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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.

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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?

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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.

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7 Ways to Change Your Mindset and Take Control of Your Writing Life

A woman riding her horse along a beach.

Taking the reins of your writing life! (Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art)

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:

  • Comfort
  • Sympathy
  • Permission
  • Recognition
  • Approval
  • Inspiration
  • 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.

Comfort

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.

Sympathy

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.

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?” 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!

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:

  • 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.

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 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.

Inspiration

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.