No. 115 | By Christine Carron
I have a theory. We all have a natural (but ever evolving) creative style and rhythm. Our personal creative code, so to speak. We also have the reality of the current context in which we create—for example a working parent will have a different context in which to create then a single writer with no childcare responsibilities.
When we write and create in alignment with both our current code and our context, we make progress with greater ease and loads more delight, i.e., satisfaction. When we don’t—when we are out of sync with code and/or context—everything gets harder, more frustrating, and we are more susceptible to Inner Critic attacks and even despair.
If I’m right, then ideally we would all be effortlessly channeling our work in alignment with our creative codes and contexts all the time. Yay to delight! Nay to despair!
Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be so easy. Why?
I have a theory about that, too. Lots of them actually. But the one I want to focus on today relates to the static caused by commonly held writing myths.
I’m all for opinions, perspectives, general principles, best practices, and the like, but some of these myths have taken on universal weight and swagger. First drafts are sh*tty. You must write every day to be a real writer. Writing for children is “easier” than writing for adults.
Then there are the myths presented as Truth by someone with positional power. Like an agent on a panel saying to a ballroom of aspiring writers, “If you plot your novel before you draft it, you will suck all the spontaneity out of it.” No matter that at a different writing conference on a different day with a different panel, another ballroom of writers hears, “The only effective way to craft a novel is by careful pre-plotting.”
If all that confusing interference wasn’t enough, we also have the myths that are more personal to us. Perhaps in one writer’s family the only legitimate kind of writing is literary fiction. If that particular writer’s dream is to write genre fiction, they might hear the judgment of their family in their head every time they sit down to write their romance novel. Or how about writers who received the personal myth that writing isn’t even a legitimate pursuit?
Myth static—from the universal to the specific—makes it harder for us to embrace our authentic creative code and/or our current context. That means it gets in the way of our progress, our productivity, and our ability to delight in our adventure.
We need a plan. A process to help us de-myth our writing adventures. Luckily just as I have theories, I’m also chock full of processes. The one I created for de-mything one’s writing adventure is called: I.A.M./I.A.R.n’t. Let’s dive in . . .
Purpose: To free oneself, one’s writing, and one’s writing adventure from myths that are out of alignment with one’s current authentic creative code and/or one’s current writing context.
How the Process Works: It is a process flow, where the first two steps are the same, but depending on the results of the second step, the third step varies.
You can’t myth bust until you recognize that something is a myth, i.e., more opinion than inviolable Truth.
We might identify a myth intellectually. For example, reading this post and considering if you agree that the examples I’ve already listed are myths (or at least potential myths.)
We might also recognize a myth by our emotional reaction. We catch ourselves feeling irritated or frustrated or overwhelmed or defensive, etc. when we hear or read the myth-opinion.
Once we have identified a myth, we move to Step 2.
Here you do some simple inquiry and analysis. You ask yourself:
Let’s explore the questions in more detail.
Question 1: Is this myth universally true?
The first question invites you to engage with the myth. Challenge it intellectually and decide for yourself if it is the universal Truth.
Note: Even if you decide the myth is universally true, you still filter it through the remaining questions.
Questions 2 & 3: Is it useful? / Is it useful for me?
The second and the third questions get to the heart of the de-mything process. A myth may be useful, but not useful for you.
That could be because a myth doesn’t make sense for your current context.
For example, one working-parent writer might be served by the myth about writing daily. It focuses them. But for a working-parent writer who has a schedule (current context) that only allows them to show up for their writing three days a week, the myth might cause overwhelm, frustration, and Inner Critic attacks. So not useful.
A myth also might not make sense for your current code.
For example, the perspective that first drafts are sh*tty has served a lot of writers (including me in the past), helping them let go of perfectionist tendencies around first drafts. So if it were me running that myth through this process, I would allow that the myth is potentially useful. That said, I now feel very strongly that it is not useful for me, and actually not useful from a general process and productivity perspective. That means for me the myth that first drafts must be categorized as "sh*tty" is a total current code mismatch.
Question 4: Is there something here for me to learn?
The fourth question speaks to the evolutionary reality of both our creative code and context. Perhaps something is not useful for us now, but if some part of us sees potential value in it, we might file it away for later.
That honors both the needs of the writers we are today, and the needs of the writers who we are in process of becoming. For the former, we minimize myth static in the now. For the latter, we stay open to the possibility that something might serve our future creative code and/or context.
The heavy lifting of this process happens in Step 2. Once you’ve done your analysis, it most likely will be clear if the myth is worth maintaining (i.e.,allowing it to influence our current creative code and context), or releasing (i.e., letting it go).
The mnemonic device of the acronyms will help you remember the two possible outcomes:
When you use the I.A.M./I.A.R.n’t process, you take a stand for your current creative code and context. That doesn’t mean they are perfect, or that they are fixed, but they are yours. Honor that. Minimize the myth static that tells you otherwise. The myth static that pulls you away from delighting in your creative process as it stands now.
It’s a bold move to meet yourself where you are. One that requires both Power and Grace. And, you know what? I’ve got another theory . . . You’ve got this!
* Grammatically incorrect, but let’s go with the notion it makes the process more memorable.