Writing doesn't have to be hard. Here's how I reprogrammed my mind to produce great work

I stumbled into writing at a super young age.

People picked up on the fact that it came naturally to me, and gave me opportunities. I’ve ghostwritten for executives, won national awards, studied with the UK’s best universities and showcased my work in the UK's best cities, and I feel like I’ve already had a better writing career than most people in their thirties and forties (which I'm so so grateful for). I was simply set on a path by The Universe, and I didn’t resist or argue - which is why I believe that writing is a destiny.

If it's yours, I'm sure there'll be a point for you too where you’ll realise:

This is it. This is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life."

When it hit me that I might have to deal with that, though - being a writer (and having all the associated pains that come with it) for the rest of my life - I started to worry. 

It’s not just the writing we commit to, is it? I thought. It's also the fear. The overwhelming, 24/7, around the clock fear. Fear of judgement from others. Fear of not being good enough. Fear that there's no specific roadmap to follow to keep it profitable and sustainable.

People search their entire lives for their purpose. It's supposed to be an incredible thing once you find it. And yet, when it happened to me, all I could think was: what the hell am I going to do now?

I'd fallen into over-hyped, generalised, stereotypical thinking.

Let's get this straight right now: writing is a beautiful, spiritual thing. It's not something that should cause you emotional pain.

It is NOT natural to spend every day wracked with fear, and if you are, something is wrong.

@@Your life as a writer might be mandatory, but pain is optional.@@

You need to decide what you're going to do to make your life and your destiny work for you, and stop letting mass opinion dictate how you should feel about it. You need to ask yourself:

  1. What can I do to end the cycle of fear that happens every time I start a new piece of work?
  2. What can I use to help me move towards my dreams, and encourage me to become the best I can be?

When I asked myself these questions, they led me to create The Authorship Program®. It serves as my compass and guide to a better writing life every day. It's there for me whenever fear tries to take over and make me forget who I am.

Writing The Authorship Program® was the best decision I've ever made. And guess what? You’re lucky. Because if you're interested in getting a personal writing companion for yourself, you don’t have to wait five and a half years to get it like I did. It happens to be available right now.

So, in conclusion...

Change your beliefs, like I did with mine. 

I wasn't prepared to sit down and feel sorry for myself for the rest of my life. I wasn't prepared to think of my vocation, my life path, my future, my destiny as a curse. Are you?

To the person who still hasn't started their creative legacy yet (out of fear)

This may seem a little out there, but stick with me on this:

Right now, you have nothing, because you are doing nothing.

And if you continue as you are right now, you'll always BE nothing.

But that's nothing to get hopeless about. Your hopelessness is the only thing preventing you from putting a dent in the universe.

Since you're nothing right now, nothing you do can make you anymore insignificant than you already are. Nothing is at risk, except that insignificance. There's no reason not to try.

You're already experiencing the worst it's ever going to get. 

You might as well do something.

You might as well try something.

I promise you - it can only get better from here.

Do you want to write a book this year? Here are the three things it'll actually take to do it...

Have you ever wondered what it actually takes to write a book? What you actually need to take that dream out of your mind and set it into motion?

There are three things I wouldn't have survived without. And you might be surprised because they're actually not that outrageous or expensive or out of reach - so if you want this year to be the one, this is for you.

Get some support: accountability is the key.

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it make a sound?
If someone strives for a goal and no one cares, does it matter if they fail?

It’s too easy to default back to procrastination when no one is supporting you or your goals...waaay too easy. Most of us don't have the strength to be accountable for ourselves even if we want it more than anything. No one is watching, so we start slacking, then we realise that no one cares, which hurts.

There's nothing like a community of people either learning together or going for the same goals to make big things happen. Nothing like a reality-check from your personal board of directors to help you make the one snap decision that changes your life. 

You need accountability in your creative life, and help finding it...which is where I come in (because I can help you get the RIGHT type of accountability).

Get some clarity: acquire the right kind of knowledge to move forward with your goals.

It's my life’s work to help you get creative and paid, and not by a fluke. It’s a passion and a craft that I've practiced and preached and earned from for years...so that you don’t have to.

You can now come right to the source, and get the results you’ve been yearning for your entire life. 

Imagine if there was a step-by-step framework that could help you navigate the hard parts. Imagine if you could use 15 principles as a roadmap to your success, always knew how to move forward with your creative projects, and were never hindered by your anxieties, insecurities or fears ever again. How's that for clarity?

Get some empowerment: so you can do the exciting (but hard) work

Listen to me closely, now, and answer honesty. Do you want it? Do you really want this? 

Then you should value a longer term strategies that will serve your writing career for a lifetime, over the fleeting joy of a quick scam weekend. If 12 weeks sounds too long to you, you're not in it to win it.

Work, actual work must happen for you to achieve the success you want. That doesn't change no matter how much you try to wriggle out of it and procrastinate and complain. But when you're empowered it can be fun. You can be unstoppable. 

The sooner you empower yourself with the right practices, principles and tools, the better.

So, are you prepared to do the three things it takes to write a book this year?

 

#AskStephanie: When will I feel qualified enough to write/teach/create?

Have you ever had this thought? "Who am I to teach? I'm not perfect."

"Why would anyone want to listen to me?"

"Doesn't wanting to teach and help others make me a huge hypocrite?"

I used to think admitting struggles or setbacks in my creative life would somehow make me look less credible, but most of the time, I've found that the case is usually the complete opposite.

According to Carl Jung, all this means is that we're all "wounded healers".

And that's not a bad thing.

