Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Do Creativity and Mental Illness Go Hand in Hand?

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m on hiatus from my regular blogging schedule. However, I did say I’d pop by from time to time with posts that I feel may interest my readers here. Below is an ‘essay’ I wrote over at the Google+ group Creshen which sparked a very interesting discussion, so I’m posting a copy of it here too. Please feel free to add your comments on the subject.

Anyone who has spent time researching creativity has at some point come across articles discussing the supposed link between creativity and mental illness. Since the news of Robin William’s suicide, I’ve come across several of these articles. Usually the articles point to studies that “have found higher rates of mania, severe depression, and suicide in creative individuals.” It feels like people are very quick to point to connections between ‘creative people’ and ‘mental illness.’

I firmly believe that everyone has the ability to be creative, but that only certain people cultivate that ability. I don’t think there are ‘creative people’ and ‘non-creative people’ so much as there are ‘people who embrace their creativity’ and ‘people who haven’t yet discovered or tapped into that aspect of their brain yet.’

In my experience, creativity is often stifled by:

  • Overwork (not having the time to pursue creative activities or the mental space to experiment)
  • Stigma (feeling that being creative isn’t ‘cool’ or creativity is something you’ve either got or you haven’t got, rather than something you can cultivate)
  • Fear (feeling that you can’t create, that you won’t be able to do things right, or that your efforts will be embarrassing)

Our culture tends to set creative people apart, as if they’ve got some gene (or some illness?) that gives them that talent. I think that adds an extra barrier, because it implies that if you do feel creative you’ve somehow got to prove that you belong in that group…and then you have to deal with all the hidden extras (like depression?) that ‘everyone knows’ comes with that territory.

My hunch is that people with mental illness are more likely to be creative because:

a) they may not have the ability to ‘overwork’ and so are able to set aside time for creative pursuits,

b) they may be socially isolated, which means they’re not so worried about what their peers will think of them if they’re being creative,

c) they use creative activities to help cope with their depression/anxiety because either they have independently found it helpful or their therapist has suggested they give something creative a go.

So what if we’ve been looking at the statistics the wrong way round? What if instead of looking at the statistics and saying “higher rates of mental illness have been found in creative people,” we instead say “higher rates of creativity have been found in people with mental illness”? Why not turn the attention from the creative people with mental illness to the rest of the population and say, “What is it about those with mental illness that means they are “disproportionately likely to be overrepresented in creative occupations“? What can those of us who are less creative learn from people with mental illness who are doing creative things?”

Let’s go back for a moment to the point above that many therapists suggest patients try creative activities. How many people who suffer from mental illness wouldn’t have realized they were creative unless they’d been given this push?

Now, imagine if a ‘normal’, otherwise ‘non-creative’ person were told, “Instead of working overtime this weekend, why not take a pottery class? If you invest your time and interest in this regularly, you will do better at work, be happier, and feel healthier within yourself.” How many more people would suddenly ‘become creative’?

What if, when you went to your doctor, he/she not only suggested you do 30 minutes of exercise a day, but also suggested you do 30 minutes of creative activity a day? What if the two fruits and five veggies a day was applied to something like two photographs and five haiku a day? What if creative pursuits were treated as essential to your mental and emotional health? How many people would suddenly open up and show their creative side?

I guess the reason I’m upset is because these articles make it sound like being creative can be harmful for your mental health (and I know some people who do buy into this way of looking at things), and yet in my experience I’ve seen it be extremely good for mental health.

Am I looking at this all a little skewiff or am I not the only one noticing this? I honestly would love to know your opinion.

P.S. For a balanced view on the psychology behind the supposed link between creativity and mental illness, take a look at this post by psychologist Joycelyn Campbell.


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Creativity’s Workshop is Taking a Hiatus

Last week I wrote about finding balance in your writing life and how true balance is the ability to adjust your mindset, goals, expectations, and routine as needed.

Well, thanks to a difficult few months with my health, I’ve decided I need rework my priorities and change my routine. I have some really exciting fiction projects on the go, but I’m struggling with them because I’ve had a few hard knocks since March. So, in order to make headway on my fiction goals and deadlines, I’ve made the difficult decision to temporary halt my blogging on Creativity’s Workshop.

If you’ve been following the weekly posts of De-Stress Your Writing Life then I apologize for not being able to keep to my routine for the moment. I’ve updated this summary post with links to all the De-Stress Your Writing Life posts I’ve written so far. 

