Hi. I'm Jenna McGuiggan.
Join The List!

Sign-up to receive stories, specials, & inspiration a few times a month.

search this site
« hello. | Main | Winter: A Lamentation of Seasons »

How To Keep Creating (In The Word Cellar)

Ligonier Country Market, summer 2007

This week's In The Word Cellar column is an interlude of inspiration. I almost titled this post "Things I've Been Telling Myself (which you may or may not find useful, too)." I had intended to write about the rules of writing this week, but apparently I needed an affirmation of my creative powers instead. Writing has been slow going for the past two weeks, even downright painful at times. So here's a little shot in the arm to keep you -- and me -- going. Come back in two weeks for what I hope will become a rousing discussion on the topic of when it's okay to break the rules of grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation. Fun times!

  • When you sit down to write and there are no words, listen.
  • When you look at the blank page and panic, type the first ten words that come to mind, no matter what they are. Then type ten more. It might hurt, but keep typing until you find the thread of some story, even if it's not a story you knew you needed to tell.
  • When you open a jumbled mess of a document to rewrite it and feel physically repulsed by what you are sure is hard core evidence of your shortcomings, breathe.
  • When the call to create becomes a burden, shift your energy from a place of duty to a place of privilege. Stop saying "I have to," and start saying "I get to."
  • When every single word or brush stroke or click of the shutter feels like a slow and clumsy slog through the mud, take a break. And then go back to slogging until you can find an easier way. If the way doesn't get easier, only you can really know if you're on the wrong path or if this is simply a time of learning and strengthening for you. Be honest and proceed accordingly.
  • When you feel certain that your success is behind you and all future attempts will fail, try to chuckle at your own mix of pride and insecurity. And take comfort in the knowledge that other artists have this same mix inside of them, too.
  • When you don't know what to create, ask yourself what you love. Then make that.
  • When all of this fails, remind yourself to create out of a sense of love, not fear.
  • When you feel overwhelmed and sick to your stomach with other people's smarmy inspiration, take these words (and all aphorisms) with the clichéd grain of salt. Then find your own way to keep creating. (And tell us about it in the comments.)

Reader Comments (13)

Jennifer, this is wonderful! I just wrote down the following in my quote book; " when the call to create becomes a burden, shift your energy.....And start saying "I get to"....
These are such encouraging words! Thank you :)
March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEden
Jenna, I love this. It can be applied to so many things. . .
Thank you!!
March 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdanielle
Love this and luckily already do a lot of this - just keep typing, just one more word, just another, then another. I find blogging is a great way to keep on keeping on, and perfection is so not required.
March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebi
such wise encouraging words

when i get stuck i try to think about not having to work but using it as a chance to play... then things start happening!
March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJANE
WOW! This is awesome. I'm going to print it out and post it right next to my computer. Thanks for the inspiration. And for the recent advice. I still owe you a phone call! Hopefully Friday, my week has been nutty!
March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
I find your blog so very lovely and therefore would like to give you a beautiful blogger award. Stop by my blog to take a look xxx
March 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMilena
This is a very inspiring piece. I love it.
"Write the first ten words..." (Love it!)
March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachelle Mee-Chapman
Loved this list! I should post it on my computer for quick reference on a daily basis.
March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLynn
Thank you! This post is going directly into my (virtual) reference library. Such a clear and simple list of the things that get in the way of creating - with just the right advice to move past them. My favorite: 'When you don't know what to create, ask yourself what you love. Then make that.'
March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoggy Poggy
love this post, wise words that we can all use and revisit often...thanks
March 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermrs
Thank you for this, Jenna. I just posted it on the wall by my desk, hoping that it will help me get through my final papers for this semester. Working hard to change "I have so much to do" to "I get to do so much."
March 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMH
I love the move from "have to" to "get to." Perspective is everything.
March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJena

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.