10/28/2019 0 Comments
There is the quick way and the not-so-quick way to go about creating space in your life and head. The not-so-quick way may not give you immediate results but will help you create a life where space is the norm. I highly recommend it.
If you want answers now and don’t feel it’s possible to implement the slowing and simplifying techniques into your life at the moment, there is another way.
How to Get Your Ideas Now
There are three things you can do right now to create space in your life and head: meditate; remove or cut back on one activity; and do your menial tasks in a non-thinking manner.
Meditation is a part of the not-so-quick way. Doing it long term is essential to creating mental space that is available all day long, but you can benefit on your first try. Ideas will often show up as soon as you get quiet. No matter how busy you are, you can find 10 or even 5 minutes a day to meditate. Here’s a video of the technique I use. It’s called Shamatha and it works.
Often people think meditation is about emptying your mind. That’s just not possible. Your mind is made to think so you’re not going to stop it, but you can learn how to focus it and to refocus it when you get caught up in your thoughts. Eventually your thoughts will just be background noise and you will be in touch with that part of yourself that notices. When you begin to identify with that part of you that notices, the witness, you will have created space within. This means you’ll become less and less likely to get caught up in drama and be able to look at life objectively. Don’t confuse this with being unfeeling. If anything, you’ll feel more emotion, which is good for a writer.
Another quick way to discover your ideas is to cut back on an activity or cut out one thing all together. You do this so you can find at least 15 minutes a day for your mind to wander. Letting your mind wander is not the same as vegging out in front of the TV.
The idea is to use this time to just sit and stare out a window, go sit in a park or even relax in a coffee shop. Unwind your mind. Let it wander. Your mind is not wandering if you’re thinking about the next task or ruminating over a mistake you made. Bring your focus back to the present and begin again. This is where your meditation practice will help. If you find your mind keeps worrying about getting back to work, find a time after work or extend the time so you feel more spacious.
The third quick way is to do a boring task. This needs to be a task you don’t have to think about like doing the dishes or taking a shower. Traditionally Buddhist masters asked their students to chop wood and carry water. Driving can work, too, but be careful. Don’t fill you mind with how much you hate the chore or obsess on the future. Be present, be calm and your ideas will surface. Relaxation is essential for the ideas to rise from the subconscious to your conscious mind. Basically your mind is in a mode similar to when you’re staring out a window, but this way you can check an item off your to-do list.
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We all have 24 hours every day in which to live our lives. It’s important to manage it the way we want rather than letting others manage it for us. I also believe it’s possible to view it in different ways to get even more from those 24 hours.
Here are five ways we can view time and how to use them to gain more productivity and creativity.
This is the most common way time is viewed. Events happen in a sequence from past to future. When we look at time through this lens, we plan in minutes, hours, days and weeks. The writing we want to get done gets put on a calendar and we show up at a certain day and time to write. This is a very efficient way to work. It’s probably the most intuitive to those of us living in the Western world.
This way of viewing time can pose a problem to creatives because we have to perform on the set day and time. The muse isn’t always cooperative on demand.
The work around is to learn how to get into the right frame of for the muse anytime. It also helps if you consistently show up regularly to write. This consistency lets your muse know you mean business.
Many Indigenous cultures view time as cyclical. They feel there is no lost time because it always returns. They live with such a view because they live within nature. The sun rises and sets every day, the moon moves through its phases every month, the seasons come back again and again.
When you view time this way, you relax. If the moment will come around again, then you won’t miss anything. In a culture where people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), viewing time as cyclical can release us from this fear. Peace is more easily achieved which is the best thing for our intuition and creativity. And when those are working we’re more productive.
The only issue with viewing time as cyclical is becoming too relaxed which could lead to putting things off. There’s a chance we might become like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and say too often that we’ll think about that tomorrow or tomorrow is another day.
Time is limited in terms of our life span, the hours in a day, the days in a year, etc. Viewing time this way can cause stress. We feel we must rush to fit it all in. This isn’t helpful to creativity.
But what is helpful about viewing time as limited, is that it narrows our focus. We realize we can’t do everything. It helps us get selective. This is important in order to be productive and do our best work.
