journey

Author Insights: Barbara Jacksha on Journeying With Our Writing (+ an Autographed Book Giveaway)

It's time for another installment of our "Author Insights" series. In this series, I'm introducing you to writers who've taken their writing all the way to the finish line of publication, and they share their "lessons learned" with you. There's nothing quite like learning from a writer who has made to the other side.

Plus, if you leave a comment at the end of this post before Sunday, August 6th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, you'll be entered to win an autographed copy of the author's book in a random drawing. Please note that you must be located in the United States to win.

Meet Barbara Jacksha, author of Vision Pages: a vision journal for imagining your dreams to life

I'm thrilled to introduce you to Barbara Jacksha. Barbara has been a member of my online Called to Write Coaching Circle since 2014, and is a literary fiction writer. She came to the idea for creating her vision pages journal through writing daily morning pages, and shared her vision pages ideas with the rest of us on our Circle forum. Her idea then took on a life of its own, becoming a tool she could share with other writers.

I asked Barbara to share her insights about writing and self-publishing this book with us. 

Barbara Jacksha on Journeying With Our Writing

Barbara JackshaMost of us have a sense of our writing dreams. We think we know where they will take us. But often, our writing dreams will pull us in unexpected, remarkable directions.

For years I wrote morning pages, filled journal after journal with wonderful observations, silly ramblings, and I must admit, a lot of complaining. One morning while writing about something that had gone wrong, I stopped. Why was I giving so much attention to what I didn’t want? Why energize that? What would happen if I only wrote about what I did want? That’s when my daily practice shifted to writing what I call vision pages: writing about what I want to have, do, be, and experience.

I loved it. I found the writing energizing, empowering, effective, and just plain fun. I told a few people what I was doing and got great feedback. That gave me the idea to create journals that would teach people how to write vision pages and give them space to play with their own dreams and visions. 

I’d never created a journal before, so this was brand new territory. I felt intimidated, uncertain, a bit terrified, but also insanely curious and eager to take off on this unexpected journey. As I wrote and designed the journals, I learned a lot about myself and about following my writing dreams.

Here are some of the insights I came to on my journey to creating the journal:

#1 Value what YOU have to say.

When I first realized that people were interested in vision pages, I was surprised. Apparently, a part of me believed that my ideas couldn’t be valuable to others. That belief is simply not true--for me or anyone else. We all have much to contribute, as people, as writers, and to share what only we can say is one of our biggest gifts to the world. Our dreams and inner visions tell us what we need to share. We just need to listen!

#2 Be open to the fresh and unexpected.

I never thought I’d create a journal. I never thought I’d create YouTube videos of my work, but that’s also on my to-do list. Following our writing dreams often means venturing into new territory, in what we write about and how we get our work out to the world. There are many fresh and interesting possibilities available to us now, and they seem to be expanding daily. Don’t hesitate to open a new door. Once you do, you may find that many others open to you as well.

#3 Keep learning new things.

To create these journals, I polished rusty Photoshop skills and learned Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign from scratch. Climbing that steep learning curve took patience and time, but now I have new skills I can apply any way I choose. Don’t let the need to learn something new stop you. Learning is always worth what you invest in it.

#4 Mine the wealth of your own experiences and let it support your writing.

Sometimes the idea of heading off in a new direction feels like you’re starting from scratch. But are you? In creating these journals, I called on skills I developed many years ago when I was a freelance business writer. What skills do you have in other areas of your life that can and do support your writing? Organization? Time management? Presenting to others? If we recognize the wealth of our own experiences, it can take the pressure off and help us see just how capable and prepared we already are.

#5 Relax and have fun.

Trying new things can be frustrating. We can get impatient or discouraged. One of the assignments I gave myself while creating these journals was to keep the process as relaxed and light as I could. When we relax, it’s easier to let our inner visions and knowing guide us. We’re also better able to let things in: new ideas, perceptions, information, solutions, you name it. As often as you can, let your writing be playful and relaxed. Let it be an exploration and adventure. I was amazed at the difference this makes, and I’m sure you will be too.

Maybe it’s time to have a cup of tea with your writing dreams and see where they’d love to take you next!

About Vision Pages

Vision PagesManifest your dreams using the power of imagination! Vision Pages takes journaling to the next level. When you write vision pages, you focus on what you desire to have, feel, be, and experience. It's like creating a vision board, but instead of relying on other people's words and images, you create with your own hand, using your own words, and write from your own inner wisdom and heart. Writing vision pages is both an immersive experience and a fun, empowering process that can bring about wonderful changes in you and your life. The Vision Pages journal briefly describes the four key steps to writing vision pages and imagining your dreams to life. The rest of the book is yours to fill with your life-changing visions.

Pick up your copy of Vision Pages on Amazon here (affiliate links*):

About Barbara

Barbara JackshaBarbara Jacksha is a writer and spiritual explorer. Her work centers around liberating and living our inner truth and bringing more magic into our lives. Barbara’s short work has appeared in a variety of publications including the W.W. Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward. She was an editor at flashquake and an editor and co-founder of the spiritual literary journal Cezanne’s Carrot. Barbara lives in the wilds near Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband, three dogs, and several neighborhood coyotes. To see what else she’s up to, you can visit her website: www.barbarajacksha.com

Enter to Win an Autographed Copy of Vision Pages

Barbara has graciously offered to give away three autographed copies of her book to my readers. Leave a comment on the blog about one of your own writing lessons or something you learned from Barbara's insights before Sunday, August 6th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time and you'll be entered in the random drawing. Please note, you must be located in the United States to win.

 

* This is an affiliate link, which means my Called to Write business receives a small commission from any purchases you make using this link, and which I deeply appreciate.
Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

 

The Many Faces of Procrastination, Part II

Last week I shared Part I of this post about the many faces of procrastination, and the underlying reasons it shows up. It's not necessarily "just" writer's block or laziness, which are the common explanations I hear.

There are actually a number of variations on the theme of procrastination, and it's usually driven by something deeper, like feeling stuck, being overwhelmed, being hooked by perfectionism, or wrestling with past creative wounds that need addressing -- some of the examples I wrote about last week.

Let's look at a few more of these writing-stoppers that show up as procrastination.

You're creatively confused.

Creative confusion is one of the most fascinating causes for procrastination I've come across (perhaps because it's one of my personal "favorites"). Creative confusion will have you spinning in circles, not sure which direction to go with your story, considering multiple ideas and perspectives, and feeling unable to decide among them. It's as if everything suddenly has equal value and there's no differentiating them. 

Part of the issue here is empowerment. When you forget that you're the architect of your story and that there's not necessarily a "right" way to write it, it's easy to get confused. Confusion can also be a smokescreen for the fear that you'll get it "wrong."

