A Loveline to Celebrate the Thread That Has Woven You Here

A Loveline to Celebrate the Thread That Has Woven You Here

A Loveline to Celebrate the Thread That Has Woven You Here

 

Today is my first birthday without my mother.

I don’t know quite what that means.

She began me and now I am finished in all the ways I know myself as her child.

She was always a quiet force of devotion, gravity and governance and in the months since she left, I have had to seek these strengths within. Without her, I am all alone inside myself. No-one and nothing stands between me and the winds and waves of life.

Today I am 55 – two years older than my father’s mother Chaya was when she died. She’d been living with cardiac failure for five incapacitating years, her great gentle heart collapsing ventricle by ventricle when her sister, brother in law and nephew were killed in the concentration camps.

It’s no good,’ she told my father from her hospital bed. Since thirteen, he has carried the burden of that mantra as heavy as any cross. It has been my task to unshoulder it so my children don’t become sherpas of that darkness.

My father needed her to leave him with a blessing. But terrified and literally heartbroken, knowing she was going to die, she could find no ‘good’ to balance the ‘no good.’

In this year of grieving, I have wondered if it’s possible to hold onto beneficence, even in times of agony and hopelessness.

Yeats’ poem, ‘My Fiftieth Year’ offers illumination:

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.”

To bless others, we must first feel blessed.

 

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

If we relegate this to circumstance, we are at the mercy of outside forces, prisoners of situation, reliant on fairy godmothers and other such fickle tricksters. We wait, like Rapunzel in the tower for someone to come save us with hope or at least an escape route.

We have more power than that.

‘Being blessed’ is, I believe, a narrative choice. It is a love story we tell about our lives.

It’s how we unpick our ‘dharma,’ or our true calling from the muddle of our experiences and discern the ways we have lived in service to Life – beyond the transactions of hand-to-mouth, nine-to-five, quid pro quo. The ways in which have we handed over and passed on all we have, all we know, all we are capable of, is the deep story of who we are. Not what we do. Not what we earn. Not our roles, genders, achievements or failures.

There is a bright vein that pulses through circumstances, of how life has woven itself through you.

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford

Here is my loveline:

 

And here is a template for you to build your own:

How to turn this exercise into a blessing:

  • Come to it as a ritual (set aside time, light a candle, put on music, lenghten your outbreath, summon deep insight);
  • Pick a theme (creativity, relationships, music, writing, belonging, homes);
  • Build the loveline through years and time with words and images;
  • Remember what you have forgotten – the mistakes, losses and pain as well as the ‘successes’;
  • Give your loveline a name, like The Making of a Mermaid; Thirty Ways I Let Go; Who I Became Because of Chocolate;
  • Pass the template on to others.

If this inspires you to want to explore your loveline with greater attention, my course 7 Tricks to Writing Your Story is a perfect vehicle for this. And just for the month of September, I’ve lowered it to $54.45 which is 55% off the usual cost of the course with the voucher code JOIS55 – to make this an easy gift to give yourself.

May the thread that has woven you here, find you.

A Room of One’s Own

When I was five years old, during a routine game of hide-n’-seek, I hid in the cupboard in the spare room, amongst the hanging fur coats and long sequined dresses my mother would never wear again. I was there a long time. Even when my seeker had ‘given up’ and rallied the adults to help find me, though I heard people calling my name, I kept silent, not wanting to betray the sanctuary of my hiding place.

Bedrock

Virginia can’t say if she is claustrophobic herself. She’s never been this far inside a cave before. The little spelunking she did as a child along the coast of the Western Cape was hide-and-seek with bare-footed cousins, in sea-carved rocky alcoves.

Bringing Inequality Back into the Bedroom

I came to marriage by a circuitous route. As a radical feminist, I avoided it, certain it was for unintelligent girls who had no aspirations to travel or write books. I was never going to be ‘given away’ or called ‘Mrs’ Someone Else’s Surname. Working with abused...

How to Stop the Great Unravelling at Midlife

We have two lives, and the second one begins when you realise you only have one. - Mario de Andrade You will wake up one day and without looking at your iPhone, you’ll know that you are running out of time. This bolt of insight will have less to do with your age in...

