By Christine Carron
When I worked with teams in the corporate world, I spent a lot of time focused on the group’s interpersonal dynamics—how they related to each other. I was often helping them to strengthen, and in some cases rebuild, trust.
When I work with writers, the focus is more on intrapersonal dynamics—the relationship writers have with themselves in context of their writing journeys. Trust is still critical, but it is about inner trust. Specifically, that they know how to build and nurture a deep faith in themselves to be powerful stewards of their own writing adventures.
In The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work, executive coach and consultant Charles Feltman outlines four distinctions, or facets, of trust: Sincerity, Reliability, Competence, and Care. Here is a snapshot of how he describes each (p. 14):
Sincerity is the assessment that you are honest, that you say what you mean and mean what you say; you can be believed and taken seriously.
Reliability is the assessment that you meet the commitments you make, that you keep your promises.
Competence is the assessment that you have the ability to do what you are doing or proposed to do.
Care is the assessment that you have the other person's interest in mind as well as your own when you make decisions and take actions.
Feltman is focused on building trust with others. Interpersonal trust. However, his model works equally well if we apply it intrapersonally and in a writing context, such as how much we trust ourselves to get our writing work done.
How would you answer each of the following questions?
Sincerity: Do you put in the effort and time required to make your writing dreams come true?
Reliability: Do you keep the writing commitments you make in regard to getting your writing work done?
Competence: Do you have the skills needed to pull off the writing project you want to complete?
Care: Do you treat yourself kindly and respectfully (i.e., with care) in relation to your writing and your writing progress?
Here are some observations on inner trust in action on the writing adventure gleaned from both my own experience and my experience coaching writers.
If a writer signs up to work with me/Goodjelly, I’m generally confident they are solid on Sincerity, i.e., they are committed to (and are) putting in the time and effort to move their writing work forward.
Why do I have this confidence? Because Goodjelly's mission is unique and slightly unusual in the writing space: 100% focused on helping writers get their writing work done. Not a craft lesson to be had anywhere. Writers who enroll in The Jam Experience, Goodjelly's signature course, usually have put in the work (Sincerity) and realize that craft chops alone are not alleviating key challenges in getting their writing work done.
They are intrigued with the notion that they could get their writing work done with greater ease, confidence, and joy. (Which means less struggle, doubt, and inner criticism.) And they sincerely want that possibility for themselves and their writing.
So, yes, Sincerity is not overly problematic when it comes to writers I work with.
Yet, even saying all that, there is often still room to play in regard to Sincerity with the writers who take The Jam Experience. Perhaps they have a habit of interrupting their writing work when a text or email comes in. Perhaps they let others’ needs derail their writing time. Perhaps they don’t prioritize the various efforts within their writing work, so everything feels equally pressing all the time, which causes them to freeze up or get slowed down by overwhelm.
And perhaps you recognize yourself in some of thoseperhaps. . . .
If so, you, too, might have wiggle room to play when it comes to the Sincerity facet of trust. However, since you are reading this post—curious to learn how deepening inner trust will help you get your writing done—I’m guessing you are generally solid on the facet of Sincerity when it comes to a commitment to making your writing dreams come true.
Acknowledge and celebrate that truth, even as you iron out any little Sincerity wrinkles that crop up as you go.
Here’s where writers and inner trust tend to get a little dicier. One of the most common ways that writers (like many business folks) decide that they will “make” themselves reliable is by setting due dates. I will have x number of pages written by this date. I will have my novel done by that date. I will have a publishing deal by xyz date.
If (ahem, when) we miss all or some of those dates, inner trust begins to weaken. Some part of our brain begins to note that plans were made and not reliably kept. Hello, Doubt. That, in turn, opens the door for the Inner Critic to waltz in and let loose, which makes us feel even worse.
Doubt and inner flagellation, as you might imagine, do not create a nourishing environment for creativity and forward momentum. For that reason, I extend two invitations to you. First, to be thoughtful and judicious in assigning due dates. Second, to learn other ways to create reliability around the writing work commitments we make.
Actually, I will extend a third invitation. If, based on a gut assessment, you miss due dates you set for yourself 50% of the time or more, then run this experiment: For a week, two if possible, clear your calendar of any due dates related to your writing work. Then see what strategies and tactics arise organically to help you move forward on some of your key writing goals.
