Tag Archives: writing

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

 

 

Storytelling in Memoir

Storytelling in Memoir

Storytelling in MemoirWe all have a story to tell, but ah–how to tell it, that’s what keeps us at our desk, scribbling in our notebooks, looking for the scenes and moments that we carry in our hearts. Our job as memoirists is to translate what we know and remember to the page, to put images and wispy memories into language and story. Memoirists sometimes feel they have a story that ought to be easy to tell. After all, we know what happened in our lives and why we want to write about it. But this is where memoir writers struggle. A well-written story is more than “what happened.” And a reader of memoir looks for much more than “what happened to you.” The reader wants to be transported into your world, and needs to see how your story helps them, or inspires them in some way. There needs to be a universal connection.

Elements of a Story

There is a plot in memoir—the “what happened when” part; there’s character development, which means understanding the arc of the ways that each major character—including yourself as a protagonist—changes and grows during the story. The craft of writing a story means stepping back from our subjective relationship with ourselves and our memories and offering images and feelings that bring the reader into the world we portray through story. To do this we need to write in scenes.

In a scene you have: action, characters, place, time, a significant moment, vivid descriptions and sensual details. These sensual details are the key to bringing your reader into your world. Taste, vivid colors and description, smell, sound—all these are specifics that tune the reader’s brain into your own brain’s wavelength and make it hard to stop reading. They fall into the world of the story—which is what you want. There are some very interesting studies that show how the brain of the reader merges with the story being told because of these sensual details.

The other thing important in your scene is that you, the protagonist, have a desire, a need, something that’s important to you that drives through the story. The reader identifies with you and your quest, your journey through the memoir and through your eyes, they learn something new. This is why we read—out of curiosity, out of the need to have a new experience and learn something about the world we didn’t know before. I think this is why memoir is so popular now—our need to connect with the experience and life wisdom of others. Our need to feel connected to a larger community.

This week at the NAMW Telesummit on November 11, we’re excited to have a session with our story guru, Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story and her new book Story Genius. Lisa makes learning story essentials so easy that we wonder why we haven’t been using these tools all along. She’s going to talk about story making in terms of the brain and how we process information. Understanding this will help make you a better writer, and give you new skills that can help your book to become a success. A good story is what agents and editors are looking for. I hope you join us for this informative and inspiring Telesummit. Read more about all the presenters here.

Write Anyway (When you Encounter your Critics) and Find Your Story

Write Anyway

Write AnywayWhen we first decide to write, we feel good about it—we have memories and stories that are a part of who we are. We want to capture times long gone and preserve them in story form, and leave a record and legacy about our lives. But other voices get in the way: “What will people think; you should be ashamed; you’ll embarrass the family. Don’t air our dirty laundry! You know only part of the truth, so be quiet. Your mother would roll over in her grave if she found out you wrote that.”

We all know these voices. They tempt us throw down the pen, sit back and turn on the TV. We want to write out truth, but we don’t want to lose the good will of our family, and most of the time at least, we don’t want to make them angry. Writing a memoir is an act of courage, even defiance against powerful family dynamics. We need to find a way to resolve this dilemma enough to keep our writing project going.

As a family therapist, I’ve worked with many families, and because of that background, I’m in a position to help the writers I work with understand the source of their resistance to writing their truths, and how to manage those critic voices.

When we write memoir, we are reclaiming our story, and we stake a claim to our version of the stories that we lived. Every family has multiple story lines. There’s the “official” version, controlled by the most powerful people in the family, those who have the most to lose. The “lesser” points of view—often held by children or those lesser in power—are often not believed or accepted as true.

Who decides what version of a story to believe? Who is not listened to? Whose point of view is unwanted? The answers to these questions will be decided by family dynamics and power. Many writers I work with tell me that they were not believed, or their version of “what happened” is not accepted, so they have a hard time claiming their own story.

In many families there’s a “scapegoat,” the person that everyone blames for what is wrong. Again, it seems that the writer/witness/narrator in the family is often found in this position too. You may hold a unique or unpopular view of the family stories and those with in power may want to suppress it. Usually this comes from fear.

