Pod-Blast 4: Vulnerable Creation

So, I’m a Brene Brown junkie, so when I see her talking on something, I listen.

The Beautiful Writers podcast has some great guest on it, so even though the vibe doesn’t 100% work for me, I have a couple of episodes I like–and this conversation is a great balance of Brene’s perspective on creativity and being real about making stuff.

Ironically, the strength of this conversation is that it’s not just Brene talking. And it’s about the way these three are IN their practice of writing as professionals.

Beautiful Writers – Daring to Create Greatly with Brene Brown

Warning: it involves a tale of remaindering. It isn’t pretty. Everyone survives.

 

Translating “Write What You Know”

When they said “write what you know” I don’t think they meant “set your werewolf poems in the landscape you walk everyday” exactly…but I do think that’s the spirit of it.

This is a writing rule a lot like “show don’t tell”. It is used so liberally and often without nuance.

I think I’m finally really figuring out how to do this. It’s been about 20 years since I started writing seriously, so this is a little alarming, as far as rate-of-growth is concerned…but anyway, a lot more of my writing is coming from a personal place. No matter how strange the subject matter.

I think hearing this phrase, people immediately leap to “but I have been very boring”.

I know. We’re writers–being boring helps us actually get work done. Unlike acting or other arts which can happen impromptu, we need to sit and be still for long stretches to accomplish anything.

And here’s the thing: I started out writing stories about ninjas in imaginary oasis countries. And now I’m writing…well, about the same kind of thing. What has changed?

My heroine is shopping, and her different ethnic background means she has to look at clothing for housewives. My hero gets excited about buying a box lunch at the train station, instead of taking one packed by his mother.

The were-canines worrying about being shot if they trespass on someone else’s land in dog-form.

And of course, I still need to do my research about the things I’m not familiar with. But I can also look at a story where I somewhat phoned in the setting details and when wondering how to fix it, think about whether it would be more interesting to have it happen in an alternate US Midwest, rather than an imagined historical Britain.

The phrase isn’t “limit yourself to what you know”. It should maybe be “draw on things you know all too well”.

The cliche phrase will still be everywhere, but now I’m going to think, “Ah yes. Do crazy things using details I know from my own experience.”

Which does mean breaking out of boring, every once in a while, to get exposed to new details. I’m thinking about letting some were-creatures take up residence in New England, too….

The Imposter Syndrome Is Only You

Random thought of the day: Everyone loves a writer, but not an author.

Hold that thought, I’ll come back to this.

Maybe it’s NaNoWriMo in the air, but I’ve heard a few writers recently mention feeling like a fake. Because of their process.

And while I totally get it, I’d like to clear the air here for the general writing community:

No one thinks you’re a fake writer.

In fact, no one cares how much of a writer you are.

This is where the distinction between writer and author comes in. A published writer (“author”) is asked about their process, assumed to have “made it”*.

I am writing this from an ideal place of being a long-term writer who is not yet an author but hangs out in communities with some Real Authors.**

Another thing: writers love to talk about their process. We like to read about Authors and how they do it, and we can learn from fellow writers some tools sometimes.

Do you know what other writers are thinking about when we hear you talk about your process? Our own. Which is why, yeah, sometimes I judge you for a second because M&M bribes are probably bad for your liver, but then? We go back to worrying about our own crap.

What does this have to do with Imposter Syndrome?

Yes. It’s real. And helping you work through it is actually something the coach side of me wants to do. But the writer side?

Just wants to tell you, no one actually thinks you’re not a writer. The fact that most of the uninitiated then equate writer to Author is not your problem. The fact that they want to tell you about their niece who also wrote a book at 14 is not at all about you.

Now, once you’re an author? A different story. Then you’re a performer being judged upon.

Everyone likes a writer, because they want to relate to that. No one likes an author because then there’s a commercial aspect of it that seems threatening.

Neither thing has anything to do with you.

Carry on and do your thing. (And yeah, sort out where your Imposter Syndrome comes from. Maybe with my help.)

*This is errant nonsense. Some writers have it figured out before becoming authors, most authors are in progress a lot longer, if not for their whole lives.

**Again, the only real distinction is having sold a novel. And while this is momentous for the emotional life of a writer, it is not actually the terminus at which you have ARRIVED.

Big Magic – In a Light Package

The first time I picked up this book, I’ll admit I scanned it, and then put it back. I had it out from the library, and when there was someone next in line, I let it go back.

It seemed light, and I have read so much on creativity I thought it wasn’t very relevant.

But.

Then I listened to Brene Brown (Rising Strong) talk on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, and their synergy was so great. I immediately got Rising Strong to read, and also recommitted to trying Big Magic.

And they made great companion reads. While Rising Strong gets into the nitty-gritty of recreating your patterns of failure, Big Magic talks philosophy about creativity. And while it IS a light read, it tends to very lightly draw out some of the darkest myths of creative work.

And then illuminates them with more balanced, truthful ways to think.

This book is one that’s going on my very short list of books to actively push on people. (Like Rising Strong!) Because it’s light enough to breeze through–while also collecting so much of what we need to hear about retraining our beliefs on creativity.

