Love of the Writing Craft

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Love of the Craft Q & A

The Best Starting Point in the First Stages of Writing

How to Begin Your Writing Projects

By Writing Coach David Duggins | Posted March 16, 2008 | Updated July 27, 2019

Here's a question that speaks to a lot of us:

Q: I am a right-brained, left-handed Gemini. That is the problem. I also think I am gifted with ADD, which is even nicer. DUH!

I LOVE to write, but find that I start things and never finish. I don't know if it is lack of self-esteem, lack of guts or just going about writing in an ineffective way. My dad told me that he had the same problem, he started things like art projects but never finished so maybe it is heredity. He was an artist and I am an artist.

What is the best starting point in the first stages of writing? I have no luck with outlines, so I don't even go there. I think ballooning might be beneficial, but maybe there is another way to do it so that things don't get muddled. Maybe that is the key.

I read a book about right-brained writers and one method was putting different chapters in boxes and pulling them out and putting them together in a way that made sense.

I enjoy writing on the fly, but that is usually what makes me get stuck and lose steam, yet I don't like to plan ahead because the writing doesn't seem to flow as smoothly when I do it that way.

You've undoubtedly had the same struggles when you got started, but if I don't get started soon, I just may stick to painting and maybe try photography. I'm sixty-two and soon to be sixty-three, so I have to move fast.

A: I'll adopt a last-in, first-out philosophy for this, because I want to address the last comment first:

I'm sixty-two and soon to be sixty-three, so I have to move fast.

Really? Why?

None of us knows how long we will live, so our concept of time is an individual construct based on a belief. It's a choice. You either choose to believe you have as much time as you could want or need, or you choose to believe that you start dying as soon as you're born.

Which belief serves you?

A lot of creative people do not work well under time pressure. Your belief that you don't have much time may be part of what's causing your inability to finish projects. It's a fear-based mindset, one that creates instant anxiety. This causes contraction — the feeling that you are working against limits that prevent you from doing what you want to do. Art requires expansion — the feeling that you can accomplish anything, that entire worlds of expression are open to you.

Here's the good news: the latter is the truth. You can accomplish anything, and entire worlds — universes, multiverses — of expression are yours to master and employ.

The bad news — if you can call it that — is that the lie of contraction is self-imposed. You limit yourself with your belief that you're getting old, don't have much time, have ADD, or can't finish projects because your father couldn't finish them.

This is not really a serious problem, because you can change your mindset as soon as you understand that it does not serve you. Lack of self-esteem, lack of guts or writing ineffectively are specific limiting beliefs. If you think any one of these might be holding you back, it will be true. If you think you have ADD, whether diagnosed or not, you will start to play into that belief and act like a person who has ADD. In fact, if you go to a specialist whose job is to diagnose ADD, there's a much greater chance you'll be diagnosed "positive" than not. The combination of your belief that you may have it, and your specialist's belief that he may find it, are a powerful combination that can easily make that a reality.

Do yourself a favor, and save big on medical bills. Choose to believe this instead: "I don't have ADD. I just haven't figured out what I really want to write about." Say it over and over to yourself throughout your day. It may feel silly at first, as if you're trying to fool yourself. But say it often enough, over a month or so, and your subconscious mind will pick it up and run with it.

Ironic, isn't it? That's the power of the mind — the power of a belief to influence outcomes. It isn't magic. It isn't new age hokum. It's a function of how your mind works with the information you give it. If your mind is a computer, your beliefs are the operating system.

To improve your ability to finish projects, you have to replace negative beliefs with ones that serve you. This can be challenging. Your belief system — the lens through which you view the world — has been ground, shaped and polished over many years. Consciously changing something embedded in your subconscious takes effort, repetition, and persistence.

Fortunately, writing is tailor-made for this kind of metamorphosis. As an artist, your way of dealing with serious issues is to externalize them using symbols. Your writing can work powerfully on two levels — consciously and subconsciously — to help change your beliefs about yourself and your creativity.

On a conscious level, simple journal-writing can help drive to the root of the beliefs you want to change. Writing is the only way I can gain absolute clarity concerning my feelings on any subject, so I use journaling to help me understand the big issues in my life — love, spirituality, career. I wouldn't be on this path if I hadn't journaled about it extensively before I arrived here — effectively "rehearsing" it on paper. Give it a try. Write about your future as an artist as if it had already happened. Write about the kind of future you want to have. If you do this daily for one month, you will make significant progress in changing your beliefs about your own capability.

You can also activate your subconscious by writing about it symbolically, as any fiction writer would. Write a story that symbolically expresses your feelings — the fears and worries about your limitations as you perceive them. Use the story to allow you to break free of them. For example, a story about a woman escaping imprisonment could powerfully symbolize your own escape from the fears that hold you back.

Self-expression is its own greatest reward. If you're having problems with your writing, the best thing you can do is write. Once you've dealt with the beliefs that hold you back, I doubt you'll be troubled by the inability to finish projects — if anything, your heart and mind will burst with more new ideas than you can get on paper.

©2008 David Duggins. All rights reserved.

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