At the beginning of 2021 I set myself the goal of writing a book. My motivation is to use my life experiences to help others and to inspire people to THRIVE during our one precious life. To be honest, it felt daunting but I figured I’d smashed some significant goals in the past so I’d likely make it happen.
A few months in I engaged an awesome writing coach to support me through the process. Jas guided me in preparing a story archive and set me reasonable writing tasks in between our coaching sessions. I soon got the archive out of the way but that seems to be where my inspiration left the house.
Each time Jas and I agreed on certain chapters, or a word count, I would fall short of the target. I consistently didn’t write, even when I had allocated the time in my diary. I started to feel like I was wasting Jas’ time and my money. I also felt embarrassed. WHY was I so bad at this?
I reflected on the different blocks that could exist for me – the fact that I grew up in a home with the mantra “What happens in this house stays in this house”; that I was unsure what was fact and what was urban myth in my first 10 years on the planet; that I had ALWAYS told myself and everyone else that I’m not a writer – that my style is stuffy (great for academia but useless anywhere else); and that I wasn’t sure how much of my backstory I wanted to reveal and how sharing it might impact my family relationships.
While working with my current psychologist, I had an epiphany. I said to her “I’m really struggling with the book writing process … I feel like I’m having an induction when what I want is a natural birth”. I realised I needed to stop.
Later that day I reached out to Jas to discuss the situation and to explore options for the future of my coaching program. Thankfully she was amazing and we’re on hold while I work through this stuff.
Around this time I heard about Seth Godin’s book “The Practice” (thank you Nina Sunday) and a key message stood out to me:
It’s all about developing a practice. Don’t wait for the muse to come, the flow state comes when you engage in the practice.
A couple of weeks later I caught up with my uncle who loves writing and he shared that it wasn’t always that way. He said he’d found the more he did it the more he wanted to do it. Flicking through my Audible library recently, James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which I’d read 18 months earlier, jumped out at me. James also spoke of developing the practice, in relation to both writing and other desirable habits. The signs seem to all be pointing in one direction.
I finally took the hint and decided to develop a writing practice. Last week I wrote two blogs for my website – something I’ve never had the inclination to do before.
As I further reflected on my reluctance to write at the end of the week an insight dropped in. Although I have never seen myself as a writer, I have to admit that I have always been a story teller. As a human resources professional I used stories to help staff to find a way forward with a challenge, to influence opinions, to educate people … I used this technique even more as a career coach when, with permission, I shared examples of other client’s journeys, tactics and successes to inspire the client I was working with at the time. It worked a treat!
So what would happen if I just wrote some stories? What if I aimed for a story, or at least some form of writing, each day? Could it lead me to a practice?
I decided to implement another piece of gold inspired by Atomic Habits and set up a visual reward system. Each day that I write I get to put a marble in a jar and I’ve turned it into a family affair. Our son, Matt, is still awaiting the results of a dyslexia assessment but what we know is that writing is really difficult for him. Matt has a strong aversion to writing for obvious reasons but we’d like him to get more comfortable with it prior to going to high school in 18 months. Our two jars sit next to each other and now each day we get to see them growing as we develop our practices.
I’m not sure how many of my stories will be published, particularly because the goal is to develop my practice and skills. But, I’ve decided to share some of these stories publicly once a week as Tuesday Tales.
You can read the first Tuesday Tales here. I hope they bring you some value and inspiration.
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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.