How did I not realize this book was my jam?

***

I will be giving away an e-book of either Big Magic or Rising Strong to one of the attendees of my webinar on Thursday!

Unlock Your Agency: Three Tools to Become the Hero of Your Life

September 30th, Friday, 7pm Central on ZOOM

Dreamstorming

I’m trying to figure out my book’s cover.

This may sound a bit silly to those of you who understand publishing, especially when you know I’m thinking traditional publication. Especially when I tell you I’m going to start WRITING it on October 1st.

I, too, would have thought so at one time.

We’re taught to manage our expectations by pretending we don’t have any, though, and I’m currently in rebellion against stifling the stage I’m going to call dream-storming.

(Daydreaming + Brainstorming)

See, instead of blocking out my hopes and expectations, I’m trying be as concrete as possible so I know what I’m aiming for.

If I know what kind of cover I think this book should get, I have a clear idea of how I’m going to present it to agents, publishers, and even critique partners.

What about this infant story will make people think “YES I want to read that”?

I haven’t thought about this before at this stage in the process, but I’ve also never outlined a book formally before writing it, either, and I think both are going to improve my process. If I know who (besides me) will be picking this book up off the imaginary shelf, and can visualize how the cover will appeal to them, I can also think about how to approach the book.

I’ve learned how to hone a book to what I’m intending through revising. Now I’m thinking about how to forecast it, too.

So often I read things where the description sounded awesome, but the book I built in my head was not the one I had in my hands.

It takes skill, cunning, and a little luck to make a book that other people want to read, and even more to describe it so they know it’s their jam.

I wouldn’t want to disappoint my imaginary readers!

So while I’m not going to actually break out the .Gimp art, I think I’ll keep dreamstorming, thanks.

Though, no joy so far. Maybe if I spend a few hours on Pinterest…

***

Ready to stop quashing your dreams and start living them?

Does that sound like a tall order? I’m holding a webinar called Unlock Your Agency on the very topic of how you can start getting more power over how your life happens.

Unlock Your Agency

on Zoom, Friday September 30th, 7pm Central

What a fizzled drama taught me about AGENCY

A show I really loved just ended with not a bang, but a whimper.

It was really too bad, because it had a lot of meta about storytelling. The premise was that a webcomic character starts to change his story when the writer makes choices he doesn’t agree with. Talk about a huge question about agency and humanity!

So when the finale didn’t let the heroes determine their own ending, but instead put a lot of the power and emphasis back on the cartoonist (who through the show was unheroic and running from his responsibility) it seemed more than a waste.

It seemed like the screenwriter was failing themselves, self-sabotaging.

Boy, does that strike close to home.

While I am glad to be where I am, I also know that if I had been more confident of my work earlier in life, I might be making money writing by now. If I had been less wishy-washy about profit, I might have a successful online yarn store.

If I hadn’t allowed my self-doubt to keep me back…I might not be questioning myself so much right now about my coaching, future, relationship status.

One of the main things flaws in the drama is that the characters we assumed were the heroes didn’t have flaws they had to overcome. In a story, it’s the most compelling if we see a hero fail–and get back up to try again. Try something different. Face their failure and finally acknowledge when they’re wrong. Have to overcome that.

And while the cartoonist (erstwhile villain) does have a major flaw, I wasn’t satisfied enough in his ending to feel he earned the hero seat, either. He gave up on himself because of his flaws.

He’ll never go on to write a better webtoon that’s plotted more responsibly. But I hope the scriptwriter behind the drama WILL.

Maybe she’ll join my Unlock Your Agency webinar…

Because one of the main things I’m going to cover is what I’ve been discovering about failure: you have to own it. You have to use it to learn more about yourself.

Right now I’m getting quite the education. I hope you’ll join me next week as I share some of the tools that make owning your flaws a hero’s journey–not the end of the story.

Unlock Your Agency: Friday, September 30th – 7pm Central

 

Blunt Conversations with Myself

I spent the whole day like I was in the wrong gear, engine making a grinding sound. I couldn’t get anything done, though it was so URGENT to do so, though I kept reaching out for things to do…

Irritating, but I knew that I just hadn’t asked the right question yet.

So I kept going for walks. Putting on my EOs. Journalling and reading and…

Big Magic tripped the switch. Elizabeth Gilbert was describing how she worked part time as she wrote. I sagely nodded my head. She noted that she’s seen artists burn out trying to make their living off their art. Oh, yes, I also…

:screeching breaks sound effects:

I had made a point of not doing that to writing–but then I’d given myself a near impossible goal-expectation in my coaching business. THAT’S why I couldn’t get traction on my to-dos.

The best thing, though, was that my process to question my paralysis worked. It took longer than I wanted it to, but it worked.

I asked, “Why am I afraid? What am I making this about?”

I went for walks, journaled, and read books that seemed likely to shake loose thoughts about it.

What are you stuck on lately? Have you asked those hard questions of yourself?

That’s not the end of the story, so check in again on Friday!