Author Archives: Linda Joy Myers

The Creative Process

The Creative Process

The Creative ProcessHow do we create something out of nothing? Or perhaps a better question is—how do we create, period? Where does the creative impulse come from, and how can we find it? How do we know when we have “it”?

These circular questions arise with writers and all creative artists, and there is no answer that fits everyone. The “answer” is the process itself. As a writing coach and teacher, it seems important to have us examine the energy and art of being creative, and be able to find ourselves in the flow of it.

What’s interesting is that the process takes focus, yet we need to allow time to be unfocused, which invites the unknown to make its way into our consciousness. Most writers talk about how they find themselves as a channel for a force that moves through them. They are not “trying” to write. Then there are those times when no matter what we try, we can only squeeze out a few lines. And they are bad lines at that. What to do?

Last year, I had to stop writing the memoir I was working on at the 85,000 word mark when I realized that I was coming at it with a theme and voice that wasn’t working out. And worse, I felt that the voice of the narrator was wrong. I began to feel that the writing didn’t fit my inner intention, which wasn’t clear until I had written nearly the whole book. Well, I can say it was a bit disconcerting, but by then, I was relieved to make the decision to stop because the sense that it was not going in the right direction had been niggling at me for some time.

I was not sure that I would find the “right” voice, but I knew that I had to go into silence to discover it. I allowed myself to stop thinking about the book and find silence within, where perhaps something new might be born. I read novels, poetry, and allowed my imagination to flitter about while taking care not to pounce on any particular idea. I didn’t write anything down during that month-long period. I meditated on the idea that my creative process would let me know when there was something interesting to pay attention to, and sure enough it did. About five weeks after the experiment started, a phrase popped into my mind in a voice I felt I could live with. They turned out to be the first lines in the book I’m about to publish.

I learned so much from writing the first version that I abandoned. I knew what I needed to leave out, and I had a clearer sense of my themes and how to carry the project through.

Writing a book is a fraught activity. There is no guarantee that you will get to the end with something you feel good about. It can feel fine then jump off the rails just when you feel you have “arrived.”

The lesson, I believe, is to write with faith and hope, and not get attached to the outcome. To listen and capture what arises, in hopes that we can keep going. It’s important not to worry about the process Worry creates a blockage and that doesn’t help. We want to keep the flow going as much as we can, and enter into the stream where we flow into the next paragraph and chapter, one by one. The book begins to build itself, it begins to become what it’s trying to be.

I hope you can join us on Friday, March 17, when Kay Adams will talk about Writing Your Creative Manifesto!

March Roundtable Webinar- FREE to All- March 9, 2017

Donna Stoneham

Critical Keys for Thriving as a Writer

March 9, 2017

 4 PM PST  5 PM MST  6 PM CST  7 PM EST  

Have you held yourself back from getting a book out into the world because you feared rejection?  Have you ever considered that you might be as afraid to succeed as you are to fail?

In her book, The Thriver’s Edge:  Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love and Lead, transformational leadership expert and executive coach Dr. Donna Stoneham show readers how to move from surviving to thriving.  Through personal stories, case studies of clients, and sharing what she’s learned over her twenty-five-year coaching and teaching career, Donna discusses why people are as afraid to succeed as they are to fail.  Using her THRIVER model, she creates a path to help readers uncover the beliefs and fears that hold them back from more fully expressing their potential, then provides tools and reflection questions for how to break those obstacles and create the life they yearn to live.  Practical, applicable, and transformative, The Thriver’s Edge is a “coach in a book” that teaches readers to unleash their potential, fulfill their dreams, and offer their best to the world.

In this webinar, Donna will discuss the fears that hold writers back.  She will provide practical tools to break through those fears by applying some of the keys to thriving from her book.  You will learn:

  • About the Jonah Complex and why many of us fear success as much as failure.
  • How to tune into and leverage your inner champion and the soul-tenders in your life, rather than the inner-critic and the doubt-planters that seek to hold you back.
  • Skillful ways to manage your inner critic when it rears its ugly head.
  • What it takes to create and sustain the resilience you need as a writer.
  • Ways to deepen self-trust and follow your inner compass.
  • How to live “at cause” versus “at effect” in your writing career.

Bio:  About Donna Stoneham, Ph.D.

Donna Stoneham, PhD, is a master executive coach, transformational leadership expert, facilitator, author, spiritual activist and speaker.

For the past twenty-five years, Donna has helped several thousand Fortune 1000 and not-for-profit leaders, teams, and organizations unleash their power to thrive™ and create powerful results in their work and lives through her company, Positive Impact, LLC (www.positiveimpacllc.com.)  Donna holds a Ph.D. with a concentration in Learning and Change in Human Systems from the California Institute of Integral Studies and is a certified Integral Coach®.

