“Action seems to seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together, and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”
“The quality of writing I do on the days I don’t feel like it is just as good as the quality of the writing I do on the days I do feel like it.”
John Kenneth Galbraith
Action changes attitude: In a nutshell, this is the message that legendary psychologist William James is conveying — and recent studies confirm its accuracy. What a priceless nugget of wisdom for us as writers! It frees us to separate how we’re feeling from how well we work — something many successful authors have discovered, including Galbraith.
How does this translate into getting words down on the page? It means that if we put ourselves in motion, then our feelings will follow our lead. Instead of being captive to them and letting them dictate the quality of our work, we can enlist them and make them march to the beat of our drummer.
Writing can be a joyful activity, but it’s also hard work: it’s easy to feel like Sisyphus endlessly pushing a rock up a hill only to have it fall down again on our heads. When the “I don’t feel like it” distraction rears its soul-sapping head, here are a few ways I’ve found helpful for acting your way out of it and onto the page.
Act as if you’re enthusiastic: When you act as if you’re excited about what you’re doing with gusto, you free up your energy and you actually become enthusiastic. Smiling, sitting up straight, and even pacing back and forth are all physical signals to your body and mind that you are ready for action.
Envision a successful day: Imagery is one of the most powerful tools we have at our command. If you spend a few moments in a relaxed state and use all your senses to conjure up the emotional benefits of a happy, successful day, you can put yourself in a frame of mind that makes working easier and more productive.
Get moving: If you hit a knotty problem on the page, and you find yourself wrestling with it to the point of frustration, get physical: do some stretching or better yet, take a walk outside. Getting out into nature is restorative — it can reignite your energy.
What’s your “motion potion” for jump-starting your day? Are there any special “action steps” you’ve found especially helpful in overcoming the “I don’t feel like it” blues? I’d love to hear them. Write on!