In a spiritual sense, time is infinite. And to view it this way expands our being. It opens us up to possibility and helps us relax and not feel rushed.
To view time as infinite can sometimes lead us to feel too lax in the way viewing it as cyclical can. We need to have a sense of expansiveness and concentration in order to be creative and productive.
Because we can view time in many different ways, it is subjective. We especially feel this way when we’re in the thrall of the muse, diving deep into the flow of creativity. Think of the times when you sat down to work and were so engrossed that two hours felt like 15 minutes.
It’s important to let go of time in order to get into the flow. Time is a concept we humans have created. Events do happen in a sequence, but there are moments when it passes differently for me than it does for you. Those times are when we’re in flow or when we’re waiting for bad news and time feels as though it’s barley moving at all.
When we’re in that deep focus of flow, we’re using time most efficiently. More is accomplished with less effort. Even though we may feel only 15 minutes have passed, we did produce two hours’ worth of work and then some. It feels as though we’ve slowed down time.
By taking all the ways we can view time into consideration, we can better use it to our advantage. Walk the fine line between the opposites. Allow the tension to guide you and help you tap your creativity in new ways and use the tried and true methods to help you be productive and get the writing done.
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There’s a quote about discipline determining your destiny and not desire. It’s true we need discipline in order to get the work done so we can succeed, but discipline that comes from love of what we do rather than force is what creates success. So, we need to begin with desire.
I have self-discipline as the first Success Principle for The Write Magic, but now I’m thinking desire comes first. In my experience, leading from desire allows me to know what to do and have the drive to do it. Feelings drive our actions.
But there is more. Thoughts come before our feelings. So is it our thinking that determines our destiny and not desire? Truthfully it’s not simply one of these but a process of thought, feeing and action that determines our destiny.
But when I really think about it, all begins with a desire, a feeling that is there before words. It’s the language of the soul speaking to us through our heart and our sub conscious in both feelings and images. The words come later. Words are the medium we use to make our desires real beyond our inner world. Thought is a tool we humans developed, but the spell is already cast by our desires and it is through these feelings we are pulled to act in ways that will manifest them.
Thought is not as prominent as we like to think. Thoughts can cause us to feel and we can use them to get the feeling we want and therefore the action we want. But when it comes to living our dreams and responding to the stars aligned in our hearts, our soul speaks first and our souls speak through desire.
Over 20 years ago I discovered the power of asking the question, What do you want? The person I posed that question to had been asking everyone what they thought she should do. When I asked her what she wanted, she lit up. Her desire filled her eyes. There was no more for her to ask. She immediately began doing what it would take to make that desire a reality.
We follow through more easily with what needs to be done when we live from our desire. I began to understand this better when I thought about how I create a powerful piece of writing. When I feel the emotions of the events I’m writing about, I automatically create something filled with emotion. If I were to strategize how to use the right words and structure the writing so it will illicit feelings from the reader, the piece wouldn’t be as powerful. I still have to edit what I write, but the feelings I have as I write guide me to put on the page what is needed. I’m not sure how this works. I just know it does.
So let yourself feel your desire to create and write. Let the pull of the vision guide you to your next steps. When you find yourself having thoughts of not being good enough or not having time and all those other impeding thoughts, stop and get quiet. Let your desire to create speak to you, fill you up and pull you towards your destiny.
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Imagery is a literary device in which words are used to describe something in the world in a way that creates an experience of it for the reader. It encompasses more than just the visual despite its name. To successfully invoke a powerful experience in the reader, a writer uses words related to all of the senses. Painting with words seems like a limited description, but paintings can elicit a full body experience.
To use imagery in your writing you must fully engage your imagination. To bring the reader into the world you are creating or writing about, you must first be present in it. Before you describe a scene, close your eyes and imagine being there. What do you see? What do you hear? Is the air warm or the wind blowing? Are their smells? Is there something to taste?
Once you’re fully in the scene, meaning you feel as though you are there, start writing. Write from the experience you’re having in your imagination. In an earlier post, “The Secret to Powerful Writing” I mention the secret is to feel what you are writing about. By doing this you more easily find the words you need to describe the scene. During the editing process you can go back and make the imagery even stronger if you need to.
Here are some tips for each of the senses to strengthen your imagery.
