Creativity

For when you are resisting writing

I’ve been really resisting my writing lately.

When that happens, it’s usually a sign I’ve made the process too hard – harder than it needs to be – probably by creating too many rules or expectations for myself, instead of just letting it happen.

I’ve been using motherhood as an excuse. I’ve been saying I’m too tired, too overwhelmed, too busy. ‘Excuse’ is definitely the right word. I’ve been using other excuses too: I don’t know what to write about, the writing isn’t any good, I’m just not in the mood, it’s not like it’s going to go anywhere anyway.

I’ve journaled about the writing, thought about the writing, talked about the writing – even painted about the writing. I’ve reorganised and tidied the house, shopped for books online, researched new recipes, watched reality baking shows on TV and had many naps.

In short: I’ve done everything to avoid writing.

But in doing so, I’ve just become more resistant, more afraid to write. Now, I know there’s only one thing for it: to write.

You see, I’d forgotten one of the basic steps to writing: start where you are, with what you have. So, okay. Here I am: in the space of resistance, and I’m over it. And what do I have? My own experience, right now, of resisting, of wanting to write anyway, of finding a way through the fog.

And so, I write.

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Creativity, Self Empowerment

Use your voice, share your story

I love that line from the Tori Amos song:

Sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years.

That’s how I feel about my own voice. It’s been here, but for most of my life it was silent. Or rather, it was screaming at me for attention inside, but I never listened, so I never shared it, and mostly remained ‘silent’ in my life.

How do I know? Because for the longest time I felt a deep aching down in my soul – one I tried to fix with shopping, or food, or men, or booze, or work. None of that worked, though. It only ever took me further away from my voice.

No, I only really started listening to my voice when I began my daily journaling habit. Because when I did that, showing up every day, I couldn’t ignore it or hide from it anymore. I finally heard what it was saying. And what it was saying was that it wanted me to speak: to share myself, to share my story, my life.

Now, though I don’t always journal, I try to write every day. Writing is what frees my voice, it’s the way I speak my truth to the world.

Sometimes I doubt my voice. I think that no one will want to hear it. Maybe they’ll think it’s too whiny, or self-indulgent or just irrelevant. Maybe it will remind them how they are ignoring their own voice and that will be too painful for them, so they won’t want to hear it.

But I hope that they will hear it and feel less alone in the world. That is the greatest gift I’ve found when other people share their stories with me.

We each have a voice, a story to tell. Using our voice and sharing our story is one of the most empowering things we can do for ourselves. It’s our way of taking up space in the world, our way of of claiming and declaring our own importance. Because if we don’t, no one else will do it for us.

Every single one of us matters and has something to say that is worthwhile. How we say it is up to us: in a memoir, a blog post, through fictional characters in a novel, a poem, a song, a greeting card, a letter, in conversation with friends, in a wedding toast, through the imagery of art like painting, drawing, or photography, or through some other form of self-expression such as dance.

To use your voice and share your story doesn’t have to mean in words – although it can.

It’s about expressing your unique soul, your vision and your perspective. In doing so you share universal truths that help others to heal, to grow, to expand and to ultimately listen to their own truths. This is what using our voice and sharing our story gives back to the world. Natalie Goldberg said:

In knowing who you are and writing from it, you will help the world by giving it understanding.

I used to wonder if I had truly ‘found’ my voice. This is something many writers worry about.

But I know I have – because here I am, using it to express my truth. As long as I keep expressing who I am in ways that fill me with joy and purpose, then I am using my voice.

How do you use your voice? How do you share your story with the world?

If you’d like some help learning to free your voice and share who you are in writing, then come check out our writing group.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Write about whatever you want – it’s all valid

On Sunday night I took myself out on a much-needed ‘me date’. I went to see I Feel Pretty at the movies, then went to a cafe and wrote in my journal for over an hour.

It was lovely.

I realised something profound as I wrote: I’ve never really given myself permission to write about the things that interest me, because they don’t seem good enough.

I think it was the movie that allowed this realisation to surface. It’s about a woman living in New York who doesn’t think she’s very pretty, then she has a head injury and her perception of herself changes, and ultimately her life changes as she lives with more confidence. On the surface a reasonably trivial topic, but of course something many women can deeply relate to and possibly learn from.

