Writers, Find Your Inner Guidance System by Beth Barany

Alexandra Bellink_Only in my dreams_CC 2.0 license

Only in my dreams by Alexandra Bellink (From Flickr, CC 2.0 license)

When you’ve lost your way, what do you do? When your inner guidance system seems offline, how do you reboot?

Lately, I’ve been spinning my wheels professionally and need lots of outside guidance. I talk out my challenges, problems, and stumbling blocks, and get reflected back at me how confused I sound. D’uh. I know that!

Still, it’s helpful for someone I know, trust, and respect to tell me that I lack clarity because I yearn for clarity and vision.

When I’m stuck in my writing, oh, like I am right now, I have to take a breath and consider what is exactly going on. I start with being upfront with my problem to myself, which also contains a description of the present state.

My problem: I need to be editing my romance novella right now, but I’m not. (Well, right now, I’m writing a blog post.)

We need structure to be able to hear ourself, hear our inner guidance system.

One of the best structures I have recently been using comes from my friend and mentor, Leslie Nipps, an NLP and Family Constellations practitioner. I’ve been studying with her for the last 5 months, and really like the Heart of Business she has us do at the start and end of every workshop.

She gives a great description and also instructions for the exercise here.

I have found the exercise described there very useful on a business level.

I’m going to use it now for my editing.

Before I do, I want to share with you a tool I use that helps me not freak out about what I’m not doing. Does that happen to you?

When you've lost your way, what do you? by Beth Barany

Part 1: What is

It’s called Acknowledge What Is. In our NLP training at NLP Marin, we call it “appreciate the present state.”

How do you do that?

I know, it’s hard to feel all zen and appreciate what is when inside you’re screaming and shouting and so upset it’s hard to even hear yourself.

That’s how I feel.

So then I say, “Okay.” Kind of like in poker when you say, “I see your hand and I raise you…”

It’s similar also to being in your sixth chakra* and just noticing what you notice.

(*From the Sanskrit meaning “wheel,” chakras are energy centers in the body. The sixth chakra corresponds to the center of the head and is the seat of clear seeing or clairvoyance.)

Or, it’s like being able to calm the screaming child within, with the strong presence of a safe adult who knows that children have tantrums. (I watched my 1-year-old nephew throw one today. He’s already putting himself in corner and crying his little heart out.)

Appreciating the present state or acknowledging what is, is just like that.

So I breathe and notice that I’m stuck in my story, and more that than, I feel the burden of all this work…

I ask myself, “What work specifically?”

Reading pages. (That’s easy. I like to read.)

Evaluating whether or not the prose works, i.e., creates an emotional impact in the way I want it to. (This part is SO hard for me to evaluate.)

But I know I need to step into this emotional impact before I can hand off the book to my waiting beta readers.


Part 2: What would you like?

Next step: Step into my Desired State.

I know my next step is to decide the emotional arc in the problem scene and make sure the scenes before and after make sense.

I ask myself, “How do I want my readers to feel and how do I want to feel in these scenes?”

Part 3: Change & Resolution

I review Leslie’s exercise. I want to visit the relationship between me and the story.

I notice I feel unsure and not quite up to the task. When I visit the story, I sense a desire to deepen into the emotion of this story, to feel it more. An image of the roses I use a lot in the story comes to mind. I want to heighten all the sensory details associated with the roses.

3 steps to find your inner guidance

I step back into me, Beth, the fiction writer. I feel calmer. I’m curious about deepening into the story. I love roses, and I’m ready to focus on enriching the smell, texture, and visuals of my roses in my current work-in-progress that I call the Green Man story.


Novelist & Author’s Coach, Beth Barany

Beth Barany is an author’s coach and award-winning novelist. She’s on a quest to bring play and adventure to the writing process for herself and other writers. Sign up here for her free course on writer’s motivation.

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  • PJ Ferguson ~ Joy Crusader says:

    I have to snicker because I’m with ‘Sad’, hate going through a process to leave a little comment. BUT, I will say lovely process you have, here. Part 1 can be difficult because sometimes we are afraid of our feelings, afraid to feel vulnerable. If you embrace the process as an adventure, facing your fears and your feelings becomes empowering and exciting.

  • Beth Barany says:

    So true, Peter. The process is an adventure, if we but lean into it! And thanks for leaving a comment, however tedious!

  • Beth Barany says:

    Thanks for commenting!

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