This is probably the easiest sense to describe. Take a memory of an experience you had or go into the world and have the experience now. Let’s say you are standing by a lake. You could say the lake was a mirror reflecting the green trees around it. Here is another way to describe it: It was crystal in sunshine and steel on cloudy days. You could simply say: The lake was an ever changing blue. The words mirror, crystal, steel, ever changing blue help you see the lake.
We are mainly visual beings, but sound plays a large role in our experience. We use phrases like: kids shouting in the distance, the annoying bark of the little dog or the jet roared overhead. Shouting, bark, roar are words denoting sounds.
There is another way to write about sound and that is to create a word that imitates a sound. This is called onomatopoeia. Grrrrrr is used to show a growl. Rat a tat tat is the sound of a drum. Humph for a person who is annoyed. Achoo is a sneeze.
Our skin tells us a lot about our environment and the things in it. Let’s say you’re writing about trying on a wedding dress. You could describe how the satin feels soft and smooth against the bride-to-be’s arms or how the waist line cut into her skin.
The air we breathe is also the air that touches our skin. Is it warm or cold? If cold, it might raise the hairs on one’s arms in goosebumps. If hot, the sweat may tickle as it runs down one’s face. Maybe the sweat carries sunscreen and when the sweat drips into the eyes of your character it burns.
Our taste buds detect five different tastes. Salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. Use these to describe the food your characters taste. You can also use comparison. For example: Her mother’s pea soup tasted like the sludge off a slimy river barge. This is much more interesting that just saying it tasted bad.
Smell is the most difficult sense to describe directly. Things smell good or bad. We may say sweet or stinky, but words like these are often synonyms of good or bad. We also use words like acrid or musky, but they are comparing the smell to something else and give a sense of the overall quality.
Comparison is often the best way to bring smell into your description. For example: The garbage stank like it had been sitting in the sun for a month. And this: The inside of her wrist smelled of roses and something more animal.
We don’t have to describe every single detail. It’s important to pick and choose those things that help you tell your story best. Give enough to create an atmosphere or elicit a deep feeling. Mention the things that tell you more about your characters or foreshadow something to come.
Powerful writing creates an experience for the reader and helps them enter your story or poem in order to join with you or the characters. As the reader vicariously lives through you or your characters, they will discover new experiences and want more of your words.
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If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me if I do? You’re a human being with a unique story to tell, and you have every right. If you speak with passion, many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by story. Yours enlarges the circle.
― Richard Rhodes
The fear of not being good enough wears many masks. They are: procrastination, confusion, lack of time, lack of knowledge and endless self-criticism. Those are the more common ones. There are many other ways it hides out, and you recognize them through the fact the writing isn’t getting done.
In an earlier blog post I wrote called The Only Obstacle is Our Mindset, I talk about how everything is simply an excuse our mind uses to not do the work. Awareness can help us recognize when we’re sabotaging ourselves.
There are times when you may truly not know what to do, but you can find your answers and keep writing. If you don’t try to figure it out or get help, your confusion is really masking fear. If you gain the knowledge you need to keep going, but find yourself coming up with other reasons you can’t get the writing done, fear is at the root.
So how do you write through the fear and get the writing done?
Become aware of and accept the fear
Look behind the masks and recognize what’s really going on. Accept the fear if it’s really there. Don’t make excuses. It’s okay to be afraid. Many of us have this fear of not being good enough. Take a deep breath and let it be.
Get to know your thoughts and feelings about writing
What does this fear of not being good enough to write feel like? Where is it in your body? This will help you recognize it when it’s wearing other masks.
What are your thoughts about it? Our thoughts feed our feelings. Some are probably the ones mentioned in the quote above. Also ask: Have I assigned more importance to the work than needed at this stage? Do I think about all the steps at once or over analyze each step?
Take all these thoughts and ask if they’re true. Then ask if there is something you can do about it if they are. Then do something. Taking action can alleviate fear.
Now how do you want to feel about writing? I know I want to feel excited and joyful about playing with words. So I think about that. What thoughts can help elicit the feelings you would like to have instead of fear?
Write about your fear
Tell its story based on what you learned in the above exercise. How does it feel? When does it tend to show up? Do you remember when it first started?
