Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

When You’re Feeling Uninspired

When You're Feeling UninspiredI’m not feeling particularly inspired today.

I don’t even want to write anything on this blog.

I’ve learned two vital lessons about what to do at times like these when I’m feeling uninspired.

And knowing the difference between the two has been essential to my being able to create and stay sane.

One is from Steven Pressfield, and the other is from Anne Lamott (via Ben Arment).

The first lesson is…

Fight through the Resistance

Author of The War of Art Steven Pressfield explains in his book that there is a force warring against your creativity.

It is called “Resistance,” and it wants to keep you from your destiny.

You need to get up every day, expecting resistance, and fight through it. You must ship.

You must to not simply wait for inspiration, but you have to do your part by showing up. It’s up to the Muse to do the rest.

The second way to deal with lack of inspiration is…

Recognize the difference between “blocked” and empty

Anne Lamott posits that what we call “writer’s block” may be something dramatically different.

When we’re feeling uninspired, we may, in fact, be spiritually and emotionally empty.

If that’s the case, the last course of action you’d want to pursue would be to simply push through the block. Because you’re not blocked. You’re empty. And you need to fill up.

You need to step away from your work and do something that recharges you, that leaves you feeling refreshed and inspired.

How to tell the difference

Depending on what’s going on today, there may be two reasons for your feeling uninspired:

  • One may be a real case of the Resistance — your own laziness, outside distractions, or some other negative force keeping you from making a difference. If that’s the case, then you only have one choice: show up, do the work.
  • However, if you’re feeling empty, be careful. You could waste hours sitting in front of a computer screen or with a guitar on your lap. If this is the case, you may need to step away and go do something that fills you up — play with your kids, listen to music, go for a run.

But don’t be fooled; Resistance is still waiting to snatch you up at the earliest possible moment.

Once you’re full again, get right back at it. Start creating and continue working through the Resistance.

What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired? And how do you tell the difference between feeling blocked and being empty?

Book recommendation: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Affiliate link)

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • Jonathan

    for me to refresh means a little G. Campbell Morgan followed by a cup of coffee and turning on my desk lamp

    • Jeff Goins

      Love it. Ritual is so important in the life of a writer.

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  • http://thewholedangthing.wordpress.com Ben Emerson

    I totally had this happen to me the other day. I went through both of them. There were times where I just needed to buckle down and write. Then there was a time when I got up and cleaned my room for someone who was staying over. Nothing like doing something that pulls you out of yourself to get the creativity back.

    This was a really helpful distinction. Thanks!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Love that Ben — doing something to pull you out of yourself to get the creativity back.

  • http://twitter.com/robrash robrash

    Love Pressfield’s ‘The War of Art’… really great.

    I usually find my inspiration when its quiet or when I have moments alone, to just sit and be. It also helps when I have something to read, be it blog posts, books, or the bible.

    I love it when I’m in a groove or rhythm, can’t beat those times!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      no you can’t!

  • http://www.gritandglory.com/ Alece

    i need to figure out what “filling up” looks like for me. and do more of it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yeah, that’s the trick for all of us — and then actually doing it once we commit to it. For example, for me, it means going outside (I find nature to be restorative), but sometimes I just forget to do it or get lazy.

  • http://movethemountains.blogspot.com Chad Jones

    Honestly? I “goof off”–read unrelated subjects, surf the Internet, watch TV. And as I’ve mentioned here before, I’ll comment on other blogs, and subsequently mine my comments for material.

    Seems to be working out pretty well so far.

    And let’s also not forget the place, and power, of prayer in all this: asking God to fill us with what He wants, seeking the lightning–instead of the lightning bug.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      There’s a lot to be said for “play.” Thanks for sharing, Chad. And for having fun.

      • http://movethemountains.blogspot.com Chad Jones

        Thank-you, Jeff, for kind words, encouragement, and for being one of
        my online friends.

