Your mission as an agent of transformation and a force for good is to share your ideas, your experiences, and your dreams with the readers who need your message, but so much gets in the way of your words and your writing practice...
Someday, it might be fun to tell your grandkids that you had a front row seat for what will surely go down in history as one of the most infamous elections ever. Since every person must tell the story from their own point of view, there will be hundreds of millions of versions of the 2016 presidential race, and they’ll only have one thing in common: each story will have a beginning, middle, and an end.
Eventually, you’ll have the perspective to understand when and how the story started (it probably wasn’t the day the winner announced his candidacy).
You’ll figure out the turning point (surprisingly, it wasn’t the day the Access Hollywood tape was released).
Already, some Americans can tell you the last line of the story: a 3 AM victory speech.
Others are still waiting to figure out how their story ends.
[tweetthis]If you have post-election writer's block it's because you're still living your story[/tweetthis]
How to be sure your 2016 election story isn’t finished yet
It's important to note that having an unfinished election story does not imply that you refuse to accept the results of the American democratic process or that you're into the whole #notmypresident thing. You could say it's more about the state of your heart than it is about making plans to move to Canada.
Here's a quick self-test to see if you're in the camp that's still waiting for an ending:
- If you have a love/hate relationship with the social media feeds and recognize that all these reactions are wrecking your health, but you still can’t look away, your story probably isn’t finished yet.
- If you’re someone who is trying to avoid all political material (except Joe Biden memes) and is focusing purely on videos of cats and puppies, then there's a decent chance your story isn’t finished yet. (And I’m really flattered you broke your own rules to read this!)
- And, if you’re someone who can’t turn journal entries or scattered notes into a complete article or blog post, your story definitely isn’t finished yet.
(Oh, and should you fit the unfinished story profile you probably appreciate pantsuits and the color blue, but that’s sort of a side issue at this point.)
Ultimately, you see the 2016 presidential race as something that’s about a lot more than the person who sits in the Oval Office. You understand that many of the the people you care about and work with can’t get back to life as usual in our post November 8th world.
You’re in touch with all of the feelings of shock, outrage, confusion, and emptiness that make you fantasize about taking to the streets or hiding under the bed. (And you probably vacillate between the two options in the space of a minute.)
But what about the persistent inner voice that says “you must write” (or podcast or try Facebook Live)?
A wise friend, a therapist and writer, who has been writing boldly into the most troublesome issues of the day kindly advised me to "give yourself a chance to wait until you regroup and heal."
My response? "Well, I guess I will be doing a lot of writing from the other side of the grave."
As a writing and storytelling coach for therapists, healers, and people in the transformation business, it’s my job to be two steps ahead. I’m here to support people who write to deepen self knowledge and publish content to support their practices. I show up online in order to model that process, but how on earth can I do that when I have no idea what I really think and I feel unqualified to offer guidance?
That sort of extra pressure only makes the writer’s block even more painful, of course.
But then, I remind myself that every honest person who has shared any insights over the last week owns the fact that they’re stumbling along unmarked paths with everyone else. Many have found a way to say… something. Few of these pieces feel complete or definitive, but that’s ok. Certainty is a lie when you don’t know the story’s real ending.
If it’s not a time for storytelling, it’s a time for story holding
What eases us through this time of confusion?
Stillness. Being aware of the mess. Feeling all the feelings. Kindness. Compassionate conversation.
We actually heal confusion by admitting that we’re mired in it and, as much as we hate to admit it, when we realize that confusion has a measure of power over us.
We collectively achieve clarity when we refuse to rush a story to a neat little ending before its time.
The good news? The wonderful news for therapists, healers, and transformation professionals? It’s your job to hold and keep safe the stories of others. Even if you’re a teacher and it often feels like you're called to perform and convey information, you’re also someone who witnesses and supports others’ growth.
The kind of work you do is about listening. It is the kind of work that asks you to respond to one person’s needs. It does not require you to fully articulate the new left wing agenda or how to reverse this new racism and misogyny sweeping America or how to decide if it's better to protest or pray.
Your work requires you to be articulate in long moments of silence and to hold space for clients going through their own dark nights, through their own stumbling confusion.
Your clients don't need to be guided to the end of their own election story. Your clients need you to help guide them back to themselves.
