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How to write authentically

authentic, woman walking towards tree

The first time I saw pre-serum Steve Rogers in the first Captain America movie, my skin prickled. 

Something felt off about him. 

How had they filmed Steve through that significant physical transformation, taking him from a frail 5’4″ and 95 pounds to a powerfully built super soldier at 6’2″ and 240 pounds?  

It felt like neither the same nor different actor.

It wasn’t until years later, watching a behind-the-scenes feature of Steve’s transformation, that it clicked.  

(spoiler?) The shot was filmed six times with the same actor, then digitally manipulated on screen to make the character appear smaller, skinnier, and frailer.  

Despite the care, time, and technology they put into it, the pre-serum character felt off to me in a visceral sense.  My body knew something wasn’t right, even though my mind couldn’t name what it was.

Most people have a gut-level sense to detect inauthenticity.  

A lot about the satisfying feeling from the Captain America movie depends on the viewer making a connection to frail Steve.  The viewer can’t afford to notice anything off about him.  The producers did everything they could to make it as realistic as possible to convince the viewer.  This meant a great deal of digital manipulation.

Similarly, even when words are carefully crafted and edited six times, if there’s something off about them, readers can sense it.  

When you’re writing and the success of your future or your self-acceptance hinges upon how people receive the words, you may work and re-work your writing to make it good.  You want the words to have a certain feel, serve a particular purpose.

But nothing is the same as speaking directly from the heart.  Where people can respond with the same openness, curiosity, and depth as you write from.

When people sense something off, their attention naturally goes to figuring out what it is instead of taking in the story’s intent.

~

So how do you write authentically?

Most of all, talk about what matters.  Please write about what matters to you.  It’s okay if no one else is talking or thinking about it.  It’s not about what you think you should be doing. Or what others want or need you to do to make them feel better.

Tell the story of your heart instead of trying to convince.  A story is more potent than empty text, research, or instruction.

When you sense something off, start there.  Put words to what you’re feeling, and let this unseen sense organically guide you to authentic truth.

Go with what gives you shivers and tingles.  Go with what touches you so deep, you feel tears in the corners of your eyes.  Even if it makes you feel a bit like throwing up, this is more real than apathy and numbness.

You will likely not be able to define your destination, or be able to tell where the words will take you.  Some of the most powerful outcomes are surprises that come out of being receptive to your impulses.  

So feel into your body as you’re writing.  Do you feel heavy and distant?  Or expansive and energized?  Look specifically for an opening in your heart and softening of your tissues.

When you’re stuck, ask someone who feels safe to mirror back to you what they hear as you read your words.  What do they feel and sense?

Be in your highest integrity, letting people take what they need and leave the rest.  Their reactions aren’t personal.

With technology affording complacency and mimicking a false sense of reality, there’s especially a need now to tap into our humanity, connect with the natural world, and live in authenticity.  

Our unused gut instincts are manifesting as physical illness and fatigue.  Anxiety and desperation.  This is for a reason; there’s a cause. 

Authenticity serves the collective, because truth and care for all living beings is required to balance technological advancement.

Authenticity may not be as pretty as a pill to swallow, a one-size-fits-all instant cure, and that’s okay–it’s not meant to be.  

Life is messy, and the state of the world is messy.  Pain is a sensation that comes along with living.

Start by putting words to what matters and feel the sigh of relief when doing so–this breath will ripple through the collective.

Let the people who need your story past the armor.

I’m a sucker for superheroes. So despite my aversion to violence, I found myself drawn back to the cinematic tale being spun.

We all need these stories that touch our hearts. That make us feel parts of ourselves we may not even be aware of… Until someone puts the words together and names it.