Antidotes: Make the shift into action by being willing to do the work of sorting through your ideas by putting them on paper and evaluating them as objectively as you can. One of the ways creative confusion keeps you stuck is that it all happens very quickly in your head. Get it down, and figure it out. And remember that you're the one in charge. It can also be helpful to talk it through with a trusted coach or writing pal who has your story's best interests at heart (not her ideas for what you "should" do).

You're feeling apathetic about your book (or script).

Creative boredom or apathy is another one of these super tricksters that can keep you locked into procrastination. You don't write because it feels like you've "just lost interest" in your story. Interestingly, this usually happens when you've just hit (or are about to hit) a major milestone with your story, or you're about to tackle the next stage. What's happening here is that a new level of fear is cropping up and putting the brakes on to minimize your risks of failure.

In other words, it ain't about the story. 

Antidotes: Keep on keeping on. The only way out is through. While there may be passages in your book that are need work, that's a storytelling problem, not "time to give up on the whole project" problem. This is the place to commit to finishing, no matter what.

This is also a great time to remind yourself of your Why for the project -- why you started writing it in the first place. Sometimes just tracking back to the Why will be enough to get you in action again.

You're having trouble deciding which book to write.

This kind of procrastination turns up when you know you want to write or feel ready to write but you can't decide which story to work on, or you decide on one, only to change your mind in short order, usually telling yourself it's not good enough in some way, then look around for something else to work on, only to dismiss that one too. And the next one after that.

This kind of procrastination can also look like coming up with a bazillion ideas to work with but not being able to choose among them. 

Antidotes: Check out my free downloadable guide about how to choose your next book (or script) using decision criteria and intuitive decision making skills. You can also try one of my favorite bits of Steven Pressfield's wisdom, which is to "figure out what scares you the most, and do that first."

(If, on the other hand, you're totally drawing a blank for any ideas at all, try Elizabeth Gilbert's approach of paying attention to your faintest whispers of curiosity and see where they lead you.)

You've fallen out of the habit of writing and each day that goes by, it gets harder to restart.

If your writing practice has fallen apart -- for whatever reason -- procrastination has taken hold and it's just not getting any better. Each day you tell yourself you're going to write, but find endless distractions around the house, get caught up in work (or TV or candy crush!), tasks to take care of, or toilets to clean. This is "garden variety" procrastination in my book, but it's still a doozy.

Antidotes: Set a very small writing goal and meet it. Then do it again the next day. And the next. Keep going until you have the practice in place. Troubleshoot any obstacles that come up -- like falling into reading email or getting sucked into other tasks -- and find ways to streamline your path to your writing desk each day. If you set a goal, and you're still procrastinating, make the goal smaller until you actually do it. Get accountability to help you with this if you need it. (Work with me 1:1 or join the Circle, for example.)

You're dealing with big personal changes.

Look, sometimes big life events happen and the idea of tackling writing at the same time feels (and may even be) impossible. Major illnesses, weddings, new romances, births, deaths, break ups, divorces, moves, and job changes are life changes that can get in the way of writing and then morph into "regular" procrastination even once the dust has settled. It's okay. It happens. But it's helpful to know how to deal with it when a big part of your identity is tied into being a writer and you start losing your sense of self while it's all happening, and then wonder who you are when it's done.

Antidotes: Be patient with yourself during the upheaval, and give yourself a little time for re-entry. You may want to have a "maintenance practice" of writing morning pages in place during these times, even as a placeholder until you can get back to your book or script writing efforts. Have a plan in place for how and when you'll reboot your writing once you've made it through the thick of the experience. If you find yourself still struggling with your identity after the fact, do some journaling or coaching work to help get you back in touch with yourself as a writer.

You're an adrenaline addict.

One of the most fascinating parlor tricks I see writers engaging in is creating an endless series of non-writing emergencies, deadlines, and disasters that make it impossible to write. This is procrastination at its peak form, because it becomes inarguable. Whatever "it" is, has become such an emergency, that it has to be done right now. At this point, it actually does. But when a writer lives this way, chasing from disaster to disaster, writing always gets to stay (safely) at the bottom of the pile.

The trickiest trick of all is that the purveyor of these hijinks deep down revels in the sense of excitement and in being the rescuer of the situation from certain doom. It turns out, writers who do this to themselves are addicted to the rush of it all, and they'll even design it so they "get" to write this way too (at the last minute, in a mad panicked rush).

This strategy does two things. It's a brilliant way of getting off the hook for doing your best work, because you simply can't, not with all those emergencies to take care of. It's also very clever way of getting an adrenaline boost of energy to face the terror of writing. 

Antidotes: Admit the addiction. Make a conscious choice to stop this behavior. Learn to pace yourself -- with everything, including your writing -- and get ruthless about cutting out anything and everything you don't have to do. You don't have to do everything and you don't have to do it all perfectly. Cut some corners! 

You're just plain tired.

Maybe you're not exhausted, but "just" tired. Maybe you haven't reached the point of creative burnout, like I mentioned last week, but maybe you have other non-writing commitments that tax you. Some of these are avoidable (volunteering for committees) and some are not (having little kids or an aging parent), but either way you're tired. This tiredness becomes an excellent excuse for procrastinating. "I'm tired," you say. "I just don't have it in me today to write. I'll do it tomorrow."

Antidotes: I've always loved the quote from David Whyte on this subject, “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest? … The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.” When it comes to the daily sort of tiredness that can leave us feeling run down (as opposed to massively burned out), writing regularly -- even just in small amounts -- is often the cure. Also, take a look at how you're investing your precious life energy and see where there might be energy leaks you can shore up. Look for where you're not feeling a "Hell, yes!" about the things you've committed to and think about letting them go. Work with a friend or coach to inventory your commitments and see what you can release for someone else to handle.

 

So... what did I leave out? What other ways have you seen procrastination show up?

Tell me in the comments section below. 

 

 

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

The Many Faces of Procrastination, Part I

When I work with writers to help them stop procrastinating, usually they don't quite know why they're doing it. They often end up labeling it as laziness or writer's block. I can tell you that I've never met a truly lazy writer, and while I certainly have met some who are blocked, sometimes a little delving is required to uncover the deeper issues that are stopping them from writing.

Let's talk about the spectrum of writing-stoppers that show up as procrastination.

You're stuck.

You might find yourself procrastinating when you're stuck. Maybe you've hit a section you aren't sure how to deal with, or you need to rewrite some or all of your draft but you're not sure where to start, so you just... don't. This stuckness doesn't take long to turn into procrastination, and soon, to full on avoidance.

Antidotes: Sometimes when you're stuck, you need help to get going again. A plot coach or a writing friend often comes in handy here. Alternatively, you might want to write about the writing -- this is a great time for some journaling and brainstorming to unlock your writing energy and ideas.

