Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Three Ideas for Writing Renewal in 2010

by Kris Kahrs

This is the time of year that gets me thinking about things I can do to improve my life in the coming year. And that list includes some ideas I’ve gathered to jumpstart my writing when the muse has fallen asleep on the train and missed her stop. I’m listing three of the ideas here on the Pen and Ink blog, so that our writer friends can give them a try too.

1) Question Authority. In other words, we add things to our New Year’s Resolutions each year, but maybe we need to examine what’s already there. Instead of adding a whole new layer of “things I should do”, how about analyzing the underlying beliefs that affect our writing? For example, do you feel that you can only knock out a chunk of writing if you are seated at your desk for a couple of hours or more? If so, question this belief. How is it affecting your work? Does it limit you to only producing when you have a significant amount of time to invest? What would happen if you challenged this belief? What would happen if you wrote down a couple of sentences the next time you were in the car (as a passenger, mind you). What if instead of texting your buddies, you texted some writing to your email? Experiment with your comfort zone. How about turning down lunch with your office friends in exchange for writing while you eat your lunch alone? Sharon Steiner Hart writes more about challenging one’s rules here on her Birth Your Dream Life blog.

2) Kill the Critic. This seemingly harsh suggestion means stop and be aware of the negative self-talk in your head when you write. I think most of us are unaware that we have an internal critic living inside our heads. Try spotting your critic the next time you sit down to write. For instance, you write an opening chapter, as you start the second chapter, you go back and rewrite the first. You start on the second chapter again, you stop and go back to the first chapter and rewrite it again. Suddenly, you’re frustrated, you want to move forward, you get up from the table, disgusted. You get a drink of water, come back and start work again on the second chapter, finishing it and moving on to the third, when you start reading your first chapter again and start to edit it. What is actually happening here? There is an inner critic talking to you. The critic is saying, “what is wrong with this first chapter”? “It’s not right.” Then the critic says, “why do you need to go back and revise that again”? “Move on!”

To combat the critic, once you identify the negative voice, talk back to it. Over at Life Learning Today blog, Agent Sully suggests that the critic is a judgmental mode that we use towards others that becomes an unconscious habit. Although, Agent Sully uses a compassionate voice to combat the critic, I find a positive statement of fact more helpful. So, if I’m experiencing a lot of interruptions in the form of phone calls, doorbells, cats jumping on my lap etc. and I am feeling frustrated that I’m not getting more done, chances are that my internal critic is saying something along the lines of, “see? You should’ve started this sooner, then you wouldn’t have to be in such a rush.” For me, an objective re-framing of the situation, “I’m experiencing some interruptions. Maybe I need to go someplace quieter”, removes the blame from an otherwise random situation and allows me to move forward, instead of getting bogged down in the frustration of circumstances.

3) Remember your goal. We start off the New Year with our writing goals, right? It’s easy to forget what those goals are as the year trudges onward and so many issues pop up. With publishing being the eventual goal for most writers, it’s not likely the goal will be achieved in a year, which means your goal from 2009 will be the same for 2010. How to keep your lofty goal uppermost in mind? Get a little support from the Polaroid project. Have a friend snap a Polaroid of you, write what you want to accomplish before you die in the white space below the photo and send it along to the address listed on the website. In 5, 10 or 20 years, the creators, Nicole Kenney and KS Rivers will contact the participants to see if they’ve achieved their goals, if they’re still in the process or why they haven’t progressed.

This is a fascinating project that was inspired by three things: a) the death of the Polaroid b) a psychologist’s tool called a safety contract and c) cultural study and encouragement. Take a gander when you have a moment. You will come away inspired.


  1. Great Post Kris. I will take your ideas to heart

  2. This is a great post. I battle my inner critic often, which for me creates procrastination!


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