How to Flourish When Creative Writing Under Pressure
How to Flourish When Creative Writing Under Pressure
We’ve all been there. Creative writing under pressure can get to us, particularly in the fast-paced world of business and content writing. Couple this with the era of microblogs, 140-character social media posts and short attention spans then suddenly writing something big becomes even more daunting.
Not only that, but the audience we cater to is accustomed to instant gratification. Consumers want everything faster, better, on the money, and right away. This only adds to the pressure a writer feels.
How can you be creative and productive, when the clock is ticking down to the next release date? How can you keep up that creative spark that got you into writing in the first place, and keep your content fresh and informative?
Plan your overarching strategy in advance
Good pacing and a creative writing strategy is vital for writing under pressure. Before you start working, plan the important milestones you need to achieve within the project and when you expect to achieve them. For example, you could set yourself the target of writing perhaps 2,000 words before taking a lunch break.
It can however be true that rigid time limits and the setting of targets can create a writing bock in the first place. The looming pressure of the clock can stifle our burning creativity and flow of writing, which is often where the magic happens. Feeling like we do not have enough time to do our work as creatively and innovatively as we’d like to do it can make us stall.
Yet does this mean that with time pressure we have no chance? Not necessarily.
For example, take a look at research undertaken by Professor Teresa Amabile and her team on employee creativity. They found out that people are most creative when under low to moderate time-pressure. High time-pressure creates the treadmill effect when you constantly coping with things that fly at you, but you are not actually getting anywhere. The proverbial “burning platform” does not work so good for creatives.
So think about low to moderate time-pressure does help creativity. It gives you just enough adrenaline and incentive you need. Therefore, careful planning can alleviate extreme time-pressure and create a sweet spot where you feel motivated rather than pressed, allowing to create at a steady pace more on your own terms.
That is why it is crucial to plan measurable and achievable weekly, daily (or even hourly) goals when creative writing under pressure. This way you can get to work in the morning without the weight of an entire project on your shoulders. What you can then have before you is a manageable chunk that you have to complete on a timely basis.
Take note of the importance of your work
One thing that creative writers in all areas are guilty of at one point or other is not pausing to take stock of the good things that made them writers in the first place. This can be a very easy net to slip into especially when we’re so deadline and churn-focused in this day and age.
Try to imagine that at the best of times, what you do in writing can change things for the better. This can be from contributing to a particular customer need or even a societal need. Above all, creativity is all about internal motivation – interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, curiosity, the challenge of the work itself. Even the smallest win in something you care about leads to a great work satisfaction and boosts creativity, building a positive feedback loop. Focus on this and keep it up where possible.
Other extrinsic motivators such as promised reward, possible critique, and other things that are meant to incite you can in fact undermine your creativity. All those factors combined lead to frustration and procrastination which is bad for both creativity and the need to hit deadlines.
“The biggest problem that students turning to us have is their anxiety about the grade. They simply cannot concentrate on writing,” says Caitlin Hines from Paper Help support. “They are afraid that the result won’t be good enough, so they avoid doing anything at all until the eleventh hour.” Students tend to concentrate on expected evaluation, possible mistakes, and deadlines and that makes creative work functionally very difficult indeed.
The same is broadly true for professionals as well. As such, when you get down to tasks that involve creativity, try not to think about the external factors. Concentrate on things you love about writing and try to remember why you have chosen this particular project. Focus on what you love about it, and what you find inspiring.
Allow yourself some quiet time
It goes without saying that you should take breaks and rest from time to time. This is particularly true if you’re in a remote working set-up and are a writer by trade. Turn off the notifications in your email manager, mute your phone, ask your family or roommates not to invade your space for a set period, and use this time to realign your focus and creative juices.
The most difficult thing, but also very important one, is to try not to think about what time it is. A time limit is one of those external constraints that can decrease your creative ability. We’re all guilty of consistently gazing at the clock though the focus on time as the core factor is not what we’re trying to achieve here. By all means aim to work fast, but to achieve this, you should think about your work – not about the time allotted to it.
Concentrate and try to achieve the flow state. According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, it is an optimal state of consciousness “where we feel our best and perform our best”. The flow state is only possible when your activity is intrinsically rewarding (as we mention above), and when you have complete focus on the activity itself and thus losing track of time passing.
Given that you are working under strict a time limit, losing track of time sounds risky, yet it is manageable. Set the timer and let it track minutes and hours for you. That will take the time off your mind and allow you to focus.
To be creative in the first place, you need needs space. That contributes to the stereotype that creatives (and especially writers) are disorganized and difficult to manage. Indeed, their independence does not always fit well in the corporate environment. That is why so many creatives go for freelancing opportunities. It gives them the possibility of uninterrupted work and individual planning, which is a vital condition for creativity.
Creative people also tend to care deeply for their work, and writers illustrate this perfectly. They put a lot of pressure on themselves, and when on top of that they know someone is counting on them, they can become cranky. That is why it is very important to distance yourself from external factors and expectations of others.