The Recipe for Becoming a Successfully Published Author

I often get asked how I became a published author. How did 600 000 copies of my books get sold? How come publishers now approach me to write books for them? I wish I had a recipe I could share like Jamie Oliver so that everyone out there could do the same. But life...

What Would Happen If You Just Stopped?

Yep, you know what I mean. Just stopped. Did nothing. If you'd asked me this question during the past 18 months while I worked 14 hour days, 7 days a week, it would have baffled me. I love hard work. I've got what we call 'zeitzvleis' - 'sitting-flesh' - I can do...

How to Touch What Is Beautiful

How to Touch What Is Beautiful

How to Touch What Is Beautiful

‘I did not survive to be untouched.’ – Mark Nepo

Today, my friends, is my 52nd birthday. I know, right? I don’t look a day over 50.

The past year has been a mix of magic and mayhem. I count among the highs my discovery of ocean swimming and the return of my writing fire. A serious back injury, and the loss of a beloved friend, Carol Thomas took me into some deep grief that keeps coming back and nudging me, reminding me how impermanent everything is.

2019 has also been the year when we’ve finally woke up to what’s happening on our planet. 

It’s so difficult not to feel overwhelmed with indifference, anxiety, anger and sadness. You may find yourself escaping into food, drink, shopping, travelling or Netflix just to get some relief. We’re all looking for ways to stay untouched by what is going awry around us.  

It’s a simple wish, isn’t it? The desire to feel happy and well. But in a world that is diseased and poisoned, perhaps it’s impossible to feel truly well or happy when everything is so askew.

So maybe we can’t have ‘happiness,’ but what is certain is that we can touch it. Now and then. Maybe we can’t be ‘calm’ or ‘peaceful’ all the time but we can taste it, here and there. We owe it to ourselves to touch what is beautiful and meaningful. If we can keep returning to touch and be touched by awe, gratitude and wonder, we stay connected, alive, in tune with what is both painful and the grace that helps us overcome pain.

For a while, I’ve been thinking about how to create something that could bring pleasure or joy or mindfulness to others – through writing. Not a big project like a book, something small, manageable and designed to be fun.

So I put together a little joy-bundle called Just A Touch – it’s 24 writing exercises over 24 weeks. Each exercise takes you somewhere, just for a while, and lets you play.

Just a Touch Online Writing Course - Exercises

Just a Touch is designed to:
– bring the kindness of writing into your life;
– connect you to your heart through writing even if you don’t know where to start;
– tickle your writing bone and take you by surprise.

It would help me immensely to cover the costs of the creation of the course if you’re able to purchase it for $39.95 AUD.
However, if for any reason, you cannot afford this, please don’t let this stop you.
You can pay whatever you like for it over $1 AUD. 

 

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

Joanne Fedler birthday

‘I write and I feel how the tenderness and intimacy I maintain with language, with its different layers, its eroticism and humor and soul, give me back the person I used to be, me, before my self became nationalized and confiscated by the conflict, by governments and armies, by despair and tragedy.’ – David Grossman

 

It would give me such pleasure to know you’ve chosen to touch your writing over the next 24 weeks, and that you’ve committed to the radical act of being touched by the grief and grace of your life.

Get Just a Touch here.

It’s super-easy:

* purchase the Just A Touch course by clicking the button below or click here;

* you will receive your first writing exercise immediately;

* every week, for the next 23 weeks, you’ll receive a new writing exercise in your inbox

(if you can’t find it in your inbox, please check your spam/promotions folder).

I had so much fun creating these exercises, I hope they’ll keep you in touch with the part of you that needs nurturing in these troubled times.

Patience in Writing

I recently hauled out a box in which I’ve been stowing thoughts, ideas, inspiration and research for a book I have been wanting to write. It was packed with journals, scrapbooks, scribbles and diagrams in several folders which I will need to make sense of to turn it...

Creating a Vision for Writing

Close your eyes to see. When my heart beckons me to write I find a quiet place to meditate and I ask my heart, “What do you want me to say?” This simple act of sitting in silence with my eyes closed allows me to hear the stories living inside my body. I tune into the...

Paths Are Made by Walking

One of the most important books I ever read as a law student was Professor Patricia Williams’ The Alchemy of Race and Rights. The book opens with this line, ‘Since subject position is everything in my analysis of the law, you deserve to know it’s been a bad day.’ What...

