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Are you a writer?

There are books, blogs, and courses on how to write. Social media accounts are dedicated to encouraging “non-writers” to commit to daily writing practices, and coaches build followings with promises of completed writing projects. And yes, while there is skill behind knowing how to write well (grammar rules, structure, rhythm) what if all this mystery and magic built up around writing is stopping us from writing in the first place?

What if, instead of waiting for inspiration or the perfect moment, you simply began?

Take away lofty goals and quests for eloquence; simply aim to write a line or two of clunky words. Then, type for ten minutes; the day after that commit to writing for fifteen. Next Saturday, you may find yourself writing for one hour. You may have something solid to chip away at and refine one month later.

Sure, set goals that will keep you on track, but don’t let your questions — What should I write about? Where should I write? When should I write? Which writing program should I use? How do I begin? What if it isn’t any good? — get in your way.

There is a writer in you. And there’s a story that no one else can tell in a way that no one else can tell it. Instead of looking outwards, look inwards. That’s where you will find your process.

When you’re not sure how to begin, continue

Beginning anything is heavy. Expectations and pressure can weigh down even the loftiest ideas — to the point those ideas never catch the wind they need to sail.

Before we start, our ideas grow heavy with fear: this might not work, I don’t know how to begin, my plan is not complete, what will they say, it’s not the right time.

Don’t worry about starting; instead, continue.

Take the gold of what is now and keep going. The future is imaginary.

Don’t waste a moment questioning what is next. Continue.

Silence as a medium

Silence can be uncomfortable, and it can be tempting to rush to fill “dead air.” When silence falls upon a meeting or lands abruptly in conversation, it can be unsettling and anxiety-provoking. You may question the efficiency of communication or worry that your message has been misunderstood.

But silence is one of the most powerful communication tools we can use. When harnessed, silence allows room for focus, self-reflection, empathy, and introspection. Sometimes, silence is exactly what is needed for a creative storm to follow.

The next time you find yourself in a silent standoff with a friend or among colleagues… pause. Invite silence into the space and watch what blossoms.

“Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Words come out of the void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness.”

Wayne Dyer

Uncertainty as a compass

When facing uncertainty, it’s helpful to revisit what you know is true. These truths can act as your compass, keeping you focused on daily choices as you move in the direction of your goals. Ask yourself:

What do I want?

What feels aligned with who I am?

What are authentic expressions of my being?

What do I know to be true right now?

Which of my relationships feel supportive, nurturing, and life-giving?

Return to your answers when you feel stuck.

Embrace mess

Side steps. Mistakes. A missed call. Broken code. Messes are often where innovation is found; the places we release control and let go of “perfection” is the space the unexpected is allowed room to breathe.

Julia Margaret Cameron’s smudgy photographs became her hallmark. Navajo rug weavers intentionally left imperfections in their work. Wabi sabi ceramics celebrate imperfections. Silly Putty wasn’t meant to be entertainment, and Potato Chips were the result of a complaining customer.

The next time you feel like you’ve made a horrible decision or dropped the ball, see if you can reframe the moment as an opportunity.

Have any of your mistakes worked in your favor? Tell me @redheadlefthand.