Jung believed that the main reason people feel compelled to teach is when they've been through an experience themselves and want to help others through it too, because they don't want anyone else to suffer the way they did.

They try to heal others, because they themselves know what it's like to be wounded, and that's a beautiful thing. Wouldn't you agree?

Who wants to learn from someone who acts like they've always been perfect?
Who would even trust a person who is teaching about something they've never been through? 

Using your experiences to help other people shouldn't be something to be ashamed of - it's actually something to be proud of, and to embrace. Because no one can deny your credibility when you're speaking from personal experience, your own journey of overcoming.

So if you're ever worried that you're not ready, or you're thinking: "Who am I to write this?" You're a wounded healer, which makes you the perfect person.

You don't have to be flawless or have completely "defeated" something in order to share your life lessons on the topic. Even if you fall from grace sometimes or don't always practice what you preach, it doesn't make you any less of a teacher. 

Your wounds don't all have to be neatly healed before you can heal others.

So please stop doubting yourself, and think about all the people you will help with your stories.

Then get out there and heal some wounds.

The world needs you to be yourself (and by that I mean, to not hold back.)

A lot of people will tell you throughout your life to "be yourself", which is cliche, and I don't do cliche...

Plus we are being ourselves, at all times, aren't we? Unless we're intentionally lying or deceiving. We are all here, right now, in our bodies, in our shells - we are here, we are present, and the only thing we can be is ourselves. 

People said it to me when I was younger and all it left me thinking was, "Okay, how? What do I specifically need to do?" 

(I was a very results-oriented child.)

"Be yourself" doesn't come with any further guidance on the matter. It has no before and after, and just doesn't mean much to anyone.

So I'd like to propose a better alternative...don't hold back.

That's where your story lies.

We are always ourselves, but we can all remember a time where we've held back out of fear, am I right? "Don't hold back" because when you not holding back can be measured, noticed, expanded upon. Here's how to put this into action:

  • Don't do anything that you don't like, just because you think it'll impress.
  • Don't be ashamed of the things you love.
  • Don't be afraid to say what you really feel, and believe that you truly believe.
  • Forget about wanting people to agree with you.
  • Forget that you might be writing in a way that the experts might not agree with.

There is something powerful in not holding back, for every single one of us.

We all have this sense of knowing when someone isn't being themselves, whether we're aware of it or not. There will be a lack of true connection - a cavern of unease between us and the people overflowing with insecurities, or the person trying to deceive us by acting like something they're not. Don't be that person.

You wouldn't believe how much better it feels, too. The moment you're ready and willing to say to the world, "I am who I am"? That's the moment that things will radically change for you. The moment your brand emerges. The moment your version of success truly becomes possible for you.

The people you meet, the places you go and the opportunities that arise will become more relevant than ever, and will take you closer to your ultimate goals than a lifetime of imitation or dishonesty ever could.

Don't hold back.

The Universe will respond.

Your negative emotions are your muse in disguise

If there's one thing I've learnt in my creative life, it's that you just can't sit around waiting for the right feeling to hit.

Sometimes it will be there, sometimes not.

Sometimes the feeling that does manifest will be negative, but none of that means you aren't still as creative, wonderful and useful as you were yesterday. In fact, now, you're bringing something new to the table. 

Your negative emotions are your muse in disguise

We put too much pressure on ourselves to put on a show, where we pretend to be happy and empowered all the time, because we assume that's what the world wants from us. But what the world really needs is your vulnerability and authenticity, no matter what form it takes. There is as much power in creating something using your negative emotions, as there are in your positive ones.

@@The next time you're feeling stressed or frustrated, consider that perhaps, you have the perfect set of circumstances to make great art.@@

You're allowed to show up in sadness or exhaustion.

Sometimes that's all you have to give to the world.

It is only by showing up, in all your frustration and anger and sadness, that you finally start to heal. Let your desperate, creative, artistic soul put its energy to good use, because it just wants to be heard and validated, too. 

Even in your darkness, even in the depths of your struggles, you deserve to be seen and heard. You are a force, an overflowing chalice of creativity, a vessel of truth, and your voice deserves it's pedestal.

Today is the day it matters most.

It doesn't matter that you're not feeling your best.

It doesn't matter that you're not feeling all that courageous.

This might just be the time in your life where you are the most creative.

#AskStephanie: Why have I been comparing myself to others so much recently?

When you're comparing yourself to others, you're receiving a direct message from The Universe.

When we compare ourselves or envy others, it's actually not for the reasons we assume. It's actually not because they have better looks, more talent, or more money.

We compare ourselves to others when we feel they have something more that we believe is out of reach for us.

We're really admiring the intangibles. Their courage, their perseverance, their willingness to show up in the world. And we're wondering to ourselves whether we have what it takes to be like them, to exhibit those qualities for ourselves. 

The #wholewriter within you knows that these qualities are inside you...but you're just not allowing yourself to use them. That's why seeing these qualities in others becomes a negative experience.

Comparison is a reflection of what you are not allowing yourself to do.

I repeat:

@@Comparison is a reflection of what you are not allowing yourself to do.@@

You can become more skilled in any area of expertise if you make the conscious decision to do so. There's nothing stopping you - except, of course, the fear you might fail. Or the worry that it might be hard. Or the struggle because right now, your favourite TV show is on.

Every day, in every moment, this is how you actively discourage yourself from living your dreams.

I know you want it, but you're afraid. Which is why it's much easier to hate on others, or throw a big ol' pity party for yourself, instead of facing up to the fact that to be like this person you admire, something has to change.

The only difference between you and them is the choices they've made.

The Universe is challenging you to face up to your biggest fears.

It's challenging you start giving yourself more chances. 