Artist-in-Reticence

A month ago, I found out that I was going to be a literary artist-in-residence. I was shocked and delighted, but also uncomfortably pleased with myself for managing to secure such an opportunity. I felt honoured. And excited. Yet an underlying sense of hubris was...

Why Books Are the Best Presents

Why Books Are the Best Presents and All of Our Wins in 2018   "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."―Charles William Eliot ‘I’m so proud of you,’ I sniffed. I...

The Art of Shutting Up and Keeping Secrets

When we start writing, we get excited and want to share our happy news like a newly pregnant mother-to-be. We want to blab to everyone, ‘Hey, I’m writing a book.’ It’s hard to keep a secret as big and beautiful as this. But we must. If we care about what we’re doing,...

Show Don’t Tell: A Golden Rule of Writing for Aspiring Authors

Show Don’t Tell: A Golden Rule of Writing for Aspiring Authors

Show Don’t Tell: A Golden Rule of Writing for Aspiring Authors

One of the trickier ‘golden rules of great writing’ that can be difficult to understand and execute is the ‘show don’t tell’ rule.

Anton Chekhov wrote, ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

What does it mean to show not tell?

It’s the technique of painting a picture for the reader rather than spelling out what a character is sensing or feeling.

When should we use the ‘show don’t tell’ rule?

Generally, when we’re writing about emotions and senses, showing works well. However, we need a balance of showing and telling in a text. Telling is more effective when we’re summarizing backstory or describing action.

Why should we use it?

When we show, we paint an image for the reader (like in movies) so the reader gets to interpret and feel his or her own emotional response. This is how we create rich, vivid text that is open to interpretation. It makes writing inviting, not didactic.

E.g. She was grief struck (telling) versus ‘Something cold flickered inside her, memories of her mother moved like minnows beneath a dark surface.’(showing)

When we ‘show’ we leave spaces for the reader to fill in with his or her imagination.

The movie director, David Mamet talks about ‘telling the story in cuts…through a juxtaposition of images that are basically uninflected…a shot of a teacup. A shot of a spoon. A shot of a fork. A shot of a door. Let the cut tell the story. Because otherwise you have not got dramatic action, you have narration. If you slip into narration, you are saying, ‘you’ll never guess why what I just told you is important to the story.’ It’s unimportant that the audience should guess why it’s important to the story. It’s important simply to tell the story. Let the audience be surprised.’

Telling robs the reader of his or her own emotional take on the situation. It flattens instead of expands the text.

‘She is lonely’ versus ‘She looks for a kind face but never sees one.’

When we ‘show’ we’re letting the reader in, we’re writing for the reader. Showing opens rather than closes the text.

‘He felt hot’ versus ‘Large half moons of sweat grew at his armpits.’

The writer Adam Robinson’s exercise for showing not telling is: drop an adjective into a sentence like this ‘He was so….. that he once.’ Or ‘the day was so cold that…’ Then delete the first half of the sentence.

Have fun experimenting.

Keep writing – the sentences you don’t write keep you where you are. The ones you do, take you places.

PS: Show Don’t Tell is just one key element of writing. For more tips and exercises to strengthen your craft, sign up for my 7 Day Free Writing Challenge.

Join the 7 Day FREE Writing Challenge

 

This writing journey over one week will serve those who are new to writing and don’t know where to begin or what to write about. As well as seasoned writers, we all need to reignite an old flame with words to see if there’s any chemistry.

Join me for my next 7 Day Free Writing Challenge and learn simple but profound writing tricks.

Mistakes to Avoid When You Write a Self-Help Book

I’m such a huge fan of a great self-help book which can raise our vibrational frequency if the author wrote it with energetic integrity - not from a place of ego, but rather as a transmitter of wisdom and as an act of service to the reader. A book like this is often...

How to Stop the Great Unravelling at Midlife

We have two lives, and the second one begins when you realise you only have one. - Mario de Andrade You will wake up one day and without looking at your iPhone, you’ll know that you are running out of time. This bolt of insight will have less to do with your age in...