I still plan to post here from time to time with updates and relevant information, but I won’t be keeping to a weekly schedule.

I will be working on my fiction during this hiatus, so if you’re interested in my progress as I work towards my next release then visit my author website

This hasn’t been an easy decision to make, but I’m hoping it will be for the best in the long run. Thank you so much for your attention and support.


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De-Stress Your Writing Life: What True Balance Means

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’ve been blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read previous posts on Creativity’s Workshop for free. In today’s post we continue the chapter Taking Control of Your Mindset. You can read the first three parts of the chapter herehere and here.

What True Balance Means

To summarize these last few chapters, let’s look at what balance actually means.

In our writing life, we want to have balance in our:

  • Mindset
  • Expectations
  • Goals
  • Routine

We’ve looked at how we can go about that using positive thoughts, freewrites, rescue plans, and personalized pep talks. These are all techniques you can use on an ongoing basis to keep yourself balanced in your writing life.

Yes, notice that word: Ongoing.

Why?

Because things are always changing, and with those changes may come problems or emotional hiccups that can cause us to falter in our writing.

For example:

  • We or a member of our family may fall ill.
  • Our housing or work situation may change.
  • We may reach a new phase in our writing life (perhaps submitting our work for the first time, or seeing a negative review from a reader) which brings up thoughts and beliefs we’ve never faced before.
  • A new writing project may turn out to be more difficult than we first anticipated.

There are all sorts of reason why we may find ourselves battling with fresh fears, barriers, or emotional needs. These problems do not make us a failure. They are perfectly natural.

This is where balance comes in, because true balance involves adjustment.

We do not find balance and then rigidly remain in that mindset or routine to maintain that balance. In fact, rigidity is the opposite of balance.

Think of a tightrope walker. He does not talk along the rope bolt upright, barely moving a muscle. In order to maintain balance, he is always moving his muscles – be they the tiny muscles in his toes or the large muscles in his legs, shoulders, and arms. Those constant, minute adjustments are the secret to balance. Without them he would topple and fall.

In a similar way, to maintain balance in your writing life you will need to make continual adjustments as you face different circumstances. A pep talk that worked for you one week might not help you move forward the next. A fear that you conquered in your last project may spring up again when you start your new story. These situations don’t mean that all the work you put in before was wasted. It simply means you need to keep up that work to maintain your balance.

As you progress through the adventure of your writing life, you may wish to come back and read these chapters through again. Each time you read them, you may discover new points that you did not pick up before. As your life changes your needs change too. This is a beautiful part of our human journey, so continue making those constant adjustments to keep yourself balanced and moving forward.

*****

Add your comment below. How do you keep yourself balanced in your writing life?

*****

My writing life is currently out of balance. I am suffering with my third bout of cold/flu in six months, which has thrown my schedule and my plans out of kilter. This unfortunately means I have to make some temporary adjustments to get myself back on track. I will be posting the details of these changes early next week. I appreciate your understanding and support.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Thanks for dropping by.

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De-Stress Your Writing Life: Writing a Personalized Pep Talk

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. In today’s post we continue the chapter Taking Control of Your Mindset. You can read the first two parts of the chapter here and here.

Write a Personalized Pep Talk

We all love a positive, inspiring pep talk. Seeing as this chapter is about taking control of your mindset, let’s look at how you can create a personalized pep talk to motivate yourself whenever you need!

The four steps to create this pep talk are:

  • Step 1 – Identify your biggest problem.
  • Step 2 – Decide what you need to hear.
  • Step 3 – Write your pep talk.
  • Step 4 – Refer to your pep talk regularly.

Identifying Your Biggest Problem

For a pep talk to truly motivate you, it needs to address a fear or barrier you’re currently facing in your writing. It needs to take a negative thought process that plagues you and turn it into a positive, inspirational mindset that propels you into your writing.

Look back over the previous chapter where we discussed fears and barriers you might be facing. Do any of the symptoms listed feel familiar to you? Decide which fear or barrier causes you the most trouble.

Once you’ve identified your biggest problem, you’re ready for the next step!

Decide What You Need to Hear

Before you start writing your pep talk, think about what emotional needs are going unfulfilled at the moment. Are you waiting for permission to start? Are you looking for direction in your project? Are you feeling uncomfortable or disappointed about your writing?