A poem for the equinox

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

When you’re sad summer’s over
You didn’t do enough
Sunny long days have ended
You’re in such a rush

Yet. Have you forgotten 
How much you love
Curling under a lamp to read
Wearing cozy pajamas in soft cotton
Warm blankets as you fall asleep
Amber hues of your favorite tea

How about giving yourself 
Permission to be
Whole and one part
Full and empty
Cold and warm
Sad and happy

Replace the black-white text on the screen
And ruminating pull of old memories
Sit outside 
Stare at a tree
Until your gaze softens
Your vision sharpens
To take in both the whole and each leaf
Shadows, colors, and each vein apiece

Hear the stream of water
While washing your hands
As you notice the yearning
For dirt, sky, and sea
All the voices of nature’s symphony

At the end of the day,
Look back to June 21
Who are you now
Who were you then 

In three months
What shifts and changes took place?
Honor what’s happened
Your big dreams need not be erased

It’s all good, just choose to see 
What all happened with no judgment 
So you can be free

Write the goodness you never could’ve imagined
And moments of unexpected ease

Finally set your intention
To make new memories
In the hands 
Of autumn’s waiting glory

How to not avoid the fear of visibility (2 exercises)

When the fear of visibility strikes, it’s often a very intense, uncomfortable sensation in the body. 

The type you really want to avoid ever feeling again!

Not all visibility will trigger this intensity. 

Some types of visibility are lower-level and will feel safer than others.

It can be helpful to identify these low-level options, so you can work up towards greater visibility, if that is your desire and it’s in the highest good.

Here’s an exercise to try.  

  1. Play with different types of pieces, different sharing, and different population options.  

Consider what to share (a heavily edited piece, a fresh first draft), how to share (in-person so you can see their face and have a hug afterwards, email, social media, etc), who to share with (family member, friend, writing buddy, coach, writing group), why you’re sharing (critique, feedback, just to be heard, to share, to continue a conversation, etc).

For example:

  • Sharing a complete piece you worked on 10 years ago with a friend.
  • Sharing a piece you never completed 10 years ago with a friend.
  • Sharing a new piece you’ve spent hours on with a friend.
  • Sharing with a critique partner.
  • Sharing with a critique group.
  • Sharing with a writing acquaintance.
  • Sharing work with your ideal audience.
  • Sharing work to the general public.
  • Posting anonymously on a blog you create that no one has the link to.
  • Posting a public comment on a forum.
  • Submitting your writing to a publication.
  • Submitting your writing to a contest.
  • Reading your writing in a writing class.
  • Reading your writing to your family.
  1. Observe how your body responds to each one.  

Notice the quality of sensation you feel.  Is there recoil in your stomach?  Chest tight?  Heart rate increase?  

Rate the intensity from 1-10 from least to most sensation.  

  1. Look for patterns.

What is it about the visibility that is hard for you, personally?

You might notice that it’s easier to think about sharing something you haven’t revised because then you have a disclaimer and the potential judgment is less.  Or it feels better to share something you HAVE smoothed out the raw ends.

You might notice it’s easier sharing anonymously.  Or with a stranger versus with a family member or friend.

While there are universal themes in the fear of visibility, there are some pieces that will likely be unique to you.

We are all subject to societal conditioning, cultural programming, and ancestral trauma.

In addition to this, you’re shaped by your past experience (especially in the formative years of childhood and adolescence).  What you learned about the world then sticks with you.

You’ll likely make connections between what’s coming up and past experiences you’ve had.  Notice it all, and imagine giving space for each experience to exist in your personal tapestry, shaping who you are.  There is nothing wrong with feeling discomfort or fear around visibility.  In fact it keeps you safe and can help ensure connection and belonging.

Remember that you’re not alone in your fear of visibility and also that the unique personal experiences you’ve had that have shaped you are valid.  

Once you have a better understanding of your patterns, consider a “choose your own adventure” style experiment for the fear of visibility.  

  1. Start with a low-level share from the list above, with the intention to learn about yourself from the experience.  Look for something rated at a 1-3 intensity and relatively low risk.
  1. Journal how the sharing feels

    Log the sensations, emotions, thoughts that came up for you.  Notice any insights.  Were there moments that were easier than you predicted?  Could you find ways to tolerate the discomfort until it passed through?  
  1. Identify your needs when faced with visibility.
    E.g. Verbal encouragement from a friend or coach, physical care and relaxation techniques, space to sit with the discomfort, etc
  1. Try to get some of those needs met.  Find a friend, coach, guided relaxation meditation, or carve out some self-care time.
  1. Repeat the above 4 steps with another low-level share, until you’re ready to work up the risk ladder.  

