Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


5 Comments

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.

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online

Advertisements


1 Comment

De-Stress Your Writing Life: Creating a Rescue Plan to Overcome Your Fears

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.

So far we’ve been looking at writing fears. There are still two more posts to come that cover beliefs which cause barriers in our writing life. However, because I sometimes write out of order, today I’m posting the end of this chapter while still working on the other two posts. 

Creating a Rescue Plan

Now you’ve seen some of the causes of writing fears and barriers, and how you can overcome each problem with a change in thinking or in writing habits. Does that mean that after you’ve read this chapter you should never face a writing fear or barrier ever again?

No.

Fear is your body’s natural protective mechanism and there will always be things that trigger it. This is the way we are designed.

Just about all writers will face problems in their writing life. The fears and barriers they face will change with each new project or phase of the project.

Aiming to eradicate fear from your life will only lead to a constant battle. Instead, think of the process as a dance – where the fear appears and you find a way to gracefully sidestep it each time.

Knowing there will be times when fears or barriers arise means you can prepare for them. The following three step plan will help you to:

  • Notice when a fear or barrier is starting to impact on your writing,
  • Understand the root cause of the problem, and
  • Find a way to sidestep the issue so you can continue your productive writing life.

Step 1: Identify Warning Signs

Before your writing completely halts in ‘writer’s block’ there are usually warning signs. Your warning signs are unique to you. They may include:

  • A drop in writing output. You may find you word count slowing. Your writing may feel sluggish and anemic.
  • Increased frustration. You may encounter difficulties in your plot or inconsistencies with your characters.
  • Excuses for not writing. Other tasks in your life may seem to take on added importance. You may find you’re more interested in cleaning the grout in your shower than you are in your novel.
  • A dread of the page. What started out as a fun story idea my gradually turn into a weight on your mind. You lose your excitement for your project.
  • A shiny, new idea. Funnily enough, finding yourself excited by a new idea can often be a warning sign that things with your current project are not going well. Your mind may be trying to distract you from the fear you’re facing.

These may be subtle signs at first, but they indicate a deeper problem – a problem you need to address. The sooner you can do something about the fear or barrier you’re facing, the sooner you can move on with your writing.

Step 2: Get the Problem Down on Paper

Noting the warning signs may not reveal what the problem really is. For that, you’ll need to dig a little deeper.

The best way to find out the problem you’re facing is to freewrite. Sit yourself down in front of the page and pour your thoughts out. Write about:

  • How you’re feeling about your writing project.
  • What are the next steps on your project?
  • How do you plan to move forward on this project?
  • Are there any aspects of this project that you’re not sure about?

This process is like massaging a tense shoulder. Gradually the muscle will soften a little and reveal a knot of tension. Once you’ve discovered that knot, you can work on it.

Step 3: Find a Solution

Once you’ve found out what your problem is, then you can work towards implementing a solution.

You might be able to use some of the suggestions mentioned earlier in the chapter, or you might need to come up with a solution unique to your situation. If you’re not sure of what to do, turn to someone in your support structure (perhaps a fellow writer or a writing mentor) to brainstorm suggestions.

Don’t sit back and let the fear paralyze you. Get working on a solution.

*****

Add your comment below. What are your warning signs?

*****

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


3 Comments

De-Stress Your Writing Life: Fear of the Unknown

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.

Fear of the Unknown

In this chapter we have covered a number of fears. But what if you’re not sure what you’re afraid of?

Sometimes not knowing what we will face can bring our writing life to a complete halt. Fear of the unknown may cause us to:

  • Avoid starting a story because we’re not sure where our characters or plot are heading.
  • Hold back from contacting a fellow writer, editor, publisher or mentor because we’re not sure what they will say to us.
  • Make ill-informed decisions about our writing careers because we’re not sure who to turn to for reliable information.
  • Never submit a manuscript because we’re not sure how it will be received.

This fear can make us timid and cause us to curtail our writing efforts in an attempt to ‘play it safe.’ We’re not sure how things will turn out, so we don’t even try.

This is a natural reaction, because this is exactly what fear is designed to do – prevent us from doing something that could cause harm to ourselves. If you were contemplating walking alone through a wolf-infested forest, then ‘playing it safe’ is definitely the best option.