How to Love Time with Every Passing Birthday

We’re all just walking each other home. – Ram Dass   It's funny how much we fret about nonsense in the light of Ram Dass's insight, isn't it? How different would we behave if we lived each day with that as our premise? So when the 31st August comes around, I...

Can I Show You How to Begin?

Can I show you how to begin? Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go...

How to Become a Writer Publishers Want

How to Become a Writer Publishers Want I often get asked, 'How do you get published?' The better question is 'how do we become the kind of writers publishers are looking for?' Here are my thoughts: Write the best goddamed book you can – live what you’ve written. Don’t...

Spelling Out My Story

“Bernard! If you don’t stop that, I’ll go get the sack.” That was all Marie said, and her son stopped, looked up in fear, and apologised. Marie relaxed back into her seat and explained, “He knows I’ll hang him in the sack from a tree for an hour. It's funny, he is so...

Getting Lost in Our Own Bullsh*t – the Excuses We Use to Not Write

Getting Lost in Our Own Bullsh*t – the Excuses We Use to Not Write

Getting Lost in Our Own Bullsh*t – the Excuses We Use to Not Write

Honestly I’ve heard them all. Hell, I’ve used them all.

I’ve had ten books published, have six or seven partially-written manuscripts saved in three different computers and dozens of journals, have mentored hundreds of writers, and even published a few through Joanne Fedler Media. There isn’t a ‘why-I-can’t-write’ excuse I haven’t cross-examined close-up.

But I’m at the stage of life where I’m over my own – and other people’s – bullsh*t.  We just don’t have the kind of time these excuses waste.

Here are some of the guises we use to duck and weave out of writing:

1. ‘And how shall I begin?

Most of us never get past the thought, ‘I’d love to write.’ Why? Because we don’t know where to start. We just want someone to point out the entrance as if there is only one. The truth is you can start anywhere. Where you start writing and where your book or story begins are not one and the same. You do not need to know where your book begins until if you’re lucky, your sixty-fourth rewrite.  I’m telling you this because you need to hear it – dilly-dallying over where to begin is your way of delaying your dream of being a writer. 

2. ‘I’m stuck.’

Anyone – and this is true – can write a good opening chapter. It’s what happens after that, that counts. We may get stuck after a couple of chapters and don’t know how to move through the sludgy bits beyond the honeymoon phase. This is where infatuation becomes real intimacy. This is where we have to navigate ‘the seven-chapter roadblock.’ First – get clear on why you’re writing. Second, connect with your character or the message of your book. Third, keep writing. Or stay stuck. It’s up to you. 

3. ‘I can’t finish this.

At the outset we don’t realise there are stages to the writing process. Finishing can be the trickiest part. Finishing is about architecture, pace, consistency, the structure of revelation and pulling the narrative threads together in a way that is satisfying to a reader. Finishing strong is as important as starting powerfully. But perhaps we don’t want to finish because it means letting go of the ‘story’ (read: pain/trauma/narrative and the identity we’ve formed around them). Not finishing can be our way of staying in the same place. This is where we take a deep breath and face whatever fears finishing brings up for us. And then we finish. 

4. ‘My writing is unoriginal and clichéd.’

Our first thoughts are usually clichés. To get to the good stuff, we have to dig a little. For this we need a shovel to dig through the fluff – the platitudes, the one-dimensionality to access what is buried, hidden and utterly enthralling.  As writers our job is to go deeper, to arrive someplace interesting that takes patience to get to. Do not make readers read something they already know, like, ‘When people we love die, we feel sad.’ Like, really? What else do we feel? What emotions are layered into sorrow, and how can we express them?

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

5. ‘I’ll never get published.

Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Worrying about getting published before we’ve started writing is premature, and immature. Everything in its time. Getting published is at the ‘mastery’ end of the writing game when we are still novices. Anticipating ‘failure’ before we’ve even attempted to learn the craft or get a first draft on the page is our way of talking ourselves out of the joy of the journey. It’s like deciding not to live because someday we’re going to die. Yes, but so? Let’s not be obdurate and miss the point on purpose.

6. ‘I don’t have a big vocabulary and my grammar is terrible.’

