Seeking Inspiration While Topic Hopping

It’s Friday.

My calendar says “Writing Time.” Every Friday at this time is blocked out to write. I like going into my weekend knowing that I have written something that will contribute to next week's newsletter and blog post.

I wish I could say it's as easy as marking off time on your schedule to write, and it will happen.

It doesn't always work that way for me. Actually, it rarely works that way for me.

Today I don’t feel like writing. I don’t feel like doing much of anything.

©David Holland, Guthrie Thunderhead April 27, 8:43:15 p.m. Oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches. Used with permission.
©David Holland, Guthrie Thunderhead April 27, 8:43:15 p.m. Oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

Everything seems to distract me. Do you know this feeling?

For some reason I keep writing because I have so many deadlines: this newsletter, content for a workshop, the upcoming Creative Content Camp, and the next lesson for the Art Career Success System.

I sift through the notes I’ve created in Evernote.

I have an editorial calendar, but I’m not inspired by the topic I’ve chosen for this week. Surely there’s something that’s more interesting.

Nope. Not this week.

What is this about?

Nothing catches my eye. Absolutely nothing.

I go through old blog posts. Sidetracked! But I find gold – not just in my articles but also in the comments. My readers share loads of valuable comments.

I decide that the blog posts are interesting and that I should work a little on my new book. (Oops! I probably wasn’t supposed to say that. Now the cat’s out of the bag.)

This is fun! I'm capturing all kinds of ideas as I stroll down memory lane in the comments of my blog.

I keep plugging along.

Hopping from topic to topic to topic.

I recall the post I wrote about doing the work even when you don’t feel like it because that’s what professionals do. They don’t wait for inspiration to strike. They do the work because that’s just what they do. [Tweet “Professionals don't wait for inspiration to strike. They do the work.”]

So I think, Hey! This is an article in itself. The struggle to write a weekly article.

Christine Aaron's Vestige IV
©Christine Aaron, Vestige IV. Mirror, encaustic on wood, 15.5 (diameter) x 2 inches. Used with permission.

And I start a new note in Evernote with the temporary title, “How This Article Happened.” I know that won’t be the title, but at least it has a placeholder that I can find.

I don't attach a date to it because I don't know when I will publish it.

I type type type in order to capture what has transpired to this point. I don't want to lose my thoughts.

Don’t you hate it when you are struck by a really good idea and then forget what it was?

Through this process – on this Friday alone – I have:

  • Created a new article
  • Added content to an upcoming module for my students
  • Updated the outline for my new book (Yikes! There I go again!)

Now I’m ready to tackle that article idea from my editorial calendar that didn’t seem so interesting a couple of hours ago. This is the post that was the result.

Two Mondays Later

Apparently I missed (again) my Friday writing-for-the-blog schedule, and I’m writing on a Monday. It’s closer to my deadline than I’m comfortable with, and it’s now or never.

I dive headfirst into two topics and crank out about 1,000 words on each of them.

I am uninspired to finish either for this week’s article, as if I needed more proof that satisfaction with one’s work is hard won.

I return to Evernote to add more to this article that I started 10 days ago.

Then, out of nowhere, Boom!

Susan Owens canyon painting
©Susan Owens, Canyon Country. Acrylic on canvas, 30.75 x 40.75 inches. Used with permission.

I remember a personal experience that could be turned into a valuable piece of content. I am inspired and, almost effortlessly, this article is birthed.

Today I’ve worked on at least 5 articles.

One Month Later and The Big Lesson

Here I am – finally ready to share this. Here's what I want you to get out of it: Content, at least for me, doesn't come quickly and easily. I have to let it simmer.
MOST people have to let it simmer, especially if they want it to be worthy.

Creating content for your blog, newsletter, and social media is a process, and artists who think strategically will honor this process instead of having a let’s-just-get-this-over-with attitude.

Your Turn

Is writing difficult for you? Do you get distracted?

What are your biggest struggles around creating content (writing or otherwise) for your newsletter, blog, or social media?

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23 thoughts on “Seeking Inspiration While Topic Hopping”

  1. Alyson, I totally agree that writing has to simmer. I typically write about half of my newsletter at the first sitting,and then let it rest for a few days, sometimes a week or more, before continuing. At that point the draft almost always feels either a little bit wrong or even completely stupid, but while I’m away from it the real point of the piece somehow emerges. When I start writing again I’m able to bring it together. That can mean a complete rewrite or change of topic, or simply a shift in focus. Regardless, I’ve learned never to put a newsletter out without giving it that extra time to cook. As the great E.B. White said, “The best writing is rewriting.”

  2. My best writing comes from simmering. I work very similar to this stream of consciousness post – just write and dump out ideas, then I assemble and tweak for a while. Loved this post. It helps me to “feel normal” about my own writing process.

  3. I have a small note book I carry with me. When I don’t have ideas ready to mind I often consult the notes and musings I’ve written to myself at odd moments. I also like Evernote because it allows me to better organize these notes to self.

  4. Theresa Grillo Laird, where’s the like button? My thoughts exactly. I need to allow more time to generate new artwork….more time to let it ferment. Sounds exactly like letting the writing sit until later.

  5. I keep a personal blog which is also my art blog and everything-else-blog. It is now year 11. Last year I unintentionally started blogging every single day. I do it for myself. I have to keep moving.

    I am not a writer, though I have always been prone to journalling since high school. Mostly to sort myself out and clean my mind.

    Some blog posts really do require time to ferment. Like some paintings.
    Some are quick, like small fast paintings.
    Both have a place and value.

    There are many nights when I haven’t scheduled a post for the next day and I HAVE to figure it out. It is hard when nothing interesting has happened, I don’t have new art supplies to gush about, and I have already tapped my cool photo resource dry. Oh, and of course there isn’t a new painting to show….

    But somehow the practice of doing that daily commitment is something in itself, even if you don’t have anything to say.

    Write it anyhow, and sometimes surprising things happen.
    Sometimes you don’t know you had something to say until after you said it.

  6. Alyson, first of all, I’m thrilled to have my art featured in your newsletter today. Thank you!
    This is a helpful post, as always. There are times that ideas and thoughts flow freely and spill from me, and other times when it is like pulling teeth. Going through past notes, writings and ideas is helpful..but there are times where things need to simmer (as Theresa Laird says) before coalescing into an identifiable thread.
    Your summer creative content camp looks really good and will look more into that later today.

  7. Oh yes, exactly!
    In fact I once wrote that the creative process is similar to making a stew, ingredients are added and must “simmer” in order for the flavors to develop.
    I am working on a project that’s been “simmering” for months, after making countless sketches of ideas, I put the project to rest and moved onto other work. I got back into yesterday and came up with a stronger image as a result, one that I wasn’t getting to a month ago.

  8. Yes! All true and validating to anyone who writes! Sometimes the fountain flows and I knock out a months worth (or more) and other times I scrape the bottom of the barrel. But having a deadline (as opposed to writing only when you feel brilliant) helps a lot. I like the description of skipping around, nosing for random trails of ideas. That’s like tidying up the studio until something begs to be painted. But if you don’t show up its a sure bet zero will get written or painted!

  9. I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for taking the time. I have a question. I want to blog and have begun writing topic lists as I think of them. Not every blog topic will be centered around my creations. In the big scheme of the blogosphere – does this still market well?

  10. Another writer’s thought…
    “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”. … Gene Fowler

  11. When I have something to just talk about or something has happened in everyday life my husband says, you’ve hopped from topic, to topic, to topic, and it was mentioned again by someone else that I did the same thing in the pass. Why do this happen besides, in writing, before I write a letter to tell them why I do this?

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