May you be kind to your writing self

“When we resist doing our art it’s because we’re resisting some deeper truth we’re not ready or willing to face. So when we find ourselves in that spot, we need a big dollop of self-care, kindness and compassion in order to be willing to create again.” ~ Chris Zydel

The term “inner critic” gets thrown around a lot in relation to the creative process. All kinds of suggestions are given for how to quiet the voice that tells you that what you’re making isn’t good enough.

We’re told to talk to our inner critic, write a letter to our inner critic, draw a picture of our inner critic and throw it in the trash, etc.

For whatever reason, inner critic exercises have never worked for me. It reminds me of working in a classroom with a student who has behavioral issues. If you put all of your attention on that child, especially negative attention, things go sideways for the whole class. Giving one’s inner critic a lot of time and energy has always felt like the wrong strategy to me.

So then what do you do if while you are writing, or making art, or creating anything the voice in your head keeps saying, “This is not good enough.”

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How can you use social media to lift us up?

Do this . . .

Don’t do that . . .

Listen to this . . .

Don’t listen to that . . .

Read this . . .

Don’t read that . . .

Think about this  . . .

Don’t think about that . . .

Believe this . . .

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You are a good writer. Really.

“I’m not a good writer.”

I hear this often from my clients and students.

Does writing come more easily to some people than to others? Yup.

Does writing take practice? Yup.

Can having someone edit your work improve your writing? Yup.

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Weeding, Small Steps, and Finding Time

As the season of intense rain in Northern California winds down, it’s time to face the tremendous amount of weeds taking over our front yard. This medium-sized triangular patch is full of sprawling clover, tough grass, dead dandelions, and scary spiky plants.

I actually like gardening. When we first moved into our home, I took an adult education course on native plants in California, and put in a few, but then I got so busy with work and life that the yard filled up with weeds again. I’d let them grow so high and wild that when I had a free weekend to pull them out, I could only clear a small patch.

Some years, I’d hire someone to remove the weeds, but then I didn’t make time to put in new plants, or keep up with the weeding, and the weeds returned.

Each day when I walk out the door, I feel a little sad when I look at our front yard. “Someday I’ll have time to create a nice garden/yard/flower patch,” I sigh. But it never happens.

This has been going on for over 10 years.

Someone recently suggested that I spend a half an hour each day weeding. “I know your schedule is super busy, ” she said, “Just give it a shot.”

I could think of all kinds of reasons this wasn’t going to work:

  • What if . . . I can’t get my work done because I took time to weed?
  • What if . . . I get so dirty I have to take a shower? I don’t have time for that!
  • What if  . . . I’m not strong enough to pull out all the weeds?
  • What if  . . . that mean-looking plant with the thorns attacks me?

Blah, blah, blah.

This past Monday, I turned the volume down on the “what if” recording and just did it. I set my iPhone alarm for 30 minutes and pulled weeds. Although I didn’t make a massive amount of progress, it was enough that when I walked out the front door on Tuesday morning, instead of feeling sad, I felt happy. “Well, look at that,” I thought, “I’m getting a little closer to what I want.”

On Tuesday afternoon, after I finished my work for the day, I spent another 30 minutes weeding, and on Wednesday another 30. Between each weeding session, I’d find myself thinking about what section I was going to work on next, when in the day I was going to do it, and future projects that could make our yard nicer.

Because I only weeded for 30 minutes each time, I wasn’t as wiped out as when I would try to tackle the whole yard in a weekend. In fact, I usually wanted to do more when the 30-minute timer went off.

Why am I telling you this story about weeding?

As I was weeding, I started to think about other large projects I’d like to accomplish in my life, and how much progress I could make if I set aside 30 minutes each day, which, if I actually did that for 365 days, would add up to 182.5 hours per year.

I’m thinking that there is probably a writing, or creative project, or business goal that you’ve wanted to do for a long time, but you can never find the time. One of the most common responses to my Calling All Healers survey was that many of you are part-time entrepreneurs either because you have a part-time, or full-time day job, and/or you are a part-time, or full-time caretaker to a parent, and/or children. Making time for your writing, creative work and/or business is a challenge. Perhaps trying a version of the 30-minute weeding experiment can help you make progress towards one of your goals.

It really helps that I can see the progress I’m making, so if you’re working on a project where the results of the time you’re spending isn’t immediately evident; create something visual to represent it, like the equivalent of a fundraising thermometer. You can see some ideas in my Pinterest search results for a “visual goal tracker.”

What is a writing, or creative project, or business goal that you could experiment with spending 30-minutes a day on?

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

Photos by Britt Bravo.

Are You Hiding Your Writing Behind Busyness?

I haven’t posted in a while for a number of reasons that could be tossed into the bucket we call “busyness,” but the reality is, I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block, and being busy was easier than dealing with it.

Ironically, being busy is a terrible way to move through writer’s block. As Brigid Schulte observes in, “Why being too busy makes us feel so good”:

“[N]euroscience is beginning to show that at our most idle, our brains are most open to inspiration and creativity.”

Our bodies and minds are built to expend energy and rest, expend energy and rest. In “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive,” Tony Schwartz shares that when he wrote his first three books, he sat at his desk for up to 10 hour a day, and each book took him a year to write. Then he changed how he worked:

“For my two most recent books, I wrote in three uninterrupted 90-minute sessions — beginning first thing in the morning, when my energy was highest — and took a break after each one.”

He completed each of those books in less than six months.

In the United States, being “busy” can be a status symbol, as well as a privilege. As Tim Kreider writes in “The ‘Busy’ Trap”:

“[I]t isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed. . . . They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.”

So, if we find that we’re not writing, or creating in the medium of our choice because we’re “busy,” perhaps we need to: 1. Take more time to rest, and 2. Ask:

What don’t I want to face on the blank page that busyness has helped me to avoid?

Photo by me.