But when it comes to writing, there’s very little that can do lasting physical damage to you. And while it’s true that some writing decisions (such as negotiating writing contracts or deciding to self-publish) may have a long-term impact on your writing career, those can also be tackled with the right research and advice.

Recall the independent writer’s mindset we spoke about in Chapter 3?

That adventurous spirit keeps you writing a story even if you have no idea where it’s headed. Many writers plunge into their stories without knowing where they will end up. Most find their way out the other side, having perhaps taken a few wrong terms but eventually emerging with an intriguing and original manuscript.

The independent writer also has a support group made up of experienced people who can provide reliable information and suggestions when facing important writing decisions.

Here are some ways you can put that independent writer mindset into action to overcome your fear of the unknown.

  • If you’re not sure where to go in your story, then just start writing. Set your characters on a journey and follow them with your notebook and pen. You’ll be surprised how many plot problems can be figured out during the story-telling process.
  • If you’re not sure about a writing decision, do some research. If you’re not sure where the best place to research is, ask someone – maybe a fellow writer, a friend or family member who loves researching, or even a librarian. Turn to that support group you built.
  • If you’re worried about contacting someone because you’re not sure how they will respond, then make a deal with your fear. Tell yourself you’re going to get in touch with two or three people on your wish list of contacts. If it turns out to be as big and scary as your fear predicts, then you’ll stop. Phrasing it this way may make the task seem less daunting. (Hint: It won’t be as big and scary as you’re expecting.)
  • If you’re worried about submitting a manuscript, remind yourself of your writing goals. In order to reach them, you need to put your writing out there. Take a deep breath and do it. Then throw a wild party. (If you’re worried about receiving rejection slips, then take a look at the heading later on in the book “What a Rejection Slip Really Means.”)

Yes, not knowing the outcome of something can be a little frightening, but think of your adventurous writing spirit. Imagine you are a character in one of your novels, about to move into the second act. Interesting, and perhaps even life-changing, things await you in the following chapters of your book. What are you waiting for?

*****

Add your comment below. What unknowns are you currently facing in your writing life?

*****

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


2 Comments

De-Stress Your Writing Life: Fear of Success and Fear of Not Repeating Success

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.

Fear of Success

There are times when the very thing we think we want is the cause of our greatest fear. Fear of success can come in many forms, ranging from a simple avoidance of situations where our work might be seen to unconscious acts of self-sabotage.

The signs of this fear are many and varied. They may include:

  • Inability to finish writing projects.
  • Making excuses or blaming others for your lack of motivation.
  • Avoiding opportunities to submit your work.
  • Panic at what other people may say about your achievements.

Fear of success is not as easily treated as some of the other fears we’ve discussed in this chapter. It can often come from deep-seated, emotional causes which are unique to each individual. If you find this fear preventing you from making progress in your writing life, then you may need to consider turning to a writing coach or therapist for extra help.

At a basic level, fear of success can come from the belief that you are not worthy of reaching your dreams. Low self-worth may lead you to think you’ll never be one of those people who actually ‘make it.’

You may also believe that becoming successful will change you somehow – that once you’re rich and famous the things that make you you will disappear.

The path to overcoming this fear depends on the reasons for your feelings, which are unique to each person. A therapist or coach can advise you on the best route for you to take.

However, there are a few things that apply to everyone:

  • Think positive. Unfortunately, we often become self-fulfilling prophecies. If we spend time focusing on the negatives, then more negatives will appear. Conversely, thinking positive thoughts, such as being grateful for the things and people around us, can lift our spirits.
  • Be deliberately kind to yourself. It can be much easier to say kind and encouraging things to others than to say them to ourselves. Imagine you are talking to a dear friend who is battling with the same problems you are. Write down what you would say to that friend, and then start each day by reading your message back to yourself.
  • If you’re worried that success will change your best qualities, then write out a ‘pact’ with yourself expressly dictating what aspects of your personality you wish to remain the same. Remember though, with or without success, you will continue to change as you age. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to grow and experience new things.
  • Check your definition of success. Do you have a balanced view of yourself and your plans? Write out the type of success you’re expecting and how you feel about it, and then ask an experienced friend or mentor to go over it with you. Listen for any insights they may offer.