By writing about it, especially when you are experiencing it, you get some distance which allows you to gain insight. The distance will also help with the next step.
Sit down and write
You probably won’t get your butt in your chair before the fear starts contorting your mind to create one excuse or another. That’s okay. Fear is just being fear. You don’t have to listen unless there is a real threat.
Take a moment to think the thoughts that make you feel good about writing. Once you feel good, start writing. What really helps before you do this is to know exactly what you’re going to work on. You want to keep the momentum going.
Rewards and celebration
If you sit down and write, celebrate it. Find ways to create more joy.
You can also promise yourself a reward for meeting your writing goal. This can help at first, but try not to rely on it. Once the fear dissipates some and you’ve been writing for a while, the reward begins to come from the joy of the work itself and doing a good job. Over time you will improve and you’ll see you are good enough.
If you still find yourself avoiding the work, talk to someone about it. Our old patterns of being hard on ourselves can take a while to break through. But if I can write through the fear, I know you can, too.
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What did I come in here for?
I stand in the kitchen for a minute before I can rewind my brain to the reason I went in there. Oh yeah…I wanted a napkin.
Sound familiar? Or how about when you pop onto to Facebook to check something, get distracted by your news feed and close it before you remember why you opened it in the first place.
We are so distracted these days that completing simple tasks, let alone our writing, has become more time consuming than need be.
So how do we reclaim our focus and get the writing done faster and better? Like everything I talk about, it begins within.
Too often while writing we have multiple browser windows open and so periodically peek at social media and email while listening to music and thinking of our to-do list. Maybe our phone is nearby, too. I do this and believe I’ve lost some of my ability to focus. It’s time to get it back by practicing.
Set a time to focus on just one thing with the intention of doing so for a set period of time. Keep it short at first. Try 15 minutes. At first you may find your mind wandering to other things. Keep coming back to the task at hand. You’re training your brain to focus.
Without the ability to focus you won’t be able to reach your potential.
“’People think that they can multitask and check these things without losing their focus, but we have lots of studies showing that task-switching leads to mistakes and back-tracking, and that it wastes a lot of time,’ Miller says. And all of these interruptions seem to be getting in the way of more creative, profound insights. When your brain is bombarded by distraction, ‘your thoughts are more superficial, and you’re not getting as far down that path to where new ideas emerge.’”
-- From Time article: You Asked: How Can I Use More of My Brain?
Here are a few things you can do before you sit down to write in order to have a focused and successful session.
Prepare your environment
Turn off all other possible distractions. This means no Internet while writing or if you’re using it to do research while writing, make sure you open only what you need. If possible, do your research before your writing session.
Music can help you focus, but it needs to be the right kind, instrumental works better than songs.
You can also limit interruptions from others by letting them know you are writing now and help them understand they need to leave you be unless there’s a real emergency.
Take a look around your writing space as well. Are there things that will distract you there? Do you have bills or other things needing attention within sight? Clear you space of anything you know will distract you.
One thing that helps me focus is to know exactly what I’m going to work on before I start. It saves time and energy during your writing time.
Another way to prepare is to learn how to switch tasks. When you switch from one task to another, there is a tendency to carry what you were working on over to the next task. It’s hard to shake what you were working on, and the more tasks you try to fit into a short period, the more clutter accumulates causing internal distraction and a decline in productivity.
So, before beginning a new task take some time to fully close out what you were working on.
Let’s say you were paying bills and now want to write. Do a quick rundown on what you accomplished. Make sure you are finished. If you need to follow up on something, make note of it and a time and date to complete it so your brain knows you’re done for now.
Take a break between tasks. A walk or some other movement can help your brain through the shift and will enliven you.
Don’t use your break to check email or social media. Give your brain a true rest. Stare out a window or meditate for a few minutes. It will help you focus better on the next thing.
You can also prepare yourself by dropping the drama around the work. I sometimes get tied up in thoughts of self-doubt about a project or wondering if I have time and all kinds of other stories that are simply distractions.
When you find yourself doing this, bring your focus back to the writing and get to work. Tell yourself you’ll work for the allotted time and you’ll worry about whether it’s any good once it’s done. And really, we all know it can be and will be made better during the revision process.