You don’t have to force or push yourself to throw yourself into a deeply intense experience before you’re ready. 

See if you can gently encourage yourself with warm and kind self-talk to keep moving through the experiences.  Give yourself a hug for doing something hard.  Be kind and gentle.

I believe you can find your own way through this process and create a customized path that leads you to your deepest desires and true connection.  

Trust the intuitive instinctive inner calling–this will guide you to what route is going to feel the most meaningful and purposeful.  

It’s worth the challenges when you risk the fear of visibility to connect with the people who would love to hear from you.

An embodied experiment to explore an idea before committing to it

woman floating in water with face above surface, embodied experiment
Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash

Do you find yourself thinking too hard about a project before starting?  

Say you like the idea of writing a historical novel, but you’ve never written in that genre before. 

Before spending too much time planning out what you need to research, or reading ALL the books and listening to ALL the experts talk about it… try a small version.  

With creative work, sometimes you just have to conduct a messy experiment and see what happens.

Here’s an exercise I use with clients that you can try out yourself:

  1. Shake out your arms and legs, imagining that you’re shaking off the hold of your intellectual mind to let your creativity take over. 
  1. Pretend you’re stepping into a time machine
    Close your eyes and actually take that step.  (This works best when you’re alone and away from your roommate or pet’s potential judgment.) 
  2. Where does the time machine take you? 
    Ah, here you are in the Victorian era, replete with wealth and beauty.  
  1. Look down at yourself as you step out of your time machine. 
    Perhaps your corset changes your gait, your hat is comfortingly snug, or catching sight of your splendidly shined shoes fills you with satisfaction.
  1. Move around your room as this Victorian character. 
    Really feel in your body what it’s like to be this person.
  2. Spend around 20 minutes writing this historical fiction scene. 
    What details (colors, textures, objects, settings) did you notice?  What mood or tone (playful, somber, comforting, unbalanced, etc) are you sensing?  Who did you become?  What was happening?
  1. Tune into your body and notice how it felt to conduct this experiment. 
    How did you actually like the experience?  Is this character one you could fall in love and spend hours with?  Do you feel the urge to continue, or was this taste of historical fiction too bland to bother?  
  1. Take notes on the experience, including what most lit you up. 
  2. Use this information to plot your next course of action.

Moving your body and the experimental mindset are great antidotes to overthinking. 

If you try this out, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!

The perfect plan is fantastical, especially in creative work

3 weeks ago, what started as a beautiful, even blissful day took a turn.  I went from feeling solid in my perfect plan, sure that things were looking up, to an emergency hospital visit for an unexpected knee injury. 

Just like all the calls I made afterwards for medical care and insurance… my big plans were placed on hold.  

Even my post-injury plan to recover in the soothing company of my semi-feral cat friend was unfulfilled.  He gave me a wide berth, afraid of my crutches, overwhelmed by the velcro sound of my new knee brace, and wary of the changes to our routine.

Held in a limbo of uncertainty about the injury’s severity and treatment needs, I couldn’t see what came beyond the hold and had to reorient my expectations. 

A perfect plan is a juicy promise of the road ahead.  

A perfect plan is delicious and grounding.  It makes you feel like all is right in the world.  It gives you permission to go about your business humming a jaunty tune.  It has enough room to provide guidance while also being adaptable to changing conditions.

You are gifted with clear steps to get to your destination and achieve your goals.  The perfect plan tells you exactly what step you’re on and what to do next.  Count me in!  Being saved from feeling lost and wallowing in the unstructured sea of creativity?  Yes please.

Yet the “perfect plan” is often fantastical, especially in creative work.

Here are some common issues with attaining that perfect plan:

  1. You have a GREAT plan, but something derails it.

When you’re too attached to your plan, it can feel shocking to have the ground fall out from under you.  

