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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Writer vs. Cake Part 2: Invite the Whole Choir to Sing

Invite the Whole Choir to Sing

Invite the Whole Choir to Sing

By Rosanne Bane

So there I was, with a piece of marble cake – the piece with the most frosting – in my cart, headed for the checkout just the way my Saboteur wanted. I may as well have laid down on a railroad track and invited Snidely Whiplash to tie me up.

I’m not completely sure what all went through my mind and in what order, but I do know that my Saboteur was busy encouraging me to take the cake and run. “Don’t look back. Don’t think twice. You know you want this cake.”

But another part of me was regretting that it wasn’t chocolate cake. I circled back to look one more time for chocolate cake or to see if I wanted a brownie instead. There was a chocolate cake, but it was the whole cake and even my Saboteur couldn’t deny the fact that that was far too much cake and far too much to spend for a passing craving.

Another part of me was suggesting maybe I could just wait and get a really good cupcake from Lunds. And another part of me was observing that all this circling and double-checking and hoping against all evidence to the contrary that I’d find a piece of chocolate cake was taking a fair amount of time and the light ice cream in the cart was starting to melt.

But all this time I was taking was letting all the voices inside me speak up. And the voice that got me to put the cake back was the thought “Would I rather eat cake tonight or feel a little lighter and a little faster at Saturday’s agility trial?” (I and my dog Blue train and compete in dog agility.) I know I’m a better handler and have a lot more fun when my weight is down and I’d been reminding myself about that for the last month.

So what does this have to do with writing? The Saboteru is a major cause of writing resistance. This self-destructive force is going to want to sabotage anything that’s important to you: being healthy, making choices that align with your own values, showing up for your writing. Any time your Saboteur wins in any area of your life, it’s strengthened and you’ll have a harder time getting through resistance. (click here to read a related issue of Imagination InkLinks)

Some days it seems like the only voice in your head is the Saboteur’s. All you can think about is how flawed your writing is or how flawed you are as a writer. The Saboteur criticizes and highlights what’s missing and runs non-stop negative ‘what if’ scenarios. These are the days when you have no discernment, only judgments and all of the judgments are harshly negative (for more on the distinction between discernment and judgment, click here).

These are exactly the days when you need to remember that the Saboteur is NOT the only voice in your head. You have an entire committee in there. Or as I like to think of it, a choir of diverse voices.

When the Saboteur is screaming off-key and at the top of its lungs, you need to invite the rest of the choir to sing. You need to take time to listen to all parts of you the way I finally did in the Cub bakery.

Listen to the all the other parts of you that want something different from what the Saboteur is talking about – even if those parts want different things: to go outside or take a nap or get ice cream or go to the movies or hold out for what you really want. You don’t have to act on those ideas, but listen to those parts of you. Invite all the voices in the choir to sing about why they want what they want.

That will help you remember that the Saboteur is only one voice, only one part of you, and doesn’t get to call the shots all the time. Taking time to listen will give you time to remember what you love about your writing and why it matters.

And if that doesn’t give you enough relief from the Saboteur, remember my standard response to it: “Oh, you again? Shove off!”

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2 Comments on “Writer vs. Cake Part 2: Invite the Whole Choir to Sing”

  1. Sarah Tieck October 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    It is birthday week, and I do have a piece of cake that wasn’t eaten at a birthday dinner out last night. So, this morning, the saboteur has been screaming for cake (again) … my saboteur is all about cake!

    But, inspired by a class I’m taking where the teacher talked about bringing in beauty to move you closer to what you want, rather than focusing on removing what you don’t want, I decided to think about bringing some beauty into my life with the food I’m eating.

    But, instead, I’ve been thinking about beauty and what I really want. So, around 10 a.m., I heated up my four mini quiches — two spinach florentine and two quiche lorraines — and cut up two pears that were the color of glowing autumn leaves, one a deep barn red, and the other that glowing greenish gold color, a sort of leaf patina. The pears were beautiful to look at, their round shape, cool to the touch with a softness beneath the surface. When I sliced them, the juice dripped from my hands and soaked through the paper plate I was using as a cutting board. The golden Bartlett has a sweetness, light with just a hint of tang. The red pear is more tang than sweet. But, neither is sour. Of the two, I prefer the cool, full flavor of the Bartlett.

    And, I’m amazed at how beautiful this is and how rich and satisfying eating this is … surprised, too, to notice the connection between the color of the leaves I’m seeing around me and the pears on my plate.

    Thanks so much for this blog! What a wonderful reminder to listen to what I really want 🙂


    • rosannebane October 1, 2009 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks Sarah — your description of the pears is powerful and makes me want to go to the store to buy pears. And that’s the part of me that wants to really enjoy food and be healthy talking. That part of me can see that the two are not mutually exclusive despite the lies my Saboteur has been telling for so long.


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