You're overwhelmed.

Sometimes the sheer volume of work facing you will cause you to procrastinate. When you're looking at a mountain, it's hard not to feel the weight of it bearing down on you. 

Antidotes: The antidote for overwhelm is to find one small step to take. In other words, what's the first thing you can think of, no matter how small, that you know you can do now? Then do the next thing. This is a great time to pick easy things to do too, because when you're feeling overwhelmed, easy makes it doable. Sometimes I'll just work on formatting for a bit to get myself back into the project, no matter how fiddly it is. No step forward is too small.

You've been hooked by perfectionism.

When you get stuck in believing that you must make your writing perfect or get caught up in visions of this being your biggest hit ever, you'll be triggering procrastination faster than you might believe. Perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis work together to create a vicious cycle that keeps you from writing, ever. Perfectionism is funny way of staying safe too, because if you don't write it, you don't have to see it being flawed and imperfect, nor can you be ridiculed for it.

Antidotes: Make peace with being an imperfect human being who values writing and finishing more than telling yourself whoppers about incredible success or massive failure that hold you back. Embrace the notion that only the divine is perfect, and decide that messy and done is so much better than not writing.

Your inner critic is freaking out.

When the voice of your inner critic starts getting loud and scary, it's hard to keep writing, especially if you listen to it as if it's the voice of truth and reason, rather than simply a terrified guard dog it trying to keep you safe. Also note that this voice will get louder and scarier the closer you are to the precipice of taking action, finishing a draft, or moving into a new level of your career. If those aren't reasons to procrastinate, I don't know what is!

Antidotes: First, pat your inner critic on the head and tell him/her that you're going to take care of everything, you got this, and you don't need any help protecting yourself. Then, one by one, rewrite the negative self-messages that swirl through your mind while you're writing into positive, believable statements. Having a coach or witness for this work helps it land more deeply and take root in your psyche in a positive way. 

You've gotten feedback on your work and it's affecting you.

Good feedback, bad feedback. Feedback period. All feedback affects us. It's an energetic shock to the system that's hard to absorb. We've been tenderly entwined with our beloved writing only to have it held at arm's length by a stranger who cooly evaluates it. The stun from this can send you into a tailspin. And good feedback? Glowing feedback on your early chapters? That can be a recipe for triggering perfectionism and the anti-creativity cycle too, because suddenly you have to measure up to your existing work and you might not believe you can.

Antidotes: After giving yourself some time to recover from getting the feedback, take a deep, deep breath. Remind yourself who is in charge. (That would be you.) Evaluate the feedback as cooly as it evaluates your book. What do you agree with? Use that. What do you disagree with? Throw it out or save it for later re-evaluation.

You're deeply exhausted and you're self-protecting.

Sometimes you may procrastinate because you're actually deeply tired or burned out, and reflexively protecting yourself from overextending. This may be the result of binge writing, pushing to meet deadline after deadline, or from being exhausted by a non-writing life circumstance.

Antidotes: Rest. Write for the love of it, if you're called to do so, but make it easy, like journaling, and give yourself some time to recover. You will feel the call to write again. Trust me. 

You're dealing with a creative wound that needs addressing.

When you're not writing... and not writing... and not writing... and it's just going on forever, sometimes there are deeper creative wounds that have gotten triggered and need addressing. Like that time you were ridiculed for daring to make art and express yourself creatively. Or how you were raised in a family culture that taught you that writing would never pay your bills and you were a fool if you pursued it. Or the scathing feedback you received from someone you deeply loved. Events like these leave open wounds in our psyches, like ghosts in the machine.

Antidotes: Revisit the events in a safe way (such as through visualization or journaling) so you can find the truth in the experience from a broader spiritual perspective. From there, you'll be able to begin to find forgiveness for yourself and peace with the experience. Often these experiences happen to us when we are young, and having our more mature perspective helps us begin to shift how we feel about it now. While you can do this work on your own, working with a coach or witness who can hold a safe space while you're processing what happened can accelerate your growth and ability to move past the pain.

And there's more...

There are many more underlying reasons for procrastination, including creative apathy, confusion, adrenaline addictions, and more. Read Part II, here

When has procrastination most reared its head for you, and how have you dealt with it?

Share your stories and experiences in the comments section below.

 
 
Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

5 Tips for Making the Most of Summer Writing

It's that time of year again... summer!

The days are getting longer, the weather is warmer, kids and teachers are out for the summer, and vacation season is here. There are so many reasons to put down your pen and turn off your computer and go outside... which I highly recommend.

All work and no play isn't good for a writer's soul, after all. 

And, at the same time, you'll want to keep writing so you don't lose your writing momentum or end up finishing summer feeling disappointed about where you are in your draft.

Here are five tips for making the most of your summer writing, while still enjoying the play time you need and deserve.

#1. Remember Why You Love Writing

While it's highly useful to treat your writing with as much care and attention as you would a professional job... when we're in the middle of this expansive summer energy, it's a good time to remind ourselves that we're also doing this because we LOVE it.

This helps create a more natural fit between the part of us that wants to have delicious summer adventures and the romantic side of our writing dreams. To that end, even while you're putting your head down to write, play with matching your summer energy to your writing energy. You might light candles while you work, write in a café, or take your notebook to the beach. This is a great time of year to indulge your most vivid writing life dreams and make it fun.

#2. Be Aware of Magical Thinking

Over the last couple of weeks as I've developed our summer plans, I've found myself imagining doing a big chunk of writing on one of our vacations... And doing a big chunk of studying on one of our vacations... And maybe writing some promotional copy on one of our vacations.... and all of these on the SAME vacation. Talk about magical thinking! Even if I actually wanted to write and/or work during a trip (I don't), I certainly can't accomplish all of those things and have the time I want to have with my family. Sure, I could probably finagle an early morning writing session before they awaken, but I want my vacation for vacationing. 

Similarly, it's easy to imagine that you'll have so much extra time during the summer that you'll be able to make wild progress on your work. I think this might be a holdover from when we were all in elementary school and summers seem to last forever and we have nothing to do... just the way we imagine that a new year will suddenly have so much more free time than we had in the last one. But we don't. Even if you're a teacher with the summer "off," your days will quickly fill with all the things you've put off doing during the school year unless you're mindful about it.

Instead, be realistic about what you can actually accomplish over the course of a summer. See how many days you have to write, and schedule them accordingly with your summer writing goals.

#3. Give Yourself Time to Play

We're way more likely to do our work when we're also giving ourselves time to play, rest, indulge, and enjoy. And since summer naturally lends itself to those things, it helps to set up a nicely balanced bargain between the two.

I find that writing as early as possible during the day allows me to have guilt-free down time and playtime in the afternoons, just as I find that when I'm writing when I'm home, I feel good about enjoying my vacations fully while I'm away instead of feeling guilty that I "should" be doing more.