  1. Your plan involves factors outside of your control.

When your plan involves other people or certain external conditions (or cats!), things get fuzzy and unpredictable.  

  1. You spend too much time planning and neglect taking action.  

Perhaps your mind loves puzzles.  But you have a hard time distinguishing puzzles with no answers, and letting said puzzles go.  In the agony of trying so hard to make all the pieces fit, you forget to act on the plan.  You keep yourself too busy wondering if X comes before Y, and what order things should go.

  1. You struggle to follow your plan.

Maybe you’re a rebel archetype and like to innovate new ways of doing things.  Or your style is unconventional, making it hard to plan around.  Or you simply resent following a plan!

  1. You struggle to change your plan because you like it too much.

You know those edible treats that are too beautiful to eat?  You know you can’t save them forever but you can’t bring yourself to bite into them either.  You’ve fallen in love with the plan, or the idea of the destination, and you want it to stay perfect.

  1. Your true goals and desires are misaligned with your plan.

It’s easy to idealize a particular outcome, goal, or desire.  You think you want something and choose a path to get there… only to find that goal isn’t you.  You might have gotten overly attuned to someone else’s desires, energy, or story.  You witness their happiness, but when you try to cast that vision onto your own life, it doesn’t fit.

Do any of these match a situation you’re currently experiencing?

It’s humbling to be broken out of the illusion of control over reality that the perfect plan provides.

In the past few weeks, it’s been humbling for me to surrender to the flow of reality versus what I assumed and expected.  It’s been humbling to be in a state of immobility and needing help.  

Sometimes all there is left to do is surrender your plans to divine will.

Even if your perfect plan doesn’t seem to be working or yielding immediate results, there’s hope.

Sometimes fulfillment of your wishes takes longer than you’d expect, but it doesn’t mean all is lost.  It doesn’t mean you’ll never get to your desired destination.  Give it time.

3 weeks post-injury, my kitty friend has become accustomed to the crutches and brace.  He’s beside me as I write this (and has let me know he doesn’t enjoy me reading this post out loud as I edit, so if I don’t stop, he’ll have to leave in favor of a quieter spot).

You don’t need the perfect plan to succeed and find fulfillment. 

Remember to hold your plans lightly, continuing to check in with reality and your inner wisdom as you go.

Keep moving on inspiration and intuitive hits even if you don’t know where they’ll lead. 

There is so much more for you than you can ever plan for.  Trust–it’s a practice.

How to improve decision-making through body awareness journaling

woman seated cross-legged on rock near body of water, contemplating decision-making

Do you struggle with decision-making? 

We encounter countless choices each day. Waffling between options at every decision point isn’t fun.

Work on your memoir or go for a walk instead, revise an old piece or start a new project, research or just start writing, ask for help or do it yourself…

Your body has the capacity to help you out with decision-making. 

The body knows more than the mind can think cognitively.  Sometimes you just need to listen to your gut instead of weighing the pros and cons of the agonizingly endless choices.  

Yet your ability to follow gut instincts relates to the extent that you’re aware of your body’s signals.  If you feel disconnected from your body, you won’t be able to use these potent sensations to help guide you.

How aware of your body signals are you? 

You can measure this by identifying your heartbeat… without putting your hand on your chest or touching a finger to your wrist’s pulse.  The extent that you can pinpoint each time your heart beats without using your sense of touch indicates your level of body awareness.

In The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, Annie Murphy Paul describes this test, as well as other sources of intelligence that we can access beyond our brains.

Sensation is one form of intelligence we can use to help in decision-making.  

If you’re sensitive, you may get what feels like “too much” sensory input from both your internal and external circumstances.  It can be tricky to distinguish the pit in your stomach and understand where it’s coming from, and why. 

Slowing down through meditation or body-oriented awareness practices can really help define sensations, expand your vocabulary of body sensations, and translate sensations to understand what they mean.

One key to journaling effectively is being connected with your body sensations at the same time as you’re writing. 

