Share your input + be entered to win

I’m working on prepping a class called “Called to Write: How to Align Your Daily Actions with Your Soul’s Deeper Purpose” and I’d love to have your input.

If you can spare a few minutes of your time to fill out a short survey, I would be grateful!

Everyone who participates will be entered into a random drawing to win a print copy of The War of Art or Turning Protwo of my favorite books by Steven Pressfield. Multiple copies are available, courtesy of the lovely Callie Oettinger at Black Irish Books, so there will be multiple winners!

The drawing will be held on Wednesday, August 26th and winners will be announced then.

You can enter the drawing and participate in the survey by clicking here.

Thank you so much!

Riding the emotional ups and downs of writing

IsabelHoltremanNote from Jenna: This guest post from one of my screenwriting colleagues and best friends, Isabel Holtreman. Isabel is a talented writer and is one of my most trusted feedback sources, both for my writing itself and for emotional support around the challenges of writing. I’m thrilled she was willing to take the time to talk with us today about navigating the emotional ups and downs of writing, and how she does it.

Be sure and leave a comment at the end of the post and let us know what inspired you.

How to Ride the Emotional Roller Coaster of Being a Writer

by Isabel Holtreman

I’m in marketing mode. I’ve never really taken marketing seriously until now, but it’s that time — the time where you realize that you must push yourself out of the realm of amateur and finally go pro.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some emotions coming up around where I am in my writing career:

  • I miss working on story, something I can’t seem to do while I’m marketing. It engages a different part of my brain.
  • I feel like an imposter, like at any moment, someone will find out that I’m not a writer at all, but some big fake who’s trying to fool the world.
  • I’m elated when someone asks to read my work, but am devastated when a few days go by without a request.

I experience a similar thing when I’m in writing mode:

  • I feel like I should be marketing something, because if I don’t, I’ll never make any money as a writer which will negate my newly acquired professional status.
  • I feel like an imposter, like at any moment, someone will find out that I’m not a writer at all, but some big fake who’s trying to fool the world.
  • I’m elated when story is flowing and everything is clicking, then devastated when I get stuck or can’t find a way to solve a story problem.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I’m sure it does. Being a writer is hard work. And I’m not just talking about the work itself. It’s difficult to stay even, to function in society, to not allow ourselves to fall into the pit of despair, and keep ourselves from paralyzing.

So, how do we deal with this emotional roller coaster without driving ourselves or our loved ones insane?

And perhaps even more importantly, without giving up on the dream?

Well, once again, we have to be willing to hunker down and do the work. Whether you decide to do the work on paper as I do (or on a computer) and journal, or decide to talk to someone, the fact is, the emotions must be acknowledged, brought to the surface, and observed for all they really are: Feelings.

Feelings are not ultimate truths.

They are simply clues, little alarms that lead us to overcoming our fears, and it’s our job to allow the feeling to flow, jump into our logical minds and say “Oh. Wow. There’s that feeling again. Okay, it’s just a feeling,” then take a step, ANY STEP toward overcoming it and moving forward.

Here are a few tips that have worked for me:

  • Cry. I know, I know. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s a quick way to get the feelings out. Set a timer and cry for 5 minutes, then wipe your eyes and write a sentence. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in a journal or novel or script. The act of writing breeds more writing.
  • “It’s just a feeling, it’s not truth.” I repeat this phrase to myself a lot. It helps to help put feelings into perspective and understand that an emotion is just an emotion, a temporary, fleeting thing and that it doesn’t have to stop me.
  • Give yourself a break. There’s no use trying to power through if your emotions are overpowering you. For those minutes or hours when you’re feeling at your lowest, step away from the work and connect to your heart, your humanity. Playing with a child, going for a walk, kissing a spouse, getting a hug — all these things put our lives into perspective and help us to realize that writing is what we do and not who we are.
  • Journal. This has been the single most effective tool I’ve used for dealing with my emotions, period. Allow your feelings to flow on paper or on your computer for as long as you need, then ask yourself this question: “How can I turn this around?” With a little practice, you’ll find a ray of hope that will pull you out of your fear, anger or sorrow.

All of these tools do one very important thing: they teach us how to step back, observe, and process emotions while we’re still feeling them, which almost immediately reduces their power over us.

The roller coaster of emotions will always be part of the writer’s life, but with a little perspective and a few good tools, we can minimize the ups and downs, find a little peace, and get back to work.

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Isabel Holtreman is an optioned screenwriter and consultant with a master’s degree in screenwriting from Cal State.

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Thanks for reading!