Take another look at the emotional needs listed in this chapter and see which resonate with you. (See Part 1 and Part 2 of the chapter.)

As yourself:

  • What do I need to hear?
  • What do I wish someone would say to me?
  • What are some of my favorite quotes?
  • What would be the most inspiring/comforting thing I could be told right now?

Note down your answers to these questions so you can incorporate them into your pep talk.

Write Your Pep Talk

Now that you’ve identified what your pep talk needs to address, you can start writing it using this outline:

  • Acknowledge the situation. Right at the beginning, acknowledge the fear or barrier you’re trying to overcome. Clearly describe the difficulties you’re facing, including the thoughts and emotions you’re battling with. Before you can change your mindset and feel more positive about the situation, you need to feel understood.
  • Present a different way of looking at the situation. Here is where you use the answers from step two and form them into a logical, inspirational whole. Use quotes, word pictures and exciting phrases. Capture your imagination and describe success in vivid detail.
  • Finish with a flourish. Use your last paragraph or sentence to summarize your pep talk. What you read last will be remembered first so keep it punchy.

Would you like to see that outline in action? Here’s a sample pep talk using the steps above.

Yes, the white page looks scary. It seems there are so many possibilities and as soon as I start writing I’ve committed to a fixed path.

What if it’s wrong? What if the idea doesn’t work?

But stop and think: What if it’s right? What if it does work?

The blank page holds no possibilities. It’s just a blank page. I hold the possibilities. My words hold the possibilities.

Beatrix Potter once said, “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”

My words are not set in stone. They can be changed, deleted and retyped whenever I want. They can lead me to new ideas, characters, places and plots.

My words never have to be perfect. They just have to be.

Now it’s your turn. Imagine you are your future-self writing to your current-self. Say what you need to hear.

Refer to Your Pep Talk Regularly

While the act of writing yourself a pep talk can be very cathartic, it will be most effective if you refer to it regularly, especially just before you start writing.

You might try:

  • Printing it out on good quality paper and sticking it to your wall.
  • Making it into an image to use for your computer desktop.
  • Recording yourself reading it so you can play it back when you need a boost.

Do whatever you have to do in order to keep those encouraging words in front of you. After all, you went to a lot of trouble to write just what you needed to hear.

Completing a pep talk isn’t the end of the story though. It’s just part of keeping your balance as a writer. Next week we’ll look at what it means to be truly balanced.

*****

Add your comment below. What is the most inspiring/comforting thing you could be told right now?

*****

I’ve fallen a few months behind with my fiction writing schedule, but my priority at the moment is to make sure I’m setting achievable goals for the coming months. My De-Stress Your Writing Life posts are one of my priorities because I promised I’d always have something encouraging here for you to read on a Friday.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

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Guest Post: Unlocking Your Story’s Potential with the Magic of “What If?”

A rubber ducky asking himself "What if I were a writer?" Well, that's what it looks like to *me* anyway.

“Rubber Ducky” by Robert Burakiewicz via Flickr

Recently we’ve been looking at the power of daydreaming, how it can improve your writing speed, and how you can direct your daydreaming with the use of questions. Now let’s see how it works in real life.

My friend and fellow writer, Amber Seah, (you may remember her previous guest post on My Life in Music — A Memoir) is going to share a snippet from her writing life. In this post she describes how she and her daughter use the question ‘what if?’ to create interesting stories and discover answers to those tricky story questions.

The other night, while washing the hair of my 6-and-¾-year-old, I was mentally composing a letter from an indignant aunt to my main character, Timothy. While my mind was two centuries and half a world away, my daughter was asking her predictable retinue of ‘what-if’ scenarios, addressing such important questions as:

“What if a person this big, (approximately the size of a grain of rice) could eat a hamburger as big as our house, and….” Wait for the punch line.

“And STILL be hungry?”

I have yet to find satisfactory answers to these puzzles. She is usually posing the next what-if without expanding the first one. Listening to her outlandish what-ifs brought to mind an article I read years ago about using ‘what if’ to overcome writers block. It suggested writing 50 or 100 what-ifs to break through the block.

I have never had occasion to use this method as writer’s block is not something I suffer from, however I do feel from time to time that my plot has become stale, laboured and predictable. If I get bored writing my novel, where does that leave the poor reader?

While I rinsed the soap from my daughter’s hair, I tried to give far-fetched, concise answers to match her scenarios; but like a rubber band left too long in the sun, my imagination does not stretch to equal the dimensions of hers.

