Warning: I’m about to go all Stuart Smalley on you. Writers self-flagellate quite expertly already, so I’m here to serve up a big plate of affirmation instead. You’ll eat it, and you’ll like it. No leftovers. As my mom would say about the last bites of dinner, the kind which would require approximately one square inch of Tupperware, we are not putting this affirmation back in the refrigerator.
During the last two weeks, my ego, a fear-driven beast, has been rearing its ugly head about my work and writing. It’s been blathering on about novel-in-progress and all of the ways I’m messing it up. And don’t even get it started on making sure everyone loves every word I ever write. All of them.
Luckily, this year I’ve also been doing a good job of nourishing my soul, which to my delight, immediately reared its much lovelier head in response. If you’re thinking this sounds like I have some sort of Hydra living in my belly like Sigourney Weaver and those aliens, you’re right. For a woman with no human children, I seem to have a lot of mouths to feed around here.
Perhaps some of you writers out there can relate? Have you, too, been hearing the voices or brushing the hair or meeting the demands of the multiple characters, critics, and rebel rousers within?
From the conversations between at least two of the heads within me, as well as from lessons learned through my mentoring work with other writers, I’ve culled a list of three ego declarations about writing, including what happens if we pay attention to them, as well as three soul responses and the creative results of tending to those. Guess which list leads to more productivity and peace of mind. Hint: it’s not the first one.
If you’ve been tuning in to the voice of the Ego Head and finding yourself and your writing stuck, I highly recommend giving the Ego Head some melatonin and taking time to listen to the Soul Head.
When I make that soul shift myself, my writing is better for it, and I give you this list with all of the hope and light I can muster for you and your beautiful words.
Ego Head Meets Soul Head, Scenario 1:
Ego says: Everyone must love this book/story/essay/shopping list.
Results: Writing feels generic, shallow, empty, and trivial.
Soul says: This is the book/story/essay/shopping list written from my heart for exactly the person who needs and understands it/my handwriting.
Results: Writing feels unique, full, and potent.
Ego Head Meets Soul Head, Scenario 2:
Ego says: I should have been done with this draft last week/month/year.
Results: Writing feels rushed and sloppy; writer feels constant disappointment with progress.
Soul says: I am completing this draft at the exact pace with which it needs to be completed.
Results: Writing breathes and grows in unexpected ways; writer feels spaciousness and even occasional contentment (gasp!) with process.
Ego Head Meets Soul Head, Scenario 3:
Ego says: That other writer over there is LIVING THE DREAM, and I am living the Nightmare on Elm Street. Why don’t I write/publish like that?
Results: Writing energy and focus flies out the window into competition instead of pouring onto the page, where it needs to be; writer feels behind, inadequate, jealous.
Soul says: It is better for me to write like myself than anyone else. I honor my own process, ratty bathrobe, Far Side coffee mug, and La-Z-Boy recliner.
Results: Writing feels personal, precise, and in-voice; writer feels secure, grateful, present.
Letting soul speak to the creative process is a curative act. If ego or fear-driven writing are what ails you, this is the medicine. Not cherry-flavored or awkward to swallow or inducing drowsiness. Just something simple, nourishing, and enlivening, straight from one of your very own darling Hydra heads within. The one that’s not trying to eat your brains or thwart you in any way.
May you and your writing be well.