Once we have increased our ability to focus, we’ll accomplish more in less time. We’ll feel calmer and less stressed because we completed what we wanted to complete. More peace also comes from being in the flow state. We just need to practice focusing long enough to get there.
Remember, less time isn’t about working faster; it’s about working focused and not wasting time in distractions. Rushing is a stressed, unfocused state motivated by fear. Working steadily is a calm, focused state motivated by engagement in the work itself or the vision that pulls you.
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This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.
― Steven Pressfield
Inspiration is the backbone of our writing career. But many new writers misunderstand what it is and how to use it. Even some of us that have been writing for years can use a reminder about how best to court our muse.
Here are the ways we fail inspiration and how we can make up for our transgressions and become the creative souls we were meant to be.
You only write when inspired
Inspiration arrives when it arrives. There’s no forcing it. But to say you write only when it comes is to misunderstand the nature of this mysterious and magical illumination.
Write often. Don’t wait to put words on the page. Inspiration comes to those who are prepared and one of the ways to be prepared is to master your craft. Not everything you write will be inspired, but as you get better, the likelihood of the muse gifting you becomes greater.
In wanting to master your craft inspiration can show up, but being competitive blocks it. This is so because inspiration is a transcendent aspect of experience ignited by transcendent behavior. In mastering our craft, our confidence and self-esteem grow. They are both facilitated by inspiration and help evoke it.
You don’t give it the opportunity to show up
As mentioned above, waiting for inspiration to strike leads to a hit or miss situation. But we get more hits of inspiration when we take an active role in creating the conditions that allow us to be present and in a receptive state. The problem is we don’t spend much time in such a state in our busy world.
I’ve written about this receptive state in Find Your Writer's AHA!: Discover the Book You Were Meant to Write. To encourage this state, do things to help you let go of the thinking mind like meditation, spending time in nature or simply stare out a window and watch without thought. It takes practice, but this is how to prepare yourself for the arrival of inspiration.
Being prepared by mastering your craft is another way to invite inspiration. Doing the work can lead to inspired ideas. As Steve Pressfield said in the quote above, the muse takes note of our dedication.
You don’t act on it
Inspiration needs action. Ideas come to us more often than we may realize. Only we’re not paying attention or if we notice, we put the idea on the back burner.
The process of inspiration is about expression. Some would say it’s about the Divine expressing through us. If we stilt that process, life literally become uninspired. We close down and shut off our channel to our muse. The important thing to remember is that we can always open it again.
You don’t let it lead
You can either work from inspiration or through your own effort. When you get inspired by an idea let the inspiration lead your work. Often what happens though is you get the idea and then let the rational mind take over.
Studies show what is made through effort can be technically sound but it is not creative like what is made in an inspired state. You know the difference by the flow. When the words come fast and you don’t stop, it’s more creative. When you stop and ponder over the words, you’ve moved down into effort and the work is less creative. This is why it’s best to write in flow first and then edit on the second round.
You don’t use it to set goals
Take a look at these two goals:
I will complete four essays this month.
I will inspire myself and others with my words this month through four essays.
What goal would be more fun? Which one do you want to achieve? The more inspired the goal the more likely you’ll reach it and continue to make and meet inspired goals in the future.
You don’t let yourself be inspired by others
Some new writers refuse to read the work of others for fear they will be influenced and not produce original work. The only thing that happens when you don’t read the work of others is you keep yourself small. You can be inspired in other ways, but reading the works of truly inspired individuals can help you more than you realize.
At first you may emulate their work, but that’s just an early stage of learning. You won’t keep doing it. Eventually you’ll discover the work that inspired you to sameness starts to work its magic and trigger your own unique creativity. Truly, unless you’re working from effort, the work of the inspired can only turn into more inspired work.
Though I was inspired to write about inspiration, reading about it in the article titled “Why Inspiration Matters” by Scott Barry Kaufman in the Harvard Business Review confirmed some of my ideas and helped me add others. I hope you’ll give it a read. I think you’ll find it helpful.
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The advice you hear most about how to improve your writing is to read and write. I have given that advice myself. It’s where every writer needs to start. But in order to truly improve, you need to have the intention to do so and you need to do it on a regular basis.
