Tag Archives: writing

Finding Inspiration Within

For a writer, sometimes the scariest monster–the killer of inspiration–is the BLANK PAGE.

When we are trying to start something new, or finish something we’ve started in the past, finally committing and sitting down to write something can be horribly intimidating. Our inspiration dries up and cannot be found. At these moments, sometimes the best thing we can do is to walk away from the beast. Sometimes, in order to be productive with our writing, we need to step away from it and feed our soul.

What do you do to feed your soul? For me, I love to sit with my horses or go for a long trail ride. Sometimes, I like to work on something specific in the dressage arena or tackle that thing I have been avoiding to reach my equestrian goals.

Other times, I like to sit down to draw, or do crafts. In the past, I have spent time doing cross-stitch, embroidery, beading, and coloring when the words don’t flow. Doing tasks that require a different kind of concentration and focus often allow our subconscious to let go, to unlock and set free our imagination. The dam is broken and the river of thoughts and ideas that have been bottled up breaks free.

Recently, my father passed away. Dealing with the emotions of that loss, and all of the other stuff that comes along with the death of a loved one has made it difficult for me to get motivated to write. But in the sorrow, I’ve found inspiration. My father was a wonderful and brilliant man. He was a scientist and a painter—gifted with a combination of skills that many of us only dream about.

I think my father used his art as a way to keep himself inspired in his scientific work, and when he retired, as a way to keep his creativity alive. He was feeding his soul and creating beautiful things. Since his passing, I’m inspired to do the same. I feel more in touch with myself, more in tune with my feelings and emotions, and more sensitive to the world around me. This heightened sensitivity has helped me in the mourning process and has also helped me to find inspiration every day, in things great and small.

I’ve enrolled in a colored pencil “painting” class. The reason the instructor refers to the pencil work as “painting” is because the technique she employs–burnishing–makes the pencil drawings look like oil paintings. I don’t have the time or the talent to pursue oil painting like my father did, but I still feel like I can create something beautiful. And, in making that beautiful thing, I am feeding my soul, luring back the inspiration to work on my writing projects.

So when you are on a deadline for your writing, either your own deadline, or one that perhaps an agent or editor has set for you, and the beast of the blank page is looming, step away. Take a walk in the garden. Smell the roses. Spend time with one of your animals, either in activity or in stillness. Light some candles in the bathroom and take a bubble bath. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Meditate. Go for a run. Paint something. Do whatever it is that speaks to you to refresh your mind and your spirit. Then go back to the page and just start writing–anything for ten minutes–and voila! No more blank page.

You’ve slain the monster. Now go on and write your masterpiece!

Fear Series #4: Fear of Failure

Woman holding hands over face in failureFear of Failure. We’ve all faced it at one time or another. But, does it stop you from doing what you feel you are meant to do, or called to do, or simply want to do? Like writing that book you’ve always wanted to write. Or perhaps, sharing your experiences and stories in a blog. Maybe it prevents you from querying an agent, or editor, or diving into self-publishing.

The fear of failure can be immobilizing. It can prevent us from reaching our goals, and sometimes prevents us from setting goals. It can stop us from living our dreams and doing the things we want to do or need to do in life. It can also prevent writers and would-be writers from expressing their thoughts and feelings through their words, or sharing their message and stories with others.

What does failure mean to you? Maybe it means that others won’t accept you, or believe you, or like you. Maybe it means you will be laughed at or ridiculed. Maybe whatever it is you want to do won’t be perfect. (Is anything in life?) Maybe it means you might not get that agent or book deal that you want. Well, you might be right.

So then what?

You can either choose to give up in the hopes you will never fail again, (not possible) or you can accept your failure, learn from it, and see the opportunities that might arise from it.

Here are some tips I hope will help you confront and manage your fear of failure. The tips come from my experiences with AFT, (The Aroma Freedom Technique) some practical advice I’ve received from others, and from my experiences in dealing with my own fear of failure.

#1) As with the first step in AFT, we must set an intention.

This intention should be something you intend to do if you knew—beyond doubt—you wouldn’t fail. Write a book. Publish a book. Start a blog. Write a newsletter. Query your dream agent. Get the picture? Write down your intention.

#2) Write down what failure means to you, as mentioned above.

woman writing in journal

#3) Identify where that fear of failure came from.

Unsupportive or critical parents? A bad teacher? Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past where you failed and had difficulty recovering. Maybe you lost a job over your “failure.” In AFT we try to capture what the negative voice in our heads is telling us. Or, pick a moment in time when we had the same emotions of unworthiness or despair. Write down what you came up with.

#4) Next, write down the absolute worst thing that can happen if you “fail” at whatever it is you want to accomplish with your writing.

What will you lose? Did you really need it anyway? How long will this affect you? Forever? A couple of weeks, days? Be honest with yourself.

#5) Establish what you have control over.

