Writer Beware: Speed Bumps Ahead

There are moments when a writer feels blocked. No words come. The story stalls. You’re staring at a brick wall. Every writer needs their own bag of tricks for overcoming Writer’s Block. (One of the best: a deadline.)

Speed Bumps

You might not have heard of another writer condition, one similar to Writer’s Block, but it differs in a significant way. I call it Writer’s Speed Bump, and knowing how to treat it is critical. Continue reading

Embracing Your Fears

One of the hardest things to do when you’re trying to move forward in your life, is to not allow the fear you’re feeling in the process to hold you down. So many times as a writer, and a child abuse survivor, I found myself feeling trapped and suffocating from my own personal internal fears. They crept in my mind, infesting my thoughts. For a while, I truly didn’t believe in myself and gave up on me all together.

I know that I’m not alone in this. As creatives, we do take all the criticism and negative dialogue to heart. Getting back up when our fears are screaming to stay down before the same thing happens again, is paralyzing. I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I’d had enough and wanted to live in a world where I could breathe and just embrace those fears, and was ready to learn how.

After years of study, mentors, following the lead of positive role models, and making myself more of a priority, the shift began. I started to truly understand why I had my fears and how to see them as a confidante rather than an enemy. My fears haven’t gone away. The difference is that now I can function and still keep pressing forward, knowing that fear is essential, and for that I’m grateful.

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I want to share what I’ve learned so far with you. Keep pushing forward and know you have people rooting for you. You are not your fear.

  1. Recognize your fear and call out to it. Get clear what you’re afraid of? It can be anything. A lot of times our fears are like an onion that has multiple layers. Is it spiders, clowns, natural disasters, death, being betrayed, getting too close to someone, loss, or rejection.
  • What happened to create this fear?
  • How’s it holding me back?

If you’re going to let go of fear you have to recognize them first. It’s called gaining consciousness. When you start to feel yourself getting a little anxious or fearful. Stop and take notice. Think to yourself. “Oh, here it is. I’m starting to get freaked out.” Then instead of reacting on your instant emotion…breathe, and see what’s going on around you that could be creating this element for you. Watch how your body reacts to the situation for future understanding. By doing this you start to disengage from the fear as the ultimate reality. It helps you to realize that you are NOT your fear.

Fear is like a fire alarm alerting you to check something out. It propels us into action. This is good, not bad. We need this. Julia Cameron says, “Fear is not something to meditate and medicate away. It is something to accept and explore.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic, says that when she’s writing and feels fear sit on her shoulder, she acknowledges it and says, “Thank you for worrying about me today, but I don’t need you,” and then she continues working. She doesn’t allow fear to control her choices or future because she is aware that she needs fear at times, but at other times she does not.

The ego is the part of your mind that stays focused on the past. It feeds you all the time with messages like “Watch out. It’s going to happen again.” It’s a sly trick that riddles our fear that we will indeed hurt again, and so instead of being open to different experiences and outcomes, we halt. Most of us are afraid of fear because so many of our experiences with fear have been negative. But, in reality it is a very positive and useful tool.

  1. Face your fears. You have to surrender them and become willing to create a different reality. Your life will not turn out differently unless you do something different.
  • What are your truths? (Example: Mine are being a Child Abuse Survivor, Scoliosis Survivor, a writer, speaker, and a mom.)
  • Write down your truths and start peeling back the layers on the onion one step at a time. Don’t try to take it all at once as your truths are going to be deep, hard, and emotional. Be gentle with yourself as you unfold each layer.
  • If you’re afraid of speaking, go speak. If you’re afraid of snakes, pet one, read a book about one or go to an aquarium and stand in front of the tank.
  • Encourage yourself to do one scary thing each day. It doesn’t need to be large. Every step forward is something to be proud of.

Courage, confidence and even fearlessness are the result of facing, embracing, and dancing with fear. Looking it straight in the eye and having a partnership with it.

