Do you feel you’re in control of your writing life?
Have you taken up the reins and set off in the direction you want to go?
Or are you waiting for someone to take you buy the hand and lead you out?
Over the past two weeks the Creativity’s Workshop Mailing List have been looking at how to write your own personalised pep talk. We’re discussing how we can use our own words to inspire our writing.
Last week we spent some time thinking about the following questions:
- What do I need to hear?
- What do I wish someone would say to me?
- What are some of my favourite quotes?
- What would be the most inspiring/comforting thing I could be told right now?
While thinking about these questions, it’s common for writers to realise that they’re looking for at least one of the following elements:
- A place to start
If these sound familiar to you, then you’re not alone. These are things that just about every writer has needed at some point in their life.
The problem is that we all too often rely on other people to provide us with these things. We wait for permission, we search for inspiration and we crave approval.
By expecting other people to fill these needs, we hand the reins of our writing life to those who aren’t invested in our personal journey.
So what’s the answer?
The answer is to fill these needs ourselves. It may sound counter-intuitive or even impossible, but let’s look at each element individually and see how you can take back control of your writing life.
Discomfort can come from something as simple as the wrong chair or something as complicated as deep disgust for the writing we’re producing.
Obviously, if your chair is causing your problems then that’s an easy fix – find yourself a new chair. But when the discomfort runs deeper than that, the solution may not be as forthcoming.
Often what is making us uncomfortable is not the situation itself, but our way of looking at the situation. By finding a new and positive way of looking at our writing we can regain comfort and satisfaction in our work.
For example, if you are disappointed in the writing you produce first thing in the morning, view that writing time as cleaning the bilge out of your writing pump before the clean words start flowing.
Give it a go: Choose an aspect of your writing that you find disappointing and then look for a positive slant. It may take a bit of practice, but you’re a writer – your job is to find new ways of describing and explaining a subject. Once you find a more positive way of looking at the situation, write it down in a pep talk so you can refer to it often.
Sometimes we just want someone to acknowledge that the writing life has it’s difficulties and that other writers battle with the same hurdles as we do. We want someone to put their arm around our shoulder and say, “I know, me too.”
Most writers are quite open about their difficulties, which can be a great benefit to the rest of us. Reading biographies and blogs by other writers can help us see we’re not alone when it comes to things like writer’s block, editing haze and other quirks of the writer’s life. It’s not unusual to find that a ‘great’ writer battled with similar insecurities to those we individually face.
For example, here’s a quote from Neil Gaiman that certainly made me feel better:
I feel uncertain about my writing all the time. I feel uncertain when I’m writing it, I feel uncertain when I’m editing it, I feel fairly uncertain when I’m sending it off to people, and then round about the point where I start feeling that it might be rather good, suddenly it feels like it was written by a different person a long time ago. If anyone has gone ‘If I was only Neil Gaiman, I’d feel certain about my writing’ then dream on . . .
Even if we can’t find similarities from these sources, we can still acknowledge the difficulties we personally face and take the time to appreciate how hard we’re working.
The only person who completely understands what you face is you. So give yourself a hug, a pat on the back and an encouraging smile.
Give it a go: Write down one of your biggest writing hurdles and describe how it makes you feel. Sit with that feeling for a few minutes and acknowledge the impact it has on you. Now write yourself a positive message to help you continue facing that problem with conviction.
From a very young age we’ve been taught to ask for permission – “May I leave the room, miss?” “Can I have another piece of pie?” The publishing world has also taught us that we need the permission of gatekeepers before our words see the light of day.
However, we now live in a world where blogs and self-publishing are commonplace. Are we still waiting for permission to start?
The reality is the first person (and often only person) who needs to give us permission is ourselves.
If we haven’t committed to a project, if we haven’t acknowledged that we can and should be writing, then we’ve withheld permission to begin. That roadblock is of our own making, and only we can tear it down.
Choosing a project and committing your attention to it is all the permission you need.
Give it a go: What would you do if you had permission? Write down your answer, then give yourself permission in writing. Sign your name at the bottom. Now go invest your time and energy in your new project!
We want to be known as a writer. We want to be read by other people. We want to take our place in the writing world.
This sounds like the kind of recognition that can only be bestowed by other people, but first ask yourself these questions:
- Do I identify myself to others as a writer?
- Do I give the proper attention and time to my writing?
- In other words, do I recognise myself as a writer?
Others won’t recognise you as a writer until you take yourself and your writing seriously. If you don’t call yourself a writer and act like a writer, how will others recognise you? The best way to get started is to give yourself a pep talk and get writing.
Give it a go: Start identifying yourself to others as a writer. The next time someone asks you what you go for a living, say you’re a writer. Make a poster declaring yourself a writer. Set aside time each day to write.
We want to shine in the eyes of others, especially those closest to us. It’s natural to want someone to say, “Well done. I’m proud of you.”
Unfortunately, relying on other people’s approval is like flying a kite – we will find ourselves continually at the mercy of elements outside of our control. The constant adjustments and sudden dips will never change.
This is why most children prefer remote controlled planes and helicopters. Under our own propulsion we have far more control.
Don’t wait for others to approve of you. Approve of yourself and keep moving forward. Shut down the voice of your inner critic and allow yourself to be proud of what you accomplish. When you reach the end of each day, find something (no matter how small) that you can say “Well done” about.
Give it a go: Make a list now of your recent accomplishments. Don’t focus on what went wrong with them, or what didn’t turn out exactly as you planned. Instead, spend your time patting yourself on the back for the progress you’ve made, the words you’ve created and the results of your hard work.
Ideas are essential to a writer. We seem to be at the mercy of that elusive spark.
However, inspiration is not as fickle as it first appears. By understanding our personal creative process and keeping our creative well topped up, we can place ourselves directly in inspiration’s path.
By using your personalised pep talk to maintain a positive outlook, and remind you of your creative routine, you can attract inspiration like bees to pollen.
Give it a go: Find an activity (be it reading a book, walking in a park, visiting a museum) that you find creatively rewarding. Regularly set aside time in your monthly schedule to feed your Creativity on high quality idea juice.
A Place to Start
Writing projects can tend to loom large on our horizon, especially when the excitement of a fresh idea wears off. We face a mountain of things to do without an idea of where to start.
But remember: All projects, no matter how huge, are completed in tiny steps. Even experienced writers still only write one word at a time.
If you’re not sure of where to start, keep breaking down your To Do List into smaller and smaller chunks until you find something you can start on. If you’re working on a first draft, start anywhere. Just get the first word on the page, and then the second. They’ll eventually add up.
If you don’t know how to do something, then start by learning. View reading a book on the subject or watching an online course as your place to start.
There’s nothing wrong with baby steps.
Give it a go: Start a To Do List for your project. Take each major task and break it down into smaller tasks until you find something you feel able to manage. Then get started on that task.
As you can see, what first appears to be out of our hands can often be within our control by simply changing our mindset. One of the best ways to do this is through a personalised pep talk, where you can get your new mindset down on paper.
What about you? Have you used a change of mindset to take control of your writing life? I love comments, so please share your thoughts.