June 29, 2017

Reconnecting with Our Passions: Storytelling

A pencil tied in a knot with text: Lost Your Passion for Writing?

In my last post, I shared my struggle with long-term burnout due to ongoing health issues. Thank you to all who commented! I haven’t had the time/energy/spoons to reply with the depth your comments deserve, but I’ve definitely been reading and appreciating every one. *hugs*

As part of that post, I mentioned that I’m going to try a couple of different things to reduce the time I spend blogging each week. My epic-long posts tend to keep me up until 1 a.m. the night before, and that’s not good for my health. So I’m really, seriously going to try to keep this post shorter—you know, like a normal blog post length. *smile*

For as bad as my burnout has been, I do have one silver lining to share:

Knowing that my burnout is caused by health issues has prevented me from doubting and blaming myself. I haven’t thought of myself as a “failed writer” or anything else we might think when struggling with our writing.

I know it’s not about me, my writing talent or abilities, or anything else like that. It’s about my health and those negative effects on all aspects of my life. Um, yay?

In other words, before blaming ourselves or thinking we’re not “up to snuff,” we should ask ourselves if burnout might be a cause of some of our writing struggles. Burnout, frustration, depression, etc. can all interfere with our creative side, and if we blame or doubt ourselves, that’s not going to help (and can make issues worse).

One of the other things we talked about last time was trying to hold onto our passions as much as possible during burnout.

Remembering What Fills Us with Passion

Maintaining a connection with our passions can help us in many ways. When the crap of daily life gets us down, remembering the things that drive us, that matter to us, that make us feel like our life has meaning all can help us feel a glimmer of happiness, no matter what else is going on around us.

Our passions link us to the bigger picture of our life. They prevent us from feeling that we’re just existing rather than living.

So every once in a while—especially when we’re struggling—we might want to take the time to see if everything feels like drudgery. If so—if even the things we supposedly “love” feel too much like work—we might need to stop and reconnect.

Reconnecting with Our Writing Passion

When it comes to writing, if we feel burned out, we might reconnect with that passion several different ways.

We might…:

  • remind ourselves what made us excited about our current story back when we first came up with the idea
  • imagine our characters in fun or crazy situations (even if we’d never use them in our story)
  • do research on an interesting aspect of our story, such as the location (an excuse to check out beautiful travel or architecture pictures!)
  • interview our characters with funny or weird questions
  • remind ourselves what we love about writing or why we wanted to be a writer
  • Etc., etc.

Are We Writers or Storytellers?

On some level, those bullet items come down to thinking about storytelling.

Some artists tell stories through painting or sculpting. Others tell stories through stand-up comedy or making movies. We just happen to tell stories through our writing.

In other words, writing is the medium that we choose—but isn’t the end point. It’s probably safe to say that for most of us, our passion to write didn’t bubble up from an urge to show off our grammar skills. *smile*

Instead, our writing is likely just an avenue to capture the stories we want to tell. Maybe we want to give our characters’ stories a voice. Maybe we want to share our stories with the world. Or maybe we want to entertain or enlighten with our stories.

Whatever the angle, storytelling is likely at the root of our passion. So activities or reminders of that storytelling urge might help us reconnect with our writing passion, which in turn, might help us recover from burnout (even if only for a few hours).

When Did We Start Telling Stories?

We might not remember where or when we started storytelling. Some authors share in their bios that they started writing from a young age, perhaps scribbling “books” at age 4 or writing fan fiction as a teen.

However, that doesn’t describe all of us. I never had the physical patience to hand-write stories, and I didn’t grow up with a computer. (I’m too old for that. *smile*) And if that type of childhood writing experience doesn’t describe us, we might think we’re a pretender at this writing thing, coming in late to the game.

In reality though, we’ve probably told stories throughout our life, even if we never wrote them down.

I came across a blog post yesterday with a comic about how girls play with Barbie dolls that reminded me of how I did tell stories from a young age (and the comments and examples on the post are hilarious…):

In my case, my Barbie doll used to pilot the Lego spaceships my brother and I would build. Or my Black Beauty horses would plan how to overthrow the mean dolls and their rules against animal equality. Or our Playmobil figures would band together against the big doll bullies. *grin*

Maybe we imagined grand adventures for our toys or stuffed animals, making up stories about how our stuffed elephant became best friends with our Han Solo action figure. Maybe we acted out with our friends how certain parts of the neighborhood were lava that we needed balance and jump to avoid. Or maybe our bed was a boat on a stormy sea. Or, or, or…

Remembering our passion for storytelling might help us recover from burnout. Click To TweetIf we remind ourselves of our earliest storytelling efforts, we might feel a little more like a “real” storyteller—one who’s been passionate about telling stories for our whole life. Between a shot of confidence and a fun trip down memory lane, remembering our enjoyment for storytelling can help us reconnect with our writing.

We are storytellers, and we have always been storytellers. Maybe remembering the types of stories we used to love to tell will give us new brainstorming avenues. Or even if we don’t suddenly feel inspired on our current story, maybe rediscovering the roots of our passion can help us fall in love with the idea of writing again. *smile*

P.S. And don’t forget to enter my annual Blogiversary contest!

P.P.S. Okay, still not a short post, but closer to normal length. And more importantly, I got it done by midnight. Slight improvement… *grin*

Does a passion for storytelling lie at the heart of your writing? Or does something unrelated to storytelling drive your desire to write? Did your early childhood play involve storytelling? Can you relate to that comic or the examples of storytelling for play? What are some of the earliest stories or scenarios you’d create?

Comments — What do you think?

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Hey Jami, Oh yesterday I was feeling even more terrible than usual, such that I was quite depressed in the colloquial way, but thankfully not the clinical way. (Not clinical because I could still experience joy and was still interested in activities I normally enjoy.) And perhaps because of that, when I tried starting a new Pokemon fanfic for fun, eh, I didn’t like what I wrote. In the back of my mind, I knew that it didn’t feel good because I was sick physically and emotionally, and that I had such a negative perception that I wouldn’t be giving my story a chance anyway. So that was very discouraging, especially as I’m usually MUCH more confident about my storywriting abilities. But yesterday, I dreamed about a pretty interesting person. And I am going to have them as my protagonist for my new story!! So I’m feeling encouraged again. 🙂 As for storytelling…Hmm, I think what I’m most passionate about is still my great love for my characters. So I care about my characters even more than I do about the stories, if that makes sense, haha. Interesting distinction between writing and storytelling, though. Hmmm, I would say I love them both? The two are mixed into one big bundle of joy and love for me, lol. Though I don’t have an urge to show off my grammar, I do have an urge to show off my writing abilities, in my prose rhythms, word choices, accuracy and power of expression,…  — Read More »

Anne R. Allen

I relate to all of this, Jami, including the health issues. I’ve been in and out of the emergency room for the last few months with a constellation of diseases. Many come from too many hours at the keyboard.

You’re so right about storytelling. That cartoon is soooo spot on. I organized my dolls into a coven and I’d have them put spells on all my “enemies.”

Blogging success has its downside. I know that all too well. Take care of yourself!

Kimberley Cooper

I love writing to a prompt. I don’t know whether it’s because a prompt sparks my creativity or whether I need the discipline of it, I don’t know, but having either a specific word count or a specific theme works for me. And then I see the story unfold like it’s a movie, and at that point I just have to get it all down before it disappears. So I guess that’s the storytelling part for me. And then when that’s done, I can go back and look at word usage, so I guess that’s the writing part.


Once again you have written the right encouragement.

Glynis Jolly

As a child, I tried to play with dolls but felt too confined somehow. I was one to usually be on my bike imagining I was someone else going on great adventures.

My own little burnout could be because I have not been sleeping well. As of late though, I am getting more hours in without waking up, which I am hoping will help me focus.

Jami, I think once you are used to the new routine to accommodate your health issues, you will be able to write up a storm again, just maybe at a slightly slower pace.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

I didn’t like dolls, they were boring. I played with toy animals and read books and played with my brothers.
Maybe I should have put dolls to more imaginative and drastic uses like you and the commenters….

Christina Hawthorne

As a child I lived in my head. Most moments were a daydreaming escape. Those minutes became scenes where I was somewhere else, whether it was placing myself in a movie, creating fantastic original adventures, or simply conjuring a different life.

I could, and did, daydream anywhere and was continually in trouble for it in school. I have to wonder how much better my grammar would have been if I hadn’t been staring into space. I liked history because it was fuel for stories, while at home dolls were a way to act out ideas.

Like you, I wasn’t fond of drafting stories in longhand (let alone edit!) and was a writer waiting for an invention still in the distant future (the first ever desktop computer at my school arrived a few months before I graduated).


Oh… wow. I didn’t start writing until my late teenage years, and I always felt like an impostor because SO many writers talk about how they’ve been writing for as long as they can remember… It never occurred to me to consider that I’ve been making up stories for all my life before. Thanks for pointing it out!


[…] Thompson has 4 top tips to overcome your fear of writing, Jami Gold tells us how to reconnect to your storytelling passion, while Jane Friedman wonders if the advice to follow your passion is all it’s cracked up to […]

Karen McFarland

Lol, still not a short post! I love it Jami! Your passion shines through. Oh how I needed this post! Boy, oh boy, do I ever need a reconnection. But like you, I’ve felt burned out. And of course it’s due to my health (low adrenal function) and I only have so much energy to go around. *sigh* So thank you so much for this post! 🙂

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