  1. Learn to start loving yourself and appreciating all that you are. Piece by piece this helped me to start healing. Once I began nourishing myself, the fears I felt didn’t seem to control my life anymore. I began to have clarity on how to handle tough situations and challenges with more grace, patience and positivity. I started taking charge of what I wanted with my life.
  • Motivational videos– Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Tony Robbins are a few of my favorite speakers who have really excellent talks. Check out TEDTalks.
  • Gratitude journal- No matter how tough things feel, there’s ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Looking for those things gives us the opportunity to really see that we can indeed find beauty even in the darkest moments.
  • Positive Affirmations-Write five things that you want to start shifting in your mind in a positive fashion. One positive thing per card. If you have negative internal dialogue that you don’t think you’re very smart, write on your card “I’m Smart.” Use reverse psychology and say these five affirmations EVERY SINGLE DAY. Important: Say those like you mean it.
  • Take time out to breathe. I like to call these moments “Lauri Time.” Depending on the week, sometimes I can do an hour or sometimes its fifteen minutes, but do something that calms your spirits, is enjoyable, fun, or creative. Whatever you need in that moment, give it to yourself. You deserve to be treated with gentle loving care too. I have a fun way to do this. Write a list of twenty things that you really like and once a week, treat yourself to one of those things.
  • Read uplifting books– There are so many to check out. Chicken Soup for the Soul books are some of my favorite. Form a book club with a group and read a different inspirational book each week.
  • Get an accountability/support buddy– It’s important to find someone that you can share your process with rather it’s the big or small things. Every step is important to acknowledge.
  • Surround yourself with people that can relate to you and things you’re going through. A group of like-minded friends. Having this support system and team will help to keep you grounded, supported, and appreciated.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing the monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” -C. S. Lewis-

  1. Be present and realize that this is your life.
  • If you were told that you had six months to live, would you live in the present or the past?
  • What kind of things would you do? Travel to a dream destination, swim with dolphins, spend more time with family, start taking a class you never allowed yourself to do…
  • Why are you waiting? Why not start now?

Put on your shield and cross the monkey bars. If you fall, get up and try again until you’re on the other side. You are NOT your fear! You’ve got this. –Lauri Schoenfeld

                    

 

 

 

 

 

Fear No More

“Sometimes your destiny is wrapped up in a veil of fear to check if you really have the courage to face it.” – Marcus Hades

Quotes_Creator_20170505_095333.pngFear is easily the greatest enemy to a writer. It steals time, confidence, and the desire to move forward. I’ve battled this enemy since the age of ten. There’ve honestly been times where fear was understandable: divorce, children, financial issues, personal safety, etc… Yet pushing the little upload button on my first story recently has managed to rank up there with the worst of them. It took years to finally do it, however all that time didn’t make it easier to do. How about we look at some ways to overcome them.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

Finding a tribe who can help you see past your fear is paramount to overcoming your enemy. You can get lost in the pool of self-doubt, paralyzed by what ifs. You need a little cheering crew who can pull you from the brink of “I can’t”. That doesn’t mean that they must swoon over all that you do. It means you need those people who can be honest with you in the way that you need; tell you what ideas works, what direction this should take, what characters work, and so on.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” – Charles R. Swindoll

What makes you different from any other writer out there? Sure, depending on who you’re comparing yourself to a few million dollars may be the difference, but in most cases there is nothing different. You put in the same long and thankless hours. You type or write longhand in weird places and inopportune times. You face rejection at every turn. If there is nothing different then what is holding you back? They just conquered that last hurdle of fear.

“It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s fear of not writing well; something quite different.” – Scott Berkun

You can pour over your work for years and there will still be something you want to change. There will always be something in hindsight that can make your story better. But there has to come a time where you are okay with what you have written down. Let your story sing. Besides, if you squeeze a story too hard you may lose its soul.

“Fear is felt by writers at every level. Anxiety accompanies the first word they put on paper in the last.” – Ralph Keyes

Say no to fear. Get out of your own way. Fear will always be there, but your destiny is just beyond it. Until next time have a writeous day!

