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Writing is Silly

For writers who are just starting out

Writing is silly, isn’t it?

You know that silly feeling? It’s a sign you’re moving outside your comfort zone. Your brain wants to keep you safe. One of the ways it tries to do that is by making you feel uncomfortable when something begins to change, when you move away from your old ways of doing things. This could be a bodily sensation, a sinking feeling in the stomach or general fluttery-ness, or it could take the form of a judgemental / critical voice in your head – which I’ve written about here.

External comments and criticisms

Sometimes we get external comments and criticisms from those nearest to us, and our brains try to keep us safe by getting us to listen, to give more weight to these comments than to our own goals! These external comments aren’t necessarily meant to be hurtful, although sometimes they are downright mean. You might hear things like this:

“Come back to bed. It’s only 6am.”

“Come and watch TV, you don’t really want to do your writing now, do you?”

“Wouldn’t you rather relax?”

“But who’s going to cook our tea?”

Look out for these

To recap, here’s what you’re going to look out for:

  • Uncomfortable bodily sensations
  • An internal judgemental / critical voice
  • External comments and criticisms – and your response

Expect these things to kick in when you start a new writing habit: say you plan your book in advance – and in detail – for the first time instead of ‘just’ writing it (something I experienced recently), or you start to get up earlier in order to write in your journal, or you take an afternoon out during the week to write poetry. Any of these new habits, if they mean a change, if they mean you’re operating in a way that isn’t familiar, is likely to bring about those uncomfortable feeling and internal or external comments and criticisms.

What helps?

  • If you’re feeling it in the body, a physical practice that uses your body in a different way, such as yoga, singing, walking or laughing can help change those sensations – and you can go ahead and do your thing anyway. Change of environment can also help.
  • Have some answers ready for your internal critic. For instance, if you tell yourself that writing is silly, tell yourself that the world needs to hear your voice, or say ‘so what? I’m going to do it anyway.’
  • A meditation and mindfulness practice can also help you to recognise and accept your internal critic.
  • Prepare those around you in advance. Call it ‘me time’ if you don’t want to mention writing. Encourage them to invest in their own ‘me time’ too. Say something like ‘Would you be prepared to get me out of bed at 6am, even if I don’t want to?’ Or: ‘How about we get a take away on Thursdays so we can both have a bit of time to ourselves?’
  • Know your values and base your goals on your values. It’s much easier to keep going in the face of criticism if you know why you are doing something. If in doubt, keep asking yourself why.
  • I’m making this up, but here’s an example: Finishing this recipe book is my priority this year. Why? Writing about my grandma’s ice cream parlour is so important to me. Why? I want to write about my family history. Why? My family is important to me. Therefore one of my goals is to write a recipe book and tell the story of the ice cream parlour at the same time.
  • The added bonus to knowing your why in detail like this is that you get to turn it into a story to tell other people, like this: “Writing about my family history is really important to me so I’m going to tell the story of my grandma’s ice cream parlour. That means I’ll be getting up at 6 on 3 days a week / renting an office space for two weeks / writing when the kids are in bed etc. until I get it done.”

Feeling silly? Do this.

Here’s another quick recap:

  • Feel it in the body? Move, sing or laugh. Change environment.
  • Internal critic? Have some answers ready, know your values, know your ‘why’, meditate, practise mindfulness.
  • External critics (including well-meaning ones)? Prepare them in advance, turn your ‘why’ into a story.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Louise xx


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