It's challenging you to become the person others compare themselves to.

Are you up for the challenge?


Tweetables:

  • @@When you're comparing yourself to others, you're receiving a direct message from The Universe. It's time for you to start listening to your emotions.@@
  • @@The only difference between you and them is the choices they've made.@@
  • @@I'm not prepared to compare myself any longer. The Universe is calling me, and I'm up for the challenge!@@
My personal approach to overcoming overwhelm (and how it saves my ass every time)

Sometimes I get super guilty about not doing things "the industry" has said I should be doing in order to "succeed". 

I feel like I should be doing webinars. And facebook advertising. No, twitter. Instagram? And bigger, more exciting launches and guest posts and interviews and newsletters and and and...

I can inherently see the value in these things and know that they might actually be beneficial, but there's just one problem.

I don't actually want to do them.

Every time I even think about doing them, my whole body tenses up. I'll stare at papers and plans for hours and my soul just can't bring yourself to make it work. Or to even start. The thought of doing the things bores the HELL out of me. 

Do you ever feel like this? That feeling that even if you tell yourself you'll do it eventually, and have even made plans to do it but still haven't? There's a reason for that. And it's not because we're lazy. It's simply because we don't want to.

It isn't a strength of ours.

It isn't an interest.

It isn't a priority.

So we can only do one of two things in this situation: we can either make it a priority and stop dicking around...Or we can: 

@@Throw it out the window and see how it feels.@@

Because having this huge thing on your mind without doing anything about it has a larger effect on your mindset and neurological health than you actually realise.

It's called the Zeigarnik effect, and it basically means that you cannot move forward or even perform effectively when you still have "that thing" at the back of your mind, plaguing you with guilt because you haven't done it yet.

It's time to move forward.

I'm doing this at the moment. I wanted to do guest posting at least once a week because it's obviously the thing to do in order to promote myself. I love connecting with people, I love writing, what could go wrong, right? On paper it seemed fine, but when it came down to it, the thought of force-writing another post each and every week, plus pitching just suddenly felt too much on top of everything else I do weekly. It took me a while to admit it to myself and I kept putting it off in the form of excuses and complaints. For example:

"Ugh, I don't like the idea of being forced to do stuff."

"I hate when I have to do things on a schedule."

"Pitching to so many different people each week is going to be time consuming and confusing."

"I don't have a good system to keep track of pitches."

"I'll have to hold back articles that I'll just want to share on my own blog."

"I don't even know where to start." << this is a big one. I can guarantee you do, you just don't want to.

I also recently threw an idea to create an audio course shop out of the window which had held me back for weeks (because I was forcing monetisation when my soul just wanted to give it away for free.)

@@When your body, mind and soul say "ugh", listen.@@

Now, let me tell you the best thing about this. When you throw shit out of the window, it honestly gives so much room to your strengths. Because you know what happened immediately after I let go of these issues? My mind went:

"Ahhh, great! Now we can focus on what I REALLY want to do."

For me, that's focusing on the people I already have and empowering them to share the message. I want to invite people into my world in my own way. I'm a flaky transgressive artist, I don't like to be on any schedules. Sure it may take longer for me to get awareness for my movement, but it will feel one hundred times better to do it the way I want to.

Does that mean I will never guest post? Not at all. But at this specific time, that specific idea is out the window - because subconsciously it was in the way of how I really wanted to do things.

So here is my lesson to you: Listen to your own intuition, and remember that just because something may be the best method, if you don't want to do it then it obviously isn't the best method for you. (And if that's the case, chances are it won't work for you anyway.)

You don't actually have to do all the things you COULD possibly do. I promise you that.

You always have permission to let go of the things you don't love.

So throw it out the window.

See how you feel.


Over to you:

What do you need to throw out the window...today? Let me know in the comments below!

#AskStephanie: What if I'm tired of chasing creative success?

We creatives strive so hard to succeed.

I know I have in the past - worked day and night on a goal without coming up for air like my life depended on it - but I never realised how crazy it looked until I saw my other friends doing the same.

Changing and updating things that don't need to be updated. Fixing things about themselves that didn't need to be fixed. Pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion and burnout. It's too much!

But we really don't need to stress out so much. It's gotten to the point where I think we all need to relaaaax.

We expect too much of ourselves, and I'd like to propose a change. Because here's what you should know:

Your success isn't the impossible standard you hold yourself to in your dreams...

It's how you show up in the everyday

I promise you this: no singular accomplishment, no matter how badly you want it right now, will ever make you say: 

"AHHHH Great! I've finally reached my greatest potential.

The goal posts from The Universe would shift, and you'd soon find another goal to attach your self-worth to. So that's not what it's all about. It's not about goals, it's not about what you want, it's about who you are and what you're doing with your life in the everyday moments.

  • Your best self is not the person on the bestseller list - your best self is the person who wrote a page today, even when they didn’t want to.
  • Your best self isn’t the person who “needs” to lose thirty pounds - they are the person who chose to buy gluten-free desserts instead of defaulting to donuts.
  • Your best self isn't the person on a writer's panel, they are the person who works 9-5 but is still fighting hard every weekend for their dream.

Don’t force yourself forward all the time, because all that does is stop you from appreciating the now.

In this moment, you have all you have been and all you will be inside of you. In this moment, you have it all.

So you don't have to bully yourself into doing more, or throw yourself desperately at whatever it is you THINK is "success"...because you're on a journey right now, and the most important thing in this world is that you fully live it.

Success isn't attached to a single, tangible achievement or object. 

It's in how you feel and what you do.


