Change Beliefs That Hold You Back

April 6, 2017

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Believe in yourself.” Ack. What does that even mean? Give me specifics!

That’s what I hope to do today. One of the things I talked about at the Spring Spirit Conference in Sacramento this past weekend was how beliefs can hold us back and the two questions we can ask to help us move forward. I’ll get to those questions in a bit.

What Beliefs Are Holding You Back?

Some of you may remember my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) victory. In a quick recap, I’m going to review that through the lens of beliefs that were not serving me as a writer.

Desire #1: I want to write about this new idea that has fantasy elements and maybe some bouncing around in history.

Belief #1: I can’t do that. I write contemporary realistic YA fiction.

The Two Questions

So these are the two questions I  ask myself when I come up against a belief that is preventing me from moving toward a goal or dream.

Q1: Is it true?

Coincidentally, this is the main question Byron Katie, a writer and self-development speaker asks around our beliefs about ourselves and others in her program called The Work. I didn’t even realize it until I was practicing my keynote the other day and that question just popped out.

Is it true that I can’t write outside the genre in which I’ve been writing?

Actually, no. Just because I haven’t done something, doesn’t mean I can’t do it. There was a point in time when I couldn’t tie my shoes.

Q2: What steps can I take to feel more comfortable?

  • Read books in this “new” genre. Ha! I already was. I love fantasy and historical fiction. I love them together. Now I’d read them with an eye toward writing one.
  • Take classes or workshops. Again, I already had. Funny how I forgot I actually had begun this process with a different novel. Good grief!

Let’s do this process again so you can see the pattern and hopefully do it yourself.

Desire #1: I want to participate in NaNoWriMo so I can get a jumpstart on this new novel idea.

Belief #1: I can’t do that. I’m a slow writer.

Q1-Is it true?: This one took some deeper exploration. If I looked back, the answer could be yes because they’d all taken 2-3 years minimum, with the one I’d recently set aside taking 5 1/2 years at the point I stopped last summer.

But what if I just started from now? Or shifted the question just slightly? Rather than “Is it true that I’m a slow writer?” I asked: “Is it possible to write faster than I have?” The answer was, of course, yes. Because possibility always lies in front of us, never in the past.

Q2-What steps can I take to feel more comfortable?

  • Agree to try plotting/planning in advance. (Another belief crushed: “I’m a ‘panster!’ I write by the seat of my pants and if I plot, my creativity will be stifled. That’s a load of crap, BTW. I have the proof.)
  • Read books on plotting and structure. I did and it was cool!
  • Take classes on plotting and structure. I did—from the esteemed and fabulous Eleanor Brown in Denver—and it was awesome!
  • Create a series of plot points that feels right for you. I blended a number of points that I plucked from books and classes and other sources.
  • Jot 1-3 sentences for each of those plot points. That was fun. I brainstormed with my critique group first, sending them a brief summary and a series of questions.

And then I went on to write over 62,000 words during NaNoWriMo.

Conclusion: I AM A FAST WRITER!

What a feeling that was. Smashing through so many beliefs, one after the other, that were holding me back. Right now I’m still writing and revising the novel so I’m sure I’ll have other things to report later on, but I will tell you, changing beliefs like these about myself was EXHILIARATING!

Identify a belief that is holding you back. Use this process to release some beliefs. Let me know how it goes.

If you need some help, here are a few to get you started:

  • I don’t have enough time to write
  • I don’t know how to start my story
  • Everyone else is a better writer than I am
  • I don’t have the money to attend classes, buy craft books, pay for a critique, etc that would help me improve