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          my pleasure, chad. i hope we can be more than just online friends some day…

          • http://movethemountains.blogspot.com Chad Jones

            Sounds good! As long as you’re cool with the fact that I’m old, and
            you know, nowhere near cool. ;-)

            • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

              i like old. i have an old soul.

              • http://movethemountains.blogspot.com Chad Jones

                Then I’m sure we’ll hit it off!

  • http://duane-Scott.net/ Duane Scott

    I know there is a difference between writer’s block and no inspiration, but shouldn’t a writer be willing to skip a day? Nothing annoys me more than the blogger who HAS to post everyday, and then they end up deliviring less than great content.

    That’s not the case today, tho.

    I really enjoyed this post. ;)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      *GULP*

      Thanks. I was starting to sweat there… (Hope you weren’t just being nice.)

  • http://twitter.com/huynhtho Huynh Tho

    When I am lack of inspiration, I usually put everything aside, go to my favorite coffee shop, drink coffee and enjoy some Jazz. :) I love the way Jazz singers express their freedom while singing.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      love that technique! i do something similar. changing locations can mean a world of difference.

  • http://davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

    I’m with you, Jeff. Showing up everyday helps me get inspired. I rarely feel inspired before I start. Once I get started, inspiration flows.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      that’s how it often is for me, too.

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  • http://twitter.com/BradBlackman Brad Blackman

    I can’t help but be reminded of the Artist’s Dates in The Artist’s Way. It feels weird at first, but it’s definitely great for “restocking the pond.” For me it’s always been best to do something silly and relatively mindless, even if it’s spending lunch break doing nothing on a hill overlooking a pond.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I need to do more of this.

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  • http://twitter.com/prettyugthing Jennifer Ku

    Thanks for another great post! I agree with you too – I show up and do my part to get me back on track.. Personally, when I feel uninspired and hopeless, I get out of my studio and work elsewhere. Eventually, my brain will get going. 

  • http://www.steppingintowonder.com/ Karl – Stepping Into Wonder

    Thank you Jeff, I really enjoy your distinction between being empty and resistance. I find that whenever I am hearing “shoulds” related to my creativity (I should be writing, I should be creating, etc), it’s time to take a break and reconnect with my passion and aliveness. Once I’m connected to my inspiration, the creative output naturally flows.

    • Michael Everett Scott Pitcher

      This is a good point. I make comedic YouTube videos as a side project to my normal job. Sometimes I go 2 or 3 months without inspiration, because I am simply telling myself all too often that “I should” be working on a script or video. Then I stress out that I am no coming up with any inspirational content. I always thought it was something wrong with me.. Laziness or apathy. When really, it’s because I am a workaholic at my day job and I feel guilty spending time with “Myself” doing what I enjoy for fun, I.E. playing a video game, or going on a hike. I make myself feel like doing what I like for fun is a bad thing and is a waste of time. When really, I should be doing those things to “recharge” my artistic battery.

  • http://www.theconfidencelounge.com/ Aaron Morton

    My friend is a professional poker player – One that actually makes a very good income. One day he was telling me about his process he does before ‘playing the tables’ – He would get some food and then for about 20-30 minutes just watch about 2-3 tables without playing. As he watched he would imagine how he would play various hands. He would make sure he is being very analytical.

    When 30 minutes is up if he isn’t ‘feeling it’ he’ll not play, he won’t start and he’ll go do something else. The process before was getting him into state, sometimes it happens other times it doesn’t and when it doesn’t he doesn’t play.

    I have a target each week for the amount of writing I want to write a week. I write for my blog and guest articles. This is linked to the larger goal I have of growing ‘The Confidence Lounge’ community to a certain number before the end of the year. Here is the thing though;

    —As long as I see myself as a writer, I know there will be times in the week where I am in a state where i feel inspired to write —- I know because I wouldn’t be a writer else!

    Inspiration is linked to emotion and no emotion is fixed. I remember this as i go throughout my week.

    Thank you

    Aaron Morton

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