I thought, my ideas are no more trivial than this film – love stories set in in New York (of course) about women finding themselves and their paths in life, coming to terms with who they are, etc. I’ve had some of these ideas for 15 years and I haven’t really taken them seriously.

Why is it that I don’t believe my ideas are very good, but Hollywood movies churn out loads of things like this – ‘chick flicks’, basically. And the same goes for ‘chick lit’. Something about these genres doesn’t feel… like ‘proper’ art.

I’ve also noticed some reservations within myself when it comes to writing about motherhood – as if that, too, isn’t a ‘real topic’. I didn’t expect to become a ‘mommy blogger’ after giving birth – I guess I always kind of looked down on that style of writing. What?! Now I have so much to say about motherhood I just can’t stop myself.

Is it simply that I always question my own talent and ideas, or is it something else? Is it a deeper societal message that stories about women, stories by women, stories that explore the experience of being female, are considered more trivial? In all honesty I didn’t make the connection until I sat down to write this.

The truth is, though, there is a lot of value in these stories. I recently devoured a memoir on motherhood in three days, simply because the story spoke to me at a deep level. And films like I Feel Pretty don’t go on to be successful simply because they’re funny – but also because they strike a deeper nerve in women worldwide.

So I give myself permission. I can write about anything I want – and so can you. None of it is trivial if it’s burning inside us to be written. We might think that no one will want to read it, that it’s stupid or boring, but I can assure you that if you feel called to write it, then it needs to be written.

What are you holding back on writing about? What ideas of yours do you think aren’t valid?

Creativity

How to develop a writing practice

Writing is hard work. It might seem easy: a few words on a page, pen to paper or fingers on keyboard. But while the tools are simple enough, getting them to do what you want is not always straightforward.

On developing a writing practice

The foundation of ‘being a writer’ is writing practice. It’s like a musician doing scales, like a runner warming up for a run.

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says that writing practice is ‘the bottom line, the most primitive, essential beginning of writing… It’s our wild forest where we gather energy before going to prune our garden, write our fine books and novels. It’s a continual practice.’

If you are serious about improving your writing, you will continue to practice – not refuse to do so because you ‘already know how to write’ (something I did for years). Goldberg says, ‘don’t stop doing writing practice. It is what keeps you in tune, like a dancer who does warmups before dancing or a runner who does stretches before running. Runners don’t say ‘Oh, I ran yesterday. I’m limber.’ Each day they warm up and stretch.’

In A Writer’s Book of Days, Judy Reeves describes the practice like this (which I love): ‘When you show up at the page and put in the time day after day, you learn to trust your pen and the voice that emerges as your own. You name yourself Writer. By taking the time for writing practice, you are honouring yourself as writer…You learn what you want to write about and what matters to you as a writer. You explore your creative nooks and crannies, and make forays into some scary places that make your hand tremble and your heart beat faster. This is good. This is when you are writing your truth, and that’s the best writing anybody ever does.’

So writing practice will be our baseline – our daily ritual to practise being a writer – to be a writer.

Writing practice will be done daily, for a set amount of time. It is entirely up to you what time you write for. I do ten minutes as my standard time, but on a really rushed day I might do 3 minutes. If I had a whole free day to work on my writing (ha!) then I might take 30 minutes. Experiment with different times and change them if necessary. Better you show up for 2 minutes and write your heart out every day than only twice a week because you think you should write for 30 minutes each time but can’t really fit that in.

Reeves says, ‘be flexible – create a schedule that works for you, so that when practice time comes, you accept it as an ongoing, necessary part of your life as a writer and look forward to it as a gift to yourself.’

