8 powerful ways to inspire your authentic writer within

When we are in flow and the writing is pouring out of us we seem to act on automatic. But at other times we feel dry and the writing seems forced. What do we do to find the inspiration again? How do we find the rush of words, images, associations and story again?

The clue is to go deep within, to relax and cease trying to force the writing with painful conscious efforts. Thinking is an essential stage of writing (or solving any problem), as is the passion to solve it (we have to care) but having done the thinking and imagining, we need to desist from conscious effort.

1. trust your subconscious pilot

Genius is a process, not a personal possession and it’s available to everyone, but so often we get in our own way with too much struggle and anxious pressure. We need to hand over more to the subconscious and trust that flow will happen.

In The Conquest of Happiness the philosopher Bertrand Russell puts it like this:

The subconscious writer is not easily overwhelmed or likely to suffer from anxiety. In The New Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz talks about the subconscious as an automatic creative mechanism that can he likens to an

The mechanistic language isn’t a metaphor I warm to, but the etymology of cybernetics points towards automatic systems in living things as well as machines and comes from the Greek, ‘to pilot’ or ‘to steer’. The notion of this inner pilot is much more creative. As Maltz says:

Too much conscious thinking about how to solve anything from life problems to a poem is stressful; it makes us anxious and over-cautious as the fear piles up.

To let go and be able to trust the subconscious writer within demands certain elements are present in our lives:

2. establish daily rituals

You need a daily practice of habits or rituals that support your:

  • body
  • emotions
  • intellect
  • soul (used in the broadest sense)

You need to:

  • sleep well
  • eat nutritiously and intentionally
  • exercise
  • read and find intellectual stimulation
  • connect with others
  • do things that excite you and give life meaning
  • live your values

In short, you need morning and evening routines and days that encompass play, love, imagination, quests and a supportive environment.

3. journal every day

Photo by Haley Powers on Unsplash

We develop the mindset of a writer by practice and journalling is a great way to do this, whether you are reflecting on life, imagining he future or playing with words through writing exercises.

Journalling will:

  • prime your creativity
  • make your thinking and living not only clearer but more congruent
  • increase your equanimity and gratitude
  • sharpen your mind
  • fuel your passion and purpose

Journalling can nurture the writer within as well as providing material.

4. inhabit your body

Photo by Andrew Rice on Unsplash

If we feel dislocated and disconnected, if we shy away from inhabit ourselves fully, and write from the senses; from authentic, embodied human experience then we will be less likely to trust the subconscious too. The self is complex and dynamic. We need to attend to all of it, not with anxiety and force, but by trusting the depths while you

Mary Oliver, ‘Wild Geese’

5. rest and recuperate

Rational thought is essential, certainly. This is not a manifesto for never thinking and deliberating. But over-thinking kills creativity. In his essay ‘The Gospel of Relaxation’, written in 1899, William James railed against being too stressed, busy and concerned with products rather than process. He put it like this:

In short, rational thinking has it’s time and place, but once it’s done, don’t second-guess yourself. Trust the process. Part of this trust is handing over to the subconscious pilot. And part of it is not worrying away at the writing, endlessly driving yourself round in ever-decreasing circles.

Creativity takes a lot of energy and requires a great deal of recuperation. Remember: you have to switch off to switch on creativity. The world is busy, loud and sometimes harsh and you need to recover from it. You need time away from and to recover from:

  • the constant barrage of technology
  • work and the demand to always be producing

You need activities that replenish and nurture you, whether it’s:

  • time with loved one
  • reading
  • seeing art of films
  • listening to music
  • moving — dance, walk, do yoga, cycle…
  • cooking and eating
  • gazing at the stars/the ceiling … doing sweet nothing

What are your soul vitamins?

6. find the silence

Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash

Rest and recuperation is essential, so vital, that sometimes we need to focus on the art of ‘being’. When we are in being mode, the world is richer. We are more aware of senses and emotions, as well as thoughts.

Earlier this year my daughter spent ten days in silent retreat, up each day at 4 a.m. and meditating at least ten hours each day. You learn a lot about who you are during this kind of time out. It’s not for everyone, but we can all benefit from more silence in our lives. We can all need time to think about the the person we want to become, so that when we act, the doing is congruent with the being.

When we pay attention to qualities and inner states, we

  • pay more attention to process than product
  • feel calmer, less fearful and anxious
  • feel more sense of control in the face of obstacles
  • value fulfillment and meaningfulness over outcomes

Why does this matter to writers? Why will this improve how your subconscious assists you?

  • Because writing is an act of witness and human connection.
  • Because story is vital to every society and every individual.

7. change your inner world

When your inner world changes the outer world will follow it. We know this in our bodies. Not all illness is ‘psycho-somatic’ —

environmental and other factors all play their parts, but we also know how stress triggers a plethora of illnesses cand suffering.

And it’s not only direct physical effects. Inner harmony gives us clearer thinking and intellectual rigour. A strong (not egotistical, but healthy) self image gives us the confidence to make better decisions and be more effective.

When we change how we think, the world alters with us. This isn’t magic. In ‘Chess Story’, Stefan Zweig notes:

Friedrich Nietzsche puts it more obliquely:

Changing your inner world is the courage to hear the music. Or inner world, after all, creates the horizon of meaning in which we operate; in which we write.

8. understand flow

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

And so we come full circle. When we support our writing selves though:

  • strong daily rituals
  • journalling
  • nurturing the body
  • rest and recuperation
  • finding a sense of being in the silence
  • changing our inner world

then we will relax sufficiently to trust the inner pilot and get into flow.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined the term flow for a state of energised focus and immersion in an activity, particularly in creative work. For flow to happen you need:

  • intrinsic motivation and goals
  • feedback
  • a balance of challenge, skills and confidence

Writing about flow in the Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, Csíkszentmihályi and Jeanne Nakamura talk of how:

We get lost in flow and the conscious self drops away. We operate at full capacity. In flow, we are in the process of genius and we get there not only by being writers of persistence and skill, but by taking time to hand over to the subconscious pilot whenever we reach an obstacle that requires more than conscious thought.

There comes a point in creativity when conscious struggle isn’t sufficient and we reach the paradox of the Taoist wei wu wei: ‘action without action’ or ‘effortless doing’.

As Priya Hemenway translates Chapter II of the Tao Tê Ching:

This is the process of genius.

Becoming a Different Story with journalling…

This autumn I’ll be launching a journalling course for becoming a different story — working on creativity and the writing life. If you’d like details sign up to my email list or email me @ jan@janfortune.com. I’ll send you my 9-chapter eBook on writing and the writing life. Or just feel free to continue the conversation here on Medium.

Editor, author, feminist & part-time nomad. Helping others develop their writing life and practice. Blog @ https://janfortune.com/

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