Conscious Writing

Conscious Writing: You Are the Writer You Want to Be

Being human can suck, but one of the best parts is that we can resolve to be the person – or writer – we want to be. We can control how others perceive us or what success will look like, but we have the power to choose our inner world and our wishes for the future.

What kind of writer do you wish to be?

Take some time today thinking about one word that best describes what you most want in these creative areas. Add or subtract concepts as you wish. Commit to these ideals and live them when you write.

  • Voice
  • Specialty
  • Reputation
  • Productivity
  • Success
  • Community

Conscious Writing: Your Deathbed Statement

Today’s exercise appears in A Year of Living Consciously, and is spelled out in greater detail in Five Wishes: How Answering One Simple Question Can Make Your Dreams Come True. (I recommend these books because I got something out of them. I don’t receive any kickbacks for linking to them.) I also completed this exercise for myself on New Year’s Eve, looking forward to 2023.

Imagine that it’s your last day alive. Looking backwards, would you say that your life was a complete success? I hope the answer for all of us is “Yes!” But regardless of your current feelings about it, pretend the answer is indeed affirmative.

Now consider: What did you experience or accomplish that made your life a complete success?

To connect this to your writing, consider what accomplishments would make your creative life a complete success. What would you do or not do that would completely fulfill you creatively and allow you to look back on your life with pride.

Here were mine:

  • My writing life is a complete success because I work on projects that are personally meaningful and allow me to explore my big questions about life. I write fearlessly, dig deep for emotional truth, and share my observations, without worrying about anyone’s judgment.
  • My writing life is a complete success because I’m committed to continuous learning and development, I’m unafraid to challenge myself, and I’m excited about trying new forms, genre, strategies, and other elements of writing.
  • My writing life is a complete success because I finish the projects I start and share my work with others.
  • My writing life is a complete success because I’m not competitive with other writers. I share my knowledge, offer encouragement, and celebrate their successes.
  • My writing life is a complete success because I engage with other writers, foster community, and seek out creative collaborations.

Conscious Writing: Overcoming Resistance

In your creative practice, are you struggling with something you resist doing? This struggle point might be a difficult theme you want to address in a story. Maybe you don’t feel like going to your next critique group meeting or you dread reading a peer’s manuscript.

Take some time to think about the task you’d rather avoid, as well as your feelings about it. Then contemplate why you signed up for the job. Why did you decide to tackle this subject in your writing? Why did you agree to critique a friend’s writing?

Is your purpose to share what you’ve learned about a difficult topic or create fiction that could help someone else work through a personal experience by engaging with your story? Is your purpose to help your friend become the best writer they can be?

If you have a good purpose for agreeing to this task, despite your resistance, commit to doing it. It’s ok to feel what you feel, but use your purpose to power through.


Conscious Writing: Keep it Simple

Is your life too complicated? Do you have too much stuff? Sometimes our creative approach can get as cluttered as the junk drawer in the kitchen.

For today, consider what you think you need for your creative practice. For most of us, that means a comfortable chair, a computer, coffee or tea, snacks, our phone, an internet connection, a few reference books, ambient noise, and a cat.

But do we really need all these outside attachments to be creative? Or do we need nothing more than a pen, some paper, and ourselves?

Take some time to think about what you really need and what’s merely window dressing. It’s ok if you need that ambient noise. I do, because it helps me concentrate. But do you really need an internet connection while you write or is that merely a distraction?

Pare down your creative practice and environment, as you need. Consider whether a simpler environment loosen up your creativity. You don’t have to eliminate everything. The only measure is whether the level of simplicity is satisfying to you and helps you feel more relaxed and creative.

For an advanced exercise, considering what projects you have on your plate. Do you really want to write that novel or multi-book fantasy series or would you be happier writing short stories? Are you taking assignments because they fulfill you or because you think you have to? (If your writing helps pay the rent, that’s a different consideration…)

Sometimes our goals get bogged down with extraneous baggage and it’s good to clear them out as well.


Conscious Writing: Keeping Agreements

Gay Hendricks has a thing for agreements. You promise to do something, or you promise not to do something, and then follow through. For Hendricks, most of life’s problems can be attributed to a failure to keep agreements.

This doesn’t always mean agreements with others. Yes, your life will be complicated if you fail to fulfill your commitments to your employer, spouse, family, or friends. But you also make agreements with yourself, about your health, hobbies, goals, and personal growth.

The real problem starts after we fail to keep a promise. We ignore the lapse, pretend the other person doesn’t notice. Worse, we might start to lie or make excuses. We start to lose our integrity. Dealing with the fallout of broken promises takes away from the time and energy we’d rather spend living life.

Hendricks recommends that we think carefully before we make any agreements. Is the agreement something we want? Is it something we can fulfill? When you make an agreement, keep it. If you need to change the agreement, communicate this promptly and openly, and consider the feelings of the person to whom you made the promise.

What does this have to do with writing?

