There is another element that holds us back creatively – the ghosts of our creative past.

In many cases, these ghosts arise around creative shame – the times we were teased for loving to write or draw, the criticisms and rejections we’ve received, and the very bad advice about whether our work is worthwhile.

What you might not consider is that compliments are their own kind of trap, as well. Do you have fans of certain kinds of stories? Has some of your work sold better than the rest. Have your writing group peers told you they love certain elements of your stories, style, or voice?

All these things – good and bad – can hold us back from trying something new. We might be afraid of rejection, criticism, or failure. We might believe we should stick with the familiar, rather than try that new style or genre we’d like to work in. We might lean into the qualities that others like best, such as lush description, fight scenes, or comedy. After all, we don’t want to drive away they very people that are encouraging us today.

The good news is that we don’t have to live with our ghosts.

For today, take some time to think about what people have said about your writing and ability, either positive or negative.

Do you agree? Are you satisfied with those observations and judgments?

How have those opinions defined you? Have they held you back from trying something new?