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Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he’s not wrestling with cats or a long commute you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. He’s working on publishing his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem sometime in 2016, along with a few projects with his other daughter.

Why You Should Practice & Strengthen Creativity

I am not a writer. I write a lot, but none of it is fiction. What I do is teach university students who want to be elementary teachers. I teach them how to teach art and how to teach with art (these are actually two different things). As you can imagine, we talk about creativity a lot. Creativity has been a hot topic for quite a while. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity jump started the topic in 2006. The IBM 2010 Global CEO Study did the same thing. Also the Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis from 2010, the Kelley brothers’ book (and industry), Creative Confidence, and on and on and on.  

Despite all of this,  I’m often surprised at how many of my students do not understand what it is or why it’s important. These are students who want to work with children, very young children, and they don’t know that according the the National Association for the Education of Young Children, creativity is an “essential mindset for young children.”

So my students and I read textbooks and articles and watch videos and we discuss and discuss and discuss creativity and how nurturing it can change the life of a child. We talk about how to recognize creative behavior when we see it, and of course about how to promote it. We also talk about how a teacher must also nurture his or her own creativity in order to be ready to help their students. It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask first.

When we get to this idea, my students get uncomfortable. They get shifty eyed and fidgety. They look at the floor. It turns out that many of my students are afraid to engage in creative endeavors or activities. They really don’t even want to try. So they avoid them.

Over time I have found that my students all have basically the same four reasons for fearing creative endeavor; they are afraid of looking dumb, afraid of wasting time, afraid of not being able to come up with a new idea – all the good ones are taken, and afraid that their creativity will hurt or inconvenience others.

Why You Should Practice & Strengthen Creativity

To me, all of these reasons for being afraid are also the exact reasons WHY someone should practice and strengthen their creativity. This is what I mean:

Afraid of looking dumb: If you try and fail, you will become more and more okay with admitting your shortcomings. You will recognize that “messing up” is part of learning. All the great ones mess up too. Over time you will feel less dumb and more confident. Being brave is part of being creative.

Afraid of wasting time: When you practice your creativity you will learn how to find successes in your failures. You’ll see the parts that work and find ways that you have grown and improved and changed, even if the entire endeavor didn’t work out. You will recognize that you can learn from all of your creative work, even if it’s a big ol’ flop.

Afraid of not being able to come up with a new idea – all the good ones are taken: You will realize that you are totally right. New ideas really are few and far between. That’s okay though. Our ideas are built on everything we have ever experienced. Being creative is making new combinations based on YOUR experiences – that’s what’s really new and different. No one else has your unique collection of acquaintances, books read, thoughts thought, conversations shared, music listened to, hikes hiked, road trips taken, mistakes made. When you put these all together, even if you’re telling a version the same story you’ve heard before, unless you try to deliberately sabotage yourself, this new telling of that story will be your own.

Afraid that your creativity may hurt or inconvenience others This one counts. This is the one you do need to watch for. In your creative endeavors, be kind. Be aware. Recognize your actions and how they impact others. Find ways to include others when you can, and be sure give them an out as well. Creativity should be thoughtful and compassionate.

Although I teach these ideas semester after semester, I still I have to remind myself that they apply to me as much as they do to my students.  These ideas should matter to all of us. Aren’t we all a little afraid now and then to start a new creative task? Afraid to put yourself out there, in front of others – with people reading or seeing your thoughts, your creative acts? I think it helps to remember that looking dumb is sometimes okay, wasted time can actually be time well spent, old ideas can be awesome when seen through your personal lens, and it’s important to be creatively compassionate and kind.

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Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 2.55.50 PMAlisa Petersen is the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair of Elementary Art Education at Southern Utah University. Alisa grew up in Oklahoma in a home where exploration, making, play, and creativity happened every single day.  She studied art and art education at Ricks College, BYU, and Southern Utah University. She has worked as an elementary visual art specialist, a district art coordinator, an outreach artist, and now as a university professor. She teaches courses in early childhood creativity and arts integration.