Writing naturally turns your focus reflective and inwards. On top of that, it’s helpful to pay attention to your body as you’re writing. I find this makes for a more potent transformative experience.

To support your decision-making process, I invite you to try keeping an interoceptive journal the way Paul lays it out in The Extended Mind.  

An interoceptive journal is a record of the choices we make and how we felt when we made them.* 

Each entry has these parts:

  1. A brief account of the decision you’re facing. (e.g. Should I plan to go out of town next weekend? Should I take this job?)
  2. A description—as detailed and precise as possible—of the internal sensations you experience as you contemplate the various options available. (Consider the paths that lie before you, one by one, and take note of how you feel as you imagine choosing one path over another.)
  3. The choice you ultimately settle on.
  4. Description of any further sensations that arise upon making this final selection.

Once you know the outcome of a decision, you can check how you felt at the moment you made the choice.

Look for patterns in retrospect.  You might notice a constriction in your chest when thinking of a choice leading to disappointment and a lifting and opening of the ribcage when pondering a future successful option.  

These sensations are subtle, so be kind to yourself if you struggle to differentiate them at first. 

Putting words to them in your record will help.  As with anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll be at clearly identifying these sensations and translating them towards successful outcomes.  You can use your log to help understand your own process and improve future choices in decision-making.

This ability is one that will serve you well in the future.  I wish you ease in making decisions with confidence, while feeling connected to your total inner landscape.

*Interoceptive journal exercise and description from The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul

Have you ever stopped writing after a painful critique caused you to doubt or devalue yourself?

Have you ever stopped writing after a painful critique caused you to doubt or devalue yourself?

Have you ever stopped doing what you love after a painful experience caused you to doubt or devalue yourself?

In high school, I enjoyed publishing fanfiction on online forums.  It was my first foray into publicizing my writing for fun, and it was very exciting.

Each positive review set me soaring high.  

But I noticed I’d hit publish sooner and sooner to feel that rush.  I’d start new pieces with the anticipation of “likes.”

The hunger for validation and connection soon replaced the quality and satisfaction I felt in the writing itself.  

Yet I couldn’t step away. Nothing else gave quite the same delicious thrill as reading, “Love this, can’t wait for the next one!” in response to something I’d created.

Breaking point 

One day, I stumbled upon a random internet thread between 3 anonymous users ridiculing my stories and me as an author. I removed my fanfiction and stopped writing.  Something so joyful had become tainted by other people’s opinions.

If I wasn’t happy with my own writing, it didn’t matter how many glowing reviews I received.  

This is a recurring lesson in both writing and life.  

Critical responses don’t matter as much as how you feel about them.  

And how deeply you take them in.  If you’re sensitive or have people-pleasing tendencies, it’s especially easy to lose yourself trying to make others happy.

You may want to shut yourself down to avoid feeling the pain again.  You may focus harder on appeasing others so they only have good things to say. You might end up taking on their values and direction while getting further away from your own.  

Others’ opinions of you will contradict. Getting caught up in external beliefs and values muddies your own creative waters.

The remedy is inner satisfaction and self-acceptance. 

Though you may not have to regularly be around the cruel critiquers who put you down (or affirming applauders who lift you up), you do have to be around yourself 24/7.

It’s challenging to get back into the groove of intuitive joy in writing, but very much possible.  

I’ve seen this in my own experience as well as when supporting clients navigating this process.  The more authentic joy and satisfaction you find in the process, the quicker your desires become reality.  

Having a good relationship with yourself doesn’t completely take away the crush of criticism, but can help put criticism into perspective so it doesn’t set you off your own course.  

A path to finding inner satisfaction and self-acceptance as a sensitive creative artist:

  • Awareness

Get to know your own patterns and tendencies.  What makes you happy? When do you tend to second-guess yourself?  What are your met and unmet needs?  Who are you as a writer?  What makes you feel most fulfilled?  How can you best care for yourself when challenges arise?

  • Acknowledgement 

Acknowledge your feelings, desires, and needs as valid.  Affirm yourself so you don’t need the approval of others.

