You are a good writer. Really.

Point Reyes National Seashore by Britt Bravo

“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.

BUT

Just because those things are true, doesn’t mean you’re not a “good” writer.

Sometimes it’s the striving to be a “good” writer that stops people with amazing things to say from sharing them.

They stop writing because:

  • Their writing doesn’t sound like what is conventionally considered to be “good.”
  • Their first draft doesn’t read like a final version (which is impossible!)
  • Their writing doesn’t receive heaps of praise
  • Someone tells them they aren’t a “good” writer

None of these are reasons to stop writing if you have something you want to say.

Because we write all day long, from emails to grocery lists, we forget that writing is a creative process. When you write, you are making something out of nothing.

That nothing, where creativity comes from, is mysterious. It does not give up words and ideas on command. You have to be very kind to your creativity. It does not respond well when you say:

“Write something right now that everyone will say is amazing.

Go!”

(One hour passes)

“What is this dribble?

Forget it.

You are not a good writer.”

What your creativity does like, is when you say:

“Hey there, mysterious creative process,

Wanna hang out today?

I’d like to write a blog post/article/poem/website copy/book, so I’m going to show up for x amount of time on x day(s) each week and see what we can come up with together.

Over time, I’ve learned that you particularly like it when I write at x time of day, in x place, with x music playing, and x snacks/drinks on hand, so we’re going to try that today (I realize you might change your mind about any of those things ’cause that’s how you roll!).

Because I’m hoping this will evolve into some kind of long-term relationship, I’m going to make some promises to you, OK?

I promise to give you space to write an incredibly messy first draft before I come in there with a red pen and chop it up.

I promise to be open to the original and unique ideas you want to share and how you want to write about them, even if they don’t look, or sound like what is considered to be “good” or “right.”

I promise to remember, as our friend Tara Mohr teaches, that criticism (and praise) often tell us more about the people who give them to us than they do about our writing.

I promise that if we decide we want help with editing our writing, we will hire someone who will edit our work so that it sounds like us, not like them.

I promise to be a faithful friend and companion. I will never abandon you. I will show up regularly during good times and bad because I know we have a lot to say.”

Don’t let judgment about what is “good” and “bad” writing stop you from sharing your ideas.

The world is a hot mess right now.

We need all kinds of voices and ideas and writing to find our way through.

We need you.

***

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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.

What if you could be self-promotional and be of service?

Green means go by Britt Bravo

One of the themes that stood out for me from your responses to last week’s Calling All Healers survey was the resistance to self-promotion:

“Social media is an obstacle because I resist it. It’s a time sink and feels self-promotional.”

“Sometimes it’s challenging for me to promote myself.”

“It can be challenging to balance out the ‘self-promotion’ aspect that seems like there is a lot of for myself/business”

At first, I was surprised that this was an obstacle, but then I realized it totally makes sense. If you are a solopreneur who is promoting your individual, personal, and sometimes hands-on and face-to-face services, it can feel vulnerable to say: I’m the one who can help you.

Also, if you’re a healer, you may tend towards taking care of others, thinking about others’ needs before your own, and being of service. Directing attention towards you may feel uncomfortable, unnatural, or even “wrong.”

But what if you could do both: be self-promotional and be of service? To do so may require you to look at your beliefs:

1. Do you believe in yourself and what you’re offering?

If you don’t believe that you can help someone, well then, yes, it’s going to feel pretty icky to put a spotlight on your work because deep down you believe that their hiring you would be a bad idea. Post something by your computer so that when you sit down to work on marketing stuff, you remember how your work has changed lives (e.g. notes/testimonials/photos from clients you’ve helped).

2. Do you believe that telling people about your work makes the world a better place?

A core value of many healers is to “be a force for positive change,” or to “improve people’s lives,” but if someone who needs your help doesn’t know about your work, how can you improve their life? When you are feeling resistant to promoting your work, imagine one of your clients before they came to you, lying in bed and in some kind of pain or suffering and thinking, “Who can help me?” Make it easy for the people who need your help to find you. Self-promotion is part of your “mission” in the world as a healer.

3. Do you believe how you self-promote can be a form of healing?

Every tweet, Facebook update, Instagram photo, YouTube video, e-news issue, blog post, webinar, advertisement, interview, and promotional event can make someone’s life better. It’s possible for all of those things to be beautiful, or inspiring. It’s possible for all of those things to help someone solve a problem, learn something about themselves,  laugh, or feel a powerful emotion. And it’s possible for all of those things to help someone find you after they’ve searched and searched for healing help.

When a person is unwell physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, they may not have all of their usual resources to figure out and find what they need to feel better. One of your jobs as a healer is to make it easier for people who are suffering to find you.

Believe in yourself and what you’re offering.

Believe that telling people about your work makes the world a better place.

Believe how you self-promote can be a form of healing.

Self-promotion of your healing work IS a form of service.

Please take my anonymous 10-question Calling All Healers survey. I want to learn about your Big Vision for your healing work in the world, what comes easily, and what your challenges are.

Image: “Green Means Go” by me.

Calling all healers

purple-spring-flowers

Since the election, when I’ve been thinking about how to best be of service during this time, I’ve heard a little voice in my head say, “Help the healers.”

At first, this didn’t make sense to me, and then I thought about how divided we are as a nation. How the election has caused some people to lose friends and family members. How high stress levels are. We need healers, people who excel at making people and things whole again, more than ever.

The word “heal” comes from the Old English word hælan, to, “cure; save; make whole, sound and well.” If you consider your work to be healing (e.g. alternative medicine, art, bodywork, coaching, counseling, environmental, mediation, meditation, nonprofit, religious, social work, spiritual, teaching, therapy, western medicine, writing, yoga), I’d love it if you would take my anonymous 10-question Calling All Healers survey. I want to learn about your Big Vision for your healing work in the world, about what comes easily, and what your challenges are.

If you know of other healers who might be willing to take the survey, please pass it on to them.

Thank you!

P.S. If you’re a healer, you might like a post I wrote last summer, 7 Social Media and Online Marketing Tips for Healers.

Photo by me.