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

 

           

           

How to claim–or reclaim–your identity as a writer

If you’re struggling to claim your creative identity as a writer — or to reclaim it — there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Write regularly. Consistent daily writing will help you find your way back to your writing identity. Binge-bust writing patterns don’t create a sustainable sense of identity. Writing on a regular basis does.
  2. Introduce yourself as a writer. Decide that you are a writer and say so when you talk to people. If you’re on social media, put “writer” on your account profiles.
  3. Validate yourself as a writer. Stop looking for permission outside yourself to known or validated as a writer. Reward yourself for overcoming the resistance to writing EVERY DAY.
  4. Be clear about what it means to be a writer. Try on the idea that writers write. And then make sure you’re doing that. Try letting go of the idea that you have to be paid before it “counts”. Or published. Or on the big screen. Writers write.
  5. Take your dream of writing seriously. Don’t treat it as something to be shoehorned in around the edges. Design your life around your writing — not the other way around. Align all your levels of experience (surroundings, beliefs, values, actions, etc.) with your writing.
  6. Look for positive messages about writing. There are lots and lots and LOTS of people out there ready and willing to tell you how impossible it all is, that you/they will never make it, and it’s too hard. Choose to put yourself around people who know there is always a way in, even if you/they haven’t found it yet.
  7. Surround yourself with other (positive) writers. Your consciousness is affected by the people around you. Put yourself in situations where other people see you as a writer (classes are a great place to start). If you’re on social media, fill your feed with writers. Hang out with writers — but make sure they’re the writers that know that succeeding as a writer is possible.

Thanks for reading!

I always love to hear what you think in the comments.

If you’re in Berkeley, join me this Friday for a workshop at HackerMoms called “Claim Your Identity as a Writer.” This special in-person workshop will be a combination of a “green fire” release ceremony to let go of our old identities and an NLP process to integrate the new writer’s identity we want to hold. http://bit.ly/HM-writer-identity

Warmly,

 Jenna

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When are you a writer?

Writers often come to me saying that they haven’t bought in to the notion of being a writer “yet.”

If you’re feeling that way, the reasons can run the gamut.

It can come up when you aren’t writing consistently.

Or it may be that you feel like you aren’t a “real” writer because you haven’t been published, sold anything, or been hired to write anything — yet. Or that you’re not earning your full time living from your writing yet.

It can also come up in the way that you think about yourself and who you are in the world.

The two most powerful words in the Universe

The two most powerful words in the Universe, according to my spiritual teachers, are “I am.”

“I am” is a phrase we use to define ourselves.

When it comes to writing (or any endeavor of the heart, for that matter), how are you describing yourself?

I shudder when I see people say, “I am a struggling filmmaker” or “I am an aspiring writer.”

I do not think that means what you think it means

My shudder may be more apparent to you when it comes to the first phrase, “I am a struggling filmmaker,” but just in case, let me explain. “I am struggling” is the key phrase in that sentence, not “I am a filmmaker.”

The phrase, “I am struggling” sets you up to experience, focus on, and even seek out struggle. Our subconscious minds are like drive through window servers, saying, “And would you like a side of fries with that struggle?” 

Your subconscious mind doesn’t judge or evaluate the quality of where you are putting your attention or whether it is the “right” thing for you. It simply sets out to fulfill the request. “Okay, struggle, let’s see, how can I create some of that?” And voilà, it’s yours.

Similarly, in the second example, “aspiring” is the key word. When you say you are an “aspiring” anything, you’re coding your subconscious to keep you perpetually in the mode of aspiration — never actually reaching or achieving.

The debate ensues

I’ve had some interesting debates about my point of view with people online on this subject. One writer was very proud of and attached to the notion of struggle. He felt like he never wanted to give up the struggle to write, because it showed his determination to wrestle with the challenge of it all. I can see that.

I’ve also wrangled with a few folks over whether or not it’s “fair” for writers who haven’t been published yet to claim the “title” of writer. To them I say, and what of the script jockey who may never be “published” (if their work doesn’t make it to the silver screen) but are paid for their work? Or what of the writer who toils religiously for years without compensation or recognition? Are they not writers? Are they not engaged in the act of writing?

And what if you’re not writing consistently?

For the writers in waiting who want to write but feel unjustified in claiming the title because they aren’t writing much or at all, the difference will come when you begin writing regularly.

“Writers write” is one of those brilliant truisms that applies best in spirit. By that I mean, the very act — the practice of writing regularly — is what brings truth to the title.

When you want to write

I’ve said before that Joss Whedon (a screenwriter I admire very much who wrote Firefly, Serenity, and The Avengers) almost did me in when I saw that he had said, “You either have to write or you shouldn’t be writing.” At the time I wasn’t writing “enough” (my own standard) and I felt that since I wasn’t driven by passion to write frequently and fervently, maybe I didn’t have what it takes.

Wrong.

What I lacked was the knowledge of the basics about being a productive, consistent writer. I didn’t have the tools I needed to know where to start, or how to manage myself in such a way as to be an effective, regular creator.

Permission is everything — and it comes from within

I also held back from giving myself permission to claim the title of writer.

In the end, they came together. I did some NLP work on my creative identity as a writer and redesigned my life and my work around my writing (I can help you with this too, coming soon).

And once I was taking regular action to write, I became the writer I know myself to be.

Your turn

I always love to hear from you. What do you think, when is a writer a writer?

Warmly,

 Jenna