Fortunately the brain is not a rubber band. Neuroscientists assure me lost elasticity can be regained. I began what-ifing about the letter of this aunt.

What if she threatens to cut him off? He doesn’t need her money.

What if she forbade him to marry the girl, or insisted he marry another girl? He would throw the letter on the fire.

What if the letter contained a string of insults disguised as advice? Malicious and predictable.

These what-ifs led me to think about the personality of this Aunt. Are Timothy’s beliefs about his aunt a true representation of her? As children we develop impressions of the adults around us, which in adulthood we come to realise were erroneous or at the very least warped.

Has he misjudged his aunt’s interest and intentions in the case?

So I went back to what-ifing, and before the conditioner had soaked in, it hit me.

What if she did not write a letter but came in person? What if on receiving no answer to her carefully-worded letter she followed her nephew to London? After all, she is a woman of action; she is not the sort to sit around at home twiddling her thumbs. Besides, there is always something useful to be got out of London, even if she does not succeed in protecting him from ultimate heartache.

All those what-ifs revealed to me this supporting character’s motivation and personality — a revelation I chose to share with Timothy so that he now has a new understanding and appreciation for his overbearing aunt. Their relationship has grown and hopefully so has the story.

What can what-ifing do for you?

Do you have a dull character? A lull in the action? A sticky bit in the plot?

I won’t put a number on the what-ifs, but I recommend to keep asking them until you hit upon something that stimulates you. Stretch those neurons to reach new connections and feel the exhilaration that comes when you finally hit upon a solution.

That is the magic of “what if”.

What about you? What have you discovered from asking “what if?”?
A photograph of Amber

Amber Seah has always loved the wonder of the written word – be it prose, poetry or song. She lives with her husband, daughter, dog and extensive alphabetized library of favourite books.


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De-Stress Your Writing Life: Taking Control of Your Mindset (Part 2)

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. In today’s post we continue the chapter we started last week on Taking Control of Your Mindset.

Permission

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, mom?” 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, and then give yourself permission in writing. Sign your name at the bottom. Now go invest your time and energy in your new project!

Recognition

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:

  • When people ask me about myself, do I identify myself a writer?
  • Do I give the proper attention and time to my writing?
  • In other words, do I recognize myself as a writer?

Others won’t recognize 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 recognize you as one? 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.

Approval

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 fickle winds of opinion. The constant adjustments and sudden dips will never change.

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 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.

Inspiration

Ideas are essential to a writer, but they can seem to pop into our head without warning or disappear for long periods of time. We may feel we’re 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 maintaining a positive outlook and a regular creative routine, you can attract inspiration like bees to pollen. (We’ll cover the source of creativity and the elements of a good creative process in a following chapter.)

Give it a go: Find an activity (like 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 mind high quality idea fodder.

Direction

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 any idea of where to start. We might wish that someone was there to tell us what to do, to take the lead and give us direction in our writing life.

Often the problem is we’re trying to tackle the entire project all at once. We need to remember that 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, write yourself a To Do List. 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 the first step in your project.

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, these needs which first appeared to be out of our hands can often be filled by simply changing our mindset. One of the best ways to help us make this transition is through writing a personalized pep talk, where you can get your new mindset down on paper. We’ll cover that in next week’s post.

*****

Add your comment below. What writing project are you working on at the moment? How have you given yourself permission? What is next on your To Do List?

*****

I’m finally getting back into my writing routine (although I’ve just had a flu jab today so we’ll see how that goes). I’ve fallen a few months behind with my fiction writing schedule, but my priority at the moment is to make sure I’m setting achievable goals for the coming months. My De-Stress Your Writing Life posts are one of my top priorities because I promised I’d always have something encouraging here for you to read on a Friday.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online


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De-Stress Your Writing Life: Taking Control of Your Mindset (Part 1)

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. In today’s post we start a new chapter.

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 by the hand and lead you out?

We’ve looked at what it means to be a writer as well as the positive, independent mindset that will help you achieve your writing goals. We’ve also gone over a number of fears and barriers that could stop you in your writing tracks.

In this chapter we’ll look at ways that you can actively direct your writing mindset so you can pour all your imagination and energy into your writing projects.