Here are Reeves’ rules for timed writing practice (from A Writer’s Book of Days):

  1. Keep writing. Don’t stop to edit, to rephrase, to think. Don’t go back and read what you’ve written until you’ve finished.
  2. Trust your pen. Go with the first image that appears.
  3. Don’t judge your writing. Don’t compare, analyse, criticise.
  4. Let your writing find its own form. Allow it to organically take shape into a story, essay, poem, dialogue, an incomplete meander.
  5. Don’t worry about the rules. Don’t worry about grammar, syntax, punctuation, or sentence structure.
  6. Let go of expectations. Let your writing surprise you.
  7. Kiss your frogs. Remember, this is just practice. Not every session will be magic. The point is to just suit up and show up at the page, no matter what.
  8. Tell the truth. Be willing to go to the scary places that makes your hand tremble and your handwriting get a little out of control. Be willing to tell your secrets.
  9. Write specific details. Your writing doesn’t have to be factual, but the specificity of the details brings it alive. The truth isn’t in the facts; it’s in the detail.
  10. Write what matters. If you don’t care about what you’re writing, neither will your readers. Be a passionate writer.
  11. Read your writing aloud after you’ve completed your practice session. You’ll find out what you’ve written, what you care about, when you’re writing the truth, and when the writing is ‘working’.
  12. Date your page and write the topic at the top. This will keep you grounded in the present and help you reference pieces you might want to use in something else.

What you write about is up to you, but in order to make things easier I’ll provide a list of daily topics each week. Rather than spending 10 minutes thinking of what to write, I recommend you use the day’s topic: write it at the top of the page, set the timer and write about the first thing that comes to mind – trust it.

Reeves recommends taking the topic as a starter and changing it to work for you, if necessary: change the tense, the narrative point of view (from I to he, from she to you, or use names), turn the prompt into dialogue, write about it in a literal or metaphorical sense, work in whatever genre calls you in the moment – take it and make it work for you.

To get started, I think it might be worth exploring why you want to write. In your writer’s notebook (yes, you have permission to get a new notebook, don’t use your journal because it’s different – something we will cover next week) answer this:

  • Why do you want to write, why do you want to commit to a writing practice?
  • What do you hope to get out of your writing?
Creativity

Make the start of 2018 beautiful

Let’s make the beginning of 2018 beautiful.

I’m going to use these simple prompts to get into my journal every day for the month of January, even if all I manage is one line.

Perhaps you’d like to join me?

Beautiful Beginnings Graphic 2018 1

Simply write the day’s starter and see where it takes you. See what comes up, where it leads. If you end up totally ‘off-topic’, then that’s fine! Trust that whatever comes up needs to be expressed.

If you feel like it, share your journaling on social media using the hashtag #beautifulbeginnings2018 – or come join us in the Journaling Dangerously Facebook group and share there.

Here’s to a beautiful start to 2018!

Creativity, Meaningful Work

How journaling helps you take action towards your dreams

I love dreaming. I love setting goals, making plans, getting excited about the possibilities for the future.

When it comes to taking action, however, I often falter. I let fear stop me. I struggle to break out of my usual habits and routines to do something different. I let inertia keep me where I am.

I have found journaling to be the number one tool to keep me accountable and help me take positive action to move towards my dreams. For years I would have these ideas for how my life could be different, but I never did anything differently. I wanted to leave teaching and have my own business. I wanted to build and live in a tiny house. I wanted to own my own piece of land. I wanted to write and create often.

Journaling regularly forced me to confront myself. It highlighted the incongruity I was experiencing—wanting something and not doing anything about it.

That’s why so few of us actually take action towards what we say we want: we don’t actively acknowledge that we say we want one thing, then do something else. While we are usually dimly aware of this, we don’t confront it often.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and creator of morning pages says, ‘it is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions’.

But if you turn to the pages of your journal often enough, you will be forced to confront this: you say you want X, but you keep doing Y. It will create a sense of cognitive dissonance – an uncomfortable feeling when you realise how much your dreams and actions conflict with each other.

Slowly, you will find a way to make small changes. You will come to see the absurdity of what you’re doing now and how it is completely incongruent with the life you say you want, and you will start to do things differently. You will take action.

Eventually, your life will come into alignment with the vision you have in your mind’s eye. One day you’ll look around and realise that you’re living the life you once imagined you could live.

Creativity, Meaningful Work, Spirituality

Letting my intuition be my compass in business

honest and authentic

This morning my intuition spoke to me, clearly.

