Body-Mind-Spirit - Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness
Last week, a student relatively new to my writing class, sent me an email before class asking for advice about how to create more vivid characters and voices.
This woman, a former TV executive, is bright, articulate, and talented; and she’s been writing for twenty years. There was no lack of “vivid” in her characters or voice. But, like many writers, she couldn’t see her own gifts. She saw only flaws, most of which no one else detected.
I told her to resist the temptation to judge her work and reminded her that when class started three weeks earlier, she’d promised to show up for this session and engage in the writing process without thinking about product. “When you’re working your process from a place of authenticity and trust,” I told her, “product takes care of itself.” I suggested she take a break from needing to be good. “Your job is just to show up and write badly,” I told her. “I can do that,” she said, smiling.
That night in class she asked me: “Does anyone ever write anything bad in your classes?”
“There’s no such thing as “bad,’” I responded. “Everyone is where they are. My job is to meet you wherever you are and help you grow to the next level.”
Writers, do yourself a favor, and stop wondering if what you’re writing is “good” or “bad.” These terms are subjective and they mess with your process. Assume you have something to offer. You wouldn’t want to write if it wasn’t something you needed to do. Think of it as your soul’s calling. Are you going to ignore your soul? If you think you’re not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough, think again! These thoughts are unconscious stories people tell themselves, which prevent them from moving forward with writing projects and other dreams. Don’t believe these stories. You’re a writer; write new ones for yourself! Our thoughts create our emotions and thoughts that make you feel crappy are mental junk food. Replace them with thoughts that inspire you and make you want to write.
You can do this. It may be hard at first, but like with most things, you’ll improve with practice. The main thing is to be aware that you have a choice. Consider this story, which I first heard as a spiritual psychology student at The University of Santa Monica:
A chief is talking to his tribe about two dogs inside his mind: one is courageous and good, the other is vengeful and angry. Both dogs are fighting to the death. A young brave, unable to wait for the end of the story, interrupts the chief, and asks, “Which one will win?” The chief responds, “The one I feed.”
Ask yourself which stories you feed. Cultivate awareness. Rewrite your own life stories. Put your creative imagination into service to set yourself free so you can have, be, and do what you want. Release whatever stories, thoughts, or ideas hold you back. Make a conscious choice to create stories that empower you. If you don’t believe this will work, try it anyway. Think of it as an experiment. You have nothing to lose except your doubt and angst. You do not have to suffer. Never before have there been so many opportunities available to writers.
You don’t have to publish with a particular press or appear on the New York Times bestseller list to enjoy success as a writer. The trick is to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate all successes, large and small. Success for a writer includes simply showing up at your desk and writing. Success is sending your work out. Success is building your platform, one fan or follower at a time. Success is maintaining faith and believing in yourself, and in your work.
Outcomes, which are not within your control, are not your job. Why fret over them or twist yourself into knots worrying who “out there” will validate your work. Validate yourself. Again, this is a choice. You can choose to think you’re not good enough or you can choose to accept yourself where you are, resolve to show up and do your work, and know your writing will improve. Doubt saps precious energy and time. Nike got it right: just do it! Allowing yourself to be where you are and who you are, accepting yourself completely, is a powerful declaration to the universe. You will be heard. Speak!