While it’s important not to pin our self-worth on pursuing or reaching success, it’s also important to have a good opinion of ourselves. There will always be things we won’t like about ourselves – that’s part of being human. Finding things we like about ourselves may be a little more challenging, but the search can also be rewarding.

Fear of Not Being Able to Reproduce Success

Although it seems counterintuitive, success in your writing (through publication, or through recognition of some description) can actually make it harder to write your next project.

The signs of this fear are:

  • Avoiding your scheduled writing sessions.
  • Never being happy with your words.
  • Becoming timid or predictable when making writing decisions, for fear doing something new would risk disappointing people.
  • Rereading your past work in the hope you’ll be able to find the magic formula.

So why does this fear come after success? Usually because we feel the bar has now been set, and anything we write after that has much to live up to. We may even feel that we could never write something that good ever again.

One of the causes of this fear is not having enough understanding of what makes a successful book. If success comes early in our writing careers, we may not yet understand exactly what we did to achieve that success, therefore how to reproduce it is a completely mystery to us.

Another reason is the belief that we now have to meet the expectations of our editor, publisher, readers or reviewers. If our debut novel is met with acclaim, we believe everyone will be expecting the next book to be even better. This belief adds extra pressure to every word we write, and may even cause us to consider giving up on writing all together.

Here are a few things you can try to counteract this fear.

  • Start your next novel as soon as your first is in the mail, or up on Amazon. Get straight back into writing. Don’t leave a gap to see how things go with your first book. You’re a writer, so write.
  • Avoid idolizing a certain reader or reviewer. Write for a type of person, not a specific person.
  • Choose writing projects that interest you. Avoid writing something just because you feel you have to. If it’s a chore to write, then your trademark sparkle won’t be there.
  • Continue learning about your trade. Learn what makes a gripping first chapter, what keeps readers turning pages throughout your book, what brings characters to life. The more you know about writing, the more effectively you will weave your tales.
  • Find yourself a writing coach, or an experienced friend who can talk you through your worries, offer you reliable feedback and serve as your cheerleader to point out the things you’re doing well.
  • Most importantly, make sure you are enjoying your writing life. If you’re afraid that you won’t be able to write another novel your readers will love, then write a novel just for you.

The best writing happens when a writer is enjoying themselves. If you’re not enjoying yourself, take the time to understand why and then try to find a solution.

*****

Add your comment below. Have you faced fear of success? What steps have you taken to overcome it?

*****

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


1 Comment

De-Stress Your Writing Life – Fear of Being Called a Fraud and Fear of Losing Your Creative Edge

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.

Fear of Being Called a Fraud

As you begin sending your work out into the world and receiving complements, you may find a different fear raising its head. You may begin to believe that your achievements have been down to luck – that you don’t really deserve the positive comments coming your way.

You believe that sooner or later people are going to discover you’re not actually as good a writer as they first thought. Then they’ll realize you were a fraud all along.

This fear may show up as:

  • Doubting the positive things people say about your work and magnifying the negatives comments.
  • Feeling extremely nervous and uncomfortable when someone pays you a complement or invites you to participate in an activity that highlights your skills (perhaps guest posting on their blog or speaking at a local library).
  • Double checking invitations and fan mail to make sure the person writing hasn’t got you confused with someone else.

It’s true that in order to hit it big in the writing industry, there is a certain element of chance involved. If you’re submitting your manuscript to publishers or agents, then acceptance may depend on the right person with the right tastes in the right mood picking up your manuscript. If you’re self-publishing, then finding readers can also come down to chance. Some books take off. Others don’t.

However, that kind of chance is linked to discoverability. Whether the right editor picks up your submission or not is largely out of your control. Whether your self-published novel takes off or not is mostly out of your hands too.

What is in your control is your writing ability. It’s true that as writers we’re always learning, but that fact shouldn’t diminish your achievements. The positive feedback and complements you received from your writing were earned while you were sitting in your chair working on your words. If you were the one putting the hours into your writing, then your work is not fraudulent.

