Most days are normal days. You accomplish the things on your to-do list including your writing goal. Write 500 words a day? Checked off by lunchtime.
But on rare days, you are emotionally charged. You’re bored. Your boss pissed you off. You’re ecstatic over the promotion you applied for six months ago. You’re sad to lose a friend. In the last case, you should take the time to grieve. Please, seek professional medical attention if you’re clinically depressed. But in the other cases, get on with meeting your writing goals.
So, how do you meet your writing goals when you are emotionally charged? Here are 6 tips to get you started with your writing.
1. Journal your way through your heightened emotions
One simple way is to first journal about your emotions. Yes, write it all down. Keep a journal with you or use any piece of paper. The physical act of writing is restorative.
Describe the situation that got you all hyped up, the people involved, what they and you did or said, and how you felt.
Then, acknowledge the feelings. Acknowledge any injustices against you, the situation and whether you had any control over it or not. Or acknowledge how good you felt and express gratitude to those who helped you. Identify areas you could have had some control. Then write down what your next few actions will be or what you will do if a similar situation happens again.
Next, set the feelings aside. Yes, you can do this because by the time you have reached this point you would have gained some form of control over yourself. Tell yourself that your feelings are transient and that tomorrow you will be back to near normal. But, for today you are going to get to your writing.
Finally, find a spot where you will not be interrupted. Read over your writing goal for that session and then start writing. Remember, regardless of your anger or happiness, you can write.
2. Review your goals
In the heat of a moment, we forget our goals. To get back to your writing, review your goals.
But when you are angry or happy, you might just neglect to look at your goals. If you’re anything like me, spontaneity and impulsiveness might throw all good intentions out the window.
So, how do you review your goals in the midst of being emotionally charged?
This one is a bit difficult to do because it depends on your habits.
The key is to develop the habit of reviewing your goals at least daily. In the beginning, try reviewing your goals twice a day, once in the morning and once in the night. My goals remind me of where I am supposed to be headed and I tend to correct my course and align myself to my goals.
If reviewing your goals is not sufficient and you give in to the impulses of your emotions, then review the daily action plan that is supposed to help you achieve your goals. If writing is on that action plan, then you know what you’ve got to do.
3. Develop a pre-writing routine
Even after reviewing your goals and writing in your journal, you may have the impulse to say to hell with writing for the day. This happens to me fairly often. But, I feel more relaxed and in a better frame of mind to write once I have a cup of coffee. My trigger to get started with writing is making the coffee and having it. This is my pre-writing routine.
The pre-writing routine is something that you do to signal to your mind and body to settle in for a writing session. It is a routine that you do only before you write. This works for me. However, if you have coffee socially without writing following then this is not a proper trigger for your writing.
Experiment with several pre-writing routines until you find one that helps direct you to your writing.
4. Use implementation – intention to just write
If you don’t care to write about your emotions in a journal, review your goals or develop a pre-writing routine to ease you into writing, then all you got to do is just write. But, I see one problem with this recommendation. We forget our writing goals when our emotions are heightened. Journaling, reviewing goals and pre-writing routines tend to serve as triggers for writing.
But, you can still write without these types of triggers. Use intention-implementation triggers which may be in the form, “Whenever I feel angry, I will write or work on my major writing project.”
I have used intention-implementation triggers in several ways. A few years back I had to finish my PhD dissertation. I placed a photo of someone graduating and used that as my trigger. Whenever I went to my phone to play Candy Crush or log into Facebook, I saw that photo. My rule was that every time I saw the graduation photo, I had to write a paragraph for my dissertation. This was quite effective for me to complete the first two drafts of the dissertation in five months.
Recently, a colleague in my department harassed me in multiple ways. I was a subject of academic bullying and was spending too much time thinking about this colleague. I eventually decided that my colleague was not worth my time as taking the matter to the appropriate channels did nothing to resolve the issue. So, whenever I thought of her, I wrote two sentences on my research. To do this, I kept my research writing project open on my computer all day during work and then again at night when I was home.
5. Change your environment when you are emotionally charged
If you got angry at home, then maybe writing at home may not be the ideal situation for you.
I have had to leave my office several times in the past few months and head out to a coffee shop with either my laptop or a notebook. The change of environment helps put context to your situation. You tend to remember that the situation is minor in the scheme of life and that you will get over it.
I choose a coffee shop as it helps to use my main trigger for writing: making and having coffee before writing. I don’t get to make coffee myself at the shop but I get to wait which helps to put some time and space between myself and the situation. The waiting period helps me to calm down.
Choose an environment that gives you time and space away from your emotions. If you can, leave your phone behind. Walk to that environment and take in your surroundings while you walk.
6. Use your emotions to your advantage
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to use your emotions to your advantage. Harness the power of regret.
Always ask how you would feel if you do not meet your writing goal today.
I know that I will feel terrible if I don’t write. I no longer want to regret not writing and producing the outputs that I want. I try as far as possible to write the minimum word or sentence goal that I have for that month.
I’m sure you have regrets in which you allowed situations to get the better of you and throw you off your goals track.
Develop your own strategies
Some of the strategies in this article asks that you set aside your emotions and write, while others ask you to use your emotions to your advantage. How we deal with our emotions is often personal to us. The key is to monitor your response to your emotions and develop habits that get you to writing as soon as possible. Take the time to do this and then develop or test strategies for dealing with emotions that can be obstacles to you producing writing output. Your writing life deserves some strategies for when you are emotionally charged.