Writing my first romance novel has been life changing on many levels, not least of which is seeing the wrenches, in all their many shapes and sizes, that I like to toss into the gears of my creative process. Crrruunch.

On today’s Full Supermoon in Aries, a time for fiery bursts of start-stuff energy, I want to share a technique for protecting your creative flow, so your projects or budding habits don’t fizzle out before they have a chance to bring about some seriously cool change and growth.

I’m in the thick of revisions for my novel with the fervent hope that I will finish by the end of the year. 🤞What I was noticing is that, unlike in my day job, ​The Mouse Market​, when I ran into a particularly challenging section of the writing, I was more apt to spiral into overwhelm and procrastination.

In digging under the hood (aka, using ​journaling​ and ​dreamwork​), I discovered an important difference between The Mouse Market and my romance writing. With the former, I view it as just a job more or less. It’s (usually) fun, and it’s certainly satisfying on a creative level, but my identity isn’t all tangled up in the work.

I receive orders; I fill orders. I have an idea for something I want to sculpt; I sculpt the thing.

I made a teeny tiny truffle cake last week 🙂

None of this feels overly indicative of who I am as a person. Sure, I see myself as an artist, and being able to pay my bills through my sculpting aids that self-perception, but I don’t feel as if I would no longer be me if I stopped sculpting.

With the romance writing? Not so much.

Writing is something that feels incredibly close to my heart. I’ve been scribbling away since I was a kid, and my very first ambition was to become an author. Well, that and a veterinarian. (I adored ​James Herriot’s books​, given to me by my veterinarian aunt.) The latter goal eventually fell by the wayside–the writing never did.

To imagine myself never writing again…ugh, even just typing that feels hollow and sad. And you know what? I’m grateful that I love writing as much as I do. Where it becomes tricky, though, is when my attachment to this writerly identity gets in the way of actually writing.

To understand this, allow me to introduce you to the Golden Child.

Growing up, one of my caregivers thrust me onto a teetering pedestal, up up up in the clouds. I was to be their shining pride and joy, and through me they would realize all of their sparkly creative ambitions (without risking anything personally).

In order to fulfill this role, I had to exist as a doll-self, sewn together from bits and pieces of my caregiver’s idealized, unlived potential.

I would be brilliant, yet humble.

I would do things perfectly without really having to try. Or at least, I would hide all evidence of trying, which felt too vulnerable and icky (but I would also be resentful when other people didn’t realize how hard I’d worked, which they often didn’t because I was hiding it–oh, the paradox!).

I would choose very, very hard goals that were sure to look impressive from the outside, and I would sacrifice my own wants, needs, and curiosities in service of achieving said goals.

And speaking of looking impressive, the only way I could tell whether or not I had “succeeded” was if an external something or someone told me so. If I got a well-recognized degree. If I made a certain amount of money. If my body and gender presentation conformed to a societal ideal. If someone with “authority” approved of me.

Recently, I was watching a MasterClass by Kim Scott, the founder of ​Radical Candor​, and I was immediately struck by her advice for giving useful praise or criticism. In either scenario, she believes the least helpful feedback is that which is focused on personality attributes, such as, “You’re a genius!”

Setting aside the fact that you might not really think this person is a genius (and thus the praise rings false), this does little to help the person grow.

In Radical Candor, feedback is a way to indicate what you’d like the recipient to do more of (praise) or less of (criticism) in the future. Something like “You’re a genius!” is so broad and abstract that it proves extremely unhelpful in this regard. Just keep on…genuising, I suppose? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

To tie this back to the Golden Child, I was most often praised for personality attributes, and frequently they weren’t even attributes I possessed! They were scraps of the doll-self I was pretending to be in order to secure “love.”

Anything that contradicted this idealized personality…

…things like anger, boredom, or confusion, were not permitted, because that might mean that I wasn’t, in fact, the Golden Child, and thus wasn’t deserving of love.

So, what happens when I’m writing and I feel confused or bored? Not allowed! The Golden Child would never experience such things, so the mere presence of these unwanted emotions calls this vaunted status into question.

Rather than simply being a mildly uncomfortable state that needs to be weathered or a totally ordinary problem to be solved, these issues were seen as proof that I wasn’t Golden and therefore wasn’t lovable.

