffic, an old building, or even your favorite hangout spot (hello, Starbucks!). Don’t worry about making it perfect picture. The focus should be on your writing! Once you have your picture, pick up your favorite pen, and get to writing! Think about how your picture makes you feel. What does it remind you of? Write it all down and post your picture and caption (a snippet or in its entirety) on Instagram using our hashtag #presentandinspired. Feel free to tag me, too. You can find me @mrsjpgilbert.
It’s time to start focusing on what really matters. It’s time to improve your craft and make real connections with your readers. You can do that in the Present & Inspired photo prompt challenge. I can’t wait to see your inspirations on Instagram from February 1-5.