Creativity is Messy: Questions to Explore When You’re Being Harsh with Yourself

I started a brand new day with pouring rain, strong coffee, snoring doggy, and final edits on an essay by a fierce mama who’s submitting three chapters from her book-in-progress to a screenwriting contest.

Last week, I had two different conversations with two very different clients, one on the east coast and one on the west. Women with wildly different backgrounds and temperaments and ways of being in the world, but who share one thing in common: writing. Each has a story to tell, which is really many stories. And so the questions that arise are in many ways universal. What to include? How to shape and structure things? What to write next? When to edit and when to generate and simply get more words on the page?

Underlying these questions is something even more universal, I’d argue: Their relationship to themselves.

How we treat the creative process can be a mirror to how we treat ourselves more generally.

Are we patient and kind, or unyielding in our harsh expectations? Does judgment override curiosity, or can we bring a sense of inquiry to our own work?

Binary thinking doesn’t serve us. In this (or any) context, an all or nothing, either/or approach is not useful. As humans, we’re inevitably going to bring many thoughts and feelings to any table. The question, I suppose, is in how we can regard these — especially when there is inner turmoil or conflict — with some gentleness.

For example:

This —

“Oh my god, I should just give up. This is a mess. I am never going to figure out how to make this a book.”


“Oh my god, I am overwhelmed. I forgot that writing a book is inherently a messy process because I got seduced by holding those beautiful, completed, best sellers in my hands and forgetting what went into making them in the first place. How can I step back for a moment to remember what I’m up to and regroup before deciding on my next move?”

Questions to explore:

* Writing, activism, parenting, creativity — what are the common denominators?

* Is how you do one thing how you do all the things, or does different wisdom apply to different parts of yourself and your life?

* How do your expectations shapeshift when it comes to your writing?

* Where can you soften up a little?

* Is toughening up sometimes necessary?

* What is one thing you can say to yourself, as a reminder to come back from that harsh voice?

Could you use some help?

The essence of coaching with me is exactly this — making room for these kinds of questions, so that you can not only start doing your work, but so that you also keep going when it gets mucky and messy. Learn more or just contact me to set up an exploratory conversation!


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