Leaps, Walls, Falls, and Baby Steps By Deb Lund
Remember learning to walk?
Of course you don’t, or if you do, you’re among the very few. That “not remembering” might be why, as a writer, we leap, hit the wall, and fall down a lot. We need to take baby steps.
- Leaping, hitting the wall, and falling down are all part of the creative process.
Every writer, artist, dancer, musician, and actor I know hits the wall over and over. When you look at the creative work of others, you see the final product, not the process. You can only judge others from the outside and yourself from the inside. This means everyone else is talented and we’re imposters. Guess what? We’re all running around scared that we’ll be found out!
And that judgment thing? Take my friend Christina Baldwin’s advice and “Replace judgment with curiosity!”
Worse than hitting the wall is avoiding it, which happens not only to us mortals, but also for those who we’ve decided were anointed by the gods with talent. Many of the “talented” (definition: people for whom something comes easily—who cares?) hit the wall and walk away. It’s the people who not only pick themselves up, but also pick away at the wall who get through to the other side.
Leaps can work, and other times, we need to take baby steps.
- Taking baby steps is part of the creative process.
“Write a Novel” is not a baby step. When you’re working on goals, planning your to-do lists, setting out to turn your dreams into reality, you need to be bold, fearless, ready to conquer anything—and then inch forward before the fear freezes you in place. This is where baby steps come in.
You can’t run a marathon without working up to it. You need to exercise your muscles. Before you can run you must walk. Before you can walk, you crawl. Before that you learn to pick yourself up into a sitting position and push yourself up by all fours on the floor. Babies fall. A lot. Reread Truth #1 above.
We can’t always know when it’s best to leap or take baby steps. That’s okay. You have to get in your quota of walls and falls, and you’ll find them either way.
Let’s say you’re stuck. You can’t move. What’s the smallest baby step you can take? The very smallest…
- Call a supportive friend?
- Open your favorite writing book for quick bit of inspiration?
- Take out a piece of paper?
- Make up a working title?
- Write anything, even “I don’t know what to write?”
- Go for a walk or meditate to clear your head before beginning again?
Whatever your best baby step is, take it! And once you start writing, just keep those words pouring out nonstop without any judgment. Remember? Use curiosity instead!
Then, as soon as you get something down, celebrate that you weren’t stopped. There can be no beating yourself up if you want to create. And, please, no beating yourself up for beating yourself up!
A coaching client of mine was doing just that. She had four projects she needed to complete for nonprofits, and wanted to spend an hour daily on each of them. She would set her timer, and then berate herself for not achieving her hourly goals. We changed that around to “touching” each project instead, using the stopwatch function on her timer and recording the time she spent working on each project. Any recorded minutes had to be celebrated. She was absolutely giddy with joy after that one little change. She sent me a picture of her weekly minutes chart she kept on her white board, and we both celebrated!
Do you need to give your inner critic some space so she’ll leave you alone for a while? (I tell mine I’ll invite her back for a critique later.) Breaking your tasks down into the tiniest particles is doable even when you’re slumped down against the wall. And it will help silence your inner critic.
Slumping against the wall is also part of the creative process. Celebrate that! And celebrate knowing those moments will pass if you’re persistent. Writing is hard, grueling work and the rewards are exponential for those who keep at it with curiosity.
Baby steps, leaps, walls, falls, and everything between. There are necessary times for all of it.
It gets better only when you recognize the slumps as part of the process and know that the only real antidote is baby steps. That’s when you get to be both the baby and the one holding the baby’s hands.
You’ll be running marathons before you know it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deb Lund is on a mission to get everyone claiming their creativity. She’s the creator of Fiction Magic: Card Tricks & Tips for Writers, which is 50% off until the end of January. http://deblund.com/