Talk about pressure! No longer was I simply ironing out a kink in the plot or outlining a new chapter. Instead, I was epicly battling the forces of good and evil over my very right to experience love. (0_0)

With The Mouse Market, where my identity isn’t so embroiled in the work, my inner Golden Child is less likely to get activated, and therefore, it’s easier for me to access my adult problem-solving skills.

Email open-rate not where I want it to be? Okey-doke, how might I change that? Maybe I tweak my subject lines or cull unresponsive subscribers from the list. Point is, I’m not wallowing in fears of unworthiness to the point that I can’t develop a strategy. And if some of the things don’t work, no biggie! I’ll just try something else.

Contrast this to Golden Child Mode where…

…in order to be the Golden Child in the first place, I have to demonstrate immediate, innate perfection at difficult things without trying. Nowhere in this equation is there a process for actual, real-world problem solving. How could there be? The Golden Child shouldn’t have any problems that need solving.

This belief that the mere existence of problems is a sign of unworthiness crops up in thoughts like:

I guess I’m just not cut out for this after all!

I’ll never be able to [fill in the blank with a solvable problem]!

Well, but I didn’t grow up in a family of writers or [fill in the blank with some “innate requirement”], so I might as well give up!

Do you see how all of these things prevent me from actually applying butt to chair and writing? They’re the “perfect” excuse to relegate myself to fantasies of how great something will be when I finally do it, without ever having to test that theory in the messiness of reality.

Another indicator: Being hyper critical of other people’s creative work. This is a way of preserving the fantasy that my version (you know, when I finally do it), will be perfect–not like all those other jokers. It’s a scared little kid dressed up like a snooty professor.

Technique: Hang Up Your Wizard Robe

So, how do we get out of our own way, so we can do the creative work our soul is here to do? Allow me to present The Wizard Robe Technique.

When I sit down to write, I need to leave my identity attachments at the door. Now, I’m under no illusion that I’m leaving my identity behind, not entirely anyways, but I do want to release my attachments to this identity.

This attachment is what transforms uncomfortable-but-manageable states or solvable problems into statements about who I am as a person.

Take a moment, right now, to imagine the stuffiest, most pompous outfit you can think of, something you’d be all hot and itchy and cranky in, two seconds after putting it on.

My friend and I were joking about this, and he came up with an elaborate, weighs-an-absolute-ton wizard robe.

It’s far too long, so you can’t take two steps without falling ass over head; it’s endlessly exhaling puffs of dust and other wheezy allergens; and every time you try to do anything, those massive bell sleeves are flopping all over the place, catching on fire, getting caught in subway doors, dragging through your soup.

Gimme a break!

imagine going for a run in this thing (​source​)

This outfit is your unhelpful identity, your gets-in-the-way identity. And guess what? Before you do your work, you get to hang it up in the closet. Go ahead. Imagine ripping this godawful thing off and slinging it on a hanger. Put it in the closet and shut the door.

Now, sit down and do the work.

Write the first page. Dance the first steps. Sing the first notes.

Do the thing.

When you run into a snag, remind yourself, “This doesn’t mean anything about who I am. Not even a little bit!”

‘Cause it doesn’t. It’s just life, doing what life does. It’s not a sign that you’re good or bad or worthy or unworthy.

Given that this snag doesn’t mean one iota about you, how would you like to respond? Does it feel like a problem that can be broken down into smaller chunks and tackled, perhaps a little day and some tomorrow? Does it feel like an uncomfortable, temporary state that you can sit through, perhaps rewarding yourself with something fun once you’re done?

You have lots of problem-solving skills, I know you do! But sometimes, when certain inner parts get activated, those skills recede into the background. They’re still there. You just need to clear away the cobwebs so you can find them again.

Hang up those sneezy old robes. (Repeat as often as needed.) You’ve got this.

Happy Full Moon.

October spellcasting fun…

Next month in The Portal, we begin our spellcasting lesson. This is not your standard Spellcasting 101 fare.

We each possess a conduit to magical power, mediated by powerful archetypes, and no two conduits are alike. When you learn how to tap into your conduit, your magic becomes exponentially more powerful.

Ready to learn how? Join The Portal now, and you won’t miss a single spellcasting lesson.

You’ll also get instant-access to previous month’s content, including dreamwork and divination techniques that we’ll be building upon in a future lesson to make your spellcasting even more effective.

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