Learn How to Jam

Stop Expecting Your Writing To Be a Show Pony All the Time


No. 135 | By Christine Carron

I help writers get their writing done with greater ease and speed using three strategic levers: smart process, grounded power, and inner kindness. I always lead with smart process, as most writers have not been exposed to a holistic set of productivity tactics, tools, and frameworks.

The results often leave writers gobsmacked. In just a few days, long-menacing blocks melt away. Flow becomes so easy it feels “silly.” Astonishment abounds as they wrap their heads around the paradoxical potency of applying—kindly and lightly—more left-brained protocols to their writing, which many perceive as a more creative and right-brained endeavor.

I am certain I will never lose my own delight in witnessing the confidence, joy, and unbridled relief that comes when writers integrate Goodjelly’s foundational Jam tools and start feeling more in charge of their writing adventure.

That all said, I’ve worked with highly creative folk of all varieties for most of my career, and I know what will come shortly after the productivity floodgates are cracked open. It’s only in the past few days, however, that I coined a name for this most dependable (and prevalent) phenomenon: Show Pony Syndrome.

What is Show Pony Syndrome?

Show Pony Syndrome is when writers expect their writing to show up beribboned and with bells on (bebelled?) every time they sit down to write. If not . . . Bad pony!

It’s as if we expect our writing to be some kind of AI interface, spitting out responses to the prompts of our inner expectations. Real, live human writers simply don’t work that way.

Show Pony Syndrome rears up early on when writers learn how to Jam. It’s an empowering jolt to have so much more agency over one’s creative flow. In that “wow!” headspace, it’s also devilishly easy to slide into the notion that flow will show up now and forever and for always from here on out.

It's often disappointing to writers when they hit that first productivity hiccup after they’ve started to learn how to Jam. I am not phased in the least, however. I see it as simply another opportunity not only to apply smart process, but also grounded power and inner kindness, i.e., it’s just another opportunity for writers to deepen and expand their Jam chops.

While Show Pony Syndrome does show up like clockwork a few weeks into writers' Jam journeys, I am fairly certain that all of us writers have to contend with Show Pony Syndrome to one degree or the other on an ongoing basis.

How to Recognize Show Pony Syndrome In Yourself

Here are five questions that are potential indicators of Show Pony Syndrome. The more questions you answer in affirmative, the more likely you have some Show Pony Syndrome going on: 

  1. Do you get disappointed and/or does your Inner Critic start bashing on you if you have an “off” or “unproductive" writing day?
  2. Do you always try to get as much done as you can in every writing session?
  3. Do you plan your writing work in a way that requires you to pull out constant heroics to get it done?
  4. If you don’t get all the writing work on your plan done does that trigger additional lashings from your Inner Critic?
  5. Do you often feel exhausted and possibly even teetering on burnout or despair because you never quite live up to the high expectations you have around your writing, no matter how hard you push yourself?

How to Treat Show Pony Syndrome

The whole premise of Goodjelly is that the writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard. One of the most powerful ways we can make it less hard is to stop being so hard on ourselves

If your writing is having a bad day, don’t kick it when it’s down. If you suspect you are in the grips of an extreme case of Show Pony Syndrome, don’t go all harsh and hassle on yourself. This too shall pass. Take a day off. Give yourself grace.

If that approach feels a little too laid back—and it most likely will to the parts of you who are in charge of striving and holding yourself to the highest standards possible at all time—and you instead want to immediately get into take action mode to shift out of Show Pony Syndrome mode, then an additional step you can take is to ask yourself questions that begin with How can I make it easier . . . 

  • How can I make it easier to get through slow flow (or no flow) writing days without tanking my mindset?
  • How can I make it easier to embrace (and not be destabilized or demotivated by) the reality that not all my writing days are going to be at my top level of productivity?
  • How can I make it easier for me to trust the unfolding of my writerly adventure?

Meet Yourself Where You Are

Did you catch the most critical word in how I framed the moving into action step above? It is an additional step. Tapping into action can absolutely soothe Show Pony Syndrome flare-ups. However, those actions will always be more grounded, authentic, and useful, when we first have the courage and grace to meet ourselves where we are—without making any part of us wrong. 

Giddy-up, y’all!

And of course: Happy day, happy writing, happy jamming. You’ve got this. 

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