As part of your creative practice, consider the promises you’ve made about your writing, and which you’ve broken or changed. Did you skip your scheduled writing time? Did you give feedback on a friend’s manuscript? Did you miss a deadline?

Once you have your list, make amends with the person you let down, even if that person is you. If tackling the whole list is too much, choose one. Go to the person with whom you made the agreement, acknowledge your mistake, and ask how you can correct it.


Conscious Writing: Embracing Your Flawed Self

A recurring practice in Conscious Living is accepting who you are. Not who you want to be, not who you should be, and not who you used to be, but the person who exists at this moment, the individual in the mirror.

That mirror self has personal problems, shame, anger, and physical flaws. Facing that person isn’t easy, but a commitment to living authentically and in the present requires it.

We don’t want wallow in our flaws, but embrace them as reality. Before we can let go of bad habits and negative thinking, we must first acknowledge they exist and love and care for ourselves despite them.

What does this have to do with writing? 

Is there something about your writing or creative practice that makes you feel discomfort? Do you struggle with imposter syndrome or with a specific writing skill? Is there a topic that makes you feel uncomfortable? The topic might be something as complicated as trauma, as personal as sex, or as universal as family dynamics.

Take some time to contemplate this concept and what causes you to feel discomfort. Embrace it and whatever you feel around it.

This is who you are and where you are in your creative journey. You don’t have to solve your issues today. It’s enough to stand at square one and recognize that this is where you start.


Conscious Writing: Who’s in Your Creative Family Tree?

Today’s lesson is inspired by a spiritual teaching from Oglala Lakota holy man Black Elk, who taught that the greatest peace comes when we realize that we are one with the universe and that the center of the universe is everywhere, even within ourselves. We both are the Great Spirit and are part of it.

Hendricks takes this lesson on an interior, emotional place, but let’s turn it back to writing.

Do you consider yourself one with the writing community? With the world?

Take a moment and contemplate what that might mean for you.

Picture yourself as one part of a long storytelling tradition that began thousands of years ago before written language developed and extends into the present, when novels written by artificial intelligence are a near-term possibility. Trace your writing lineage along whatever branches you choose – writers in your genre, writers who look like you, writers who have a similar background. Imagine yourself as one part of this great whole and feel their work inside you as well.

If you want, take time to become one with the world. What do you have to say to the rest of us? What are you bringing forth? Are you able to speak to others like you who haven’t the chance? What can you tell us?

You are part of the world. You are one of many thousands of writers shaping fiction and sharing lessons. You belong here and you have something to say.


Conscious Writing: Keep a Promise to Your Younger Self

I’ll say this for Gay Hendricks – he wants to make sure you’re committed to this process. Not a little bit committed, but committed. Capital-C Committed.

Today’s practice is to take another moment to commit to living – and writing – consciously. He frames today’s lesson as embracing your younger self. In Hendricks’ case, this meant embracing his chubby, neglected, unloved self, and promising to heal the damaging ideas holding him back.

Hopefully, you’re younger self doesn’t feel so unloved.

Today, make a commitment to giving your creative self what you needed but didn’t get when you were younger. Did you need pep talks or encouragement? Mentoring? Community? Visualize your younger self as a new writer and make a promise to help them find what they need. Commit to being the friend you needed back then.


Conscious Writing: Be Good to Yourself

We hear the “Be Kind” mantra a lot these days, mostly from people who think kindness flows their direction only, without creating any reciprocating obligation.

Kindness, of course, begins at home, with you. But importantly, we need to learn to be kind to ourselves. In fact, I’d agree that being patient and forgiving with oneself can only make it easier to extend the same courtesy to others.

So, today, be nice to yourself. Be patient. Whenever you express a negative thought about your body, your emotions – or your writing! – take a moment to turn it around.

How can you be kind to your creative self today? You might take a moment to recognize what you’ve learned lately or celebrate a small step, such as completing a project or sharing your work publicly. Reflect on how much stronger your writing has become, compared to a year ago, or five years. Acknowledge your weak areas and promise yourself that you’ll keep learning, so that those struggles become less stressful.

Take a day off from negativity. Be good to yourself.


Conscious Writing: Tune Out Negativity

Another exercise about commitment. I hate to belabor the point, but in the interest in keeping up with the work in A Year of Living Consciously, let’s do it.

You want to write. You want a deeper connection with your creativity and your community. You have something to say. You’ve set goals. You’ve made it your intention to write with authenticity and integrity.

But have you deeply committed to writing consciously? Are you holding anything back? Are you willing to change or challenge your ways of thinking? Are you ready to dig deep?

Ask yourself if there’s something keeping you from mastering craft and developing your voice for deep, emotional, and insightful writing. What’s holding you back from fully becoming the writer you must become.

Are you concerned about judgment? Do you believe you lack talent?

Sit with those thoughts awhile. Ask if the risk is worth the reward.

I’m not there yet either, but I think it is. Visualize tuning out the people who aren’t on your wavelength and making room for those who are.