As a coach who works with writers and creatives worldwide, I’ve yet to meet a writer who isn’t hard on themselves at some point or another: questioning, doubting, and wondering about the quality of their work, their ability to succeed, the possibility they might fail, and more.
While each of these writers thinks they are alone in their doubts, I submit to you that it is normal, and that if fear or doubt isn’t coming up for you, you may not be working at your creative edge.
Learning means being outside your comfort zone
As Brian Johnson, creator of the Philosopher’s Notes, points out, “Learning and mastery is all about engaging in activities that challenge us and move us out of our comfort zone — not *so* much that we’re out of control, but enough so that we’re stretching as we master a new skill.”
He quotes Daniel Coyle from The Talent Code as well, who says, “Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways — operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes — makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them — as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go — end up making you swift and graceful without you realizing it.”
It’s a shame so many of us hesitate when it comes to doing this kind of deep practice, because we expect ourselves to be perfect straight of the gate, the minute we put our fingers to keyboard. (No wonder so many writers procrastinate, right?)
What if we approach writing a different way?
What if we think, “This is hard, I must be learning”?
I think we naturally doubt when we push ourselves creatively, and it’s up to each of us to find the balance between keeping the doubts in check without holding back our writing. Read on for a suggestion about how to do that.
Change the conversation about your writing
Part of changing the way you approach your writing is about changing the conversation you have in your head about it. In my Writer’s Circle, every day I ask my writers to note what negative thoughts came up and to write a simple (believable) reframe of each one. It’s a refreshing way of clearing out the crud, the old programming, the limiting beliefs, and the self-doubt, and making more room for inspiration and creativity.
When you train your brain to realize that the limiting way you’re thinking about your work is not the truth, you up your game and your ability to do better.
A tool you can use
Here’s a tool you can use to change the conversation you’re having about your writing.
Whenever you notice a limiting thought, jot it down. At the end of your writing session (or before, if you’re having trouble getting started), ask yourself these questions:
- Is it true?
- Does it support me to have this thought?
- Who would I be without this thought?
- What’s a new more supportive, believable* thought I can choose instead?
(And by the way, write this all down, it makes amazing shifts in your thought-process to see it in black and white, because it gives you a perspective you’re otherwise lacking when the negative thinking is going around and around in the spin cycle of your brain.)
Let’s look at an example:
A niggling thought that comes up for people frequently is: This isn’t good enough.
So let’s put that thought to the test:
- Is it true? Maybe.
- Does it support me to have this thought? No, not really.
- Who would I be without this thought? I would be someone who persevered and did everything she could to make her writing the best she could.
- What’s a new more supportive, believable* thought I can choose instead? I’m committed to making my writing the best it can possibly be.
* Make sure you choose an alternate statement that is not simply the inverse of the limiting thought or a positive affirmation you *think* you *should* have. Instead, look for something you can get behind and believe in.
Give it a try
This week only, through Friday, September 28th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, if you’d like to give this a try with me, I invite you to post in the comments a limiting thought you’ve been having about your writing. I’ll be standing by to help you reframe it, though I encourage you to give it a try on your own first. Feel free to be anonymous if you like. I look forward to hearing from you.
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