In a large measure, becoming a writer consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.” Art & Fear by Bayles & Orland
I know self-acceptance is the key to getting your creative work out – out of you, out into the world, out damn spot. But it’s so difficult to access that sweet little truth when I’m having a run of crappy writing.
(The irony is not lost on me.)
But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill crappy (I whine). It’s more like moving through concrete fog wearing high heels crappy. More like working for hours on a guest post and ending up with… nothing crappy. More like laboring over a 150 (150!!) word tidbit for a friend for an hour crappy.
You know the worst part? It feels like it did when I first started writing. I feel so inexperienced and clumsy.
Hmmm… I feel.
Flashing lights! Sirens! Red alert! “I feel” is a GIANT CLUE it’s time to pour on the self-kindness and get on my own side. Why? Because I am confusing me with my work.
I am not my writing.
I am not my work.
You aren’t either. (You also aren’t what you ate or didn’t eat today, what you weigh or don’t weigh, who loves you or doesn’t, if you meditated or didn’t… get the drift?)
We are not what we do. We are essential unstainable goodness.
We just forget. A lot.
Next time your work is going in the crapper, here are few reminders to refresh:
1) Review how you are working and the state of your physical self-care. Are you trying to do more than is humanly possible each day and thus feeling like a failure? Are you eating a lot of sugar or drinking Diet Coke because you feel badly about your creative product? Are you distracting yourself while you work to take the pressure off? Cool and today would be a good day to gently notice how this might be making the crapper worse. Just notice my friend. I’ll wait and I won’t check email while I do.
2) Speaking of product, forget it. Focusing on product too easily becomes: I am good if they like it, I am bad if they don’t. That will crap you out faster than comparing yourself to whomever is the hot writer/painter/teacher of the moment. Instead, direct your gorgeous attention to what you can control – one hour focused on your novel, check; making a color chart for your next painting, check; practicing the guitar before breakfast 5 days a week, check.
3) Heal your creative shame. Do a “Hiro” and ask the part of you that is afraid, ashamed, or hurting to teach you about its pain. Write down what you hear. Ask this part of you what he or she needs to feel safe. Offer it what it asks for if you can. Next make a voodoo doll of everybody who has ever shamed your creative joy, and come over to my house and we’ll have a glorious bonfire on the beach. (Take that Mrs. Moore!)
4) Lower your standards. Everybody knows the poet William Stafford’s wonderful story about lowering your standards. If you don’t, come here, and I will tell it to you before we write and take pictures and bend our bodies. In the meantime, lower your standards. Then lower them some more.
5) Read journals of other creators process.I love Steinbeck’s journals, Paris Review interviews, Mark Salzman’s True Notebooks (about what he did to get out writer’s block). Tell me in the comments your favorites, please.
6) Bonus! Stop reading anybody who makes you feel less than or bad about yourself. Yes, it’s your projections that are causing you anguish but why do it to yourself? Unsubscribe, unfriend, whatever.
Most of all, my dear friend, let’s join hands and pat each other on the back. We are brave! We are strong! We are Shero’s! We are not NOT our work. And we are not I REPEAT NOT, going anywhere.
Be good to you, my creative friend, and I will do the same.