Tweetables:

  • @@Success isn't attached to a single, tangible achievement or object. It's in how you feel and what you do.@@
  • @@Your success isn't the impossible standard you hold yourself to in your dreams...it's how you show up in the everyday.@@ 
#AskStephanie: How can I get through my half-finished creative project?

There's nothing more tempting than giving up a project half-way through...

You don't have to tell me. I have about a million unfinished works that may never see the light of day, ever. I have the ones I'm uncaring about getting finished, but then I have the big ones that I feel gut-wrenchingly guilty about because of how much I believe they would benefit and entertain the world.

I'm guessing the project you're talking about now is one of those projects. Unfortunately, no matter what project it is, it takes the same amount of work to complete - but here's what you need to remember when you've been in a project for so long the magic has faded (and how to get it back).

You’re not in the honeymoon period anymore, and that's okay. 

It wasn't always that way, but things change. Sooner or later you have to accept the new circumstances so you can adapt, and start making changes.

The grass isn't greener on the other side; the grass is greener where you water it. 

I don't know who first said that quote, but it's stuck with me since I first heard it. Even if you feel you're struggling, it doesn't mean it's time to look for a new, shinier project and throw all your hard work away. Things can get better if you put the effort into making it happen.

You believed in yourself and the project once, never forget that.

It’s impossible to finish a creative work without belief in yourself, but it's possible to restore it. Just because you're not at the bright-eyed infatuation stage of your creative work doesn't mean that where you are right now isn't okay.

It doesn't mean you can't make it better.

It doesn't mean you're not exactly where you're supposed to be.


Tweetables:

  • @@I may not be in the honeymoon period anymore, but that's okay. #amwriting@@
  • @@I may not be in the love stages of my manuscript anymore, but that doesn't mean I'm not exactly where I'm supposed to be. #amwriting@@
The ultimate writer's block pep-talk (to be read in every creative emergency)

We've all experienced "writer's block" at one time or another, right?

You know, that feeling that all your best ideas have been stolen away by "the boogeyman".

Where you can't remember your writing voice and everything you spit out seems stale and unoriginal. That is, if you're spitting out anything at all. A lot of the time you're just in the staring phase, paralysed by the blank page and the thought of defiling it is making you a little sick, to be honest. Right?

This feeling has been annoying, frustrating and even debilitating for me in the past, so I can relate if you feel like this is where you are right now...but I also have some ultra-fantastic news for you.

"Writer's block" is curable, you've just got to stop acting like it's not.

And I don't mean that in some fluffy woo-woo, "The Secret" kind of way. This is a fact:

If you freak out every time you get stuck on your latest writing project and convince yourself that it is forever instead of just a season, you'll turn something that was really only a small setback into a hideous, debilitating long-term issue.

You are not blocked forever. You're not going to suffer forever. And in fact, the suffering can end exactly when YOU decide.

"Writers' Block" is simply a type of fear that gets stronger every time you call it by this name.

@@"Writers' Block" is simply a type of fear that gets stronger every time you call it this name.@@

In The Authorship Program®, we discuss the importance of knowing that some beliefs are limited, and some are unlimited. Some beliefs are useful, and others are detrimental. Writer's block is the most detrimental belief of all.

Feeding into the idea of it and giving it more strength and weight in your life than it should have is only keeping it around longer than it needs to be.

So, how long is it going to take you to gather the courage to turn on the lights and peer under the bed, only to find that "the boogeyman" is just a pair of old socks?

How long will you let fear eat away at everything that was fun and good about writing, instead of plunging in and remembering that it isn't so bad after all?

There's no physical reason you can't pick up a pen and start writing whenever you want to.

Don't tell yourself you can't - you can.

And you will when you're ready.

The other human beings (or, why you should ignore everybody and write what you were meant to write)

Typically, writing comes easily to me... 

It's just a streaming set of thoughts that flow from my mind through my forearms and wrists, and into this weird computerised machine that collects my thoughts and makes them readable for other human beings to enjoy. It's a simple process, a random and often mystical one.

All of that comes to a halt, however, when I think about the "other human beings". 

All the people in my life that have ever read something of mine and criticised. The people who love to give "helpful suggestions" on what you should have done, or could have done better. The people who always have something to say.

As soon as I do that, the words get stunted and stuck. It's like they're not coming from me anymore, they start coming from my insecurities and desire to please. 

But what I've learnt from past experience is that you can't force yourself into conformity or ban yourself from creating what your #wholewriter really wants to create, because you're just doing yourself a massive disservice.

Writing for others only starts a downward spiral that drags everything courageous and brilliant about you to its depths. And before you know it, you’ll have settled into a boring, mediocre writing life based on all the things everyone else wanted from you.

@@If you create something to please others and succeed, it won't feel like success to you.@@

I found this out through personal experience by saying something I didn't even know the world needed in my epic rant about the writing world and conformity in general, here. The support was intense.

Worst of all, you lose the ones that would have loved it in your original voice, the way you crafted it in the first place. Because, don't you know?

There are some absolutely perfect people out there for you. 

People who your words will be a complete revelation to.

The Universe didn't create you in a vaccuum, unrelatable to absolutely no one else out there on the planet. No, you have a tribe - a big one. And what you have to say is in your mind for a reason. You just have to keep out putting your authentic voice and style out there, and shooing all the "other human beings" away with a broom, until you find them.

It's your responsibility to create. It's a reader's responsibility to like it or dislike it. But it's never your obligation to tailor what you create to anyone else's likes or dislikes.

Never compromise your creativity for people who can go back to their own lives if the opinions they give you don't work out. There's no risk for them, and everything at risk for you. 

