A Quirky Way for Writers to Reclaim Their Unique Creative Power

Filed in Finding & Following Your Voice by on May 22, 2017 12 Comments • views: 1614

Creative PowerHave you given your creative power away? Let’s find out.

Imagine for a moment you’re a character in a fantasy novel, and at the very beginning of the story, you’re given the power to write.

There you are in your cool leather outfit walking around with your writing power, and all of a sudden it becomes clear that unless you can write an intriguing story that the king will read and enjoy, all of the people in the kingdom will die.

Just go with me here. The king has declared that unless someone can bring him a story within 30 days that he will actually enjoy reading, he will lose all his faith in mankind and release a weapon of mass destruction, putting all minions in the kingdom out of their misery.

Now only you and a few of your closest friends know about your writing power, so while you’re digesting this new decree the king has passed down, a number of other minions send the king their stories, only to have them torn up and burned in a huge bonfire on the castle grounds. The smoke rises to the clouds in a single gray column as more and more pages are burned.

Your friends encourage you to get to work. You can do it, they say. You can save us!

But alas, you are like most writers, and you don’t really own your power.

creative powerWriters Often Give Their Power Away

You know a great wizard gave it to you when you were born because your mother told you, and because you’ve always been able to write with ease. Yet you’ve never shown your work to anyone outside of your intimate circle, and you fear that no one will like it, certainly not the king!

So while your friends plead with you to save everyone, you can’t believe that it could be all up to you, so you stall. Surely someone else will write a story the king will love.

But as the days pass, the smoke column only gets bigger and bigger. Your friends beg you to at least try, so you pull out a piece of paper and your handy quill and ink, but your mind goes blank and you can’t think of what to write.

The end of the 30 days is nigh, and your friends ask to see what you’ve got, but you tell them you’re not quite finished yet. In truth, you haven’t even started. After days of banging your head against a hard brick wall, you realize something horrifying.

Your power is gone.

Whereas you may have had the power to write before, now it’s gone, and the king still hasn’t approved any story that he’s received. Time is running out. Desperate, you go to visit the witch of the underground, a shady character who walks the line between good and evil, but who knows more than anyone about powers given at birth.

“Something’s happened!” you shout as you walk into her dark and dank cave under the mountain. “My power is gone! I’ve been robbed!”

The witch cocks her misshapen head, gives you the evil eye, and quickly mixes up a concoction in her handy wooden bowl, then splashes you in the face with it. As green goo drips down your nose and over your chin, she raises a scraggly eyebrow. You look down at yourself and notice the stuff is glowing. You look like a streak in the Aurora Borealis.

“Your haven’t been robbed, deary,” she says with her trademark cackle. “’Twas you. You gave your power away.”

fantasy creative7 Ways Writers Lose Their Creative Power

Unfortunately, as in the story above, we way too often give our creative power away. Instead of believing it was given to us as a gift, and honoring it accordingly, we doubt it’s a power at all. Too quickly we become convinced that though the wizard may have bestowed his gifts on other writers, somehow he skipped over us.

Here’s how this may have happened to you:

1. You allowed a tough critique to go too far.

Writers need feedback—critical feedback—to get better, but oftentimes feedback is flawed. Workshop participants may go too far in their zeal to help, and start suggesting what you should do with your story, rather than helping you zero in on how you could improve it yourself. A mentor may make so many corrections that your original voice gets lost. A teacher may come off so negative that you lose faith in the power you started with.

The result is the same—you begin to question that spark inside you. The instant you do that, you give your writing power away—to the workshop participants, the mentor, the teacher—and now rely on them instead of yourself for direction.

What you’re saying: “Yes, please, tell me how I should write my story, all the way down to what the plot should be and who the characters should be and where the setting should be, as obviously I don’t know what I’m doing.”

fantasy control2. You allowed the market to control your career.

Writers need readers to feel fulfilled, but sometimes we can be narrow-minded in how we go about getting them. If you believe only a traditional publisher can help you find readers, but then you a) fail to get a traditional publishing contract, or b) get a publishing contract but find few readers because your publisher doesn’t market the book, then you won’t find your tribe, and you’ll believe it to be because you’re writing isn’t good enough.

You give your power away to one publisher, and become convinced that because they didn’t find readers for you, there are no readers for your work.

What you’re saying: “Yes, you know all there is to know about readers and the market, and if you didn’t find readers for my work, then obviously they don’t exist.”

3. You allowed a stream of rejections to determine your future.

Most writers go through a period of having their writing rejected over and over again. It’s like a rite of passage—we have to receive all those rejections before we improve our writing enough to start receiving acceptances.

If you allow those rejections to stop you, though, you’ve given your power away to all those editors and agents. You’ve allowed them to determine whether you continue to become a better writer or not.

What you’re saying: “These individuals rejected me, and they know all there is to know about literature and readers, so I will trust their judgment and stop right now.”

fantasy critique4. You allowed a bad review or nasty comment to sway your attitude about your work.

When you allow what someone else says about your work to trigger your anger, defensiveness, or self-doubt, you’ve just given your power away to that negative person.

What you’re saying: “Here. You now control my writing destiny. Thanks for making my day…NOT! Enjoy.”