The fear of being revealed as a fraud is common among people who do well at something – whether they’re actors, doctors, artists, teachers…you get the idea. You’re in good company, but there are things you can do to deal with this fear.

Here are some things you can try:

  • Make a list of your achievements. Note down even the small things, those little steps that got you to the point you are today.
  • Get your list out from time to time and add to it. Keep it handy so you can read through it when you feel this fear coming on.
  • Remind yourself that no one is perfect. You don’t have to reach perfection in order to be genuine. Don’t let a little mistake ruin your appreciation for what you’ve achieved.
  • Try to view yourself as others see you. Many other very talented people battle with this fear. It doesn’t diminish their achievements, so it shouldn’t diminish yours.
  • Talk to a writing coach, mentor or therapist about your troubles. Their words will hold more weight and their experience will allow them put the situation into perspective for you.

While you naturally don’t want your ego to get the better of you, self-esteem is very important for healthy living. Take the time to reassure yourself that your work and achievements are genuine. You deserve to feel good about what you’ve created.

Fear of Losing Your Creative Edge

We writers are very dependent on our creative ideas. Without those ideas, we’d be lost for words.

A brilliant idea can fire our imagination and lead to prolific writing output. However, even as we ride the wave of excitement with an inspiring idea, our fear may creep in telling us we’ll never be able to keep up such a level of creative production.

Sometimes the more prolific our production of ideas, the more we fear the moment when they stop appearing. We are told the muse is fickle and may disappear on a whim.

Therefore, we may wonder how we can protect ourselves from the loss of our creative edge.

This fear may cause you to:

  • Bounce from one creative project to another without knuckling down to finish anything for fear you’ll miss an idea.
  • Continually look ahead in your story, wondering how you’re going to fix a creative problem several chapters in the future while stalling on your current chapter.
  • Douse your creative highs with worry about where your ideas come from and how you can reproduce this success.

The solution to overcoming this fear is to:

  1. Understand how your creative mind works,
  2. Learn what you need to do in order to feed your creative process, and
  3. Trust that if you’ve done the first two steps then the ideas will flow as you need them.

In an upcoming chapter we will go into the creative process in more detail and show you a unique way to understand how your personal creativity works.

In the meantime, you can try some of these suggestions:

  • When you next get a good idea, make a note of what could have triggered it. What had you been reading? Had you been watching something on television? Did an interesting fact stick in your mind and then germinate into this idea? Did it come from a fascinating conversation with someone, or after a visit to a new place?
  • Look for patterns in your creative moments. Start learning how your mind words and what it needs to create ideas.
  • Keep an Idea Book to store the ideas you’re not currently able to use. This will give you a safety net for those times when the ideas don’t seem to be flowing as freely as you would like.
  • Don’t try to solve writing problems until you’re actually facing them on the page. You may know that you’ve got a plot twist looming in Chapter 7. But if you’re still writing Chapter 4, then try not to allow your mind to skip ahead. Often you will find solutions coming to you as you write. Keep moving forward and more than likely you’ll have an answer by the time you arrive at the problem.

Ideas are like gold to a writer, and you do need a steady stream of them in order to produce good work. But as you’ll see in a future chapter, the origins of your creative ideas aren’t as mysterious and unpredictable as you might think.

*****

Add your comment below. What’s on your list of writing achievements?

*****

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


1 Comment

De-Stress Your Writing Life – Fear of Committing and Fear of Criticism

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.

Fear of Committing

As soon as you decide what you’re going to write, you start narrowing down possibilities. If you set your story in Italy, then your main character can’t climb the Eiffel Tower. If you decide your story takes place in the 1980’s, then you character can’t pull out their smart phone to solve a problem in the third act.

Letting go of some of those possibilities can be difficult and at times the worry of what you might be missing can hamper your writing flow.

Fear of committing to the story may cause symptoms like:

  • Difficulties making story decisions.
  • Trying to include too many details, characters, places or plot points in your story.
  • Not wanting to start the story in case you can’t do it justice.

While it’s true that you have to let go of some possibilities as you create your story, the fact is that’s an integral part of any creative process. Imagine a sculptor not wanting to chip away at the marble in front of him because he doesn’t want to limit his options. The sculpture will never emerge if he never commits to actually chipping something away.