It was unexpected, while I was doing something else, as is often the case.

I was making coffee and thinking about what I want to achieve today. I was thinking that I should write a blog post, that proper bloggers post regularly and share helpful things like ‘Five ways to ditch self-doubt’ and ‘How to get more energy in three simple steps’, and my inner creative self just shriveled up at the thought of it.

I hate the pressure I sometimes feel as a blogger. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing. It’s one of my main passions. I love putting words on the page and expressing my deepest feelings. Actually, most of my journaling is written. But I hate feeling like I should post, and like I should share something that is catchy, useful, inspiring, entertaining… because most of the time I don’t have things like this to share.

I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about life coaches – that they have it all figured out – that’s why they are coaches. Not at all: coaches aren’t experts, and if you come across one who claims to be, please don’t give them your money. Coaches don’t have the answers – not for you. They have the tools to help you find your own answers inside.

And that’s one thing I am good at – listening to my own answers, from my own inner wisdom inside.

As I was making my coffee, I thought, I wish I could just blog like I write in my journal: tune into my intuition and let it flow, see what it has to say. Just as I trust my intuition to offer answers in my journal, I wish I could blog in much the same way.

And then my intuition spoke. It said: you can.

I’ve been longing for more authenticity in my work. I’ve been longing to be seen more, to share who I really am, to let my guard down.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed about how I’m just one tiny voice in a massive sea of people all clamouring for attention, and feeling like I will never be heard. Every time I open my inbox there are another 15 emails from people launching a new course or product, asking for my money. I don’t want to be one of those people, but at the same time I want a flourishing business and I want to help people. I also need to, you know, buy food and stuff.

I recently read this fascinating article about how to make your business and brand stand out and it spoke to me:

As the face of your brand, you have an automatic advantage because you ARE inherently different. You bring to the table a unique perspective, a different set of life experiences, a distinctive personality. You are what makes your business and brand distinctive – and so by bringing more of YOU into your business and brand, standing out becomes second nature.

After doing some work in my journal I realised that what makes me, me – that is, what makes me unique – is my sensitivity. The reason is this: I have very strong feelings about things. I care a LOT about things, I am extremely passionate and opinionated, easily excited… but I seldom share this passion and excitement because I am (most of the time without even realising it) trying to construct a certain image. I’m trying not to offend people. I’m trying to remain palatable for everyone. But of course, this means I’m not really being my whole self.

While I’m busy trying to write blog posts that are catchy, my own voice is lost. I’m never going to be heard this way.

my truth

So when my intuition nudged me this morning to try writing from the soul, instead of writing what I think people want to hear, I was curious. This is the result: a piece of writing that is true and honest. Because, what’s the point if what I’m writing isn’t true to me?

This is how I want to blog: in the same way I journal. Show up, let my intuition speak, see what it has to say. Some days it might offer ‘three simple tips’ for something, other days it might ramble and make little sense.

But I am SO SICK of trying to fit into the online business world and be something I’m not. One of the main reasons I chose to grow my own business and work for myself is to work in a way that honours who I am – not to find another mold I need to try and fit into.

If I can’t be authentic in my own business, where can I be? If I can’t let my soul speak in my creative work, if I can’t just be myself in my online space and in the way I interact with others online, then what’s the point? I may as well go back to a more stable paycheque as a teacher!

Really I think this comes down to trust – trusting your intuition. Trusting what it has to share. This is all fine and good in your own journal, when no one else is going to read it, but what about in a blog post? What about online, in my business, where I’m supposed to be ‘professional’?

What if I really leaned into this?

What if I trusted my intuition to share worthwhile content and messages, not just for me in my journal, but here, on my blog, in my business, with others?

What if my intuition doesn’t just have something that is necessary for me to hear, but for others too?

What if I really let this be my compass in my work?

The advice we are given is that we have to find a way to stand out, that people are more distracted and busy than ever, that unless we write something catchy we won’t get their attention.

But what if I just write what my soul wants to share, regardless of whether or not it gets multiple pins? What if I trust that being authentic, speaking from the heart and sharing my truth is enough?