What’s your emotional seatbelt?

One of my favourite things in the Writers’ Gym week is Wednesday Questions. Everyone is invited to ask me something, either in the group chat or by private message – and that question can be anything about writing or life around it. One of the reasons I champion it is I’ve found it works as intrinsic permission. It gives a reason not to judge the question; not to find worthy/unworthy whatever might be on your mind (important writing training in itself). When you’re dared to write something and press send, those ‘what the hell’ muscles kick in and words take shape around a thought that might not otherwise have formed so clearly.

One Wednesday Question I received yesterday is about confidence. Not that it feels like that when I experience what this writer was talking about. When it’s happening, it feels like loss of motivation. Or ability. Or the right to call yourself a writer. I remember so well how strong those feelings are that get you driving your life away from your own creativity, from the time to extract it from yourself:

‘I find that I am so much less distracted when I’m in the Writing Room or Coffee & Creativity because seeing everyone working around me spurs me on. Do you have any advice for holding yourself more accountable when you’re working on your own?’

In two ways, it’s lovely reading this. One: I invented both Coffee and Creativity (15 mins optional chat, an hour or writing, 15 mins optional chat and me answering private coaching questions in the chat box whenever anyone wants) and the Writing Room (our silent Zoom room running a minimum of twice a week for members, Monday mornings for my whole mailing list) precisely because I know how well this works. Because, two: at the hardest times in my life, the emotional seatbelt of other people writing when I was as the difference between writing and not writing.

Yes, ideally, these are luxury items and not necessities. Sadly, knowing that can have the side effect of writers not showing up for the spaces that are designed for and available to them because they “shouldn’t” need them. I’ve certainly been self-destructive like that too, often when I needed it the most, and try to catch myself when I’m too binary about what does and doesn’t work for me, rather than discovering through the experiential. But this question came from a writer who is open to exploring. So the question really is; how can we not feel alone on our own? What’s the emotional seatbelt that keeps us on the journey?

Little But Big Ways Not To Be Alone When You Are Alone:

1.        Text your writing coach! Say ‘I’m starting now, I’m carrying on until at least X’. that way I’m with you even when I’m not.

Every member of the writers’ gym has weekday access to be my Voxer 9am-5pm. If I’m not free, it might be a bit before you hear back but you always do hear back.

2.        Candles. If I light a candle, I have to babysit it. With my notebook. The way I tell myself new stories is richer for it, and my back thanks for for the productive, non-desk-based time too.

3.       External time. Whether it’s Spotify or the washing machine, framing the time I spend within a Pink Floyd playlist or a load on thirty degrees lets me feel time isn’t empty; there’s structure containing and supporting me.

4. Know that it was never ‘meant’ to be easy. That however easy it looks for other people, or however much success you see on your social media page, ‘everybody else’ is not just one person. Everyone’s struggles happen beneath the surface.

It’s not about the feelings going away. It’s about knowing they’re part of us and that’s okay. You’re okay. We’re a community, we writers. You’re not alone, even if it feels like it. You never really are.