Work hard, play hard, is an adage that fits the bill here... but you have to actually deliver on the play time to make this work.

#4. Plan for Reentry 

Taking time off from writing -- generally anything more than 1 to 2 days off -- tends to create a bumpy "reentry" back into it. So if you go away for a long weekend or a vacation, think about how you'll reboot yourself with your writing when you get back.

In my Circle, we advise our writers to "go back to the beginning" of working in small increments of writing time if resistance kicks in when it's time to pick the writing back up. A little accountability goes a long way here too (we offer this in the Circle if you need help).

So if you return from time away and find yourself struggling to get back into your book (or script), try writing for just 5 to 15 minutes to jump start yourself again. You can increase the time over the coming days as rapidly as feels doable to you until you're back to your normal routine.

Use this guideline: The more resistance, the smaller the amount of writing time. 

#5. Have Fun, and Be Ready for Anything

Summer can be an "all bets are off" season. Between kids at home, weather variations, vacations, out of town guests, extra summer projects, and our own impulses to celebrate the summer, a lot can get in the way of writing.

The more you can be ready to roll with it -- to have fun with it even, like you're playing a "I wonder how much writing I can pull off this summer" game -- the easier it is.

I find that a lot of this is about your mental attitude -- if you're expecting your summer to be just like the rest of the year, you're more likely to get thrown off track. On the other hand, if you take an attitude that things are going to be more up in the air,  you'll be more ready to take the writing time when it comes and just run with it. You'll also be more likely to have contingency plans ready to go if something comes up, like having a portable writing kit, a flexible schedule, or a backup writing time slot later in the day if your morning writing gets interrupted. 

Have fun, writers, and happy summer!

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Author Insights: Elaine La Joie on Making Peace with the Possibility of Bad Reviews (+ an Autographed Book Giveaway)

And we're back! It's time for the next installment of our "Author Insights" series. In this series, I'm introducing you to writers who've taken their writing all the way to the finish line of publication, and they share their "lessons learned" with you. There's nothing quite like learning from a writer who has made to the other side.

Plus, if you leave a comment at the end of the post before Friday, May 12th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, you'll be entered to win an autographed copy of the author's book in a random drawing. Please note that you must be located in the United States to win.

Meet Elaine La Joie, author of The Empath as Archetype

I'm thrilled to introduce you to Elaine La Joie. Elaine and I have worked together in various ways over the past 15 years since we first met after attending the same coach training program. Elaine has gone on to become not only a coach but is now also a shaman, who specializes in working with empaths. Elaine has chosen the self-publishing path and has put out five books, now bundled into one in the The Empath as Archetype. Her books are particularly valuable for sensitives and empaths who find themselves stuck in challenging relationship situations. Being a shaman and an expert in the Enneagram Four, Elaine always brings a higher view of relationship interactions I find illuminating and freeing. 

I asked Elaine to share her insights about writing her books with us. 

Elaine La Joie on Writing The Empath as Archetype

Elaine La Joie

I had wanted to write ever since I was a child, but I always thought I’d write fiction. However, after coaching empaths for a few years I found myself writing non-fiction.

At first I wrote short essays for my blog about topics that came up during client sessions that I thought most empaths would appreciate.

Then, as I expanded my knowledge base from plain coaching to the Enneagram to shamanic energy work, I found myself explaining these concepts to new clients, which took too much time away from diving into the healing work, so I decided to write a guide that clients could read before they started working with me.

Structuring a Complicated, Massive Topic

However, the book I imagined was complicated. I was bringing together topics from the Enneagram, shamanic energy work, and archetypes, and then writing specifically for the empath archetype. It was overwhelming.

Instead of writing I found myself spending time thinking about how to arrange this massive treatise, which led to frustration and procrastination. I solved this by going back to observing my clients and what we needed to unravel and work on first before major progress could be made.

This helped me see the three disparate topics my clients needed to understand before they could achieve deep healing and shift their ingrained patterns, and I organized my work accordingly. I wrote three books about the archetypal drama triangle, which is particularly problematic for the sensitive empath, shamanic energy work, and the enneagram archetype of the empath. I published these on my website.

Navigating Expanding My Reach with Amazon

Once I had self-published the books on my site, I had a few sales, mostly from new clients and others curious about my work. The feedback was good, but small. I kept writing, this time shifting to major case studies with the assumption that the reader had absorbed the concepts in the first three little books.

Because I wanted to expand my reach, I started looking into how to upload my books to Amazon. Luckily by the time I was ready to publish on Amazon, they had made the process relatively straightforward and free with both their digital system (Kindle) and their softcover publisher (CreateSpace).

But I noticed that I was procrastinating again—the thought of having my books reviewed by the general public was for the most part scary and unappealing.

Making Peace With the Possibility of Bad Reviews

My books were written for a very specific audience, an empath who wants to change his or her life. A non-empath would not understand these books. An empath that was interested but not ready to look at the shadow work required to heal themselves would most definitely find my books upsetting. They might leave rotten reviews. In many ways I felt like I was setting myself up to be misunderstood and misrepresented.

At the same time, I knew this work would be helpful to that segment of the population of empaths who were ready to dive in and do the deep healing work.

So, I had to prepare to get bad reviews. I made two shifts with my thinking that helped tremendously:

  1. I made a conscious decision not to take any reviews personally and to trust the work would reach the audience for whom it was intended. Because I am an empath, and empaths tend to take everything personally, I had to remind myself that my feelings in the moment would pass; I should honor my feelings, but not take them too seriously, even the happy feelings around good reviews. This helped me be both less attached to good reviews and less fearful of bad reviews.
  2. I reminded myself that personal work for anyone is very difficult, and that it is a common human behavior to shoot the messenger. My work is all about being the messenger for people who are hurting and wanting to heal themselves. In doing one-on-one work with clients, it is relatively easy to match my client and maintain a relationship that works for both of us, but every once in a while a client tries to shoot the messenger. It doesn't happen often because we have built up a relationship of acceptance and trust, but when it does, I don't take it personally because I understand the nature of healing work and the role of the shaman. Once I started thinking of my writing as working one-on-one with my favorite clients as my audience, it was easier and less scary to move forward. However, because I wasn’t really working one-on-one with each reader, it was guaranteed that I would be shot down at least one time out of ten.

Luckily for me, most of my readers so far have wanted to do the work, so most of my reviews on Amazon have been very good. Many empaths can be shy, so I receive much more positive feedback through emails than through reviews, which is also heartening. There are awful reviews as well, such as one from a reader who gave my last book one star after starting with it first instead of last. This person did not to read the other books, but gave them all one star reviews anyway. This was both amusing and upsetting at the same time, but in the grand scheme of things, the work is out there, and people can take it or leave it, just as they take or leave one-on-one session work.