Donna is the author of the award-winning book, The Thriver’s Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead (finalist in National Indie Best Book Awards, USA Best Book Awards, and International Book Awards) and named by Buzz Feed as “Nine Awesome Books for Your Kick-Ass Career.” She’s a contributor in two books, The Coaching Code and Ask Coach (October, 2016). (www.donnastoneham.com).  As one of the world’s leading coaches, Donna will be featured in the upcoming full length documentary, Leap! The Coaching Movie (www.coachingmovie.com) (2017).  Donna is working on her next book, 52 Weeks to Thrive (2018) and a book of resistance poetry that will be released in 2017.

Donna has written for the International Journal of Coaches in Organizations, TD Magazine, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine, and The Globe and Mail.  She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, and The Huffington Post and has been a guest on ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliates, Sirius Radio, IHeartRadio and on numerous radio shows throughout the US.

Take Donna’s thriver quiz: http://donnastoneham.com/thrivers-quiz/  or follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DonnaStonehamPhD/ or Twitter @DonnaStoneham.

 

Audio and webinar recording below:

MP3 File

 

 

The Psychological Journey of Memoir Writing

The thrill of our destination spurs us on

The thrill of our destination spurs us onWhen we begin a journey, we’re excited. We pack our suitcase, imagining the moments to come. The thrill of our destination courses through us, spurring us on. We begin with high hopes for what we’ll encounter.

I remember when I prepared for my trip to France not long ago how excited I was go to Paris, then Lyon and the southern mountains where Cezanne and Van Gogh used to paint. It was of course a wonderful trip—the vision of the Eiffel Tower even better than my imagination, but there were challenges—the suitcase was too heavy to lift upstairs, the Metro was stuffed with TONS of people, and I got lost dozens of times on tiny country lanes. There were moments of being exhausted, and others of being exhilarated. But the images I had when I packed my suitcase changed. The real journey was different, and it changed me.

So, it is when we write a memoir. We begin putting in our suitcase the memories, people, and events that we’re eager to celebrate and remember. Even if our story is a dark one, we have a handle on it; we’ve been journaling and we know the basics of the story. We launch into our writing eagerly, capturing images and moments, freely writing, doing research. We even feel brave enough to tell people we’re writing a book!

Then something happens. The doubts creep in, “I’m not sure what I wrote is the real truth. My sister says I made things up.” Or, “Gee, I don’t want to reveal x and y and z. It’s too personal. I don’t want people knowing all these things about me.” Or you read a bunch of other memoirs and think that you can’t write well enough, you feel that it’s really too big a job, this memoir project. You decide to put it away for a while.

There’s another scenario: You’re starting to remember things, memories you thought you’d handled, you begin to reflect on the past in a new way, and start to write about it, but you feel sad, depressed or angry. You try to put it all aside, but you can’t. The writing doesn’t work. You are stuck in the middle of your book, you feel conflicted. You put the project away.

This is all good news. I know, it doesn’t sound like good news to you. You just want to get your memoir done!  You want to brush away the doubts.

The good news is that you are in the middle of your memoir journey, and you’re doing fine. There are three major stages in writing a memoir. The first is the eager beginning, “downloading” as some people call it. Then there’s the Muddy Middle, where themes, stories, and memories begin to build into a larger story, one that you don’t have control of. The muddy middle is the biggest part of the journey, by the way.

The later stage is where you find your stride, the journey has changed you, and you are grateful for the riches it gives you. It’s not the same journey you imagined. You are different. The muddy middle becomes your teacher, your mentor. As Dr. James Pennebaker, says, “Story is a way of knowledge.” He has done hundreds of studies that show how writing helps to heal trauma and create a new story for you

Some tips for your trip:

  1. Accept that writing your memoir is a longer journey than you imagined. Be patient.
  2. Take good care of yourself on the journey. Rest, set a schedule, make a map.
  3. Allow the writing process to guide you, allow in the unwanted stories, images, and memories. They have something to teach you.
  4. Trust in your creative muse, the excitement you felt when you began your journey. Allow it to urge you forward.
  5. Invite your unconscious to help you write and remember.
  6. Know that you will write the same story over and over again, but in a new way. Know that you will find the muddy middle, that you will get stuck and lost, but keep going.
  7. You will find your way out of the muddy middle if you just keep writing!

How Do I Begin—The Most Asked Question in Memoirland

How Do I Begin—The Most Asked Question in Memoirland

How Do I Begin—The Most Asked Question in MemoirlandWhen you begin to write a memoir, you soon discover several layers to the process: there’s the emotional angst most people feel about writing about themselves, the worry about exposing yourself and your family to public scrutiny when the book is published. And there are questions about the craft of writing a story. After all, your story is so much more than what happened when, though time frames and timelines are important when writing a memoir. When confronted with these complicated questions, there can be a temptation to give up and walk away. Or you can contact a writing coach or join a class to keep going with support and discussion that help you find your way.

From having written two published memoirs—my new one, Song of the Plains, will be released in June, and with four non-published versions filed away, I know the struggle well!