  • First, we’ll look at emotional needs you may have and how you can go about filling those needs.
  • Then we’ll consider how you can write yourself a personalized pep talk to reinforce your positive mindset.
  • Finally, we’ll go over what true balance in your writing life means.

Fill Your Emotional Needs

All of us have emotional needs. When we’re upset, we need comfort and sympathy. We thrive when given recognition and approval. When attempting creative projects we need inspiration and direction.

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 some common emotional needs and see how you can take back control of your writing life.

Comfort

Discomfort can come from something as simple as the wrong chair or something as complicated as 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, what if you are disappointed in the quality of writing you produce first thing in the morning? You could try viewing that writing time as removing the bilge from your writing ‘pump’ so the clean words can flow later. This simple shift in your mindset can completely change your feeling towards your writing, even encouraging you to write more often.

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.

Sympathy

Sometimes we just want someone to acknowledge that the writing life has its 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.

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.

After all, 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.

*****

Add your comment below. Have you ever found comfort in hearing about another writer’s struggles?

*****

Like you, I have off days and sick days. At the moment I’m battling through a flare up of my chronic illness. But I know that a regular writing routine is important, so I make sure I have something here for you to read every Friday as promised.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

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De-Stress Your Writing Life: Believing You’ll Never Make a Difference

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.

We’ve already covered many of the fears writers face here, here, here, here, here, and here. We’ve also looked at how you can create a rescue plan to overcome your personal writing fears and barriers. Last week we looked at two barriers that may interfere with our writing. Now we’re looking at one last barrier.

Believing You’ll Never Make a Difference

Our world is full of words, and since the advent of the internet the number of words out there has skyrocketed. Now, with self-publishing becoming easier and easier, the number of books available is staggering.

It’s understandable, therefore, that at times we may become downhearted – wondering if there is any point to our writing. Would it really matter if we stopped? Will we ever make a difference?

These discouraging thoughts can lead us to:

  • View our writing as being worth very little, or perhaps even worthless, which leads us to…
  • Miss our regular writing schedule, which leads us to…
  • Find the process of writing harder and harder until we give up on our writing. After all, we tell ourselves, what’s the point? My writing will never make a difference to anyone.

This cycle of negative thoughts and lack of motivation can completely ruin any productive schedules or achievable goals we’ve put in place.

To move past this barrier, we need to take a closer look at our expectations – what sort of a ‘difference’ are we looking to make with our writing?

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How do I define success in my writing? (Is if finishing a story I like? Is it hearing back from a happy reader? Is it the act of putting my work out into the world? Is it receiving payment for my writing? Is it having a loyal following of fans?)
  • How many readers am I hoping to find? (10? 100? 1,000? 1,000,000? More?)
  • What kind of a difference do I hope my writing will make? (Improve my self-esteem? Show others I’m a real writer?Give someone an enjoyable read? Make someone stop and think about a topic? Make enough income for me to live off?)

Try to be as specific as possible with your answers. Be honest with yourself about what you’re hoping to achieve.
Once you’ve nailed down your expectations, think about the following.

Firstly, the act of writing will always make a difference to you. Even if no one ever reads your work, the act of writing provides you an outlet for your words. It allows you to take a blank page and make it yours, to create adventures and discoveries that are unique to you.

Remember earlier in this book we mentioned the ‘bubbling of words’? If you feel that bubbling, then the act of writing definitely makes a difference – it allows those words out into the world and leaves room for more.

Many writers find the act of writing cathartic. It relieves stress, provides perspective, and releases a feeling of excitement or calm which stays with them for the rest of the day.

Does it make a similar difference to your life? If so, then do not underestimate its worth. Many people set aside regular time to go to the gym, visit the beach, knit, sew, paint, or engage in some form of hobby because it makes them feel good. Writing is just as valid a way to enjoy yourself.

Secondly, your writing can make a different to readers, one person at a time. Your story doesn’t have to be a bestseller to make a difference to someone.

Sometimes the writing with the biggest impact has a very small readership. Some subjects may not appeal to a wide array of readers, but the readers who do identify with it will be moved by its content.

For example, the history of your small town and the fascinating people who have inhabited it in the past may not appeal to someone from the other side of the country, but it may be of great interest to your fellow residents, especially those whose families have been in the area for generations.

If you had to pick one of these options, which would you choose?

  • Millions of readers who skim your work but never emotionally connect with what you’re writing about.
  • One hundred readers who love your work and can’t wait for your next release.