You have control over what you do with your writing. You have control over what you wish to share. But, can you control what others think, say, or do? If you could, how would that be satisfying? Maybe if you are a narcissist it would be satisfying, but I know you aren’t!

#6) Understand that others have this same fear. Even extremely successful writers. The difference is, they’ve made the choice to not let their fear of failure hold them back. One of my favorite Ted Talks of all time is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating.” You can find it here. I hope you are as inspired by it as I am.

#7) Write down what positive things you’ve learned from failing – no negativity here.

Did it help you to change direction or try something different? Maybe it caused a falling out with someone who only brought you down or made you feel bad about yourself. Failing is an opportunity to better yourself, learn, reflect and plan. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone fails. It is what you do with that failure that counts.

 

 

Fear Series: #3 Fear of Revealing the Human Within

naked woman hiding in dark - fearing exposureFear of self-exposure and fear of rejection go hand in hand. In exposing our innermost thoughts and feelings through our writing, we are risking criticism, ridicule, and rejection.

Is fear of exposing your true self holding you back from writing your message or your story? It’s not an uncommon problem. When we write, we pour ourselves into the work. We leave some, or a lot, of ourselves on the page for all the world to see. This can be intimidating and overwhelming. When we think about who might read our work–our parents, our children, our colleagues etc., and what they might think of the work, or us, after reading it can sometimes prevent us from writing what we are called to write. Here are some things to keep in mind when you fear self-exposure.

1. You have control over what you reveal.

If you are writing a memoir or any other piece of non-fiction that is personal, it is important to know you have complete control over what you reveal. That said, be aware that what you are afraid to write about may resonate with someone else. If it is your aim to help others through your work, in exposing your experiences, good and bad, you may reach someone who is going through or may have experienced the same thing. You can be of service to that person. You can connect with that person in a profound way. Isn’t that what sharing your work is all about?

In fiction, we can “hide behind the curtain” so to speak. We can put ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences into the development of a character. We can also recreate experiences we’ve had, and unless we divulge it, the reader will never know if it was our experience or not. Still, if the emotions or experiences are particularly painful, it can often feel as if we are exposing a part of ourselves we don’t want people to see.

In writing my historical mysteries I often use people from my life to portray a character. Many of my antagonists have been crafted from people whom I didn’t like, who have done me or my loved ones harm, or who are just negative, not very nice people. I used to fear that if my work got published that person would recognize themselves and get their feelings hurt. I expressed this fear to a critique group once, and someone said, “they don’t see themselves the way you see them. They would never recognize themselves in the character.” That statement made complete sense to me. It also made me realize the people I used to create my antagonists were not “bad” people, they just exhibit bad behavior because of past wounds or their own negative experiences.

2. You are human and others will relate to what you expose.

We are often not alone in our embarrassments, our bad behavior, our negative thoughts and feelings. When we expose ourselves, either outright or through our characters, we are sharing our human nature. That is how our readers will connect with us. Also, it is important to remember, it’s not about you. When a reader picks up a book, they are looking for an experience for themselves, one they can relate to—the good, the bad and the ugly. You are simply providing the mirror of their own human experiences.

3. You won’t please everyone.

Will someone hate your work? Probably. Will someone love your work? Probably. This is the area where you have NO control. Just like you cannot control what people think of you, you cannot control what they think of your work. Writers and many other creative people often share the trait of wanting to be liked by everyone. Writers and artists are driven to do what they do, and they want people to like and accept what they do. This is something we cannot control, so we shouldn’t try. Do your best, put your words on the page, be proud of what you do. Don’t let the one or two naysayers crush your dream. Sometimes people love to find fault. Remember, this isn’t about you, it’s about them.

4. Look at the negative things people say about your work with objectivity.

Try to view the criticism, and your work, as an observer. Take yourself out of the equation for a few minutes. Ask yourself, is this constructive or destructive criticism? If it is constructive, and you feel your work will improve by listening to the criticism, brush yourself off and learn from the experience. You have control of what you do with this information. If the criticism is destructive and makes you feel ashamed, put down, or threatens to make you quit writing, put it out of your mind. Forget about it and move on. If you can’t do this, distance yourself from the work and the criticism for two weeks. Go back to it and see if you feel any different.

Discerning between harsh, constructive criticism and destructive criticism can be difficult, because neither one feels very good. We all get destructive criticism from time to time. This goes back to tip number 3. Some people live to find fault. Consider the source and then move on.

woman smelling flower - no fear of exposure5. Celebrate the positive things people say about your work.

Take in the positive. Pick the positive flowers of what people say about your work, bundle it all up in a bouquet and water it often! Write those positive affirmations down in a journal, or better yet, write them on a sticky note and place it on your computer, or your bathroom mirror. Keep your rejection letters and highlight the positive remarks. Sometimes when we hear three wonderful comments about our work, and one terrible comment, we focus on the terrible one. Don’t let this play into your fear of self-exposure.

