At the end of this year, I’ll be retiring my signature workshop — Write Yourself Into Motion — to clear space for some new workshops and experiences (… that I am verrrrry excited to create.)
After teaching Write Yourself Into Motion about 30 times — for over 600 students in 3 different countries — I’ve noticed that the same questions tend to come up, in each workshop, again and again.
This is understandable. Many of us are grappling with the same challenges.
Here are 5 of the best (and trickiest) writing questions that I’ve heard… all year. Maybe, ever.
I hope that my answers are helpful.
I hope that these answers encourage you to make the time & space to write… whatever you want. #NoExcuses.
I hope that you remember, above all, that you don’t need to be “a genius wordsmith” or a “famous blogger” in order to make a difference in the world. You just need to write from the hut (heart + gut) and tell the truth about what you know.
To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve.”
That includes… you. You can serve through your words.
1. “I work from home and there’s always something to distract me from writing. Dishes, laundry, Netflix… any tips on how to get focused and stop procrastinating?”
Whether you work in an office or from home, there’s always “something” that you could be doing, other than writing.
I’ve learned that I need to create a firm “boundary” around my writing-time. A distinct beginning. A clear ending.
I’m not alone, here. It’s a common approach — because it works.
I once heard a story about a famous author who pops a particular flavor of gum into her mouth whenever it’s time to start writing. When she feels complete for the day, she spits it out and switches to a different flavor of gum. For her, that flavor-change acts like a “cue” for her body & brain: “Now I’m writing. Now I’m done.”
Gum might not be your thing, but you could try lighting a candle, closing the door to your bedroom or home office, playing a particular kind of music, or sitting in a special writing chair.
Create some kind of “cue” to signal the start & end of your writing time. It sounds simple and obvious. Try it. It helps.
2. “This is painful to admit, but… I just don’t think that I’m a good writer. I don’t want to share my work, because I don’t think it’s any good. How can I get through this resistance?”
Sometimes, I hit “publish” on a blog post — or send off an article to an editor — and think to myself, “Blech. Whatever. That wasn’t my best work.”
Then, months later, I might receive an email from someone halfway around the world, saying, “What you wrote practically saved my life.”
Or, “Because of what you wrote, I landed my dream job… at last.”
Or simply, “You inspired me to write a sexy love letter for my husband… and when he got home, we had the BEST night. Ever.”
Asking, “Is my writing good enough?” is a fruitless question. There will always be something to criticize, something to refine.
A better question might be, “If I share this piece of writing, can I [help / educate / entertain / heal / inspire / take your pick] at least one human being? Or maybe more?”
If the answer to that second question is “Yes” or even “Probably, and I hope so…” then you must share your writing.
Don’t hold back.
You never know whose life you might impact.
3. “I have lots of things that I want to write about and blog about, and they make all sense in my head. But when I try to write them down, it’s a big, jumbled mess. How can I get better at translating my thoughts into clear words on a page?”
Let me ask you this:
If you got an email from a friend, and he or she said…
“I’m going through a tough time. Do you have any words of advice for me?”
“I’m struggling with a problem. Do you have any tips on how I can solve it?”
“I’m having a depressing day. Can you tell me a story that might give me some hope? A story about you, or someone you know? I could use some encouragement. I just need a reminder that I’m not alone.”
… would you struggle to craft an email to respond to your friend?
Or would the words just… flow?
Often, when you think to yourself, “I have to write a blog post / book chapter / magazine article / newsletter,” it can feel incredibly stressful and pressurized.
Instead, think to yourself, “No stress. No pressure. I am just writing down a few thoughts to help out a friend.”
Write from that place. Let it be conversational and un-complicated.
Just as natural as helping a friend.
4. “I do a lot of writing for my job, but I’m always writing for other people… in other people’s voices… or to support other people’s projects. I want to work on my own personal projects, too, but there never seems to be enough time. Any advice?”
I feel you. As a copywriter, ghostwriter and writing coach, I could easily fill up my entire day with client projects, never leaving an iota of time for my own creative work.
(I happen to really love my clients, so it feels even trickier, sometimes, to carve out space for my “other” work.)
I’ve learned to block out specific days on the calendar that are just for me, for my projects, alone. No emails. No phone sessions. No client work. No teaching. Just open space… to work on whatever feels electric & exciting to me.
I encouraged one of my clients to try this, too. She now celebrates “Fiction Friday” once a week, and saves that entire day to work on her young-adult fiction novel.
Maybe carving out an entire day, every week, isn’t doable for you. But maybe you could carve out an hour. Or an afternoon. Or, like this brilliant poet, just write ten lines of poetry, every Tuesday.
When something really matters to you, it is always possible to create the time — even if it’s just ten minutes. Or ten lines.
5. “I’ve been in the corporate world for so long, I don’t even know what my ‘writing voice’ is, anymore. How do I find it again?”
Simply: you don’t “find” your voice.
You create it.
What are your burning questions on writing, communication and self-expression? Write ‘em down below.
I’d love to share my thoughts in future posts and advice columns.
Big thanks. Happy writing.