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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.

The Right to Write What’s Right for You


Identify the Opportunity and Desire

Take a few minutes to complete this sentence (on the page or screen or in your head): “I want to write…”

Did you write mainly about what content you want to write (e.g. a story about a rodeo clown, or poetry that moves people to tears, or an essay about an issue you’re passionate about)?

Or did you write mainly about the process of how you want to write (e.g. I want to write more regularly, or I want to write freely and easily, or I want to be more courageous with my writing)? If you wrote mainly about content, you might want to take a few more minutes to complete the “I want to write” sentence with process in mind and vice versa.

Identify the Gap

On a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being “I rarely write what or how I want” and 10 being “I always write what and how I want,” how closely does your writing reality match what you want as a writer? Have you claimed your right to write what and how you want?

Few writers get to write exactly the way they want all the time, but every writer should write what and how s/he wants at least part of the time. I would even go so far as to say most of the time.

Now on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being “I rarely write about people, issues or things that I care deeply about” and 10 being “I always write about people, issues or things I care deeply about” how closely does your writing reality match your interests and sense of purpose? Have you claimed your right to write about what really matters to you?

Again, few writers get to write with passion and purpose all the time, but every writer should know what s/he is passionate about and have ways to bring that sense of purpose into her/his writing at least part of the time.

Identify the Causes

Unless you are one of the lucky few who are able to answer 10 to both questions, take a few minutes to complete this sentence: “I’m not writing what and how I want because…”

Identify the Solutions

If one of the reasons you’re not writing what and how you want is because you don’t know how to write, for example, you don’t know to:

  • write dialogue
  • turn a series of incidents into a comprehensive story
  • draft a query letter
  • transform vague memories into compelling memoir
  • draft and revise your poetry

this is a matter of skill. These are craft issues and I recommend you explore the array of writing craft classes available at Loft Literary Center (or similar organization if you live outside the Twin Cities, although it’s tough to find an organization as good as the Loft). I’m confident you will find a Loft class that will give you the information, practice and feedback you need to develop your craft whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced writer and whether you’re writing fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, children’s and young adult lit, plays and scripts, multigenre, or magazines, newspapers, blogs and travel.

If one of the reasons you’re not writing what and how you want is because you’re not sure how to:

  • relax and let your imagination play with characters and scenes
  • blend outlining and drafting into a cohesive writing experience
  • enter the writer’s trance (or creative flow) easily and naturally when you need to,

you’ll get opportunities to do that in the Entering the Flow class I’m teaching online. This class is a very relaxing way to spend time focused on your writing and will include Live Chats, discussion forums and recordings you can download and play to guide you in relaxing and entering the writer’s trance.

On the other hand, if the reasons you’re not writing aren’t a matter of how, but because:

  • you think you’re not disciplined enough
  • you’re too busy taking care of your kids, the house, your parents, your job, your dog
  • you don’t know if you can really give yourself permission
  • you don’t know how to get yourself to sit down and do it,

these are process issues. These are the kinds of problems we resolve in the Writing Habit class I’m teaching this summer on Tuesdays from 5 to 7 pm. The best way I know to get past obstacles like these is to have a writing habit so that you write just because that’s what you do.

Finally, if the process issues you face seems deeper, if:

  •  you’re experiencing what seems like irresolvable resistance
  • your Saboteur has a hold of you and won’t let go
  • you wonder what the heck is going on in your brain when you want to write but you can’t or won’t let yourself do that
  • you’re afraid to write
  • you just can’t seem to get past the initial inertia,

these are the kinds of process issues we address in the Around the Writer’s Block class I’ll be teaching from 1 to 3 pm on Thursday afternoons. This class will give you tools, support from other writers struggling with what you’re facing, and pragmatic practices that will get you past the resistance and back to writing what you want with joy and energy.

You have the right to write what’s right for you! Make the most of it!

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