While many writers dream of reaching a wide audience, almost all agree that the second option is preferable. Finding those hundred, or possibly thousand, readers may take a lot of time, patience, and bravery, but the Internet makes it possible for your writing to find an audience. Yes, the very thing that bombards us with a great mass of information can also help your writing make its way to your ideal reader.

It is possible for you to make a difference, both to yourself and your readers. The best way to do that is:

  • Keep up a regular writing habit.
  • Write about subjects you’re passionate about.
  • Continue to learn how to improve your writing so you can grow as a writer.
  • Send your work out into the world so it can find readers.

If you never try, then you definitely will never make a difference. Be brave and passionate in your writing. Take note of every little difference it makes, to you and your readers, no matter how small the impact.

*****

Add your comment below. I’ve reached the end of my outline for this chapter on fears and barriers. Have I covered everything? Are there any other fears or barriers you feel should be addressed? I’m always open to suggestions.

*****

My writing is my living, and I’m currently working under some tight deadlines for upcoming fiction projects, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

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You Too? Do You Daydream?

A woman looking into the distance, daydreaming about what she is going to write.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Welcome to another You Too? post, where each month we discuss a writing-related question. I particularly want to know your thoughts on the subject, so please weigh in by leaving a comment below.

This week I’m talking about daydreaming.

To start with, let’s define daydreaming. For the purposes of this post, we’re referring to that situation where your mind is wandering from the present, flitting off to greener imaginary pastures where idea fodder flows freely and stories materialize before your eyes. It may happen while sitting at your desk, commuting to work, sitting in a waiting room, having a shower, or washing the dishes.

Sound familiar?

Just about everyone daydreams from time to time. But as writers, daydreams may be more use than just a distraction from the present.

A ‘daydream’ could be an opportunity to flesh out a storyline, learn more about our characters, or play out scenarios in our head. What might be considered unexceptionable behavior in some circumstances (like the classroom) may be considered essential practice in others (like at your writing desk).

With that in mind, I’d love to know your thoughts on the following questions. You don’t have to answer them all. Just pick a couple that appeal to you and add your comment to the discussion below.

  • Do you daydream?
  • Do you call it ‘daydreaming’ or do you prefer to use another term?
  • Where/when do you daydream?
  • Do you feel it helps your writing?
  • Do you have any daydreaming tips or tricks?

I look forward to reading your thoughts!


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De-Stress Your Writing Life: Believing You Can Please Everyone and Believing You Need to Fit a Type/Mold

Title artwork for De-Stress Your Writing Life

This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.

We’ve already covered many of the fears writers face here, here, here, here, here, and here. We’ve also looked at how you can create a rescue plan to overcome your personal writing fears and barriers. Now we’re going to look at a few beliefs that can cause barriers to writing.

Believing You’ll be Able to Please Everyone

Almost every writer wants to have happy readers – people who enjoy reading their work and are anxious to read whatever the writer is currently working on. This is a normal expectation. After all, if you like what you’re writing, chances are there will be others out there who share your likes.

However, at times that expectation can morph into the belief that we can somehow write something that everyone will like. Our thinking could become black and white, believing that if one of our readers doesn’t like our writing it therefore means our writing is a complete failure.

The result of this belief can be:

  • Reluctance in sending our writing out into the world (either to beta readers, as submissions, or through self-publishing).
  • Extreme disappointment when receiving negative feedback or reviews, leading to us giving up on writing altogether.
  • Continual rewriting in the hope that we’ll somehow create the perfect story.

The truth is it is impossible to please everyone. People have different tastes. Some readers love period romance, while others can’t stand it. Some readers like nothing better to curl up with a fast-paced thriller, while others are looking for a meandering tale without the adrenaline.

This diversity means there will always be someone who does not like, or does not ‘get’ what you are writing about. However, it also means that if your story is strong enough and well-presented, there will be an audience of some size and description who will enjoy what you’ve written. These people are known as your ‘target audience.’

Understanding that you will not be able to please everyone can help you to relax. It means you don’t have to force your story and characters to appeal to a broader audience, you can allow them to form naturally as you, the writer, intended. It also means you don’t have to become overly upset at negative feedback. If it’s obvious that the reader doesn’t fit your target audience, then it was unlikely that the story was going to appeal to them in the first place.

If you relate to this belief, then you need to take some time to define your target audience. This will not only help you become more resilient when faced with negative feedback, but will also help you tailor your writing to appeal to your ideal readers.