Here are a few ways to use reading and writing intentionally for the improvement of your craft.
Work with a mentor or editor
The back and forth of working with someone who is a few steps ahead of you or better yet, a professional editor is the apprenticeship of the writer’s craft.
I learned more about writing through writing papers in college and getting feedback, having my editor husband go over my work and getting feedback and in poetry workshops than I would have just reading and writing on my own.
If you’re a pro and getting your work out there, you’ll have the opportunity to do this often. Working with a mentor periodically can help keep your skills sharp.
Give yourself writing assignments out of your comfort zone
If you’re used to writing short essays, try your hand at long ones. If you’re used to writing fiction, write a well-researched, long nonfiction piece. Expand your repertoire and you’ll expand your abilities. We all have preferences in what we write, but stepping outside those now and then gives us new skills and new ways of looking at the world.
Study the work of writers you admire
This is beyond just reading their work. Study it. Write in the margins. Pick it apart. Understand the structure. Join a reading group that does critical reading. Take a class. Get inside a piece of writing and learn how and why it works. And bring what you learn to your own writing. In fact, do so immediately so you can practice what you just learned.
Consistency takes discipline
If you want to be a professional writer, it takes practice. Professional athletes practice often. Professional musicians and artists do, too. They also look for ways to improve on what they do.
There are thousands of people out there who are writers. How do you stand out? You take on the mindset of a pro, do the work, improve, get it out there and you do it consistently.
It’s not always easy. It takes time to build up discipline. But remember your passion for the work, for the written word. That’s what discipline is about. It’s about valuing what you do and binding yourself to it. You will grow into a pro as you do this. And we need more pros so the industry prospers.
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The dream: NY Times bestselling author with 5 books in print making a good living as a writer.
The reality: Two unpublished books, one you can’t seem to finish and three rejections. It’s as though you gave up before you even began. It’s easy to do when you perceive the distance between where you are and where you want to be as an enormous chasm.
The chasm isn’t as wide as you think and while we’re at it, stop thinking about it as a gap at all. It’s just the space between two things and we can bridge that space as we move towards our dream. The key is to not quit.
We’ve all been told you just need to do xyz to get to where you want to go. But formulas don’t usually work because one-size-fits-all solutions don’t. We can take what others have done and tweak their formula to make it our own. Better yet is to look within for the steps that will shorten the distance between now and the dream life. Here’s how…
Stay out of overwhelm
First, stop seeing your dream as impossibly far away. It’s a given that as you take steps towards it, you will get closer. But as you take those steps you begin to change and gain confidence. Soon those small steps become big steps and once in a while you’ll leap. What seemed to be 10 years away gets cut to five or less.
Begin with baby steps
Don’t think of your dream as an overwhelming goal you may never reach. Dreams can inspire you to move forward. They are not to be lived in, which is daydreaming. They are to be lived from. Use them to inspire actions that you can take from where you are now.
Also note dreams are not goals. Goals help you reach your dream and are set based on where you are. They need to feel doable now. Break down your vision into goals and then break each goal down into doable steps. That’s how you bridge the gap.
It’s a journey not a gap, and it’s necessary
I know I keep saying this in one form or another, but it’s important. The space between where you are now and where you want to be is the journey you NEED to take in order to become the person who is living the dream.
You may have heard about people who win the lottery. They spend it all within a year then end up right back where they started. This is because they didn’t have the space to grow into the person who could handle large sums of money. We need that space to become who we want to be. Don’t lament the time it takes to get where you want to go. Without it you can’t become the person you need to be to live the dream.
Don’t listen to the past
The past will haunt you and tell you: Things will always be this way. You haven’t changed before. What makes you think you will change now?
Don’t listen. Find proof that you have grown and changed. See how you’re not the same person you were 10 years ago. Maybe you haven’t moved as much as you like, but you’re still growing into the life you want.
And if you’re not moving towards your dream, take a breath and forgive yourself. We all get sidetracked sometimes. Remember, those sidetracks still contribute to our growth. When you become aware you’ve started down the wrong path, just come back to your dream and refocus. This is why people hire coaches. It helps them stay on track.