5. You allowed another writer’s success to intimidate you.

It can be difficult when you see another writer living the dream when you’re not there yet. Writers can easily fall into the comparison trap. When you do this, you immediately give your power away to that other writer. They now control how you feel about your own talent and creativity.

What you’re saying: “Other writer, you now control my writing future. You may know me (or not), and you probably have no desire to have anything to do with my writing career, but no matter, I now hand my destiny completely over to you to destroy as you will. My best.”

mystical eyes6. You allowed someone else to dictate how important your writing is.

This one can be easy for most all writers to do. You don’t want to brag or look like you imagine your writing to be of Pulitzer-Prize-winning caliber or something, so you’re probably really careful not to make it too big a deal. You also know that most people, if they’re not writers, don’t get what it’s like.

So when others downplay your writing time (oh you can do that later), or expect you to do it after you’ve done whatever they want you to do, or act like it’s just a hobby and you should be tending to other more important things first, it’s tempting to just go along, and return to the writing when you can.

This, unfortunately, is totally giving your power away to that other person.

What you’re saying: “Yes, I will allow you to determine how important my writing is and how much time I can spend on it and when. Thank you very much.”

7. You allowed the writing dream to remain a dream.

You want to write, or you want to expand your writing career in some way, but instead of taking action toward that dream, you just keep thinking about it and wishing for it and hoping “someday” it will happen.

You listen to that inner critic that says you can’t do it right now, or you don’t have what it takes, or you aren’t the person to do it, or whatever. Every day, you give your writing power to that critic, spoonful by spoonful.

What you’re saying: “Yes, you’re right, I grant you the power to control what actions I take toward my writing future, and I realize that you don’t want me to take any steps in the direction I think I should go, so I just won’t. Thank you for your wisdom.”

book-fantasyHow to Get Your Creative Power Back

Let’s go back to our story. Our fantasy character, after talking to the witch about her writing power, realizes that she did give it away—to the king. The thought of his decree and his threat of mass destruction frightened her so much that she surrendered before she even tried.

In essence, she said, “Your Majesty, you’re right. Even I can’t write a story you would enjoy reading, so you might as well destroy us all, the sooner the better.”

The witch encouraged her to take her power back, before it was too late. How was she to do that, she asked? Simple, the witch told her. Your power is still there, as evidenced by the green goo (which thankfully, has now dried). Remember: the power was given to you. It’s yours. No one can take it from you unless you give it away. You just have to reclaim it.

To do that, you must do just one thing:

Write for yourself.

Not the king, the witch said. Not your friends. Not for the people. Write for you, and only you. Return to that inner world that you used to go to so often. Fall deeply into it, so deeply that you forget about this world and the king and the weapon and your friends. Go boldly into that world, and write the story you would enjoy reading.

Write as if this is the last story you’re ever going to write, as if after this story, your writing power will be spent, and you will never be able to use it again. Write with all the power you possess, to create the best work you’re capable of creating right now.

And when you’re finished, take it to the king, and let it go.

“And if the king doesn’t like it, and destroys us all?” our character asked.

The witch shrugged. “Don’t worry. You’ll be back in the sequel.”

Have you ever given your writing power away?

If you liked this post, please spread the word!
Share on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments (12)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Allana says:

    Thanks for writing this. The story about being a writer in a fantasy world kept me reading. I have wrote for myself two years ago, and now I’m returning to it.

  2. William C. Bryant says:

    The salient point here is the last: “Write for yourself.” Remember that the market you try to crack was created by those who first wrote for themselves, passionately. Writing is cathartic; it cleanses the mind and soul and gives the body rest; if done honestly, it enhances all of life. Write for yourself; all else will fall into place.

  3. Vonda Hecht says:

    It is so easy to give the power that was given to us as writer’s away. I have allowed fear of it not being good enough to render me powerless. I have walked away from wanting it so badly that I allowed it to cripple me. Writing is where my joy is at. It takes me to the very heart of the subject matter. It’s the place I can breathe.
    I enjoyed so much reading this and won’t become powerless as easily again! Trust the One who gave you the power in the first place!!

    • Colleen says:

      Wow, Vonda. What a great comment. I’m so glad you haven’t given up and that your love of writing is still with you. Trust is the answer but it’s not easy sometimes. Good luck!

  4. Jeri says:

    I gave my writing power away in various ways, but I am indeed getting it back because I’ve started to write for myself and all that I am going through with my health right now.

    • Colleen says:

      I’m sure battling for your health does encourage writing for more personal reasons. Health and creativity are linked in many ways. Pulling for you Jeri.

  5. Dee says:

    Thank you! I almost didn’t read your blog this morning because I’ve gotten behind on some contract work. You helped me see how I give my writing power away to my inner taskmaster–“You’ve gotten behind again and you’ll never catch up, so why even open your computer?…might as well clean a bathroom / take photos of the cat / bake cookies.”

    • Colleen says:

      Ha ha. Love this, Dee! Clean the bathroom is always first on the list isn’t it? :O) Be gone, taskmaster!

  6. This is such an inspiring post, Colleen! And I needed it this very day. I’ve been going through a bit of a confidence crises. Yep, me–with 6 books traditionally published!
    But I’ve felt that power seeping away.
    Thank you. Just thank you.

    • Colleen says:

      Oh great to hear, Susan—not the crisis of confidence, but that the post helped! I know what you mean. No matter how much experience one has, it still happens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *