Episode 001 – Harnessing Your Creative Energy Spoons

Welcome to episode 1 of Writer Roadmap! In this episode, we jump right into one of my favourite topics: energy spoons. I cover where the concept comes from, how to figure out which activities provide energy and which cost you energy, and share some tips on structuring your day to accommodate the flow of energy in your life.

A full transcript of the episode can be found below. If you’d like to answer the question of the week, please do so in the comments!

This week, I want to know: What activities bring you energy?

Graphic summaraising points of article


Hello navigators. Welcome to episode 1 of the Writer Roadmap podcast. I’m your host Holly Lyne. Today, I want to kick things off by talking about energy spoons.

The concept of “mental spoons” is a metaphor used to describe the limited energy and capacity that individuals with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or mental health conditions have to handle the daily tasks and challenges that other people may take for granted.

The term was originally coined by Christine Miserandino in her essay “The Spoon Theory,” in which she uses spoons as a symbol for the units of energy that a person with a chronic illness has each day.

According to Miserandino, each task or activity a person with a chronic illness or disability completes requires a certain number of spoons. Once their supply of spoons is exhausted, they may not have the energy to complete additional tasks or face further challenges.

The concept of mental spoons is an extension of this metaphor, focusing specifically on the energy and capacity required to manage mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. People with mental health conditions may find that everyday tasks, such as getting out of bed, preparing meals, or interacting with others, require a significant amount of mental energy and can quickly deplete their reserves of mental spoons.

Understanding the concept of mental spoons can help individuals with mental health conditions manage their energy levels and prioritize their tasks and activities accordingly. It can also help others to be more understanding and supportive of those who may be struggling with mental health challenges.

It’s a useful metaphor and one that I feel is applicable to everyone, not just those with diagnosed chronic conditions. We all experience a constant flow both in and out of energy. We gain energy from certain things and other things use that energy. Some of us have trouble regaining spent energy, i.e. those with chronic health conditions. But the general principle is universal.

Becca Syme uses the metaphor of energy pennies, which may resonate better with you as we’re often talking about a transaction – energy in and energy out in exchange for certain activities. And of course, the specifics differ from person to person.

For example, introverts find being with people to be an energy-draining activity, whereas extroverts find socialising gives them energy. Ambiverts may find certain social situations to be energy-producing and others draining, OR find being around people to be energy-producing up to a point and then it suddenly switches.

Even among writers, there is a lot of variation. Some people gain energy from writing, others use energy to write. Some of us gain energy from thinking about our books, others find outlining gives them that buzz. It’s not arbitrary, it usually comes down to what our strengths are. And that didn’t take long, did it? If you’ve followed me here from other podcasts or social media then you’ll already know this about me, but for the benefit of everyone else, I’m talking about Clifton Strengths, which is a personality assessment developed by Donald Clifton and now administered by Gallup. I’m a huge fan of the assessment and advocate for how helpful it can be. I’ll do a full episode on it very soon, but I wanted to give you a heads-up that I will be talking about Strengths on this podcast quite a lot. It’s one of the tools that I use in coaching other writers and I find it really helpful for my own development too.

Anyway, our Strengths will have an effect on what activities give us energy and which ones cost us energy.
Figuring out for yourself what costs you energy and what gives it to you will be really helpful in deciding how best to spend your time. For a lot of writers, doing the writing first before the energy stores get sucked dry by other things is beneficial. Other people find that getting some other draining activities done first and then using writing to refuel is better for them.

So try experimenting. If you’re able to switch up your routine and try doing things differently then do that and take notes on how you feel. You can try keeping score, note your energy levels on a scale of 1 to 10 before and after various activities and see if there are any patterns over a few days. Always bear in mind the quality of your sleep and food intake as well, because these will both affect your general energy levels regardless of what activities you engage in. We need data in order to spot correlations and figure out causation.

If you already know your Clifton Strengths, then you have a head start. If you have a lot of the Strategic Thinking Strengths, then it’s a fairly safe bet that thinking, learning, taking in information and so on, are going to be energy-producing. If you’re high in the Executing Strengths then getting things done will energise you. And so on.

If you haven’t taken the assessment, then observing your own behaviour, and recording data can help you to build up a picture of the energy flow in your life. If that feels like more effort than you really want to go to, or if data isn’t an important factor in your decision-making process, then go with your gut. When in doubt, consider what makes you happy. Chances are, you’ll gain energy from that, be it sunshine, talking with a friend, listening to a podcast or anything else.

I’d love to hear from you. What activities bring you energy? Can you do one of them today? Answer on Spotify or on Instagram @hblyne.

That’s all from me for today. Thank you for listening and happy planning.

Writer Roadmap intro and outro music used under license from Pixabay. Music track “Salangseuleoun” was Created by “Dayfox”.

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