Today’s actions are the stepping stones to your dream. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Those musicians and artists who suddenly show up on the scene as a huge success started out just like you. They had a dream and didn’t know how they would make it real, but they kept moving towards it. Often they spent 10 years or more getting better at their art and finding ways to get their work out there. And we know them and their work now because they never gave up.
Determine what success means to you, do what you love and keep dreaming. When you live in the moment and enjoy every step, you realize the journey itself is your purpose. The dream isn’t the destination. It appears in your heart to help you unfold into an ever greater expression of life itself.
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"Low self-confidence isn't a life sentence. Self-confidence can be learned, practiced, and mastered--just like any other skill. Once you master it, everything in your life will change for the better."
~ Barrie Davenport
We do our best work when we are confident. Procrastination, subpar work and an unwillingness to put our work out there all happen when our confidence is low. But like the quote above says, we can build our confidence.
Some of the ideas below come from The As If Principle by Richard Wiseman. In it he mentions a number of studies about our physical responses and behaviors. He says we interpret our body’s reactions by the context in which we find ourselves. We can also choose to feel a certain way just by the way we position our body.
Below are some techniques you can use to express and feel the confidence you need to get the writing done and out into the world.
Reframe what’s happening in your body
Our bodies have very few responses, so the excitement of love and the fear of sending a query letter to an agent have the same physical response. We are conditioned to choose an emotion that fits the context based on past knowledge. With awareness we can choose any emotion we want once the body begins responding.
So let’s take the example of sending a query letter. You’re at your keyboard and about to hit send on an email to an agent you really like. Your hands are sweaty and your heart is racing. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself that you’re excited about the opportunity. You know your manuscript is polished and your ideas sound. If you can keep your focus on that for a minute you will begin to feel the excitement. From this place it’s so much easier to hit send.
Take on a confident pose
Our bodies do affect our emotions. One study showed that people felt less pain from an electrical shock if they “acted tough” like nothing was going to hurt them and they put their bodies in a relaxed position.
Let’s say you’re getting ready to make a pitch to an agent at a writer’s conference. Stand tall, chest out, but don’t make your body rigid. Keep it relaxed. In a less formal situation, like a party, you can lean back in a chair with your arms draped over the back or behind your head. Feel the confidence set in.
Do it now. How do you feel? Play with it. Slouch for a bit and then stand tall. See how different you feel from one to the other. Looking confident will also make others take notice of you. And standing tall allows you to breathe better so you can project a stronger voice.
Plan and rehearse
Before you pitch, take some time to plan what you’re going to say and rehearse it. Do it out loud. Get members of your family to listen to you or enlist a few friends. Every time you do it you’ll feel more self-assured.
Planning and rehearsing also work before you write. There is great value you in outlining or at least being clear on what subject or scene you’re going to write next. It even helps to rehearse by visualizing your writing session going well.
Do something that you are a good at and love to do
There are times when we fall into comparison thinking and pull our confidence way down. Or sometimes someone says something that puts us into a spiral of self-doubt. (Don’t read those negative reviews.)
One of the best things to do when this happens is to take action and do something that you’re great at and love to do. There’s nothing like being in your zone of genius to boost your confidence.
Read positive statements about yourself out loud
One study had two groups of volunteers read statements out loud. The first group read statements like, “Saturn has rings.” The second group read positive statements about themselves.
The second group came out of the experiment feeling great!
The statements below are a little different from the example in the book. I’ve geared these towards inspiring confidence. I encourage you to create your own once you’ve got the hang of it and to use them to read out loud when you need a confidence boost.
Statements that can help you increase your confidence
1. I am a great ______________.
2. I can do _______________ well.
3. People love what I do.
4. I have confidence in my ability to ___________.
5. I help people ____________.
6. I am loved and appreciated.
7. I feel enthusiastic about life right now.
8. I get along with most people I meet.
9. I am optimistic about my future.
10. My work is going well.
11. I am successful at _______________.
12. I feel happy and secure in this moment.
13. People love to be around me.
14. I am full of energy and doing what I love.
15. Today is going to be a fun and successful day.
Confidence is everything. One of the best baseball players in the MLB today said that in an interview recently. He said it takes work to keep up your confidence. A pro works at it. This is just as important as practicing the craft. May your path become clearer as you build your confidence.
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