Beginning Again (and Again)
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Do you ever want to hit the reset button and begin again? I certainly do, especially when it comes to my writing practice.
As many of you know, November was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and although I wasn’t working on a novel, I resolved to at least touch my writing every day in November. Well, that lasted about two weeks and then life got in the way. We each have our own version of this, but you know what I mean—our resolutions disperse into the atmosphere like so much cosmic dust, barely remembered except for a nagging sense of something missing.
This morning after I wrote in my journal, I decided to flip back through some earlier entries and came upon a few nuggets of wisdom I wrote in October while I was on retreat at the Highlights Foundation’s retreat center (for more about Highlights, see my last post). I thought I would share them with you just in case they could be helpful—if you, like me, have trouble clearing time in your schedule for writing.
Coaching the Artist Within
Eric Maisel is a psychotherapist and creativity coach who has written more than 25 books on creativity. These include Fearless Creating, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Creativity for Life, and—the book I have been working with—Coaching the Artist Within.
What I am about to share comes from the very first chapter, “Becoming a Self-Coach.” There are two techniques to master in this chapter, both deceptively simple:
Chatting with Yourself: Place two chairs opposite each other. When you sit in one chair, you are presenting as the artist/writer with a problem to solve (e.g., I’m not making time to write). When you sit in the other chair, you become your own creativity coach. You ask questions, like “Why do you think you’re not writing?” Then you go back and forth between the chairs with your dialogue. And yes, it is important to use two chairs! It really helps you access the different parts of yourself.
Deciding to Matter: Say “I matter,” or “My creative work matters,” or “My writing matters” 20 to 30 times a day until you get it. You may find one version of this more difficult to say than another. Perhaps examine why that is, and definitely pick that one!
Insights & Strategies
I realized in the course of my own dialogue that, for me, a “real” writer is someone who practices her craft for some period of time each day. (This is how I define it for my own writing life, not for anyone else’s.) So I decided that I want to show up in some small way every day and allow whatever comes.
However, I also realized that I get blocked sometimes (by fear, procrastination, inertia), and that I needed to have a few strategies available to achieve my goal. Here are the strategies I listed:
Write to a prompt. (There are many writing prompts available, both in books and online.)
Pull out my notebooks full of short pieces and find something to revise.
If I’m working on a novel or piece of short fiction, write a character study or description of place, etc.
Pick a writing book and work through the exercises.
Follow wherever my curiosity leads. Research and write about it.
When I’m finished with one writing session, jot down ideas for how to begin the next one.
I also decided to create an affirmation for when I sit down to write:
I am one with the Great Creator, and my writing is flowing freely, easily, and joyfully.
In the end, here's what I came up with to help me begin again:
Show up to my writing in some small way every day.
Use the above strategies to overcome fear of the blank page.
Say my affirmation and/or “My writing matters.”
Celebrate every time I show up.
That’s it! Now it’s time to hit the reset button. (In fact, I think I just did!) If you find yourself in a similar situation, I hope you will find these tips helpful. Let me know what you think!
Question: What strategies do you use to get back to your writing?