So stop thinking about the other human beings, and focus on what's in your heart.

It'll find the right "other human beings" in the end.


Tweetables:

  • @@It's never your obligation to tailor what you create to anyone else's likes or dislikes.@@
10 spiritual lessons that made me a better writer

There will be times in your writing life where traditional writing advice just won't be enough.

There will be times where you'll need the sweet pearls of wisdom that can only be gleaned from the non-corporeal, the meta-physical, the emotional, and the holistic. This is the advice that will stick with you, that will soothe your soul, and get your back on your rightful creative path again.

I have ten pieces of that special kind of wisdom for you right now.

Lesson #1: You were born to write.

No matter how bad it gets, no matter how hard, or how discouraged the creative process might make you feel at times - the worst you've ever felt while writing will never compare to what you'd feel if you gave it up. So write, powerful one. Because you were born to do this. It isn't a choice, it's a destiny; and if you can't go a day without writing, or thinking about writing, it's your destiny.

Lesson #2: You are more than enough.

Too many people live their lives worrying that they're missing something, and they worry that they're not complete, or worthy, or qualified enough to fulfil their life purpose until they obtain that "something". Nothing physical can satisfy this sense of lack you're feeling, because all you need to fill this hole is an increase in confidence. You are more than enough, and once you truly appreciate that, you'll be free.

Lesson #3: You mean so much to this world.

The things you do everyday don't even have to be big in order to change people's lives. Your smile might be the only one someone sees today. Your compliment on someone's work might be the most flattering they've ever received. And your novel might be the one that inspires someone else to finally tell their own story.

Lesson #4: You are part of something so much BIGGER than yourself.

You, writer, are contributing to the entertainment and education of human beings. You are influencing a generation. What you do today is contributing to a much larger story. A piece of you will live on long after you go, changing the world as we know it forever, cementing your legacy.

Lesson #5: The Universe is on your side.

Even though it may not seem like it at times, spirituality teaches us that The Universe is always on your side, even when "The World" is not. We all have bills, and insecurities, and fears - but none of that will matter when you decide that you're ready to fulfil your destiny. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Lesson #6: Nothing is permanent.

Charlie Chaplin once said that nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles. So don't let embarrassment stop you from taking a risk. Don't let failure stop you from trying again. And don't allow pain to scare you away. Nothing is permanent - which can always be a good thing if you make it.

Lesson #7: The better you treat yourself, the better the world will treat you.

Tell me: what is the point of trying to destroy someone who thinks so confident in themselves that it is impossible to do so? What's the point of laughing at someone who laughs at themselves? There is no point...and that IS the point. 

Don't take life too seriously. Be courageous and unapologetic in your pursuit of happiness. Laugh in the face of setbacks, give people a reason to cheer you on, and just watch what happens.

Lesson #8: Your happiness contributes to the spiritual wealth of the world.

Does it ever make you feel bad that you're always striving to make yourself happy while so many others in the world are hurting? If it does, you are a good person. The best thing someone can do for the world though, spiritually, is to find happiness for yourself first. Why? Because happiness is contagious. 

You can't help anyone else find happiness unless you have found yours first. Then, and only then, will you have the option to help others find their happiness too.

Lesson #9: The logical choice isn't always the right choice.

Ask any successful person who they became successful, and I bet you $1000 that you will never get an answer like this:

"Well, I just figured out what was the most logical thing to do with my life, and I went and did that!" or this: "I planned my entire life logically, and everything went exactly to plan!"

There are times to be logical, but in aiming to become the best writer you can be, it's all about taking risks. Changing direction. Listening to your heart.

Lesson #10: Some people will just never get it.

This lesson goes for writing and spirituality. People who don't have a passion for these things will look at you as if you are insane if you try to talk to them about it, in the same way you'd react if someone wanted to talk to you about underwater basket weaving for a couple of hours.

It's not your job to convince anyone of anything. It's not your job to preach.

Everyone has their own destiny to fulfil, and they will discover the lessons they need in life in their own time.

You don't need to worry about their destinies. 

You've just got to focus on yours.

#AskStephanie: What if my first draft is terrible?

Allow yourself to be terrible!

You need to start somewhere.

Give yourself the grace period, the opportunity, the freedom of creating something completely, unabashedly, embarrassingly bad.

I know in your mind and in your heart, you will die a little inside when I tell you to start the e-book you've been dreaming about in a shitty Word document. Or to start your blog with one lone post.

I know your soul will cry out:

"No graphics? No formatting? Arial font?!"

But that's just perfectionism speaking.

Perfectionism is an emotional block, and a huge one at that.

It will never come out as the masterpiece you see in your mind right away...but that's not a bad thing. Because as soon as you surrender yourself to the idea that it will never be as perfect then get it down in physical form anyway, you will free yourself. 

Not only will you have something physical to work with, but you'll open space in your mind for even bigger, better ideas. New opportunities will come into your life in a way they simply weren't able to before, when you had your blinkers on and were closed to new things.

Unless it's on paper, you're not in control of your idea, it's in control of you. 

You might think you're protecting your idea from being ripped apart by the world, but really, your precious idea is holding you back from moving forward in your creative growth like a jealous boyfriend.

I'm not saying your idea can't ever be good. I'm saying that you need to bring it into the light before you can see what it really is right at this moment.

You need to analyse it under the magnifying glass, naked, expose its vulnerabilities, then when you realise that you love it anyway... you can truly commit to make it as awesome as it can be.

What you bring into the world won't ever be perfect...

But it can still be really, really good.

At first it will be terrible, but you can always make it better.