If you are experiencing a strong negative reaction to my ditching-due-dates invitation, that is normal. When I make it in person to a writer, the response I get is often either disbelief or outright fear. Wide-eyed looks are not unheard of. But how will I get anything done if I don’t have due dates?
At that (or this) point in the conversation, I might gently point out that if setting due dates doesn't work for you half the time (or more,) then it’s really not the most effective tactic to help you get your writing work done. Right? So what’s the harm in experimenting for a week and exploring what might come up organically as an alternative?
Please note, I am not saying that you should never set due dates again. I am, however, suggesting that you don't rely on them as a stick to "make you" get your writing work done.
Of course, if it’s a hard no to the invitation, that’s totally cool. You are in charge of your writing adventure. Not me. And I say that with full sincerity. Saying yes or no to a suggestion on the writing adventure, and trusting your decision, is a power-keeping move. One I support fully. So fully, in fact, that helping writers be in charge of their adventure is a core tenet of Goodjelly.
Luckily, my proposed experiment is not the only avenue to expand your Reliability know-how. There are absolutely learnable tactics and strategies that require no immediate cessation of due date reliance on your part. Tactics and strategies that you can actively build competencies in, which neatly leads us to the third facet of inner trust. . . .
Like Reliability, Competence is an area that can be problematic for writers, and it has nothing to do with smarts or capabilities. It has to do with focus. With Reliability, there is often an over focus on one tactic: due dates. With Competence, the challenge can be an over focus on one specific category of skill: craft.
Craft absolutely is the star of any writing journey, but to truly ace the adventure, there are many other competencies writers will have to figure out. Such as learning tactics other than due dates to create more Reliability in getting your writing work done. Or getting better at boundary-setting to protect your writing time, mindset, etc. Or learning how to organize and manage your writerly work more effectively.
When you allow yourself to acknowledge the full scope of competencies required to pull off a successful, confident writing journey, it may, at first, feel overwhelming. You might even feel a little resentful about some of the items on the list. But, most likely, there will also be some relief in the feeling mix that arises.
Why? Because the work is no longer invisible. You can see it. You can deal with it. You can get it done.
You may have to rethink some of your aggressive due dates, but, hey, after reading this post, you hopefully had already decided to be more thoughtful before landing due dates all over yourself.
The last facet of trust Keltman outlines is Care. Remember, Keltman defines Care on an interpersonal level as the assessment that you have the other person's interest in mind as well as your own when you make decisions and take actions.
On the intrapersonal level, the considerations for the writing journey become: Do you have all of your own interests in mind, and not just the interests of the parts of you who want fame and fortune as a writer? How about the parts who want to feel joyful in the creative process, or who want space and time to learn, or who want to be treated fairly by yourself and others, etc.? Are you looking out for (caring for) those types of interests as well?
Looking out for ourselves holistically on the writing adventure is not just about making nice or feeling good; it's also strategic. The move of a powerful steward of one’s writing adventure. In his post, How kindness impacts the brain and benefits mental health, Dr. David Hamilton writes:
“. . . kindness buffers the effects of stress because of how it feels, and likely how it then affects brain circuits. In other words, the same things can happen that might happen on any other day, but when we’re being kind, they don’t ‘sting’ quite the same.”
That means when we amp up self-kindness, the Care factor of inner trust, we will digest the inevitable slings and arrows of the writing adventure more quickly. We are more resilient. Instead of stewing too long, or even getting stuck, in doubt, disappointment, resentment and the like, we will be able to get back to doing what is needed to make our writing dreams come true, i.e., get our writing work done.
For that reason, I invite you to consider: How will you be kind to yourself on the writing adventure today, tomorrow, and on all the tomorrows that come?
When you feel doubt creeping in, a whispering (or caterwauling) worry that maybe you don’t have what it takes to pull of your writing dreams, remember Feltman’s four aspects of trust. Get curious about where, inadvertently, you might be weakening your trust in yourself to be a powerful steward of your writing adventure.
Maybe it would serve you to strengthen your Sincerity. Or rev up your Reliability. Or add new areas of Competency. Or allow yourself deeper Care and consideration. Or some combination of the above.
When you shore up any inner-trust shakiness, you will get yourself and your writing adventure back to confidence. Your progress will be boosted by your renewed faith in yourself. Faith that you can and will rock your writing adventure.