How do private practice therapists take the creative risk and keep a blog?

"Creativity is the ability to take a risk. To actually put yourself on the line and risk ridicule, being pilloried, criticized, whatever. But... you must take that risk."

Sting - and specifically his Ted talk about how he reconnected with his creativity - inspired me to think about the risks we take as writers, as thinkers, as content creators, and as publishers.

Does creativity feel like a risk to you?

How do private practice therapists take the creative risk of keeping a blog?
How do private practice therapists take the creative risk of keeping a blog?

Creating and sharing haven’t always felt risky for me.

Think of yourself as a kid. Think of what Picasso said: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

Art was life, not risk.

As I grow older, as my circles of influence grow a little wider, and as more people are likely to read my words, I finally feel the tingle of “this is risky” when I hit publish.

Blogging for business can be your best creative outlet

As full as life is - and I know you can relate to this - creative time can be scarce. You're in two nonstop races when you run a family and you run a business - or at least it can feel that way.

In my case, if there's any “me” time at all, it’s a choice between meditate, exercise, or do some creative writing.

Since I tend to choose whatever offers maximum overall benefit and can be done during nap time, I choose meditation. That means I’m in pretty lousy shape and it means my beloved fiction projects are languishing.

It also means my untapped creative writing juices get poured into my blogging and content marketing. Because I need to build a business to support this family, that’s the perfect mix right now.

If writing for the business is the creative outlet, then blogging can feel risky too

[tweetthis]If creativity=risk and biz blogging is a #creative practice, does that make #writing risky?[/tweetthis]

Thinking aloud, trying out a theory in a public space, taking on issues that people would rather not examine, publishing it online for all the world to see… all of this can feel dangerous.

Even though we’re all getting used to living out loud when we're on online, it can start to feel dicey when you consider your professional persona.

This is especially true if you feel particuarly cautious about sharing personal stories - either because you’re a naturally private person or because you’re a therapist in private practice.

When you start to build an audience and you sincerely hope those people will invest in what you do, “just write and hit publish” starts to feel kinda scary.

And there’s a particular kind of risk inherent to publishing a blog post for your business: 

You can’t always be sure that you’re writing about an idea that speaks to the concerns of your ideal readers and clients. What if the story you need to tell right now springs from your own psyche and your own needs?

Discern your own stories from the Greater Story your business & your readers need you to tell

[tweetthis]Some stories are private. Some need to get tweeted like crazy. Can you tell the difference?[/tweetthis]

Experience. Listening. Mindfulness.

And trust.

Trust that you’ve created a reciprocal relationship with you readers that allows you to hear their needs above your own internal noise.

Trust that your readers are willing to journey with you into the uncharted territory of your inner world. (Within reason… this is a professional, not a confessional blog!)

There’s no simple formula. Again, it’s a creative act - because yes, blogging for your business can be a deeply creative process. There are risks and you may not always get it right, but that whole “nothing ventured, nothing gained” idea certainly applies in this case.

[tweetthis]Shh! I'm writing. #Blogging for my business is my creative outlet.[/tweetthis]

Is writing the “right” story easier or harder for therapists?

So, having decided to write about other people instead of myself, a further irony is that sometimes you reveal more about yourself than you'd ever intended. - Sting at TED Vancouver in 2014

Is writing the "right" story harder for therapists?
Is writing the "right" story harder for therapists?

Storytelling is an intensely personal act.

That is why it is such an effective way to reach and engage people. You do risk revealing yourself when you tell a story - even if you never use a personal pronoun.

The way a narrator takes a chance and puts herself on the line? That is exactly what gets people to pay attention.

You might think that discerning whether a story is acceptably universal or too rooted in personal concerns would be easier for therapists. After all, your work is about witnessing and holding space for others’ emotions.

You know what occupies many hearts and minds. And you've generally been taught to keep yourSELF out the equation (check in with Rebecca Wong for more on why that doesn't need to be the case).

For example, when someone  reveals a concern about infidelity or chronic anxiety or the stress of parenting, you know it’s a topic that you could explore on your blog (ethically and without identifying details, of course). When you see patterns emerge in your practice, you've discover a collective problem that will interest many of your readers. 

But what if you’re drawn to discuss a topic because it’s rippling through your own life or because it colors your past?

Then, telling the story - even without an "I" - can feel risky. You're not so sure you're telling the "right" story and distinguishing between the personal and universal.

Through the writing process - which reveals countless hidden truths - you may realize that it's hard to publish a post and maintain your professional posture when you’re bent under the strain of your own experiences.

So what do you do?

When your own "stuff" wants to come into your blog and you're not totally sure what is yours, what is important for the community, and what is just plain old whiny nonsense, in addition to practicing mindfulness and trust, practice gentleness.

Be gentle with your story, with your need to tell it, with your audience. After all, they put themselves in your care when they gather round to hear what you have to say.

And get a second set of eyes to review the post before you hit publish.

Often, a non-therapist with distance from your situation will be the best reader because they offer the gift of impartiality. They can tell you what resonates in the heart of the common reader, what feels like psychobabble buzz, and what feels too autobiographical.

I happen to be a non-therapist who loves to play the role of your ideal reader.  As your writing coach, I can help you figure out which stories to tell and support you as your find just the right words to tell them.