Credit yourself where credit is due.  When you’ve accomplished something, celebrate it.

See the value of the learning journey.  Everything you do contributes to knowing a bit more–nothing is lost as all can be applied to the next endeavor.

  • Acceptance 

You are perfectly imperfect.  It’s okay to be who you are. You have both flaws and gifts.

Don’t judge your path.  As long as you are doing right by yourself and your integrity, you are right where you need to be.  You may wish to be further along than you are, but will that really give you the fulfillment you crave?  Or will you just want to be somewhere else instead? 

  • Application 

Cultivate a relationship with your writing.  Your writing is part of you, and separate.

Find the balance between doing and being.  Don’t go so slow that you don’t move towards your desires, but don’t rush ahead at the expense of your own nervous system.  Both doing and being-states are important.

A couple prompts to consider…

  • How do you define satisfaction for yourself? Your current writing? Your creativity?
  • What was a moment you felt satisfied (in writing, creativity, or life)?  Describe it in detail.  Then, ask why… Why was this satisfying?  What made it satisfying? How can you apply these qualities to your current endeavors?

What was once a shameful experience is now something I hardly think about anymore.

Those times early in our lives where we put ourselves out there and receive rejection can be quite formative, setting up patterns we continue to see in ourselves. 

Don’t lose hope–you can heal these patterns and consciously create new habits. I believe you can find radical loving self-acceptance.

Have you had a similar experience? I’m curious what has helped you rediscover inner satisfaction with something you love.  Reply and let me know; I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. Walker Hayes’ Acceptance Speech is a honest, catchy song about accepting yourself despite the accolades, awards, or applause you receive (or don’t). While it speaks particularly to musicians, the challenges of feeling good when looking in the mirror are universal.

Introverts, not wanting to leave your serene pandemic nest?

introvert lying on orange sofa in pandemic nest
Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

As an introvert or highly sensitive person, you may have gotten quite comfortable in your pandemic-nest. 

You’ve had time for your favorite things–to read luxuriously, to write courageously, to create freely, to reflect deeply, to sit quietly. 

The falling away of social demands has been an immense relief for introverts.

But now you’re being called back to work.  Or your friends and colleagues are inviting you to events.  Or you have to run certain errands that require you to be in person.  

Yikes.

It’s not that you want to decline invitations. 

Or not go to events.  Perhaps you do want to socialize, see friends, meet new people.  Maybe like me, you love meeting new people and having conversations as an introvert… just one-on-one and deep, please.  Preferably no big groups that drain your energy as you listen to the talkative ones talk.

When your nervous system space had time to decompress when the world slowed, going back into a mode that doesn’t feel natural is rightfully the last thing your introvert self wants to do. 

Yet at the same time, you might feel embarrassed and guilty for saying no. You want to protect your unstructured me-time to relax and create. But how many more invitations can you decline before you no longer have friends?

I feel you.

I love Zoom because

  • I can hit “end call,” and be done.  I don’t have to drive home afterwards in a daze of social exhaustion, or push myself to stay longer because everyone else is.
  • One person speaks at a time, which isn’t as overwhelming as a room of multiple conversations.  People mute themselves, and can be muted.
  • I can take notes as people speak without appearing to be distracted.  This helps me a ton. As a visual and kinesthetic processor, I take in information better when writing.  Sometimes my mind goes blank when I have only auditory input and something visual or imaginary competes for my attention. Writing helps me stay really present and listen deeply.  Even better, my detailed notes receive commendations by clients and colleagues since I capture their words without changing their language. 
  • Breakout rooms allow craved 1:1 conversations, making me feel connected. This is much more comfortable than speaking up in a big group I don’t know well.  Better yet, I don’t have to make the effort of initiating that 1:1 connection from the group.
  • I have more choice around participation than I would feel in-person. It’s easier to take breaks. I can choose whether to be on camera or off.  I can participate and benefit from calls that don’t require me to be seen and put together. I don’t have to make direct eye contact.
  • Being in my own space means I can set up to get my needs met. I can easily wrap a blanket around my legs when I’m cold. I can adjust my desk ergonomically so I’m not squirming, trying to get comfortable in a foreign chair. I don’t have to find a suitable eatery for my food sensitivities or explain my diet restrictions (vegan and gluten-free).