They are cool, and so are you (a spiritual solution to comparison, insecurity, and doubting your life path)

Have you ever felt pressured to change after seeing someone who seems cooler than you?

Hip. On trend. Hashtag popular.

Last week you were secure in yourself and in what you wanted to do, rocking with your #wholewriter...today, you're confused because what this other person is doing looks so cool that now you can't even remember what you wanted or who you were before.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer, they say, but I saw this person doing X so now I want to do that!”

You're not truly interested in this new passion or hobby, but you've seen someone else doing well with it, so now you're suddenly convinced that this is the way.

It’s all about seeking the easier option, the faster option, the path that’s already been travelled these days. The one that seems simple because there's a stick to measure ourselves against.

Taking influence from someone else is so much easier and faster than developing your own purpose, mission and goals, and devoting ourselves to them, isn't it?

How quickly we discard our talents for fear that it won’t work out, or that it’s not cool enough.

Your path, your identity and your image of yourself will always be growing and expanding, and it WILL be swayed and influenced by different things as you continue to live your life.

But sometimes, when you get lit up by someone else’s fire, you subconsciously forget your own.

We're pulled around and influenced by new things everyday - some good, some bad, some completely wrong for us - when all The Universe wants is to do is to pull us back and scream:

You don’t need to change yourself, no matter how shiny other people appear, or how cool the next big thing appears to be.

The Universe has its own unique plans for you.

Best believe it.

So take a deep breath, and trust that inner voice that knows exactly what would be best for you. And whenever you feel fear trying to take you off your path in the form of someone else's new product or video or latest instagram pic, you need to say to yourself:

“Wow, this is amazing, just like my future self/work/mission is going to be”.

Admire others, and be influenced by others, but don’t forget who you are.

No one on this earth is so amazing that you should overwrite yourself trying to become them.

Yes they are cool, and so are you.

Yes they’ve found their way, and so will you.

Why you've been denying your call to write

You know what's more painful than going all out and trying to achieve your creative dreams?

Not doing so.

Because your soul will never stop wanting it, and your fingers will never stop aching for it.

There's nothing more damaging to the soul than not being who you were meant to be - and nothing more damaging than not writing, when your calling is to write. So if you haven't giving it your all so far in your creative life, these thoughts and feelings are at the heart of the problem.

You think you have time (haha, hahaha.)

Are you so busy pushing your writing career into the future, and thinking about it in future terms, that you haven't even started on it in the present? Have you ever noticed that when you talk about publishing your first book, it's always "later" or "tomorrow" or "next week"?

Sacrificing real work for daydreaming is a classic sign that you’re scared of using the power you have to change your own destiny. But here's the thing:

There's nothing riskier than waiting on tomorrow to make a start on your dreams.

The situation you were in today may never be the same again. The opportunities you had today may never come around again. Your life, your dreams, your health, your options could all change at any time - for better or for worse. No time will ever be perfect, so stop waiting and start now.

You're scared that you might fail (so you're holding back.)

As a coach, it never fails to amaze me how people self-sabotage themselves. Clients tell me that they want to write more than anything in the world, but when I set them a task, they find every excuse under the sun to not do it.

They're usually afraid of making a real effort, in case their work doesn't turn out as brilliant as they imagined it would. But here's the thing about that:

If you're not working to the best of your ability, you have no one but yourself to blame when it fails.

When you do your absolute best, you won't feel any shame, even if you fail. You would grow from the experience, you'd realise failure was not the end of the world, and you could try again with your head held high. But if you don't try your best, you're wasting your time. It won't feel good, it won't deliver results, and you'll always wonder: "What if I'd given it my best shot?"

You're overwhelmed (I hear you.)

We're all overwhelmed. If the pressures we all carry on our shoulders every day were physical, we'd all be pretty ripped right now - flat stomachs and six pack abs from carrying it all.

When you're feeling overwhelmed, it just means you need to take a break.

You'll find inspiration soon enough. You'll feel the urge to get started on something right away, and when it happens, attack with full force.

No matter how much you think you'll want to do it later, nothing can compare to the excitement and drive you get in that first moment. Use it!

You're waiting for "God in the machine" (but he's not in there.)

If you're waiting for "God in the machine," it means you're waiting for a solution to your struggles to appear one day, by magic. Like a pen, for instance, that downloads your manuscript from your brain right onto the page! (Okay, that's a little over the top, but a girl can dream...)

You may not be waiting for something quite as unrealistic, but even waiting for "inspiration" and "motivation" are examples of god in the machine.

You're not in a novel, finding a magical item is highly unlikely, and happy endings just aren't guaranteed...by any measure.

The only way you can secure a fulfilling future is if you set out to create one for yourself.

Your entire success depends on you and the choices you make, and on being responsible for your own actions. It might be scary at first, but it's way better than leaving it to The Universe to determine your success or failure in life.

You've given up already (and you shouldn't have.)

You may not have said it out loud, and you might never say it out loud, but that doesn't mean you haven't had some thoughts.

It may be that your subconscious has convinced you that you're not ready for greatness yet, or that the creative life just isn't a possibility in your life right now. Or it may be that at some point you concluded that you're just an "ordinary" person, and that your vision is just too big. And so, it ends up that everything you do is half-hearted, or you stop trying at all.

If you do have any of these thoughts, there's nothing I can do to change them for you. If you believe you're ordinary and can't do it, that's your truth - and no one will ever be able to change that besides you. But that's actually the good news. Because at any time in your life, you can decide not to be simply ordinary anymore. You can raise your own standards, and answer the call.

The world is waiting.


Why are you waiting to be handed your dream writing career?

Are you waiting to be handed success by somebody? 