I’m going to address questions about the process of memoir writing in a series of articles, each one focusing on one of the problems. The first one is about the emotional angst.

The angst people feel when they begin to write may lead to these questions:

  1. Will my story be interesting to other people?
  2. I’m afraid to start because then I’ll feel too exposed. There’s a lot in my story that no one else knows.
  3. What about my family? They won’t want me to write this story.
  4. The whole world will find out about things that will expose other people.
  5. The family will say that I’m making these things up.

First, let me tell you that I’ve been a family therapist for 38 years, and I bring to this discussion my years of work with people and knowledge of family dynamics and the challenge of revealing secrets or silence. I know how hard it is. I used to feel I’d dissolve in shame when I first wrote the truths of my life—it was a secret shame then because I didn’t know that other writers went through the same thing. I also never thought others could relate to my story—another issue that I found out most writers have. But I kept writing, alone. I kept trying to find the voice for my story and write it because it wouldn’t leave me alone!

You want to know if your story will be interesting to others, but you can’t answer that—it’s really the inner critic talking, the voice of doubt. As I said, it’s a question that every writer asks. We all wonder if we’re blabbing stuff that’s going to be boring, or too shocking, or too something, and we pull back. The inner critic is like that—it creates doubt, and it silences us.

The solution: jump in and freewrite your story. A freewrite means to start writing and go for 15 minutes without stopping—this bypasses the inner critic. Get out as much as you can. Announce to your inner critic that everyone asks those questions and right now you’re going to give yourself permission to explore your story.

Then there is the problem with family and exposure. While it’s natural for family members to be concerned about how they’re portrayed, when you begin, you are not showing your work to them. It’s important to feel free to write what’s on your mind, to write your truth without censoring. I strongly advocate not sharing your early writing with anyone except your exclusive, safe writing group and your writing coach. And don’t show your work to your family yet. If you write in private for a while, they won’t know about it, and won’t judge it or you.

Some writers have told me their family has explicitly told them not to write certain truths about the family, not to reveal certain secrets or embarrassing information. Each writer has to decide whether to step across that “permission” line or not. You need to consider the family “rules”—and whether you’re going to break them. What would the outcome be if you did? What if the revealing of certain stories presented an opportunity for healing? Sometimes there’s positive outcome when you’re ready to share your story with family. There can be fresh perspectives, and a chance for a new kind of conversation about things that have never been talked about before.

But I can’t emphasize enough that in the early stages keep your story private so you can explore your memories and your point of view freely without worrying about the feelings of other people or possible outcomes. As a family therapist, I can’t tell you how many times I’d sit in a session with a group of six or eight people and hear how each of them had a different point of view about a single event—the same event, and each believed they were right. It’s common for people to see things differently, but when you’re writing your point of view, it can feel invalidating to hear these different opinions. So it’s best to hold off until later.

As you begin writing your story, you’re trying to discover your own truths, you’re writing to explore yourself, your story, and how your past has affected you. Write your story to get it down on the page where you can read it as a witness to your former self. This is freeing and is often a healing experience.

In the next article, we’ll look at the issues around publicly writing about other people and how to handle that.

Structure: The Backbone of Your Memoir

Structure your memoir

Structure your memoirWe’re all fired up about STRUCTURE this month. Why? Because we see over and over again how important this key element is to actually executing a readable memoir. Plus, we know it’s a place where memoirists struggle, and there are some firm decisions you can make to ease your way into a structure that sings.

We invite you to take advantage of this information-packed hour: STRUCTURE: THE BACKBONE OF YOUR MEMOIR. It’s happening next Monday, November 14, at 4pm PT | 5pm MT | 6pm CT | 7pm ET. We’re going deep here—covering:

  • What structure is, why it matters, and how you can think about structure without overwhelming yourself completely—especially if you’re in the middle of writing your memoir.
  • Tools that support structure—your table of contents, turning points, and scaffolding. These are simple ways to help focus the structure of your book, building on what you already have.
  • Traditional story arcs and how to fit your memoir into them. We will discuss how the energy of a memoir moves forward—problem/conflict/situation, which finally reaches a climax, followed by resolution—and how to track your own arc.
  • Types of structures: linear, braided, associative, framed, and circular. Complete with examples of each kind.

It’s Monday: November 14, at 4pm PT | 5pm MT| 6pm CT | 7pm ET
Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers
SIGN UP HERE. 

Don’t worry if the timing doesn’t work for you. We always record our webinars. As long as you’re signed up, you’ll get the link the next day.

We’ll see you Monday!

Linda Joy & Brooke

Testimonials

Myers makes a compelling case for the power of words as a form of healing and growth.

James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. professor of psychology, The University of Texas at Austin and author, Opening Up and Writing To Heal

...the NAMW memoir classes with Linda Joy Myers are wonderful

Kathy Pooler