This doesn’t mean Zoom is a full substitute for life’s social interactions. But I believe the relief of video conferencing speaks to societal norms that reward extroverts. Social norms also hold values that are taxing to the nervous system, like working hard and fast for instant results. 

When your body rebels, it’s not you, it’s the system.

Regardless of what the mainstream world would have you believe… There is nothing wrong with you.  It’s okay to feel more comfortable online or at a slower pace than the world seems to want you to move.  

Here are some journaling prompts to consider when you’re faced with leaving your pandemic nest:

  • Awareness: Bring to mind a social pressure that makes your body contract, stomach tighten, mind scream “no!”
    • What are your reactions? Become aware of your body sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
  • Acknowledgement: Sit with the discomfort to go underneath the feeling to see what you need to know.
    • Why are you having this reaction? What about it makes you uncomfortable?
  • Acceptance: Affirm the reasons driving this reaction.
    • What are your needs which are not being met?
  • Application: Decide what choice to make about the situation.
    • How can you be in healthy relationship with the situation?

Even if you struggle with social interactions as an introvert or highly sensitive person, that doesn’t mean there aren’t types of social interaction that do work for you. 

I believe through knowing yourself deeply, self-acceptance, and self-love, you can create a life that honors and supports you inside and outside of your nest.

The bones of a story, and why using a structural formula doesn’t prevent your story from being unique

“I want my story to be unique. 

Will following a structural formula like the 3 act structure mean my story becomes formulaic and predictable, just like the other books out there?”

This is a common concern.

The structure is the bones of the story. 

It’s not something the reader ever sees.  We don’t see each other’s bones.  Our bones (and muscles and connective tissues!) form and shape our bodies, making us look the way we do.  These are internal.

The foundation of a house helps decide where the front door is, where the main rooms are, where the exit is.  But when we look at a house, we can’t see the foundation. We see the paint and the decor and the design.

What people actually see when they look at you.

The way we look.  The clothes we wear, our facial expressions.

And the way we feel.  Our energy. Whether they feel welcomed or wary in our presence.

Our uniqueness comes from the textures of our skin, our scars, the ways we choose to express ourselves through clothing, etc.  Our personality.

When you’re writing a story, your experiences are one aspect of it. 

The uniqueness shines in how you tell the story.  

Two people can go on a hike together.  While one person is noticing the clouds, another is noticing the flowers.  What’s on their minds affects the experience.  One person might be worried about their pet’s lack of appetite while another person is rejuvenated by the memory of a happy moment when their father took the time to explain the science behind flower blooms.  

These details bring on the uniqueness, and are affected by the essence of a person.  They show (not tell) the experience.  

The structure shapes the story in a way that makes sense, is compelling, and takes the reader on a journey.

Structures add satisfying depth and richness.

They allow the writer to see their story in a whole new way. And let the writer walk away with a new tool for developing future stories with confidence.

I’ve never seen story structures make writing formulaic or diminish the experience for those I’ve worked with. 

Structural formulas prevent common issues.

Some issues are difficult to diagnose once a story is written. Pacing, for example.

Conflict.

Purpose.

Character development.

Structural formulas make it easier.

You don’t have to reinvent this part of the wheel–you can focus your creativity on the writing.

I encourage you to make it easier on yourself by organizing your story based on popular methods. The details are what require your attention for a unique spin.

Your sacred vulnerability isn’t for everyone

vulnerability, sharing writing

“Our imperfections are what connect us to one another and to our humanity.

Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.” 

Quote from Brene Brown’s work.

There’s no question that emotional vulnerability allows connection.  

Whether that’s through a conversation or in writing, when we open up to our fears, longings, and emotional truths, we feel closer to each other.  

In an equal person-to-person exchange in real-time, vulnerability builds connection.  There is a give and take.  

