tug-of-war

How to tell if you are a writer, or not

I've seen a number of debates and blog posts and flow charts on the internet over the last few months about how to tell if you are a "real" writer or not. This is something people struggle a lot with when it comes to their creative identity.

The bottom line of these conversations is this: Writers write. If you're a writer, you're writing. And, if you're paid to write, you're a professional writer.

As a general rule, I agree with these notions.

However!

And this is a big however: I believe these ideas are doing a grave disservice to people who WANT to write but haven't found their way to it yet. And to the writers who have written -- but for whatever the reason -- aren't writing right now.

It's pretty discouraging.

As a coach, I hate to see discouragement happening out there in the world.

I hate to think of all the people NOT writing right now because they've bought into this notion that since they're not writing YET, they must not be writers -- at least not in the core sense of who they are and who they can become.

Even one of my writing idols, Joss Whedon, practically undid me when he said, "You either have to write or you shouldn't be writing." Since I wasn't writing "enough" at the time, I thought, "Wait, does this mean I'm not a writer? Or that I can't be a writer?"

So there are all these intense messages out there in the world telling you that you're not a writer if you're not writing. And okay, again, I see the point.

But, what if:

  • You have a massive amount of fear and resistance about writing, even though you've always dreamed about writing, and you don't know how to deal with it.
  • You're stuck with your project and you don't know where to go next.
  • You're blocked, you can't pick a project to focus on, or you're paralyzed by performance anxiety or perfectionism.
  • You've just suffered a major loss of a loved one or gone through a horrific breakup and you're in the throes of grief, and you can't find your way back to the page.
  • You're caught up in the myths about writing (like not having enough time or money so you think you can't write).
  • You haven't yet built your writing habit skills, and you're writing irregularly or inconsistently at best.
  • You've bought into the belief that you have to be naturally talented to be a writer so you aren't even giving yourself a chance.
  • You believe you need more training or skills before you can write.

In my opinion, you are still a writer -- at your core -- even under these conditions. Yes, a writer who needs support, discipline, and structure to help get back on track. But still a writer. It means you are a writer who needs a jump start, or maybe a little coaxing to come out of your cocoon and into the world.

The thing is, if you're called to write, you must write. And if you're buying into this story, "I guess I'm not a writer because I'm not writing", you will NEVER write. That's not okay with me. I believe that our souls speak to us about what we are meant to be doing -- they know WHO WE ARE at a deep level. And so even if you haven't CLAIMED that dream yet, it's still yours for the taking.

So let's help you claim that dream and start writing. It's your soul calling to you, after all.

Thanks for reading!

I always love to hear what you think in the comments.

A quick heads up that if you want a jump start to get you writing, I'd love to help. My Writing Reboot sessions are just the ticket. But don't get one now because they'll be in my annual birthday sale this weekend at a ridiculous savings.

Or, you might also be interested in my Writer's Circle to you help build a regular habit and get the support of other writers to keep on writing. The last day to register is tomorrow, Wednesday, November 27. We'd love to have you join us.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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Man Serving Tennis Ball

When performance anxiety rears its ugly head

I've had three experiences lately that have triggered performance anxiety for me. Two assignments, where I've delivered a project to someone else, and one where I'm sharing my work with other people in a public forum. Now you might think I'd be over that by now, given that I'm writing publicly every week, teaching classes, and coaching on the spot all the time. I'm in a constant practice of "performing" or being in the spotlight.

But the truth is, that whenever we venture into new territory, our fears and doubts about our ability to "deliver" can come cropping up fairly quickly. I've observed that performance anxiety tends to come up as a result of three things:

  1. We're trying something new.
  2. We're holding high expectations about the quality of the work we "should" be delivering.
  3. Other people are holding high expectations about our work as well (or we believe they are).

Performance anxiety tends to trigger an inner conversation (if we're even conscious of it, which we might not be) that goes something like this: "What if I let them down? What if it's not as good as they expect? What if I can't live up to their expectations? What if I can't live up to my own expectations?"

And that conversation in turn tends to leads to paralysis, perfectionism, and procrastination -- the three Ps of writing doom.

What's your mindset?

As I was noticing this behavior in myself as well as the inner conversation about it, I was reminded of Carol Dweck's book on Mindset* that I've been reading lately.

In it, she describes interesting scenarios under which people demonstrate either a fixed or growth mindset. The sports examples particularly resonated for me.