You don’t need to be academically smart or have a huge vocabulary to be a writer. You can be dyslexic, have ADHD, be a quadriplegic or even blind and still be a bloody good writer. Great writing comes from great feeling and being willing to be vulnerable on the page. As Bukowski says, ‘Stop insisting on clearing your head – clear your fucking heart instead.’ (But – and I cannot be dissuaded on this point – there is ZERO excuse for not being a great reader, which you must be to be a writer).

7. ‘There are things I don’t want to write about.

Fine. Try and not write about them. What you will find is that they sneak under the doorway, whisper through the keyholes and trickle through the cracks in the walls anyway. Everything we resist, appears in our writing either consciously or unconsciously. It’s our choice how we want to work with our ghosts and demons. But they will insist on getting in one way or another. Remember too, that we can only take a reader as deep as we are willing to go – writers are guides, and so the writing journey is about how fearless we are able to be with ourselves. We never have to write about our pain, but we have to write from it. Which often means writing about the things we don’t want to write about either to get them out of the way, only to discover that they really are the things we need to write about.

8. ‘I can’t decide–’

… whether to write fiction, non-fiction, short-stories or poetry. I can’t choose a name for my main character or decide where or when the story takes place.

Writing is about making decisions. It demands commitment. It’s not for the wishy-washy. Make a decision and move on. You can always come back and change your mind later if your initial decision doesn’t work. Don’t get stuck because you can’t decide whether your protagonist should be called Wayne or Wilfred. Really, don’t.

What other excuses do you have?

Whatever shape they take, label them for what they are – excuses. They are bullsh*t and you are bigger than your own bullsh*t.

How’s That Cynicism Working for You?

I went to law school. I got not one, but two law degrees – one at Yale. Yippee for me, right? Actually, my entire life since then has been a recovery from legal thinking. Not that I don’t value logic, clarity, causation and an understanding of what it means to think...

I Know What Stops You from Writing

    I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic And she said yes I asked her if it was okay to be short And she said it sure is I asked her if I could wear nail polish Or not wear nail polish And she said honey She calls me that sometimes She said you can...

The Stories Our Wardrobes Tell

‘Can I wear this?’ my teenage daughter asked, holding up a black silk shirt from my wardrobe. ‘I need a black top for drama and I don’t have one.’ ‘Ummmm….’ I paused, remembering that the last time I wore that shirt, it was ripped off me in a moment of passion by a...

We Gather Stars in the Dark

My whole life changed when, at the age of 27, I was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer.  At a time when my husband and I should have been focusing on our future, we filled our days with managing the side effects of my chemotherapy. Instead of starting a family we...

Catching Up to the Stories Inside

Catching Up to the Stories InsideI recently went to see A Star is Born at the movies: the remake with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Bradley Cooper directs and also plays the lead male character, Jackson Maine - a singer/songwriter and alcoholic.The morning after...

A Loaf of Bread

‘I’ll have the one with the sesame seeds,’ I say pointing to the shelves of loaves, lined up like newborns in a maternity ward. The shop is cozy, a cubby-house of crispy sourdough, dark rye and milky coffee. Amir takes a sheet of translucent tissue paper and picks up...

Can I Show You How to Begin?

Can I Show You How to Begin?

Can I Show You How to Begin?

Can I show you how to begin?

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.
—Enid Bagnold

Some of us are better sharers than others.

I happen to be a good sharer (with limits on my capacity to share my bed, my toothbrush and a few other personal effects).

Becoming a writer – and then an author – has been ‘the answer to everything’ for me. I want to share it with as many people as I can. It arouses the same impulse in me as witnessing whales breaching and rallying passers-by to ‘Look, can you see them?’

Yet I know that many of us suffer – as TS Eliot’ protagonist in The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock does – of anxiety about where and how to begin.

We second guess ourselves, over-analyse and get stuck in the ‘how’ instead of just throwing ourselves wildly into the relationships and situations we long for.

Plato wrote in The Republic, The beginning is the most important part of the work.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

Of course, without beginning, there is nothing more to speak of. Beginning, therefore, is everything.

Because I know what a big obstacle this is for many beginner writers, I’ve been working on a solution to help you navigate beyond the ‘where and how to begin’ roadblock.

Infographic | How to BeginBelow, you’ll find a map – an infographic – which will ask you to identify whether you’re working on fiction, memoir or self-help and will then guide you to the essential questions you need to tackle as a starting point for each one.