[tweetthis]In the #election aftermath, it might be better to be a story holder than a storyteller[/tweetthis]
And yet, it is always time for writing and self expression
Even as your work may call you to be fluent in the language of silence, please don’t silence yourself if the words are aching to come through.
I invite you to rely on your writing practice (as well as your meditation practice and other healing modalities that calm and unbind your soul) to find your way through your own confusion. And I invite you to heed the call to share those ideas when you trust the moment is right, when you trust that you must be heard.
Here are 3 things I know as I write beside you through this time of uncertainty:
(And, yes, it's based on the Story Triangle that I use to help writers connect with their readers and their own truth. Click here to learn more. )
1. Self-focused first drafts are essential. Anne Lamott gave us permission to write “shitty first drafts.” By all means, feel free to write utter crap as long as it means you’re getting words on a page.
But please, please, please don’t allow yourself to write lousy versions of what someone else told you to think or what you assume the people want to hear from you. Write for yourself first in order to discover the truths within you.
2. Keep your audience in mind. What does your reader need from you? Why are you writing in this particular public forum? The territory you cover on a Medium post will likely be very different that the ideas you share on your business blog.
Know your platform and know its audience. When you get that SFD into the final draft, it needs to be re-crafted according to the needs of your reader. Do they need reassurance, do they need resources, do they need you to raise a ruckus, or do they need respite from all that election talk?
3. Remember that complete, compelling stories are everywhere, just waiting to be told. The great big election story is still being written as we see what a You Know Who presidency looks like, but there are countless little stories to be told along the way.
Even though many kids have taken the election results pretty hard (who else loves an elementary school kid who is still heart broken because we don't have a “girl president?), children are resilient. What stories are they living in the present moment?
Look for the ways that hope is being wrapped in a beginning, middle, and end. How are people uniting and taking positive action, despite the heavy November clouds?
Do you have stories that are begging to come through you? I can help hold space for you to tell them, support you as you clarify your ideas, and help you craft your words.
“You look like you’re in agony, dear one.” “Oh, I’m not. I’m just… It’s the next story.”
“I thought you were happy with this arrangement. The chance to take the stage in the square each day… It’s such an honor. And I’ve heard wonderful things.”
“Of course you have! You’re my husband,” she closed her eyes and pinched at the bridge of her long nose. “I do love doing it and I feel the good of it. I just don’t have anything left.”
“Nothing left! You told me that you were born a storyteller and I’ve never doubted that for a moment since we met.”
“Oh, but you know what it is to be tired when a deep place within your mind's worn through. Like all the creative fires has been put to bed in preparation for a night that just may not end.”
“I’m a glass blower, wife. When the fires go out I bid the apprentices to stoke them hotter than ever and I make thick tumblers for the publicans.”
“Ach, you’re no help! And I have to get up on the stage in less than two hours.”
“You are the Rememberer for these people. You hold their chalice and you wield their sword. Only you dare speak all of their dreams and their fears. You know the secrets what makes them proud and what makes them glad they weren’t born to some other savage race - no matter how rich their kings or fierce their warriors.
“Tell them of the goddess you love best,” he said, leaning forward to tuck the stray curls behind her ears. “Tell the women about how she stands tall in battle and how she births a dozen sons without dread. Tell the men about the swell of her breast and the warmth of her mystery. Tell the children that she holds the keys to the fairy realm. And, when you come home, tell me how you’re just like her.”
The storyteller sighed, but as she closed her eyes, it was not with weariness but trust. Trust in the man who held her chalice and called her to take up her own sword. Trust in the stories that guided her and everyone who gathered when she raised up her voice.
Sometimes this storyteller's chalice feels empty... If you'd like to contribute a story to the #365StrongStories project, read the submission guidelines here.
A creative entrepreneur’s editorial calendar can be her salvation. Making a commitment to generate ideas, get the writing done, and put something in front of an audience signals to your community (and your brain and your spirit) that you’re fully invested in this work.
But, then again, a writing plan can just be a spreadsheet full of punishment and guilt. If you can’t seem to work the plan and meet your deadlines, does it mean you don’t truly care about your business or the people you serve?
Of course not. But when you’re blinded by the glare of the blank page or find every idea fizzles after two paragraphs, you start to panic. Especially when you’ve been on a consistent publishing streak.
You're thinking nothing short of a natural disaster should stop you from posting on schedule, but here you are, about to fail because you can’t find and stick to one halfway decent topic on an average Tuesday.