Overall my writing experience has been a very good one. I have been very lucky to have a niche in which to write. I also entered self-publishing right when the process became easy and straight forward.

As it turned out, the literal process of self-publishing was easy—the hardest step was moving past my fears and putting the work out there.

About The Empath as Archetype

The Empath as Archetype by Elaine La JoieThe Empath as Archetype contains the first five volumes of The Empath as Archetype series by Elaine La Joie, including:

  • The Empath and the Archetypal Drama Triangle
  • The Empath and Shamanic Energy Work
  • Motivations of the Empath
  • The Empath and Shadow Work
  • The Empath and the Fan-Hero Family System

These books, written over seven years, are a compilation of case studies of Elaine's clients, and are now available in this collected edition.

Elaine begins with the Archetypal Drama Triangle, explaining the most common archetypal system humans can be caught in, but gives examples particular to empaths. She moves on to describing shamanic techniques including Soul Retrieval and Underworld Work, used in her practice to help her clients heal wounds common to empaths. Next comes a description of the most typical blindspots and faulty beliefs for empaths as described by the Enneagram Type Four and how to change to more productive beliefs and behaviors. In the final two volumes she explains particularly troublesome relationships in which empaths can become entangled, including the common family system that can produce the narcissistic personality.

The Empath as Archetype is available on Amazon.com.*

About Elaine

Elaine La Joie, shaman and certified life coach, has worked with empaths and highly sensitive intuitives for more than ten years. During that time she has helped empaths understand themselves and their relationships while using shamanic energy healing to resolve past traumas, including severe abuse. These books offer empaths insight into their relationship and into the hidden motivations of themselves and others so that they can understand their loved ones and create the lives they truly desire.

Please visit Elaine’s website at https://secure.clearreflectioncoaching.com for more resources for empaths.

Enter to Win an Autographed Copy of The Empath as Archetype

Elaine has graciously offered to give away three autographed copies of her book to my readers. Leave a comment on the blog about one of your own writing lessons or something you learned from Elaine's insights before Friday, May 12th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time and you'll be entered in the random drawing. Please note, you must be located in the United States to win.

 

* This is an affiliate link, which means my Called to Write business receives a small commission from any purchases you make using this link, and which I deeply appreciate.

 

Scared of Being Ungrounded by Success?

When you imagine yourself into your own future writing success, how does it feel? Is it exciting but terrifying, all at once? Do you imagine yourself changed irrevocably by your fame and fortune? Do you sense yourself being overwhelmed by attention, energy, and even money? Will you still be a good person?

Will success change you?

A Sneaky Kind of Resistance

I’ve seen in myself and others this terror of success manifesting as a very sneaky kind of resistance. We self-sabotage because we’re afraid we can’t handle the success. Another way to think of this is as an “upper limit problem,” where you thwart your future success by imploding in the here and now, even in the smallest of ways.

Does “I just don’t feel like writing today” ring any bells?

Under the terror is a fear of losing your very sense of self as a result of being successful. As if you'll be so overloaded with the intensity of success that you’ll transform into chaotic energy that floats you away into nothingness.

Sometimes we stop ourselves from writing because we’re afraid to fail.

And sometimes we stop ourselves because we’re afraid to succeed.

Symptoms of a Fear of Success

It could be as simple as procrastinating or being a perfectionist, but it might also look like taking on so many tasks that you can’t write, failing to do your best work, stopping just short of finishing project after project, fearing that you'll betray your loved ones if you succeed or are happy, or even allowing emergencies to erupt and backlogged work to accumulate so you can’t write (or write well) because you have too many demands on your time, space, and energy.

Interesting how those symptoms match both a fear of failure and a fear of success, isn't it?

Addressing a Fear of Success

But the solution for moving past the fear lies in understanding which fear it is.

Having a fear of failure means needing to adjust your mindset about what failure means.  

If you're struggling with a fear of success, though, the solution lies in bringing yourself into the here and now, into this moment, right now, reading this piece with me, and remembering that you get to decide how to handle your life. You’re the author of your present, and your future. You get to practice being grounded, centered, present, and calm, right now, right here. You get to make decisions and plans for your money, time, and energy now, so that when success arrives you're well prepared for it.

So just breathe with me, right now. Notice the air, the light, the sounds around you. Take a deep inhale, and then let it go. You don’t have to worry about the future right now, because you're getting ready to be your future self, one step at a time.

Your job, right now, is to calm and soothe yourself. To bring your attention back to the work you’re doing right now. The learning you’re having right now. One step at a time.

Enjoy it.

You may also like:

Upcoming 

 

* This is an affiliate link, which means if you sign up for the course after clicking it, I will earn a small commission, which I deeply appreciate. Thank you for supporting Called to Write!

 

Author Insights: 7 Lessons Learned From First-Time Non-Fiction Author of “The Horse Leads the Way” (+ an eBook Giveaway!)

And we're back! It's time for the next installment of our "Author Insights" series. In this series, I'm introducing you to writers who've taken their writing all the way to the finish line of publication, and they share their "lessons learned" with you. There's nothing quite like learning from a writer who has made to the other side.

Plus, if you leave a comment at the end of the post before Friday, April 14th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, you'll be entered to win an ebook copy of the author's book in a random drawing. 

Meet Angela Dunning, author of The Horse Leads the Way

I'm so happy to introduce you to Angela Dunning. Angela was one of my earliest coaching clients. I loved working with her to help her get in touch with her core, essential self and discover her life purpose and calling to work with horses. She was an ideal client, putting in the effort and earning the results we arrived at... and it was a memorable, magical moment when we lit upon Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) as her career direction. Since then, it's been a true delight for me to watch her career evolve and thrilling to see her publishing her book in her area of expertise. Honestly, words can't convey the excitement I feel seeing Angela bring our work to this level of fruition all these years later.

I asked Angela to share her insights about writing her book with us. 

Angela Dunning on 7 Lessons Learned While Writing The Horse Leads the Way

Angela DunningWriting my first ever book, a non-fiction handbook for my profession of equine facilitated practice, was one of the hardest and most challenging things I have ever done. I had no idea just what exactly was involved in creating and structuring an entire book. Having written articles and blog posts for many years now I found writing a book to be a whole different ballgame.

On top of this, the book’s focus was somewhat of a challenge for the industry it is aimed at, as I was attempting to question some current areas of practice and training, as well as hoping it would steer the profession back to a more horse-centered methodology. Gulp!