One of the best pieces of advice I have received about fear of self-exposure is to write your book, your essay, your blog post, etc. as if no one will read it. That is called writing your first draft. Then go back and decide what you feel most comfortable revealing, and what you feel the least comfortable revealing, and go from there. Good writing is re-writing. You have the power and control to share what you want.

Fear Series: #1 Fear of Writing Emotion

photo of girl at computer. Fear of writing emotion.Fear. That overwhelming emotion that can save us from danger, but also holds us back from doing what we desire, or in many cases, what we must do. Many writers and would-be writers, suffer from all kinds of fear. Fear of self-expression, fear of criticism, ridicule, rejection, and sometimes, fear of facing and writing down their own emotions. Fear stops writers from finishing the book they’ve always wanted to write, or prevents them from sharing their message with the world through their words.

In this series on fear, we will delve into the different kinds of fear that hold us back from writing and sharing our stories and messages with the world.

One of the most painful and debilitating fears that writers face is the fear of their own emotions. Sometimes writing takes us back to a memory that is too difficult to face. Or, in telling a story, we have to tap into darkness or depression to make our story believable and relatable. In fiction, we must live the pain and suffering that we create for our characters. In non-fiction, we have to face a painful subject matter, or reach back into our own painful experiences to share our message.

The more we get comfortable with the discomfort of the intensity of our emotions, the more we can tame them. When you face your emotions, you control them instead of your emotions controlling you.

Here are some suggestions to help you break free from the fear of facing your own emotions to do your best writing. If you have access to them, essential oils are terrific for support in facing and confronting, and breaking free from emotions that hold you back. The oils I will suggest are singles and blends from Young Living Essential Oils, but you might be able to create your own blends but you can use other brands of essential oils. I also use the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) that utilizes essential oils to help me confront difficult emotions that I need to use in my fiction. See here for more information on AFT.

[It is not necessary to use essential oils in this process. If you do not have access to essential oils, make sure you are in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Listen to soothing music, grab a nice cup of tea, and sit in a comfortable chair, or on a soft cushion.]

Have a notebook handy to write down your experiences and feelings while going through this process.

Identify the emotion. Is it sadness, fear, loneliness, depression? Essential oil to use: Clarity. Ingredients: Basil, Cardamom, Peppermint, Coriander, geranium, bergamot, lemon, ylang-ylang, jasmine, roman chamomile, palmarosa.

Identify where the emotion comes from? Why are you afraid to express yourself? Did it come from a painful memory or experience? Are you afraid to express yourself because of how you perceive others will react? Essential oil to use: Inner Child. Ingredients: Orange, tangerine, ylang-ylang, royal Hawaiian sandalwood, jasmine, lemongrass, spruce, bitter orange, neroli

Give the emotion, the memory, or the perceived situation, your full attention. Lean into it. Breathe into it. Essential oil to use: Ingredients: Acceptance. Ingredients: Orange, frankincense, ginger, clove, myrrh, cinnamon, spruce.

Write down how the experience makes you feel.

Let the tears and/or fears come. Welcome them. Essential oil to use: Release. Ingredients: Ylang ylang, olive, lavender, geranium, royal Hawaiian sandalwood, grapefruit, tangerine, spearmint, lemon, blue cypress, ocotea, jasmine, blue tansy, rose.

Observe the emotions, but don’t get caught up in them. Imagine you are on the banks of a stream watching those memories, experiences or perceived experiences float on the current. Essential oil to use: Present Time. Ingredients: Sweet almond, bitter orange, black spruce, ylang ylang.

Write down what you are feeling.

Now that you have faced that emotion and are in the state of that emotion, it’s time to free yourself from it. I don’t’ want you to stay in a dark or scary place!

Think of something good or positive that can come from your writing. Is your message something that can help others? Is your story entertaining, or innovative in some way? Will people get enjoyment from it? Essential oil to use: Abundance. Ingredients: Orange, patchouli, clove, ginger, myrrh, cinnamon, spruce.

Jot down why do you feel the need to write your story or message? Then write down why you are the only person to write this. Do you have a special talent or special knowledge about your subject matter? Do you have information to provide? Do you have skills to share? Essential oil to use: Envision. Ingredients: Black spruce, geranium, orange, lavender, sage, rose.

Relay your story or message as if no one will ever read it. Pour yourself into it. Share all of your gifts, talents, and knowledge. Let your imagination take off. You have a gift, or knowledge, or experiences, that make you qualified to share your writing with others. Remember, you won’t be able to please or impress everyone, but if you can reach a handful of people, or even one person with your story or message, you’ve succeeded! Believe in yourself. Believe in your writing! Essential oil to use: Believe. Ingredients: Idaho balsam fir, coriander, bergamot, frankincense, Idaho blue spruce, ylang ylang, geranium.

See my last post on “The Five Elements to Unlock the Mystery of Writing a Book.”