In one example, she talked about how John McEnroe, a tennis player famous for his on-court temper tantrums, illustrated the fixed mindset perfectly. The minute anything would go wrong with his game, he was full of excuses about distractions, noises, other people, etc. It was never his fault and never his responsibility. This is very common among people who perceive themselves as talented or have the belief that other people see them as talented.

In other words, because we are so talented, we believe we shouldn't have to work at it.

On the other hand, she also described Michael Jordon, and how after his basketball comeback, when they lost the big game of the season, he went back to the gym that night and worked on his game. He knew that he'd been resting on his laurels, thinking he could just drop back into the game after time away, and he was determined to change that -- through hard work and dedication to raising the bar on his skill set.

And that's the difference, that right there. The belief that talent and ability are fixed versus the belief that a skill set can be mastered and improved.

Strategies for dealing with performance anxiety

I've worked with two teachers lately who have really brought this home for me: Hal Croasmun of ScreenwritingU.com and Corey Mandell, both screenwriting instructors. Hal reminds me to have a "beginner's mind" and to learn to be comfortable with the discomfort of growth. Corey reminds me to focus on what I'm learning, not on where I'm failing.

Ideas for dealing with performance anxiety:

  • Make growth mindset choices rather than fixed mindset choices. Keep working, learning, and growing. You'll only get better.
  • As Hal says, be comfortable with the discomfort of growth and be willing to allow yourself to be a beginner.
  • As Corey suggests, keep your focus on what you're learning, not on how you haven't yet mastered the new skill you're attempting to integrate.
  • Shift your self-talk by first recognizing that fear and doubt are coming up and helping yourself through it. "Okay, I'm worried about what other people think. What if I just let that go and focus on doing the best work I'm capable of right now, and allow myself to learn as I go?"
  • Give yourself permission to fully engage in the messy, glorious process of learning and revel in it.
  • Reward yourself for your efforts.
  • Have lots of support from your peers.
  • Be authentic about what you're experiencing with yourself and with your peers. You'll all benefit from it.
  • Find ways to create accountability for yourself so that you do the work, even in the face of creative anxiety.
  • Create a little extra time and space around the learning to help ease up on the pressure.

What works for you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

 Jenna

p.s. I haven't forgotten that I promised last week to write more about creative identity -- and I will, soon! Stay tuned. :)

 

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spotlight-leaf

Are you a sensitive called to the spotlight?

Several weeks ago I wrote about the link between sensitivity and creativity.

I commented that the challenges of sensitivity and creativity seem to come primarily from the audience side of things, and that ironically, I frequently I analyze hands for creative, sensitive types who have “Spotlight” in their hands — it’s astonishing how common it is.

What I’ve noticed is that for some of us who are more introverted or sensitive and have a tendency to want to be a hermit, it doesn’t stop us from wanting to or feeling called to the public eye — even though it can feel terrifying…

For people who’ve made an art form out of avoiding over stimulation, it can feel like a downright contradiction in terms to be “called to the spotlight.”

Here are some of the common concerns I hear from clients and sensitive types called to the spotlight:

  1. Fearing criticism of what we have to offer.
  2. Feeling uncomfortable receiving praise.
  3. Thinking there is some “right way” to be visible — and we don’t know what it is.
  4. Trying to fit in with a certain image or public persona.
  5. Doubting the value of what we have to offer.
  6. A fear of having to perform and not measuring up.
  7. Being overwhelmed, drained or exhausted being in the public eye.
  8. Feeling like we won’t be able to handle what comes up.

For sensitive, introverted types, there are some surprising pieces of information that can help you feel more comfortable about being in the spotlight and understanding yourself, like:

  • Pitfalls empathic sensitives tend to fall into when engaging with others, especially an audience.
  • How an introvert’s brain works, which can make you feel intimidated about speaking in public.
  • Why sensitives may not perform well under pressure, and what we can do about it.
  • The hand analysis gift marking that points to being “in the spotlight” and how to identify it.
  • How to deal with “tomato fears” (the fear of having rotten tomatoes thrown at you) and other creative expression challenges.

On April 10th at 3 p.m. Pacific Time (4 Mountain, 5 Central, 6 Eastern, Midnight GMT), I’m leading a teleclass (a class held over the telephone) called Sensitives in the Spotlight: How Artists, Writers, Hermits & Introverts Can Navigate a Call to the Public Eye. The fee for the class is $39.