This may be enough to ease you into beginning. Just focus on answering those questions, and let the writing take you where it wants to.

If you find that you need supporting tools or materials to answer these essential questions, I’ve suggested a few different resources you can find on my website to help you. Each writing journey is unique, and depending on the book you’re writing, some tools are more useful than others.

I hope this infographic helps you to begin whatever you’ve been holding off on starting.

Begin, for half the deed is in beginning;
Begin the other half, and you will finish.
—Ausonius

8 Reasons to Write

If you've been putting off writing, this one is for you. We spend a lot of time fending off the 'it's-narcissistic' saboteur, the 'I-suck-at-grammar' bogeyman and the 'who-will-give-a-damn?' golem. But seriously folks, as the Buddha said, 'the problem is, you think...

The Recipe for Becoming a Successfully Published Author

I often get asked how I became a published author. How did 600 000 copies of my books get sold? How come publishers now approach me to write books for them? I wish I had a recipe I could share like Jamie Oliver so that everyone out there could do the same. But life...

Meeting Dylan

To begin at the beginning. No – let’s go back, back to before then. It is an apricot day in the big whirly world, spring-sprung and parchment-pink. Dylan fills the doorway of his china-tiny writing room, buffalo-tired, refusing to budge to the write or the left,...

Unrequited Love

The first time my heart was broken, my mother, who’d never read a single self-help book in her life, passed me a tissue, and informed me that no man in the universe was worth one of my tears. I was going to wallow, write tormented poetry and spend six months in my...

What Writers Can Learn from a Cake Mix

In the 1950s, General Mills launched cake mix under the Betty Crocker brand. Everything was in powdered form. It was aimed at the busy housewife – all she had to do was add water and bake. But surprisingly, the cake mix didn’t sell. A team of psychologists was brought...

On Returning to the Home I Grew Up In

We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there. ―Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon I sit and watch the sun come up over Johannesburg...

How to Write a Book: A Focus on Conviction

How to Write a Book: A Focus on Conviction

How to Write a Book: A Focus on Conviction

How to Write a Book Part 1: A Focus on Conviction

I have a friend whose ex-husband drove an Uber for a while. As soon as there was a surge, he’d drop everything, and jump into his car to take advantage of the higher fee. It caused chaos in their family life. She described it like a drug or gambling addiction. He responded to the surge notification with a dopamine hit and bolted out the door no matter whether they were in the middle of a family meal or socializing with friends.

As creative people, we have to be super vigilant about becoming reliant on externally generated dopamine hits, like the uber surge notification, to feed our creative process. Applause. Awards. Publishing deals. Facebook likes. Retweets. While it’s important to get feedback and to know that our work is connecting with an audience, I believe this validation must defer to something far more reliable. We cannot outsource self-trust, or what I call, conviction.

I know creative people who make a career out of self-doubt. They are always looking for someone else to tell them they’re good enough, or they have permission or they should give up their day job and go full tilt into their passion. Only if someone (in this case, a publishing house) tells them they can write a book, do they believe it (and not for long – this kind of feedback fetish requires ongoing maintenance – the ego, after all is a hungry ghost).

This distrust of self becomes a creative stutter.

So the first strength I teach aspiring authors who want to write and publish a book is this: self belief. It trumps so called ‘talent.’ It’s the foundation of finding your writing voice. And once you hold it energetically, it becomes a guardian of the creative process. Think of it this way: if you do not fundamentally believe you have something worth saying, it doesn’t matter how much of the craft you learn. You’ll never put anything you’ve written out there. What will people say and think?

What gets in the way of conviction is a complex matrix of self-limiting ideas and beliefs, including perfectionism, jealousy, comparison, people-pleasing, attachment to approval, vagueness and indecisiveness, playing small, taking feedback personally, hesitation, small-mindedness, feeling victimized by your life or circumstances and a fixed (as opposed to growth) mindset.

My signature Author Awakening Adventure shows writers how to self-diagnose if they suffer from a lack of conviction, and then elucidates the steps to take to harness self-assurance, a robust sense of self worth and self-esteem. I teach people to reframe ‘mistakes,’ ‘shames’ and ‘failures’ as rich repositories for their stories and their creative process. As the Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote in his poem ‘Last night as I was sleeping,’ we have to ‘make sweet honey from old failures.’ What else could all our beautiful broken pieces be for?