The advantage you have as a writer is that words are far more flexible than stone. The decision you make when you start a project can always be changed later on down the track. The key is to actually make a decision and get started.

You’ll find that as you commit to your decisions and narrow down your possibilities, your unique story will emerge. The more you limit your options, the stronger the story will become.

In order to do this, you can try:

  • Clearly describing the world you’re setting your story in. What location have you chosen? What year? Is it real life or fantasy?
  • Interviewing your main character and asking pointed questions. Find out where they were born, what their favourite movie is, how they feel about politics, why they dress the way they do. This specificity will give your character their unique voice.
  • Taking tangents in your drafting phase. If your interest is taking you in a different direction to where you expected, follow it. Allow yourself and your characters to go off on tangents every now and then to explore possibilities. You can always remove the chapters later, but you may find the exploration reveals something new and interesting.

Words are not stone. You can always go back and change things if you wish. But narrowing down your options and making clear writing decisions is very important to the creative process. So start chipping away and see what you discover.

Fear of Criticism

No one likes to be criticized, but as writers we need feedback in order to improve our writing skills and our stories. This is not always a pleasant experience and we may find our writing process slows, or perhaps stalls altogether, as the possibility of criticism looms.

The fear of criticism may cause you to:

  • Avoid finishing your stories.
  • Dread sending your stories to beta readers.
  • Take offense at suggestions people make about your writing.
  • Become depressed when presented with areas where your story could improve.
  • Procrastinate in sending out submissions.
  • Feel overwhelmed at the prospect of people reading your work.

It’s normal to feel sensitive when it comes to people’s opinions on your creations. After all, you’ve spent a lot of energy, time, and emotion in your writing and so you understandably feel attached to it.

An important part of overcoming this fear is understanding the difference between helpful feedback and destructive criticism. We’ll go into this in more detail in a later chapter, but here’s the simple definition.

Helpful feedback is when someone points out an area where your writing could improve and may also suggest ways you could go about making the changes.

Destructive criticism is where someone pokes holes your writing and makes derisive remarks about your abilities as a writer. It is not specific and it does not provide solutions.

At first, it may be difficult to distinguish between the two, especially when we’re feeling emotional. So when you receive someone’s response about your writing, try the following:

  • Read through their comments without passing judgment. Just take in the information they’ve given you.
  • Take time to mope if need be, but do not respond to the person. Your feelings may be hurt by some of the suggestions. Acknowledge the hurt, and even allow yourself some time to sulk if necessary, but set a deadline. Be it an hour, a day or a week, when your moping time is up then move on.
  • Read through the comments again, this time with an eye for what improves the story. You may even ask for a second opinion from an experienced writer or reader.
  • Note down any points that may be valid. Remember, you don’t have to make every change that’s been suggested. As the writer, you have final say on what happens, but at least spend a little time considering the point.
  • Disregard points that make direct and hurtful comments about you as a writer. Helpful feedback focuses on the words, not the writer.
  • If you notice someone continually provides unhelpful criticism, avoid asking them for feedback in the future. You don’t have to be a martyr to your writing. If you don’t enjoy someone’s feedback, find someone else you can work with.

Think of each round of feedback as an opportunity to polish your work and to learn as a writer. Remember, as a writer you’re always learning. Receiving feedback is a good way to keep that process going.

*****

Add your comment below. How do you deal with feedback or criticism?

*****

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


5 Comments

De-Stress Your Writing Life – Fear of Failure and Fear of the ‘Writer Stigma’

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.

Fear of Failure

None of us wants create something that doesn’t work, and so we naturally do all in our power to give our work its best chance at success. However, sometimes our attempts at avoiding failure can actually prevent us from making progress. In fact, at times our subconscious may believe that the best way to prevent failure is to prevent us from finishing.

The fear of failure can cause symptoms like:

  • Difficulty making progress in your novel.
  • Reluctance to try writing something new.
  • Procrastination or a slowing of progress as the end of the story approaches.
  • Becoming distracted by a new idea. (Yes, a plethora of ideas may actually indicate a hidden fear or barrier, e.g. fear of failure or a fear of completion.)
  • Continual rounds of minute edits in an attempt to get the manuscript just right.