Many, many times I wanted to quit. It was too scary. Too hard. Too much work. And most of all, it took SO much longer than I had originally envisaged to really pummel and kneed the content into shape in a way that would be more palatable to the readers; not cause me too much trouble, and make it as easy and enjoyable a read as possible. On top of all of this, I had an unseen force pushing me on throughout. Maybe it was my Higher-Self/Soul, maybe it was also the horses themselves urging me on to express their concerns and needs, but something kept me going and would not let me quit. Whew…

So, here are my tips, having actually managed to successfully come out the other side of publication. I hope these tips will help and encourage other first-time writers, as I really felt this need myself as a first time writer. It was often a lonely and scary experience and hearing other writers’ experiences was both comforting and encouraging.

  1. Don’t underestimate how long the editing process takes. I found I did the initial main write in the first 6 months -- and this was a complete joy by the way! However, it then took a further 14 months of nothing but editing, restructuring, and proof-reading over and over again to complete the book.
  2. Avoid giving yourself arbitrary timescales for completion and publication. My biggest error all along was hoping it would be completed much sooner than it actually was. I had already begun talking openly in my networks about the book and its themes with some enticing social media marketing posts. But as the months wore on I had no energy to continue these as all my time and energy was taken up with the editing process. These arbitrary deadlines I kept giving myself in the end just caused me a ton of unnecessary stress and repeated disappointment. Now that I have a more realistic idea of how long it takes I wouldn’t even mention publication, book-launches and the like, until much nearer the end of the editing process.
  3. Find yourself a really good editor. Someone who can be completely impartial yet who can also understand your subject matter. Ideally this is someone who can see the bigger picture and help with structure, logic, and readability. If they also do an excellent job of proof-reading and technical editing, then great. If not, then find yourself a great proof-reader too. My advice would be to tackle the structure first, once you’ve got the bulk of your material written. Finalize the structure and flow, and only then move on to the proof-reading and final tidying-up phase.
  4. Don’t underestimate the amount of energy and commitment it takes to complete a book. It is a marathon and can be gut-wrenching a times. Many times you will want to quit, put it aside, do it another time. Having great support throughout this process is vital. You need friends and family to listen and empathize with you. And you also need really supportive cheer-leaders who you can go to when you feel low, and who will remind you why you are doing it and why your book is important.
  5. Treating the experience like it was my full-time job was vital, from the very beginning of sitting down to write the content right through to the grueling final months of editing and more editing. Making this commitment to myself and my life to finish the book was crucial. I let go of other assignments and greatly reduced my other commitments so that I could do this. For me personally, and for my mental wellbeing, this was essential to enable me to stay focused and committed to the end product and its purpose.
  6. Many people say this is like a birthing process. I absolutely agree with this analogy. The labor-pains I endured, which went on for MONTHS, were at times excruciating. Don’t underestimate just what it takes on all levels to write and publish a book. It takes self-care, nurturance of each part of the project, support from others, and ideally, a skilled publisher to hold your hand through those final, painstakingly slow weeks of design, further editing and layout before you even receive a hard-copy in your hands. The post-birth relief once it is finally out there though is immense and very much welcomed.
  7. Finally, I would also like to say that I have learned the post-publication period is a very important time for great self-care. Personally, I was exhausted and also a little down during this time. Suddenly I had nothing to focus on each day in such a concentrated way. There was an odd sense of emptiness permeating my days following publication. Coupled with a strange silence as the book made its way onto its readers’ bookshelves and into their hands. I had to now just sit back and wait for feedback and income.

    Being gentle with yourself in this period is vital. It is not all champagne corks and celebratory dinners, although these are great, of course. It is also a vital period for rest, recuperation, and time to reflect on the intense process you have just been through, and perhaps put your nearest and dearest through too. Be gentle, rest, and allow yourself to sink into the enormity of what you HAVE accomplished. It is not for the faint-hearted! Writing a book takes courage, faith, and guts. And it changes how you see yourself and also how others see you too. A lot is shifting occurs as a result of becoming an author in addition to the actual material you have produced and this takes time to adjust to and integrate.

About The Horse Leads the Way

The Horse Leads the Way by Angela DunningThe Horse Leads the Way undertakes a timely review of the rapidly growing profession of Equine Facilitated Practice (encompassing Learning, Coaching Therapy, and Psychotherapy but not therapeutic ridden interventions).

Part handbook, part personal story, the author blends embodied, grounded techniques and compassionate insights to gently guide this method back to its greatest teachers: the horses themselves. Using an approach which is firmly grounded in the view of the horses as sentient beings in their own right, Angela guides practitioners and training providers to employ methods which honor this right throughout all areas of their work. Not only does this protect and support their equine partners’ wellbeing and enjoyment of their work, but, she argues, it also brings maximum benefit to the participants as a natural consequence. It is hoped the book will mark an important turning in this blossoming industry’s future development.

The Horse Leads the Way is available on:

About Angela

Angela Dunning

Angela Dunning is a sensitive, intuitive horsewoman. She is also a healer, teacher, writer, community worker and consummate holder of sacred space. A graduate of Eponaquest® Worldwide and LEAP, she established her Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) practice, Equine Reflections, in 2007. She delivers private sessions, talks, workshops, taster sessions, supervision, mentoring, and training. She specializes in supporting women through navigating their own personal growth, reconnecting to their bodies, and reclaiming their true essence. Angela lives in Herefordshire, England and delivers her work in the UK and abroad by invitation.

You can find Angela online at www.equinereflections.co.uk.

Enter to Win an eBook edition of The Horse Leads the Way

Angela has graciously offered to give away 3 ebook copies of her book to my readers. Leave a comment on the blog about one of your own writing lessons or something you learned from Angela's insights before Friday, April 14th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time and you'll be entered in the random drawing. 

 

* This is an affiliate link, which means my Called to Write business receives a small commission from any purchases you make using this link, and which I deeply appreciate.

Perfectionism Is Lying to You

Writers don't always recognize the grip of perfectionism when caught in its vise. But perfectionism is a wicked master that keeps us from achieving our true potential.

I should know. I struggle with perfectionism too.

Perfectionism is a Coping Mechanism

I learned to be a perfectionist as a way to keep myself safe. If I did something correctly (as evaluated by my family), I was praised and validated. If I did something incorrectly, I was critiqued. That critiquing resulted in a lot of shame for me. Shame that I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't measuring up. There was an implication I'd embarrassed my family with my error (even if it was something as simple as arranging crackers inartistically). If ever I objected to taking part in something aesthetic, I was told, "but you're so creative." So I would comply out of sense of obligation and guilt. And then when if or when my creativity didn't measure up, I would go deeper and deeper into hiding and shame. And yet at the same time, I loved (and love) being creative. Such a trap!

So many writers have similarly intricate sets of creative wounds, and perfectionism as a coping strategy is the result.

Perfectionism Endangers Excellence

Either do it perfectly, or don't do it at all.