Waiting for that agent to discover you on Twitter, or for that celebrity journalist to feature you in a magazine, or a publisher to seek you out and sail your works all over the world?

This is for you. Because I don't want you to get discourage when you struggle your way through the marathon of creating a publishable novel...only to find that the magnificent agent, publisher or book deal you dreamt about isn't simply there for you right away on the other side. (And to pose the question, whether that's even the best option for you at all...)

Do you know what most authors who manage to get a book deal are actually rewarded with, most of the time? A lack of creative control, a template to fit or else they lose the opportunity, decisions made for them and their work that they wouldn't have chosen for themselves, and an advance or book sales that are usually not enough to leave the day job. That, after years of hard work, isn't what most authors were hoping for. 

There has to be a better way to continue on your creative path than simply waiting for a rescue, a golden ticket, or an "out" that may never come, right? But of course.

You have to define success for yourself.

Your version of success doesn't have to be the cookie-cutter version everyone else is striving for.

Your ideal version of success may just be getting your novel in the hands of friends and family and the people you really care about. It might be simply to do it for yourself. Or it could be to make large amounts of money (but do you really need a publisher to do that?)

Your idea of success might simply be to teach, entertain, or inspire, and if it is - don't wait around while your message gets stale, waiting for some magical deal to come and make it happen for you. Don't let your ego trick you into believing that your success always has to be something granted to you by others to be worthwhile.

Your version of success should not have to depend on other people handing it to you.

@@If your current version of success is based on trying to impress other people, rethink your version of success.@@

If your version of success really really is to get that publishing deal with a top company, then by all means pursue it with all your heart. But do you want it because you want it, or is it something you've been led to believe you want?

(Because "self-publishing is lame" and "the real money is in the deal", right? Please!)

Tell that to people like the wonderful Regina Anaejionu, who used her books as essential tools to build credibility, then create the ultimate infopreneurial empire.

Or Mariah Coz, who didn't sit around waiting for anyone to publish her works - she published them herself and went on to make millions with her incredible e-books + courses.

Then there's my good friend Kayla Hollatz, the community-building superstar who fulfilled a goal of hers by publishing a personal poetry book that is touching thousands of people's hearts around the world, right now. 

You don't have to wait for anyone's permission. 

Times are changing, the lie of there being authority over our creativity is crumbling before our very eyes.

These days, the right author with the right mindset can make money from their living room; with no one breathing down their backs from a publishing house, telling them what is appropriate and what is not, stifling their creativity with their outdated laws and practices. No one dumbing down their message for fear of limiting their target audience, or blaming the lack of sales on them, despite providing little to no support with marketing. 

I don't know about you, but that sounds like the real "vanity publishing" these days.

I honestly don't have anything against publishers - but for the majority of authors, being published by one of the top five is an empty fantasy, and charging blindly towards it causes nothing but large amounts of stress, frustration and resentment in your creative life where it doesn't need to be. It's like striving to obtain the perfect bikini body: it doesn't just solve all of your life's problems once you get it.

So if there's anything I can tell you, to save you from that...it would be to think outside the box and realise that there are SO many other opportunities out there for you.

Your ideal version of success may be way closer than you think - just around the corner, or within arm's reach. And the more personal it is to you, the happier you'll be when you achieve it.

Go get it.

What really holds you back from using your writing voice

Never start a sentence with "and" or "because". Never write prologues, or epilogues. Never start a novel with your main character waking up. Never say "never" and always avoid "always". You know, stuff like that.

These are the rules of writing you must never break otherwise you'll never become an upstanding member of the writing community and all your writing will fail. 

Just kidding.

The rules were created with good intentions, but it's time to rethink them - because your fear of doing something that might be "wrong" is what’s holding you back from finding your real writing voice.

There are no rules in writing.

At best the rules are but feeble suggestions, which didn’t hold back any of the most successful authors of all time - like Shakespeare whose works were filled with almost entirely his own lexicon of words and phrases; or writers like E.L. James, who may not have conformed to the standards of traditional writing, but still gained a raving fan base worldwide.

There are no rules in writing.

No list of rules will ever make your novel famous, or save you from critical comments. No formula will determine how people will feel about your story, or how well the world receives your characters. No one can teach you how to write. Teach yourself, through courageous expression and experimentation.

There are no rules in writing.

No one will ever be able to bring the same perspective or insight to the blank page as you. Not now, not in the future, not EVER, unless they actively copied you. Do you realise who incredible that is?

There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, and you have the power to sculpt, rearrange, and touch people's souls with them in a way that is as unique as your fingerprint! Why stifle that with regulations?

There are no rules in writing.

There are no limitations.

Write your novel even if you're worried it might not be in fashion at the moment. It might have never been in fashion before. It might be so experimental you don't even have a name for it yet. It doesn't matter, just write.

You don't know what the next big novel will be, no one does, so there’s nothing to say it won’t be yours.

There are no rules in writing.

Stop colouring within the lines, stop worrying about what other people will think of you. You already have everything you need to create the work you want to bring into this world.

Don’t allow the “rules” to hold you back, because there are none.

#AskStephanie: How can I write more?

I don't know you, but I know that one possible reason you're not writing as much as you'd like is because you're waiting for it to happen on auto pilot.

Somewhere along the line we got caught up in the romantic idea of an idea striking us from the heavens, resulting in a flurry of fingers and a pile of papers to show for it at the end of the day. No stress, no fuss. There are too many movies where writers just yawn, stretch, and mosey over to their computers knowing exactly what to write and getting it all perfect the first time.

You may have lost your initial motivation and passion for your project, but you're praying that someday by some miracle, it'll all come rushing back and you'll get that thing done...finally.