We may find ourselves worrying about what others will think about our work, and at times become anxious wondering if we’ve actually accomplished what we set out to write.

In order to work past this fear, we need to come to terms with the following:

  • There is no such thing as perfect. Remember, aim for beauty, not perfection.
  • A missed typo isn’t the end of the world. Even the most polished books have tiny mistakes. Don’t sweat it. Do your best and then move on.
  • Stories are never really finished. There’s always something more you could tweak. Stop the endless revisions. Polish and then ship it. Send it out into the world and move on to the next thing.
  • The real failure is never attempting something. If you’ve given something a go, then you’ve achieved success. Even if it didn’t turn out as you expected, you were adventurous and you learned along the way.

Some writers view the fear of failure as a good thing, even a marker that they’re on the right track. If they aren’t facing the possibility of failure then their project isn’t unique and interesting enough.

Failure isn’t the terrible thing it first appears, it’s simply the moment you discover something didn’t turn out quite as you planned. That may be a temporary disappointment or it may be an opportunity to learn a new way of doing something.

Whatever the outcome, it isn’t fatal (at least not in writing). So embrace the possibility of failure and keep going. It means you’re trying something worth doing.

Fear of the Writer Stigma

Some writers do not like calling themselves ‘writers’ because they worry what other people will think. They dread questions people may ask them about their writing, and they worry about how people view writers.

This fear shows itself in various ways, like:

  • Refusal to use the term ‘writer’ when talking to others.
  • Embarrassment to admit you spend your free time writing.
  • Nervousness at gatherings where the topic of ‘What do you do for a living/hobby?’ may come up.

What you call yourself and your writing is up to you. Some writers prefer the term ‘author’ while others gravitate towards ‘storyteller.’

What’s most important is becoming relaxed and confident in yourself as a writer. Often our fear of what others think about us and our writing is actually a reflection of how we view ourselves and our writing. If we’re not comfortable being thought of as a writer others will pick up on that discomfort.

To overcome this fear, you could try the following:

  • Begin calling yourself a writer when no one is around. Create a sign or a poster saying, “I am a writer.” Put up on your door or next to your computer – somewhere you will see it regularly. Become comfortable telling yourself you’re a writer.
  • Make a list of the questions you’re afraid to answer. Your list may include questions like, “What have you had published?” and “What kind of things do you write?”
  • Think of answers to the problem questions. Consider how you could answer each question in a sentence or two. For example, “I’m working towards publication at the moment actually. I sent out a query letter just this week.”
  • Tell a stranger you are a writer. You may find telling a stranger is easier than telling a friend or family member. Next time you’re out shopping or at a party and a stranger asks you what you do, tell them you’re a writer. Notice their reaction. You might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Work your way up to telling a friend or family member. Remember, first you need to be comfortable identifying yourself as a writer. Feel confident and at ease with the word, then allow it to naturally flow into the conversation. Then note the reactions of those around you. They may be more at ease too.

Even if you still find people less than enthusiastic about your writing life, that’s okay. You don’t need their approval to enjoy your writing. You write because you love doing it, and that’s the sign of a real writer.

*****

Add your comment below. What questions do you dread hearing? When someone asks you an awkward writing-related question, how do you respond?

*****

Right now I’m extra busy preparing my e-book for publication, 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.

I’ve 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


8 Comments

De-Stress Your Writing Life – Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers

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.

So far we’ve considered how a successful writer:

Now let’s consider how a successful writer deals with the fears and barriers that will inevitably come in the writing life.

Defining Your Fear

While every writer will face some kind of fear in their writing life – be it the fear of failure, the fear of making mistakes, or the fear of what others will say about their writing – each writer is different.

The subject of writing fears and barriers deserves a book of its own, so we’ll only cover the topic briefly here. If you wish to read more on the subject, try The Writer’s Portable Therapist by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.

Firstly, let’s define the two terms we’re using here:

  • Fear: In this book, when we refer to fear we’re usually talking about the worry or anxiety caused by perceived:
    • Difficulty,
    • Danger,
    • Potential for embarrassment, or
    • Potential for hurt or heart ache.
  • Barrier: A problem (perhaps caused by fear or a self-imposed limitation) that prevents you progressing with your writing project.