Step 1 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Set Your Information Filters
The problem isn’t a lack of ideas. Most likely, it's an overabundance of information and possibility that has you stuck.
So, the first thing to do to vanquish writer’s block is to practice discernment about what sort of information you consume.
In Relax, Their Blogging and Marketing Advice Doesn’t Apply to You I offer a case for why you can tune out what the majority of experts have to say about content marketing - even if you’re dedicated to writing a blog in support of your business.
But then, once you’ve shut off the information fire hose, you’re left with the paradox: now that I finally have some quiet around here, I’m just going to add to the noise.
Step 2 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Believe In the Writing Process
Is the ultimate cure for writer’s block simply killing the urge to write?
What if you convince yourself that producing more articles just adds to the chaos of the oversaturated digital stream? Then you can just walk away from the whole writing enterprise and congratulate yourself for reducing the information glut, right?
No. That’s not right.
- Maya Angelou
Writing is medicine. Words want to make alchemists of us all.
To shape your flashes of insight and prayers of gratitude and revelations of joy into a message that someone else can understand… that is the great prize of the human intellect, the greatest expression of aliveness in this Age of Information.
Writing has saved your sanity more times than you can count, but you forget this. I forget this. And so we research a little more in order to avoid taking the cure that is just as bitter as the disease.
Why is it that when it's time to write we open Google Search instead of opening a Google Doc?
Step 3 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Avoid Writing By Reading About Writing
Writer's block isn't hard to cure. Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.
He’s right, of course, but the path to success he describes is outlined in traffic cones. Like me, I am betting you were hoping for velvet ropes or a seashell strewn path.
So turn to Kelly Galea who offers the same idea but prepares you a soft writer’s nest with the perfect writing implement and a beloved journal.
Just express yourself. Just BE. So simple, really. Again, are you wondering where these thoughts and words are coming from? This pen. How is that for an answer? The pen is an instrument … YOU are an instrument. Be used to express this collective consciousness in YOUR voice – your unique voice, the voice someone (MANY someones) are waiting to hear, to call them forth, to bring them home. Lead them, guide them, help them, inspire them, teach them. Give them hope. Give them love. Give them that spark. Give them compassion for themselves.
Kelly got me cozy, but I might just burrow into that nest she crafted with her words and never write a thing, so I look to Jeffrey Davis to get me moving.
In Jeffrey’s Post Ecstasy Laundry List he addresses the inevitable come down after a peak creative experience, but much of this advice applies to you if you can’t imagine feeling creative ever again.
He’s telling you to keep writing too:
Make mistakes. The only catastrophic choice a writer makes is not to choose. Whether it’s genre or working story arc or angle. Show up. Get messy. Hit dead ends. Flounder. That’s part of the quest.
Step 4 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Assimilate Rather than Create
I allowed myself one more click before I told myself I would just walk away from the desk and pray for inspiration over the next diaper change (after all, it’s in moments of rest and boredom that the real answers flow).
Then I discovered Karen Brody’s work. Great goodness! She’s an expert in the struggle exhausted, depleted women who inspires you to change your way of being: “Because your life needs you fully charged.”
Karen offers 9 insights into the art of being well-rested, and it's barely a stretch to apply each of these to the “I have no idea what to write” lament. My favorite:
Welcome Everything. Think of all the hours you live in an either/or mentality. Real transformation comes when you can drop the false idea that you’re separate.
Apply this approach to your daily life, welcoming every experience as a potential inspiration for your next blog post or article.
Step 5 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Practice Compassion
Bless you and your commitment. All hail your editorial calendar that can. You keep rocking that publishing streak.
But remember that your writing practice is meant to give back to you.
The hours you put in aren’t just in service to another post, another snack for the voracious internet marketing beast.
Your next post is a distillation of your presence in your life and in your business. It is a message from the heart of your work to the heart of someone who needs your wisdom, encouragement, or strategic advice.
The people who matter - the people who want to be beguiled and convinced and changed by your words - they don’t want you to look at a blank page gone blurry with tears of frustration. If they must, they can wait til next week.
And so can your spreadsheet.
But before you give up and beat yourself up:
- tune out the extraneous noise
- remember why writing matters to you
- seek wise counsel
- be present in the moment, and
- be kind to yourself
I can’t wait to read what you'll write next!
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