The simple actions we do everyday to live take millions of micro actions in your brain to perform - but they're all on autopilot. The steps we need to take in order to start and finish a piece of writing? Not so much, unfortunately.

Writing always has, and always will require a conscious choice.

This is the reason why we don't actually go and sit down to write immediately when we consider it instead of whinging about it all the time. It's not that simple. We know how to take the first technical step, but not the first courageous step. So what is the first step, exactly?

Find the story that desperately needs to be shared.

That message needs to be stronger and more important than anything else in the moment.

You need to be convinced, wholeheartedly, that what you have to say is the most important thing in the entire world in that moment. That what you have to say will be important and worthwhile to someone, even if that person is just you. 

So today, think about what really, really needs to be said. What is really important to be brought into the world, by you.

That's when it comes easily.

That's when you'll begin.

My terrible experience with @WriteToDone (and why you shouldn’t change your writing voice for anyone)

As a spiritual person, I try not to dwell on negative lessons from The Universe.

Once in a while though, they teach you something you wouldn't have learnt otherwise. I now have an experience I can pass on to other writers as a cautionary tale.

The lesson? Never, ever let anyone stifle your writing voice.

The choice of words YOU put on paper, the style YOU want to convey and the message YOU need to share. Because if you do, you sacrifice your purpose for theirs.

Here's how WriteToDone helped me come to this valuable realisation.

It all started with me contacting the website, politely asking them to remove a comment I had posted. I wasn’t applying to guest post - that hadn’t even entered my mind. It was the founder Mary Jaksch, who then asked me for the url of my website.

I was honoured, so I gave her the url, and here is the email she sent back in her exact words:

 
Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 16.03.50.png
 

I was thrilled! How exciting to do a guest post for such a great website. This, however, is when things started to go pear-shaped.

I drafted up a quote-based post (which I’ll probably end up posting here at a later date!) that I really believed in and was super proud of.

When I sent the post to Mary, her editor Vinita took over proceedings, and let’s just say it felt like I had just sold my soul.

Suddenly didn’t seem like an “invite” to guest post at all. Suddenly I was lower than them, just an employee, a person to be dominated and bossed around for their gain.

I could have handled critique on grammar or how to open the post better. But it was clear the post was being judged on a criteria that came straight from a checklist that just didn't work with the post I'd written. Here are a few examples of what Vinita wanted me to do:

  • "Connect with the reader": Okay, in what way? What do I specifically need to improve on to do that? This is one of those stock phrases from someone who really doesn’t have a clue.
  • Add a conclusion: No, sorry. This post is a powerful, drop-the-mic piece that is supposed to leave the audience in awe, not fizzle out like a college presentation.
  • Elaborate on each quote: Nope. Because what could I really add to the words of people like George T. Elliot and Martin Luther King? As if the quotes aren’t enough on their own? That only insults the original creator and patronises the reader.

Vinita the editor wasn’t impressed by someone actually standing behind their work, and wanted me to just do it exactly how she wanted.  

Well, you know what?

If you want something written exactly to your specifications, you don’t “invite” a writer, you HIRE a writer. - (Tweet this!)

You give them money in exchange for exactly what you want. But it’s much easier and cheaper to exploit writers that don’t know any better, isn’t it?

I’m appalled that this treatment came from a fellow writing website, in the midst of an important world outcry about writers being exploited and used for work without pay, championed by excellent writers such as Chuck Wendig and Kristen Lamb. It’s just plain wrong.

Oh, but the worst was yet to come.

It turns out I was actually being discriminated against because I wasn't as well-known as other guest bloggers.

Vinita had asked me to refer to the popular posts for how to write a conclusion (which I knew would have completely dampened my piece). But when I did just that, I found a wealth of articles written by people who HADN’T written conclusions.

People like Leo Babauta and Katie Tallo were free to keep their identities, their freedom of speech and their unique writing styles - but I had to surrender mine if I wanted a place on the website.

In the end, I did swallow my pride and changed the post slightly…defying my own golden rule:

@@Never do anything out of desperation or fear.@@

I didn’t want to be seen as a "trouble-maker", so I did add a short conclusion and changed a few other bits, but it stopped sounding like me completely. And it left me with the WORST taste in my mouth.

A voice in my head kept saying, “You did not become a writer to become a sellout. You did not become an entrepreneur to have people tell you what to do.

The next day, Vinita came back with even more hazy suggestions for improvement, and made it clear that this was my "last chance" to get it right, or else. So as well as exploitation and discrimination, extortion was now on the list. I was ready to let the opportunity go.

Without my personal style, Mary wouldn’t have taken notice of me in the first place, so to give that up seemed insane. If us writers are good enough to be noticed for it once, we’re good enough to noticed for it again in future, by people who fully appreciate it. People who won't invite you to guest post, then ask you to change your entire style.

Here’s my last email about the whole situation:

 
 

They didn’t take my guest post, and I couldn’t be HAPPIER.

Honestly, so much stress over something I hadn't wanted to do in the first place, but was actually invited to do.

Here’s the lesson in all of this, for you. 

The Universe has a plan for your life, and your intuition is the only thing keeping you on track with it. It can be exceptionally hard to listen when someone comes along and waves a huge, supposedly golden ticket in your face. But at what cost?

How is your intuition supposed to guide you if you’re always prepared to give in to the quicker, easier option?

How are you supposed to discover the path that is truly meant for you if you willingly surrender it?

And if you don’t protect your style, your voice, your future, who will?



Update: Okay, wow...so much support for this post! Thanks to everyone who responded!