When the balance is off, like the other person not reciprocating or you oversharing, you can feel it.  Just as you can sense when the person you’re speaking to doesn’t care or can’t hold your truth.  You might back off and close down if you don’t feel safe.

This is natural and normal.  An imbalance of vulnerability creates power dynamics.  Your body is aware of this even if you’re not conscious of it.  

In writing, it’s a little different.  You might write alone and have no clue how many people your words will reach, in whichever way you share.  

You may have a fear of visibility, discomfort being seen.  

Especially being seen in vulnerability when sharing a personal story.

In today’s world where recording and sharing is easy, we have the means to be vulnerable online for consumption by masses, and things go unexpectedly viral, it’s especially important to check in where your own boundaries lie.

Some people are really comfortable with visibility, naturally sharing about themselves freely and openly, unworried about the world’s reactions.  And some aren’t, struggling to manage shame spirals resulting from being seen.  

Can you recall a time your work was seen before you were ready?  It can feel quite invasive. 

Being yourself, aligned with your authentic self, does not mean your vulnerability is for public consumption.  

Openness and authenticity are great values.  

Your visceral reactions to sharing your writing might be a positive stretch, like standing atop a diving board.  Or it might be your body saying, “No, too much.”  

Imagine concentric circles surrounding you.  If you’re familiar with energetic principles, imagine your body, energy bubble, and auric field extending out from you in all directions.  

Your deepest innards are sacred, those most sensitive parts at the core of your being.
The next layer is what you share with those closest to you. 
The outer layer is what those who don’t know you well see.

When your writing hits your sacred core, doesn’t the intensity of letting the public in make sense?

So how do you know the difference between a courageous stretch versus more than your body can take?

Titrate your journey.  

There’s a bit of the unknown, where you don’t know how you’re going to feel with people reading your writing… until people are actually reading your writing.  Play and explore when sharing and notice your own process. 

Every creative has different needs and levels of comfort around the sharing of vulnerable writing.

Distinguish what sorts of things you feel okay with sharing, and what you don’t.  

You might find that certain topics are off-limits while others you don’t mind being open about.  This is good information.

It takes practice to put little bits of yourself out there, see how it feels, and build the muscle of vulnerability.  It might be tempting to just throw yourself into the deep end, but be cognizant when your body tightens up.

Get comfortable with knowing for yourself where your boundaries are with how much vulnerability you’re okay with sharing in your personal writing.  

Things to try.

  • Create a sacred container for your innermost personal writings that is completely private.  
  • Explore your comfort
    Would you feel safest if your writing was anonymous and no one who knew you could read it? 
    Would you feel safer if only those who knew you could see your words, not strangers? 
    Do you need two weeks for the words to sit before sharing so you’re not as attached? 
    Can you only share with your best friend at first?  A trusted group?
  • Play with a space for writings that you want to share, but aren’t ready yet. 
    A great way is through an anonymous blog.  I’ve had great success with this as a practice.  You control the visibility setting–private, password protected, for those with the link, etc. 
  • Edit consciously. What frame helps you feel good about what you put out there? What details can be modified to feel safe?

Wherever you’re at is okay.  

Even if that means you’re not ready to share.  The outcome isn’t the only thing that’s important–how you feel matters

If you’re going at a rate where you’re overwhelmed and experiencing increasing shame spirals every time you share your writing, it might be time to pause, slow down, and see what you need.

Imagine you’re an ocean, and have choice for how deeply you allow others to wander into your shores.  

You are more than your words.  You still get to keep that sacred core deep within you safe, private, and untouchable. 

About the author

I help people connect and tell their stories.

I am a certified coach, writing mentor, writer, and group facilitator who enjoys helping people who’ve felt different and struggle with feeling disconnected.

Since 2008, I’ve worked with writers in every messy step of the creation process. I’m passionate about delving deep into the story underneath the story — the root cause of the struggle with communication — so you can feel good about the results.

For more, I invite you to sign up for my mailing list or explore how we can work together.