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

We begin by shifting our consciousness from ruthless self-critique to radical self-compassion. Once when I was spiraling into self pity about some terrible mothering mistake I had made my husband told me to ‘stop beating myself up just because it was my fault.’ Humour is a great reframer. When we can laugh – even giggle out loud – at ourselves, we lighten up. The paradox is that it’s only when we stop taking ourselves so seriously, that we actually begin to take ourselves seriously as a creative person.

The greatest strength we develop in the creative life is self-trust.

You produce something and you feel it: wow, that works. That really works.

It requires us to engage in self celebrating behaviour. To say yes to our writing. To say no to bullshit. To burrow into our intuition and to listen to its song.

I have known traditional success (book deals, #1 Amazon best sellers, international best sellers) and I have known their ugly twins – the ‘failures,’ the ‘we’re-pulping-your-book’ emails, the shitty one star reviews on Amazon. If I were to measure my worth as a writer based on either of these, I’d be flirting with the same devil – both are false positives.

Success cannot be something we let others define for us.

One of my books, Love in the Time of Contempt: consolations for parents of teenagers sold much more poorly than I had hoped, only a few thousand copies. I was bitterly disappointed given how much work I had put into not only the writing, but the launch – I’d run a campaign called A Million Connected Parents, given away free copies of the book to early adopters – it had taken up six months of my life and I invested my entire advance into the campaign.

A year after publication, long after I had gotten over the disappointment, I received an email from a woman in Korea, who wrote:

Dear Joanne,

Hello from Korea.

I have read your book(love in time of contempt)

And I’d like to say thank you so much.

I’m a mother of 32 months’ kids.

My daughter is so far until teenager.

But I was helped you.

Sometimes I left her in another room for punishment

Recently I think It’s not good.

But I don’t know how to do

In your book, I found answer.

After reading your book, I stand beside her.

It’s very good.

Thanks, Fiona

There is no algorithm that guarantees that any book will succeed or sell. So we cannot judge ourselves or our book by how it sells.

What this has taught me is that I can’t allow others to decide what value I place on my book. Not a publisher. Not reviewers. Not even buyers. You, the author, must love your book. It must be your beloved, for whom you would do anything.

When we have conviction, we don’t allow others to define what success means. Royalties are wonderful – we all want them – and godknows, authors bloody deserve them. But a book has more than commercial value in this world if it changes someone’s life.

‘In your book, I found answer…’

If you’d like to take the Author Potential Profile Assessment to see how you score on conviction, you can do so here.

If you’re ready to take your self-belief to new heights and to join the Author Awakening Adventure, you can pre-enrol for our next intake here.

Girlfriends

Men are good for a great number of jobs, I’m thinking specifically of killing spiders and changing tyres, but they are useless when it comes to a second opinion when shopping for a new outfit and repeating the conversation they just had on the phone which you know...

Writing About Writing About Writing

I have recommitted to writing. This is the anthem I have been singing for the last two-thirds of a year—a requiem for wasted time, claimed during the approach of my son’s first birthday. I was in a place of relative peace as this promise to myself was made, and I...

Ageing Songlines

I find myself wondering more and more about her warning. Is it really obscene to grow old? I mean, what are a couple of white hairs, a bit of sagging skin, leathery arms and the odd stray facial hair? Really.

What Is My ‘Writing Voice’ and How Do I Find Mine?

What Is My 'Writing Voice' and How Do I Find Mine? Our writing voice is not something that’s lost that if we look long and hard enough for, will eventually turn up like a pair of mislaid spectacles that have been hiding under a pile of unopened mail. It is a fluency...

Grabbing the Reins of Creativity

I remember as a kid thinking creativity was this wild, carefree, easy-going emotion that you just got into, rather like finger-painting. But as I have started using the innovative side of my brain as an adult, I realise what a fragile, ethereal thing creativity really...

Bringing Inequality Back into the Bedroom

I came to marriage by a circuitous route. As a radical feminist, I avoided it, certain it was for unintelligent girls who had no aspirations to travel or write books. I was never going to be ‘given away’ or called ‘Mrs’ Someone Else’s Surname. Working with abused...