Perfectionism tells us there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. To do anything. Perfectionism doesn't allow for mistakes or failure. But those so-called "failures" and "mistakes" are where the greatest breakthroughs and innovations happen. We've seen this through history, science, and technology. The path to success is rarely a straight line.

When we court perfection, we endanger our own brilliance, excellence, discovery, and evolution.

Perfectionism Lies to You

Interestingly, writers who are perfectionists will often self-describe as being "lazy."

Perfectionism says you aren't good enough, you aren't trying hard enough, and concludes that you must be lazy or you would be working harder. And in fact, when you procrastinate on taking creative action, you might even look lazy. But that is a lie. 

The real reason you are procrastinating is that you are afraid you will not be able to do your work perfectly, so it's safer not to do it at all.

You are not lazy, you are terrified.

These "lazy" writers are also often the same writers with intense fantasies of landing on bestseller lists and high achievement.

Perfectionism also lures you into daydreams of massive success. Awards, recognition, fame. But rather than being motivating, these visions are also paralyzing, because just as before, you are afraid you will not be able to achieve this high level of success, so it's safer not to try at all.

Perfectionism likes black and white extremes. In perfectionism's eyes, you're either a massive failure or a massive success.

Perfectionism is lying to you.

Write Because You Love It

What if you were just you? Being your excellent, awesome self? Showing up, doing your work, writing because you love it, because you're called to it, not out of fear of blowing it or the hope of making it big? 

Instead of striving for perfection, strive for excellence through action. Allow yourself to fall, and get back up, over and over again.

Keep writing.

You can watch me chatting about perfectionism and productivity with Deborah Hurwitz in my upcoming interview for her free Productivity for Perfectionist's Virtual Summit coming up April 4 to 23. Find out more and register here.*

 

* This is a referral link, which lets Deborah know I sent you. I won't receive a commission for your participation in this free event.

Author Insights: 5 Lessons Learned from a First-Time Memoirist (+ an Autographed Book Giveaway!)

And we're back! It's time for the next installment of our "Author Insights" series. In this series, I'm introducing you to writers who've taken their writing all the way to the finish line of publication, and they share their "lessons learned" with you. There's nothing quite like learning from a writer who has made to the other side.

Plus, if you leave a comment at the end of the post before Friday, March 24th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, you'll be entered to win an autographed copy of the author's book in a random drawing. (IMPORTANT: You must be located in the United States to win.)

Meet Mary Montanye, author of Above Tree Line

I'm thrilled to introduce you to Mary Montanye. Mary joined my Called to Write Coaching Circle at the beginning of 2013 in order to finish the memoir she'd been working on for five years before she joined us. She's now tackling her next big writing dream with the help of the Circle: Writing a romantic suspense novel. Mary quickly became a staunch advocate for the approach we use in the Circle and joined the team as a coach after participating as a member of the Circle for about a year and a half.

I asked Mary to share her insights about writing her memoir with us. 

Mary Montanye on 5 Lessons Learned in Writing Above Tree Line

My memoir, Above Tree Line, took seven years to write and publish. During that time, I made a lot of mistakes. Here's what I learned and how I’d do it differently now.

1. Find support early in the process, but don’t let that support stop you from completing the project so you can move on to others.

I worked with a brilliant writer and teacher for much of the writing of Above Tree Line. I learned a great deal from her and will always be grateful for the time I spent as her student. But eventually I realized that somewhere in my work with her I’d become stuck. We were spending all our time together going over and over the same material — changing, tweaking, finessing. I began to wonder if my resistance to publishing and her desire to keep me as a student, might be getting in the way. I ended our working relationship and joined Jenna's Circle instead. I completed my memoir within a couple of sessions and moved into the publishing stage.

2. Don’t start at the beginning when writing a memoir. (This might be true for other types of writing as well. I’ll let you know when I finish the novel!)

Start anywhere you feel the heat — a memory, a taste, a color, an image, a sensation, a fragrance. Write from there. “She was born on August 16th at such and such hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii…” will bore you and make it more difficult to continue. Your reader won’t like it either. So why bother?

Let the first draft be all over the place. Let it be messy, filled with what was powerful and exciting for you. Ask yourself what interests you about your history or your family. Put it all in, even those parts you know you’ll never let stand. This draft is not the time to censor yourself. If you worry about what your readers will think, you might find you’ve left the gold in the ground and can’t remember where it was when you want to dig it up later.

3. Recognize fear and resistance for what it is — just fear and resistance. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a writer or that it is time to quit.

Fear and resistance got the best of me during the writing stage because I was not separating the creating of a project from the publishing or marketing of it. If I was in the middle of writing about a painful period of my childhood, for instance, and suddenly flashed on the idea that someday someone, perhaps even someone I knew and loved, would be reading it, I froze. I also stopped myself from writing when I’d compare my writing to that of others or when I read posts about the impossibility of publishing in the current marketplace. My coach and fellow writers in the Circle gently guided me back to what was in my power to do: write. Write the best story I could write now, they urged, and leave the rest for later.

4. When you share your writing other than with friends and family, it’s a pretty safe bet that someone won’t like it, that you will get rejections or negative reviews.

I was devastated when a woman who reviewed my memoir for a contest said that, even though the writing was good, she didn’t like either me or my husband. She was a stranger and still it hurt that she didn’t like me and that I’d portrayed my husband as unlikeable as well, at least in her eyes. I made this one review more important than it was — even more important than the complimentary reviews I’d received. A negative review almost stopped me from ever sharing my writing with anyone again.

The lesson in this for me, and I hope for you, is that if you write honestly, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable on the page, you will affect people. And that’s what we want, right? It’s okay if some of our readers don’t approve, like the writing, or even us. Feel your feelings about the review. The Circle and my coach helped me with this, too. They shared my pain and helped me to put it aside, to  continue on.

5. Keep at it. If you have a desire to write, you are meant to write. Jenna would say you have a calling, and we both believe that callings are meant to be followed.

When I held my published memoir in my hands, felt the weight of it, and flipped through its pages, it was one of the greatest days of my life. I was so proud. I wish you the same experience. No matter where you are in your writing, no matter how unsure you may feel, keep going. Get help if you need it, but whatever you do, don’t give up. It is so worth it!

About Above Tree Line

From Amazon.com: "The traumas and losses of childhood are often buried. The child grows up appearing normal, unscathed and perhaps even successful. But often what is buried comes back to attack at the very moment when life is reaching its pinnacle. This is the story of one woman’s spiral downward into physical and mental breakdown and her return to wholeness by courageously, and some would say recklessly, following her intuition. Ms. Montanye’s intuition leads her to a tiny town in a Colorado canyon alongside the wild and scenic Cache La Poudre River. There, she immerses herself in the grandeur and beauty of the surrounding mountains. When her journey begins, no one involved can know that it will lead to such a powerful and bittersweet end: an end that includes healing for herself, her marriage and for the difficult relationship she endured with her mother."