As we already mentioned, the fears and barriers that each writer faces will be unique to them. Our fears and barriers are influenced by our:

  • Upbringing,
  • Life experiences,
  • Beliefs (including the way we perceive the world), and
  • Habits.

What are your personal fears and barriers? You may already know, or you may need a little help to describe the feelings and thoughts you encounter on a regular basis.

Before you read further, jot down on a piece of paper the fears and barriers you feel you’re facing in your writing life.

If you’re not sure what to write, then try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What thoughts go through my head when I sit down to write?
  • Am I embarrassed to call myself a writer? If so, why?
  • What is the hardest part of writing for me personally?
  • What’s the worst thing someone could say to me about my writing?

Notice any reoccurring thoughts or words. Also notice how you feel as you write. Do your muscles tense up when you think about certain aspects of your writing? Do you feel your gut tightening when you approach certain situations?

You may be surprised at the things that concern you.

*****

Add your comment below. What fears are you facing in your writing life?

*****

Like most writers, I have to be frugal with my funds. So if you’ve enjoyed today’s post and would like to read more, I’d be grateful if you could leave a little in the kitty to help keep things afloat.

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


1 Comment

Creative Action: Freewrite About Your Writing Fears

A little girl looking afraid. Is this how you feel when you're writing?

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Hi, I’m Jessica’ Creativity (you can tell it’s me because I’m writing in purple) and I’m talking about taking some serious creative action!

Today Jessica is over at Write to Done, blogging about how you can complete any project by using Completion Addiction! (I highly recommend you pop over there and shower her with celebratory pompoms.)

You’re probably already familiar with Idea Addiction – that irresistible high you get when a shiny new idea diverts you from your work in progress. One reason the high is so irresistible is because it distracts us from the fears we face on our current project.

All writers face fears of some kind – be it the fear that you’ll never amount to anything, or the fear that you’ve just ruined your best tuxedo by spattering yourself with fountain pen ink.

But there are two important things to remember when facing fear:

  • Number one, fear is changeable. Your fears change as you develop and learn. Therefore, they are not written in stone but are actually malleable.
  • Number two, fear isn’t permanent (unlike fountain pen ink, my condolences to your tuxedo). It can be overcome. It is a challenge for you to take on and conquer – followed by a feast and much dancing.

Fear can be combatted with something you naturally have at your disposal – words!

Discovering the Source of Your Fear

First of all, you need to discover why you feel this discomfort. Fear is your mind’s way of protecting you. If you’re standing on the edge of a sixty foot drop, or considering pitched battle with a pterodactyl, fear is probably a good thing.

But when it comes to writing, and other non-lethal activities, fear steps in too soon. It’s usually there because it doesn’t want you to get your hopes up, to be hurt by other people, or fall flat on your face in front of millions of adoring fans because you chose platform shoes instead of sneakers.

Fear can be nebulous to begin with. It tells you that you can’t write. It tells you the white page is scary.

It’s your job to start fighting back with your words.

Do you know what the best word to use with your fear is?

“Why?”

Seriously.

Try this scenario: You’re afraid you can’t write.

Now ask: Why?

Perhaps your answer is: You think you’re going to make mistakes and people will ridicule you.

Ah, we’ll now we’re getting somewhere. It’s not that you can’t write. It’s that you’re afraid to make mistakes. That’s something we can work with!

From there you can set about carving out a new mindset with your words. And as a writer, your words are your superpower. You can handle words and string them together to change a person’s mind – in this case, yours.

So, let’s give it a go shall we?

Follow these steps:

  1. Set yourself a timer for, say, fifteen minutes.
  2. Start freewriting (using a computer, a pen and journal, or even chisel and stone tablet if that method appeals to you). Do not stop writing until the timer goes off, even if it seems you’re just writing drivel.
  3. Name the fear or barrier you’re facing. (Are you afraid you’re a fraud? Do you think your work is rubbish? Are you worried other people will think you’re wasting your time?)
  4. Next, ask the question: Why? Channel your inner 3-year-old and keep asking questions until you get to the heart of the matter.
  5. Once you’ve discovered the source of your fear, then start writing about how it affects you.
  6. If you’ve still got time in your freewrite, begin sketching out a new way of viewing your situation. Use your works to challenge the fear and work on overcoming it.

