“Who Do You Think You Are?” The Top 5 Blocks For Writers

“Home,” by Caroline Allen, part of the Outside the Lines Series, one painting a day for one year, 2016.

The book coaching process, especially at the beginning, can be a very safe space. The coach is there to nurture the new writer, to allow experimentation, offer inspiration, provide support, and pass on constructive advice. We aim to OPEN the writer, and that only happens with unconditional love for the person and the creative process.

I’ve coached hundreds of people on book, script and story writing over the past 18 years, and at some point, the writer has to leave the nest. The new writer must put their book and their truth out into the world.

The world may not be a safe space. Comments on social media, reviews on Amazon, friends and family — many make biting and critical comments, some not even realizing they are doing it. They haven’t been through the years’ long process of writing a book or script, and have no idea the blood, sweat and tears that go into the process. And they don’t understand that harshly critiquing a book is like someone denigrating your child. It hurts. But still we must put our babies out into the world.

For someone who has never exposed their creativity to the public, putting the truth out there can be daunting. For many women, we were told as children to “not speak”, “not tell what we see” to deny the reality that was thrust upon us. And/or we were told,”how dare you think you’re so special,” or “who do you think you are?” It’s essential to address these past messages because they affect the success of the book. 

Here are the Top 5 messages many writers receive that can create serious blocks to their process.

  1. Nobody Cares What You Have to Say. If nobody cares, why tell your story at all? If you believe this on some deep level, and still take on writing a book, what often happens is that we’ll rush the writing. We’ll tell our stories, but only briefly. Scared we’ll be interrupted, we speak (write) quickly and leave out a lot of details. A large majority of the emerging women writers I work with deal with this, sometimes unconsciously. The first thing to do is to make this block conscious. Secondly, know that your story is crucially important, and many people care, and many will be transformed by your honesty in speaking your truth. These aren’t just positive statements to tell yourself. They’re not just hypotheticals. I’ve seen this as a deep truth for many writers I’ve worked with. Their authentic truth, when they dare to tell it, changes the lives of the people who read it.
  2. The Way You See is Wrong and Crazy. Often artists and sensitive types see the world differently. Often people who were raised in dysfunctional homes can see clearly what the family is trying to deny. Whether you’re an artist, or someone whose reality was denied as a child, or both, you’ve probably been called “crazy” when you’ve expressed your truth. This message has shut up many potentially gifted writers and storytellers. The problem is that not being able to speak our truth, being shut down like that, actually CAN drive us crazy. So we must speak. We must tell our stories. We must come out from under the label of crazy, and own our reality.
  3. How Dare You Speak about What Goes On Behind Closed Doors. It’s Private. In this situation, everyone in the family pretty much agrees that something is very very wrong, and the only way to keep the dysfunctions a secret is to make sure family members never speak about what’s going on to outsiders. When I work with clients who’ve been given this message, often in the initial stages of the writing, when the they are opening up on the page, they can have phases of fear and panic attacks. Just stick with the writing, go gently, but keep going forward. This phase does end.
  4. Who Do You Think You Are? “Who do you think you are?” is one of the most common comments that anyone trying to follow their path receives, not just writers, but artists, and engineers, and pianists and mathematicians. I believe everyone feels the spark of genius, but few are willing or able to realize their potential. When you DO decide to own your genius and express it, it directly confronts their inability to do so. They lash out. Have the courage to dare to be the great soul that you are! In the end, your soulful commitment and creative actions will transform others. It’ll give others permission to go on their paths to authentic purpose.
    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? …as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
  5. Why Can’t You Just Let it Go? Why Do You Have to Harp On The Past? This is one of the most common criticisms you’ll come across if you’re writing about a difficult past, whether in memoir or semi-autobiographical fiction. The issue is that in writing a book, you have to keep visiting and revisiting the past. First you write the story, then you revise it to improve the storytelling, then you edit it to polish it, and if you get it published, the editor at the publishing house will go through it with you to edit it some more. This process is painful for the writer. Everyone around you will know that you’re delving again and again into the past. Often, unable to take your suffering, they’ll ask you why you cannot just let it go. They’ve never written a book, so they don’t understand that this process IS you trying to process it and let it go. There’s another scenario too. Many family members, even if they’re aware, don’t want the past dredged up. It’s too painful. So, if you’re writing about it, even family members who were once on your side, will sometimes beg you to just let the past go. I tell clients to stop sharing their work with their family. Try only to talk to friends about it sporadically. Get a therapist. Use a process journal to write out the emotions that are coming up. This is your life and your story, you have the right to scream it out into the world, to not let it go until you are good and ready.

Caroline Allen is a book coach. For a free initial consultation, contact her via her website. www.artofstorytellingonline.com. 

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