When you register, you’ll have an opportunity to submit your questions for the live session, so I’ll be sure to answer them for you.

$39

 Join me!

 

If you have questions about how the class works or any other logistical details, please post them in the comments section below and I’ll be sure to answer them.

If you have questions FOR the class about being in the spotlight, you’ll be given an opportunity to submit them immediately upon registration. And I can’t wait to see them.

 

FAQ

Q: When are you offering this class again?

A: This is a one-time offering. I expect to record this class and make it available in my shop, but I do not expect to offer it again live. That may change, but as of right now, this is it.

Q: How does a teleclass work?

A: A teleclass is a class held over a telephone conference line. You will have to pay normal long distance fees in order to participate. In this class, participants will be muted until the Q&A period at the end of the class. That portion of the class will not be made available in the shop.

Q: Do I have to have had my hand analyzed in order to participate in the class?

A: No. You do not need to have had your hands analyzed to participate in this class, though I will be referring to some gift markings and other hand analysis markings during the session. To be clear: Being called to the spotlight by your hand markings is only PART of the story here. You may FEEL called to the spotlight and benefit that way. You may also benefit in terms of learning about being more comfortable in other public experiences whether you are called to the spotlight or not.

Q: What does “Spotlight” mean from a hand analysis perspective?

A: “Spotlight” is a shortened version of the expression, “Creative Expression in the Spotlight” for someone with a Right Ring Finger life purpose, and for the term, “Fame and Fortune in the Arts” for someone with an Apollo Star gift marking. However, anyone who feels a “calling” to be in the public eye may feel called to the spotlight.

Q: How long will the class run? Will the recorded version be available to the participants as well? Will it include the Q&A?  Will there be any written info I can use to supplement the class?

A: The class will run approximately 45 to 60 minutes, not including the Q&A. The recording will definitely be included for people paying for the class now, including the Q&A portion of the class. At this point in time, I am planning to have a simple PDF I send in advance for people to follow along with, though I may also offer it online via a visual slideshow. 

Your Tomatoes Don’t Fool Me

I watched a beautiful yet horrifying video recently about how conventional tomatoes are picked green then forced to ripen in a gas chamber before going to market. Hence their perfectly even red coloration. I know, right?

Following an odd little breadcrumb thought trail, I started thinking about how those of us called to the spotlight (having a life purpose of “Creative Expression in the Spotlight” or an Apollo Star gift marking indicating “Fame & Fortune in the Arts”), are no strangers to the land of the false tomatoes.

In hand analysis terminology, a “tomato fear” is used to describe the fear of having rotten tomatoes thrown at you while you are performing your art.

(Your art = that Thing you do, e.g. write, speak, act, dance, sing, paint, etc., for your audience.)

The thing is, your tomato fears don’t fool me.

Are they fooling you?

Here’s what I know.

Fear is fear, nothing else.

Our silly and oh-so-sweet-and-well-meaning, reptilian-brain-driven inner critic voices would like us to believe, “No, really, I’m serious this time, you could really die from this, you better pay attention,” but we know better.

Fear is just that thing that stands in the way of our big dreams.

But we — and yes, I do mean wesimply cannot allow ourselves to be swayed by that voice of fear.

Steven Pressfield said, “Figure out what scares you the most and do that first.” 

See, I know you are terrified to pursue your dream.

I know you think you are just bored and haven’t found what you are passionate about yet.

But I also I know you picture yourself being laughed off the stage or out of the audition.

Or that people will secretly say behind your back about your writing, “She’s not really that good.”

I know this, because your tomato fears don’t fool me.

I know you are petrified.

I am too.

Let’s do it anyway.

Your Turn

I always love hearing from you in the comments on my blog.

 

Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

~> October 31st. Monday. The next session of my Writer’s Circle starts. Really, don’t miss it. If you want to write but you aren’t finding the time for it or being consistent or accountable to your dream, this will give you just the kick in the pants you’re looking for. Sign up here.

~> November 10th. My next Life Purpose Breakthrough ‘Big Vision’ Group. Sold out. Details about future groups — yes, you might want to get on the mailing list.

 


~> Next Tuesday. Right Brain Business Planning with my buddy Kris Carey.

~> Ongoing. Writing for the ProSeries class at ScreenwritingU. There’s so much more to come!

~> FRIDAYS & now daily too. Sacred writing time. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.