This process won’t be easy, and it may take you several freewrites before you feel you’ve properly got a handle on this particular fear – but each time you face a fear and conquer it, you become stronger.

With that strength comes the confidence to take on the white page fright and come off victorious!

What fears are you facing in your writing right now?


1 Comment

The Dark Side of Creativity

Lightning streaking across the skyWe’d like to apologize for the delay this week. We’ve got a doozy of an excuse!

On Monday our city experienced a massive storm with hailstones the size of cricket balls, flooding, lightning and cyclonic winds (doesn’t that sound spectacular?). Our house was left without power for almost 24 hours.

Happily, everything’s back up and running. The house suffered minimal water damage and the cars are undented. However, the experience has got us thinking about an interesting subject – how Creativity and Imagination can feed fear.

It’s very common for people to panic in dangerous or scary situations. Your mind races with possibilities, and those possibilities (no matter how remote the chances of them actually happening) scare you even further. I’m sorry to say that your Creativity is partly responsible for this reaction. But I’m here, as a representative of Creativities everywhere, to attempt an explanation of why it happens.

The Magic Question

What is the spark, the catalyst, that starts your Creativity? Well there are a number of things that can spark your Creativity, but often it’s a question: What if?

When you ask this question under relaxed circumstances, it can lead to many fantastic ideas and hours of hilarity. What if pigs could really fly? Where would they land? What if trees grew upside down? What if you crossed an alpaca with a whale shark? What if… Yeah, I love ‘what if’ questions.

But sometimes when you ask this question under stress, your Creativity picks up on this emotion and the questions turn dark. What if my parents have an accident on the way home from work? What if this weird mole turns out to be cancer? What if the wind rips our roof off?

What makes these questions all the more scary is their plausibility. These situations have happened to other people. You see, your Creativity has been doing ‘research.’ He or she remembers previous information where people have accidents, moles turn cancerous and winds damage houses. So in an attempt to be helpful, he or she focuses on real life’ what ifs.’

If your Creativity limited the questions to the ridiculous – What if my parents drove into a mound of purple goo on the way home? What if this mole turned into a sentient being capable of extreme math skills? What if the wind landscaped my garden into a perfect representation of Windsor Palace? – then you wouldn’t be anywhere near as anxious because, lets face it, have you met a mole who can multiply? However, in an attempt to be useful, we Creativities may be a little too zealous in keeping things plausible.

And If You Look Out Your Left Window…

So you’ve got an overactive Imagination and a Creativity who is being too practical for your own good. What can be done?

First of all, please don’t think that your Creativity is necessarily working against you. I’ll admit there are those Creativities out there that take perverse delight in freaking people out. But they’re fewer than we realise. Usually your Creativity is trying to be helpful. The problem is, you’re often asking the wrong questions.

Instead of asking your Creativity ‘What if?’ ‘What is that?’ ‘What might happen next?’ try changing tack. Channel your Creativity’s excitement and helpfulness into more positive areas.

Instead of viewing an event as an ordeal, view it as an adventure. Find aspects you can learn from. Savour any little part of the experience you might find enjoyable. For example, Jessica loves thunderstorms and, needless to say, Monday had thunder and lightning galore. We savoured every flash of lightning and boom of thunder. View these experiences as opportunities to notice new and amazing things. “And now, of you’ll look out your left window you’ll see the whole western horizon illuminated by the wonders of electric discharge.”

I should point out at this point that I’m not encouraging everyone to become blasé about danger and dismiss situations where serious and immediate action must be taken. I’m talking about those occasions where, through the best of intentions, your Creativity is stressing you out. Under those circumstances, try a little redirection. Remember, we want to help. 🙂

How about you? Do you have any thoughts about how Creativity contributes to stress? Or do you have tips about how to redirect your Creativity? Please let us know. 🙂

P.S. If you would like to read more about the subject of fear and the science behind it, take a look at Jeff Wise’s blog Extreme Fear.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art