I am always telling the writers I coach to write their first draft as if no one is going to read it. Write the first draft—and later draft too until all your revisions are complete—story in a protected bubble so you can find your story and your voice.

Some tips from the family therapist:

  • Figure out the power dynamics in your family. If your inner critic voice is chatting to you, write down what it says. Also figure out if there is a specific person whose criticism you are most worried about.
  • If one of your voices says things like: “I don’t know how to write; my family will hate me; how do I know I am writing the truth” keep writing, keep searching for the stories you need to tell. If you were silenced when you were growing up, writing your memoir will help you find your story, the one that belongs to you, and you are no longer silenced when you write.
  • DO NOT hit the delete button when you hear the critic voices after writing. DO protect your writing from curious family or friend invaders until you are comfortable with your work—usually after several drafts are done and you know your story. Treat your work like a vulnerable young plant that needs protection.
  • Find writer buddies to help support you through your networks online. You can ask for writer buddies in the NAMW network and during our teleseminar question time and during our group coaching calls. Several people have been matched up that way!
  • If you’ve been abused, neglected, forgotten, or silenced, you probably learned not to value your own point of view. Writing your story can change that! Keep “telling it like it is.”

Censorship—The Hot Topic of the Week

How do we censor ourselves? What do we do when others try to silence us? In the middle of the political debates, these topics have risen to the top: the right to speak, the right to be silent, and the power of words. Every day we witness word battles on TV and on social media. And when we’re writing, we find ourselves with our own struggles to say our truths and how much to keep our silence. We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can ultimately reach many people, and quickly. In the heat of the moment, we may wish to take back our words that have already flown out into the world, but sometimes that spontaneous expression is our most authentic self. One thing is for certain, if you are a writer, you're aware that you have an audience, that you can reach out in a huge way to the rest of the world—through your stories, your blog posts, your online writing groups, and through social media. Often social media can be a way to try to right wrongs, or it can be used to attack. As always, we can choose what we say and how we say it. But what if others try to silence us? What if our stories have ventured into the realm of discomfort for some readers? When I hear about instances of censorship in the writing world, I draw upon my own philosophy of how I prefer to run writing groups, whether in person or online, and how I support writers. For the last twenty years I have conducted writing workshops in which I define our context as “a safe, sacred space” where what needs to be revealed can be without censure. A place where feelings and secrets that have been hidden for a long time can come into the light of day so the writer can view these issues from all sides. So what is in the dark can come into the light. That does not mean that everything written will be golden, or that everyone will be comfortable, including the writer. In fact, discomfort is often the result of honest writing, of digging deep to find truths that were hidden or unbidden or even previously unknown by us, buried somewhere in our unconscious minds. If we as readers are uncomfortable with what we read or hear, it's an opportunity to look within ourselves to see what button is being triggered. It is never right for us to silence the writer. Their story belongs to them, and comes from a unique point of view. I'm not talking about trash talking or vicious personal attacks here—I'm referring to the authentic stories that are struggling to be released. As a writing community we not only need to invite these stories, but to support the writer's right to have their story. We are living during a time when our true and authentic stories desperately need to be told. We are the voices, the witnesses, to what we have seen, lived, and experienced. This is personal history that's being revealed, which paints a picture of our times, of who we are worldwide as people. We are in a global community and all the stories matter. All stories offer a window into worlds many of us don't know, but need to know about. I wish you all the freedom to write, to express and to be received with compassion and good will.