A Writer’s Promise To Myself

“I’ll be better tomorrow. I promise.”

Do you ever catch yourself saying this to yourself? Most often when we promise to be better, it’s because we feel like we let someone down in terms of behavior or other expectations.

Last month, I let myself down by not meeting my writing goals. Oh, I could justify this with excuses. I could pin my decline in productivity on an extra busy work schedule, on my kids’ extra busy after-school schedules, on the fact that hours seem to slip by with all of the other daily obligations that are a necessary part of life. I could blame it on emergencies, illnesses, and other interruptions that filled up what could have been good writing moments. I could blame it on my own choices in taking on new projects. But excuses won’t help me meet my writing goals. Only by owning up to my failure to put words on the page, and only by being willing to change that will I actually get those words onto the page. Excuses are diversions and distractions. I wanted to have a draft out to my CP’s by the end of September, and it didn’t happen.

I’ll be better tomorrow. I promise.

My “tomorrow” arrived in the middle of this month, when I told myself in a very firm voice that I needed to get out of my no-writing funk. NaNoWriMo is rapidly approaching, and I am determined to banish all of the excuses and again get down to business. I was meeting my word count goals before September, and I can get back into it again. It’s what I do. Excuses, begone! I am a writer! Yet when I opened my file each day, I stared at it and felt something heavy hold me back. The automatic connection that I used to have with my characters felt faraway and tenuous. I am a different person than I was six weeks ago and maybe I couldn’t tell their story exactly in the way that I’d originally planned. I was afraid that I could no longer do their story justice. Instead of writing, I focused on doubts and fears. But after taking today and the day before and many days before that to contemplate this, I know what I need to do. I’m committed to finishing this story, and so these are the writer’s promises to myself that will help me stay on track and be better:

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I promise to myself

  1. …that I’m experienced enough to acknowledge that life happens. Yes, life is busy, chaotic, and sometimes pulls me under, but I glean inspiration from my life. Experiencing emotions that range from frustration, stress, and anger to relief, joy, and love are the lessons I use to craft the emotional journey of my characters. Being mindful about my surroundings, textures, colors, and smells as the seasons change are the lessons that I use to build my story’s world. My crazy and beautiful life does not currently afford me the opportunity to write in solitude for hours at a time, but I need to experience all life has to offer in order for me to be a good writer.
  2. …that I’m strong enough to recognize and exert control over the things that are in my power. I do not need to respond to messages or emails right away just because my notifications are on (or better yet, I can turn them off). I do not need to get up and eat just because I happen to be writing at the kitchen table (even if there are lemon Oreos in the cupboard. They are merely delicious distractions). I can set rules in my home about when I require uninterrupted time to write (and I accept that this won’t be for hours and hours at a stretch). I promise to be mindful of the steps that I need for self-care, whether I am in full writing mode or not (and I shall be better about saying “no” if I need to). My top priorities lie with my family, my job, and my friends and support units, but as my writing is also a top priority, I can control certain things to help me get that writing done.
  3. …that I’m dedicated enough to finish this story. Writing is no cakewalk, and the process of drafting is particularly tough for me (but so is everything else about writing and publishing). I cannot fast-draft to save my life (Well, maybe I could if I was placed in an actual do-or-die scenario like in the Saw movies, but let’s not go there). I’m working on my sixth book now, and it feels no easier than when I wrote my first. However, I also know myself a lot better as a writer than when I first started out in this business (and I’m still learning, always learning), and no matter how hard it is to get to “the end,” I believe in myself and my characters enough to get it done. 

Lastly, I promise to myself that I’m realistic enough to know that there is always (99.99% of the time?) another tomorrow. You know, in case today doesn’t completely work out.

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helen

Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both paranormal and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the Mythology trilogy (MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL), and contemporary romances LOSING ENOUGH and SCARS RUN DEEP (coming soon). You can find out more about her writing life at www.helenboswell.com.