Above Tree Line is available on:

About Mary

Mary Montanye, her husband, George, and two rescue cockers, Pepper and Chrissy, live on the central Oregon Coast where Mary gratefully writes and coaches while often resting her eyes on the beauty of the natural world that surrounds them. Mary has a master's degree in clinical social work from the University of Iowa and counseled individuals and families through nonprofit agencies and her own private practice for many years before retiring and following her dream to write. Mary now coaches other writers in the Called to Write Coaching Circle and is working on completing her first novel.

You can find Mary online at www.marymontanye.com.

Read more from Mary on Called to Write here.

Enter to Win an Autographed Copy of Above Tree Line!

Mary has graciously offered to give away 3 autographed copies of her memoir to my readers. Leave a comment on the blog about one of your own writing lessons or something you learned from Mary's insights before Friday, March 24th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time and you'll be entered in the random drawing. You must be located in the United States to win.

 

When to Write and When to Call It a Day

I've been sick too much this year, and thought it worth revisiting one of my favorite articles from 2013 on "when to write and when to call it a day." Here's an updated version for you:

During a live coaching call for my Circle, a writer once asked about how to know when to push through and write if you're not feeling well versus how to know when to focus on regaining your well-being.

In my opinion, the answer depends a bit on the circumstances, so let's look at some specific scenarios.

1. You've just come down with a wicked cold or flu.

Assuming you have a solid, regular habit in place, when you get really sick or you're just those early stages of wretchedness, it's okay to take a few days off from writing, knowing that you'll get back to it as quickly as you can.

When I'm feverish, wiped out, or worse, I know the most important thing I can do for my body is to rest and heal.

I have found myself writing even while sick at times -- because I felt truly drawn to work on my piece -- but in this case my focus is very much about listening to my body.

This is very much like being an athlete, and knowing whether or if to train when you're sick or injured, and when to take a day off.

I also trust myself enough deep down, after months of regular writing, to know that I'll re-establish my habit as soon as I am able, usually within 2 to 3 days. The longer you're away from your habit, the harder it is to get going again, so it will behoove you to pay attention to starting again quickly, even if you start small, such as in 15 minutes a day.

2. You're going through a rough patch in your life, you're generally tired or run down, maybe you're not sleeping very well, or maybe you're mildly sick.

On the other hand, if the chips are down and you're having a rough time in your life, maybe you aren't sleeping well, or maybe you're getting better from that wicked cold or flu, I'm inclined to recommend that you simply ease up on your writing time a bit, but still keep writing. When I've gone through particularly difficult phases in my personal life, I've made a point NOT to stop writing, but to carry on at my "rock bottom minimum" level of writing.

As a writer, it's worth knowing what that minimal level of involvement is with your work for you -- the amount of writing that will keep you engaged and connected to the work. For me, it's a minimum of 15 minutes of writing a day, even if it's morning pages just to keep writing flowing, though ideally it's on my main project. For another writer, it might be 5 minutes or 60 minutes. It varies between individuals, but the point is, know what YOU need to do to sustain your connection to the work even during a challenging phase.

I gained tremendous confidence and strength from seeing myself commit to and show up for doing the work every day, no matter what.

In concert with easing back to your minimum, when you're going through a phase like this, make a point to ramp up your self-care. Put sleep, healthy food, good hydration, fresh air, and exercise at the top of your list and get yourself back into balance. But do stay connected to the work.

3. You're in a bad mood or someone said something terrible to you and your confidence is shaken.

A common refrain among writers -- particularly those of us who are more sensitive and easily affected by other people and experiences -- is "I'm just not in the right mood to write today." This can particularly come up if you've lost confidence because of something someone said about your writing or if you've been hooked by the Comparison Monster ("Everyone else is doing so much better at this than I am!"), or even if you're just in a crummy mood.

Hear this now: As one of my Circle coaches once said, "There's a difference between self-care and mood."

Being in a bad mood is NOT a good reason not to write.

Let's face it, you wouldn't be here, right now reading this, if writing was easy to do.

As Steven Pressfield says, "It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write."

Don't let a bad mood or a rough day become an excuse not to write.

There are far too many reasons to resist and procrastinate about writing, and if anything, I think we need to err on the side of writing more regularly and consistently than not.

As Brian Johnson says (via Jack Canfield), "99% is a bitch. 100% is a breeze." So hang in there, do the work, and make it easier on yourself. (A side note: A weekdays-only practice at 100% works.)

You'll most likely be pleasantly surprised that your level of productivity and your ability to create are not at all related to your mood.

In fact, you may find -- as many of our Circle members do -- that your mood may well shift when you write anyway, and if even if it doesn't, you'll still have demonstrated your commitment to yourself, which is deeply affirming and happiness-building.

(See also my post called "You Can Change Your Life in a Split Second.")

4. You're going through a painful period of loss, grief, or personal anguish.

At another end of the spectrum is experiencing an extreme loss -- like a death of a loved one. When my grandmother died in 2012, I felt as though I was in another world -- approaching the veil of life and death on some level -- and I found it very difficult to write fiction in yet an entirely different world. So I choose to take a few days off from "real" writing, though I did do a tiny bit of tinkering with my script one day.

On the other hand, Steven Pressfield recommends writing even during times of "personal anguish" in his excellent post of the same title.

He says, "I’m not saying pain is good. I’m not advocating screwing up our lives for the sake of art. I’m just making the observation that our genius is not us. It can’t be hurt like we can. Its heart can’t be broken. It’s going to send the next trolley down the track whether we like it or not."

My experience is that those few brief days of being between worlds while in grief are the only spans of time in which I have felt truly unable to write, and then, just as I've said above, I still get back to writing as quickly as possible.

5. You need to refill your creative well.

All this said, I am a firm believer in taking big "put my feet up" days off. I love to pick out a day on my calendar when I can feel the need building up, that I block off "just for me." I take my son to school, and then proceed to do whatever I feel like doing, which usually involves some combination of a fantastic herbal or decaf beverage, a movie in bed, a nap, maybe a meal at a favorite restaurant. It might also involve going shopping at a beloved and inspiring store, like an art store or museum shop. Whatever it is that feels inspiring and uplifting.

On these days, I fully, completely enjoy my Not Writing time, and I know I'm replenishing and rebuilding to dive back in the next day.

Your Turn

The bottom line, for me, is that each one of us needs to experiment, listen to our own bodies and inner selves, and find what works best for us. And, like I said, given the massive opportunities for resistance, fear, avoidance, procrastination, and self-doubt, my strong recommendation is to find a way to stick to your work as regularly and consistently as possible. What do you think? What works for you? Leave me a note in the comments.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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This article was originally published in January 2013 and has now been republished with revisions.

 

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