How do we censor ourselves? What do we do when others try to silence us?   In the middle of the political debates, these topics have risen to the top: the right to speak, the right to be silent, and the power of words. Every day we witness word battles on TV and on social media. And when we’re writing, we find ourselves with our own struggles to say our truths and how much to keep our silence. We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can ultimately reach many people, and quickly. In the heat of the moment, we may wish to take back our words that have already flown out into the world, but sometimes that spontaneous expression is our most authentic self. One thing is for certain, if you are a writer, you're aware that  you have an audience, that you can reach out in a huge way to the rest of the world—through your stories, your blog posts, your online writing groups, and through social media. Often social media can be a way to try to right wrongs, or it can be used to attack. As always, we can choose what we say and how we say it.   But what if others try to silence us? What if our stories have ventured into the realm of discomfort for some readers?   When I hear about instances of censorship in the writing world, I draw upon my own philosophy of how I prefer to run writing groups, whether in person or online, and how I support writers. For the last twenty years I have conducted writing workshops in which I define our context as “a safe, sacred space” where what needs to be revealed can be without censure. A place where feelings and secrets that have been hidden for a long time can come into the light of day so the writer can view these issues from all sides. So what is in the dark can come into the light. That does not mean that everything written will be golden, or that everyone will be comfortable, including the writer. In fact, discomfort is often the result of honest writing, of digging deep to find truths that were hidden or unbidden or even previously unknown by us, buried somewhere in our unconscious minds.    If we as readers are uncomfortable with what we read or hear, it's an opportunity to look within ourselves to see what button is being triggered. It is never right for us to silence the writer. Their story belongs to them, and comes from a unique point of view. I'm not talking about trash talking or vicious personal attacks here—I'm referring to the authentic stories that are struggling to be released. As a writing community we not only need to invite these stories, but to support the writer's right to have their story.  We are living during a time when our true and authentic stories desperately need to be told. We are the voices, the witnesses, to what we have seen, lived, and experienced. This is personal history that's being revealed, which paints a picture of our times, of who we are worldwide as people. We are in a global community and all the stories matter. All stories offer a window into worlds many of us don't know, but need to know about.  I wish you all the freedom to write, to express and to be received with compassion and good will.How do we censor ourselves? What do we do when others try to silence us?

In the middle of the political debates, these topics have risen to the top: the right to speak, the right to be silent, and the power of words. Every day we witness word battles on TV and on social media. And when we’re writing, we find ourselves with our own struggles to say our truths and how much to keep our silence. We live in a world where what we say and how we say it can ultimately reach many people, and quickly. In the heat of the moment, we may wish to take back our words that have already flown out into the world, but sometimes that spontaneous expression is our most authentic self. One thing is for certain, if you are a writer, you’re aware that  you have an audience, that you can reach out in a huge way to the rest of the world—through your stories, your blog posts, your online writing groups, and through social media. Often social media can be a way to try to right wrongs, or it can be used to attack. As always, we can choose what we say and how we say it.

But what if others try to silence us? What if our stories have ventured into the realm of discomfort for some readers?

When I hear about instances of censorship in the writing world, I draw upon my own philosophy of how I prefer to run writing groups, whether in person or online, and how I support writers. For the last twenty years I have conducted writing workshops in which I define our context as “a safe, sacred space” where what needs to be revealed can be without censure. A place where feelings and secrets that have been hidden for a long time can come into the light of day so the writer can view these issues from all sides. So what is in the dark can come into the light. That does not mean that everything written will be golden, or that everyone will be comfortable, including the writer. In fact, discomfort is often the result of honest writing, of digging deep to find truths that were hidden or unbidden or even previously unknown by us, buried somewhere in our unconscious minds.

If we as readers are uncomfortable with what we read or hear, it’s an opportunity to look within ourselves to see what button is being triggered. It is never right for us to silence the writer. Their story belongs to them, and comes from a unique point of view. I’m not talking about trash talking or vicious personal attacks here—I’m referring to the authentic stories that are struggling to be released. As a writing community we not only need to invite these stories, but to support the writer’s right to have their story.

We are living during a time when our true and authentic stories desperately need to be told. We are the voices, the witnesses, to what we have seen, lived, and experienced. This is personal history that’s being revealed, which paints a picture of our times, of who we are worldwide as people. We are in a global community and all the stories matter. All stories offer a window into worlds many of us don’t know, but need to know about.

I wish you all the freedom to write, to express and to be received with compassion and good will.

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