Ask yourself the following questions and write down the answers. You might even give your target reader a name if you feel that would help you come up with more specific answers.

  • What genre/sub-genre does my target audience prefer? (Romance? Sci-fi? Fantasy? Steampunk?)
  • How would my target audience describe their favorite book? (Action-packed? Character-driven? Unpredictable? Satisfying conclusion?)
  • What does my target audience look for in a good book? (Is it set in an interesting world? Does it cover a specific topic?)
  • How does my target audience discover new books? (Searching online? Word of mouth? Magazine articles?)
  • How does my target audience decide whether they have enjoyed a book? (If they emotionally related to the characters? If they were surprised by the ending?)

Once you have created this profile, take a moment to imagine the people who would not fit that profile. If your work is properly targeted to your ideal readers, then there will naturally be people who will not enjoy your work.

This may take time to come to terms with, but it’s an important realization as it will help you to face the emotional ups and downs inherent in the writing life.

Once you have convinced yourself that you do not need to please everyone, you can focus on pleasing your audience.

Believing You Have to Fit a Type/Mold

As we mentioned in Chapter 1, many people have preconceptions of what makes a writer. But in reality, writers are an extremely diverse bunch. Some are introverts, some are extraverts. Some love the outdoors, some prefer a snug corner. Some function best in the early morning, some are night owls.

At times we may look at a fellow writer whom we admire, or who is experiencing success, and begin to think we should be more like him or her. We may believe we should change our writing schedule, chosen genre, storytelling method or all manner of things in an attempt to fit the type or mold of that writer.

While there is nothing wrong with trying new things in our writing and taking every opportunity to learn something new, the danger lies in losing ourselves while trying to better ourselves.

This belief may cause us to:

  • Radically change aspects of ourselves and our writing because we are trying to replicate what another writer (or group of writers) have.
  • Ignore our own personal experiences and feelings because they don’t match the ‘model writer’ we’re trying to emulate.

In the process of trying to become like another writer, we may lose what is unique and interesting about ourselves and our writing voice. This belief can be a major contributor to ‘writer’s block,’ because we are attempting to replace our words with someone else’s words – words that cannot, and will not, come naturally.

The world doesn’t need another Hemmingway or Tolstoy. It needs something different. Something fresh. It needs you in your truest form.

We can learn many things from our fellow writers, including great tips that can make our writing better. So where do we draw the line? At what point does learning from other writers, and using their writing methods as inspiration, start to impinge on our uniqueness as individuals?

The solution is to give your personal writing experience equal weight. Make sure you’re in touch with your needs and what works for your creative process.

For example, a writer may enjoy writing at 10 o’clock at night. The day is finished and they’re able to relax into the world they are creating on the page. The house is quiet and their mind is clear. But then they read a tip from a famous author saying writers should always start their day writing. What should our example writer do?

a) Completely change their writing schedule. Get up an hour earlier each morning and write.

b) Change their schedule for a week and see whether writing in the morning makes any difference.

c) Stick to their current schedule and have confidence they know what’s best for their writing routine.

Many writers, especially those who do not yet have confidence in themselves as writers, may choose option A in the belief that writing in the early morning is obviously what ‘real writers’ do. However, in the process they may sacrifice the writing routine that was working for them.

On the other hand, if the writer has never tried changing their writing time then option C may not be the best response either. They may be missing out on a change which could help them improve their output.

Option B allows the writer to test out the piece of advice and decide whether or not it works for them. It may not work, in which case they can simply revert back to their evening routine. If it does work, that does not mean that all ‘real writers’ write in the morning. It means that this writer writes well in the morning.

‘Real writers’ are such a diverse group that you could pick just about any fact (no matter how strange) and find a ‘real writer’ who does it. For example, ‘real writers’ own cats. ‘Real writers’ drink hot chocolate with chili. ‘Real writers’ write their stories backwards. ‘Real writers’ compose everything in iambic pentameter.

See what I mean?

So, approach your writing life asking these two questions:

  • What can I learn from other writers?
  • What works for me?

The answers to both these questions have equal weight.

*****

Add your comment below. Who is your target audience? Who don’t ‘get’ your writing?

*****

My writing is my living, and I’m currently working under some tight deadlines for upcoming fiction projects, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.

If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.

Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.

Thanks for dropping by.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online