Write Your Fire ~ #1 in Series


For 37 years as a writing coach and author’s mentor, I’ve heard other adults tell me some variation of this writing block:

“I’m afraid to tell you what I think.”

“I don’t want people to know who I really am” or “…what I really believe.”

Along with directing their creative writing, my work mostly involves opening the invisible cell doors that seem so real to people and letting them know it’s their adult work to emerge and be who they are.

Voice = content and passion. Voice = individuality and distinction from other writers.

On a personal level, when you quench your voice you quench your personal fire. When it comes to publishing, dulling down your voice makes you less potent, creative and interesting to both publishers and readers.

As a writer, incorporate all the content, colors and energies that define your voice.

But how do you do that, if there are voices in your head that want to block or censor what you have to say?

This series of posts in The Power of a Conscious Writer™ will help you find and release the power of your unique voice and start writing with all the fire that is you.

 Next: Look Deeper… Listen Deeper

Look Deep… Listen Deeper ~ #2 in Series


Until you can look past the you other people think they see or want to see, you will never know your true self and your true voice… never know who you really are.

The power of your voice is found when you are willing to meet and accept all of you. Happy you. Sad you. Angry you. Funny you. Creative you. Ideoligical / philosophical you.

Until you look and listen to what all of you is saying, not just the acceptable aspects, and maybe even see even the parts of you that you don’t want to see, some of your power as a writer is lost to you… and actually to everyone else, too. You’ll remain only a partial person. Not a fake, but not really fully real either. As a writer, you’re muffling your voice.

Maturing as a writer means accepting and using your mature voice. That means growing up inward – becoming all of who you are when you’re not lost in the wilderness of other people’s personalities, beliefs, demands and ideas.

Take time to write out opinions and beliefs you’ve never voiced out loud. Connect yourself solidly to the inner terrain of your mind and soul.

To do this is like raising land up from the floor of the sea and creating new territory to inhabit that is all yours. That is to say, this creates good inner ground for your public writing.

 Next: The Voice that Makes a Mark

The Voice that Makes a Mark ~ #3 in Series


“Publishers like my writing – generally. But they keep telling me I don’t have a distinctive ‘voice.’ What are they are they talking about?”

Because I’ve heard this statement so many times in my many years of coaching writers I want to offer a primer on it here. Because it’s true, publishers look for authors who, among other things, have a distinctive voice.

First – What  is voice?

Someone can be the voice of a certain movement or school of thought or art. That person, we would say, is a thought-leader, a way-shower, an innovator. The man or woman who is articulating a new way of seeing the world, approaching a subject, or doing things.

That isn’t most of us, though. So – what about the rest of us? How do we think about, and understand, our individual voice?

Voice – to use a metaphor – is like varietals of wine blended in the same bottle – say 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot. A skillful vintner finds the strong varietal to present is the “forward” or dominant taste, then shades the blend with other varietals to present other subtle flavors that enhance the beverage that will slide from the bottle into your glass.

Understanding your voice as a writer has similarities. You need to develop a keen awareness of what you really know, what you’re passionate about, what type of communication you’re good at (say, narrative or non-fiction), what your intention or mission or goal is (what you want your reader to know, do or become).

Now when it comes to self-awareness, most of us need to do a bit of reflection. That to say, if you don’t understand what your particular voice is, don’t fret. But do explore.

In this series I’ll touch on important aspects of voice, and help you continue to develop awareness of yours.

Next time: Why Finding Your Voice is Important

Opening Creative Space in Your World ~ #1 in Series

If creativity is going to happen on a regular basis, you can do yourself a huge favor and find or pry open a space for it in your personal world.

True, many people write in coffee shops or paint cityscapes in the middle of crowded sidewalks. Faulkner wrote at the power plant, where he worked. (But come on, it was the nightshift, and he had nothing else to do but check gauges and note readings.)

My own experience, and that of others for whom I’ve been a writing coach for over 3 decades, is that there is real benefit in having a definite space apart for your creative work.

One reason is that creativity is work. Interior work, to begin with. And that takes focused concentration. Distractions eclipse creation. The pressure of noise and movement by others takes real mental energy to fend off, stealing it from our work. In space and solitude, unpressured by other presences, the deep mind has a chance to form its dreams and sentences and images without and make them known.

Creativity requires careful execution. Capturing the right phrases. Flinging junk on a page or canvas or musical notation page lacks power and concern for your audience. In our own space we can try… and gauge whether intention and execution have met. And try again if need be.

And creativity does involve making attempts, sometimes not achieving our mark, and trying again. Which often means frustration. Need for room to pace or stare out a window and ponder. Nothing in the way when we make our dash back to the keyboard or easel when the imagination say, “Go back… and try it this way….”

There are pragmatic and more mundane reasons for having your own creative space, of course – a place to keep your notes, equipment, prompts, what have you, (hopefully) undisturbed. But in my coaching and personal experience, perhaps the best reason is this:

The creative urge asks you to allow the fires of imagination and such skills as you possess to come together, and to deliver to the world something with power to shift perspectives, move souls, change minds. In short – to meet us, undistracted, in a new and open space, where something different can be seen.

Inviting our audiences into this space requires us, first, to create from an open, undistracted space in which clear and powerful concepts and executions arise.

Clear the Clutter / Mono-tasking ~ #2 in Series

One of the greatest enemies of creativity is what Eastern wisdom refers to as “monkey mind.” The mind that hops from here to there and back again in the brain’s branches. (“Let’s see, what was I writing? – Oh, I need to return that phone call, don’t I? Gosh, and I’m out of coffee…. Now, let’s see, what was I writing?”)

Another great enemy is the belief that we, as adults, should be able to multi-task. That we are, in fact, more valuable or capable because we can multi-task. Multi-tasking is, I’m afraid, is a plague perpetrated upon us by bosses who want to see just how much work we can do for the same pay. ( Yes, I am labor, not management.)

Sometimes life itself requires us to multi-task, sure. But few of us achieve that Zen state of mind – called synaesthesia – in which we are both calm and focused in the midst of a confusion and distractions and able to execute a task well. Achieving synaesthesia is why producers of live TV, who have to read feeds from multiple cameras, and NFL quarterbacks, who have to read a field of jumping, pushing, running bodies and find a receiver, get the big bucks. They are among a rarefied few.

The rest of us tend to experience stress and confusion, when we try to deliver anything of creative quality in a hailstorm of demands and interruptions. Our work suffers.

For this reason, I highly recommend that you remove all distractions from the space in which you want to create.

Eliminate all visual clutter. Stacks of laundry, the pile of unpaid bills and unanswered invitations, even – though they may not like this – pictures of your lover and kids. Remember “monkey mind”? Any branch the mind can grab onto can tempt you to swing off into the mental forest.

On the other hand, I highly recommend:

Use prompts. If you are writing a memoir, carefully selecting photos or mementos can have the opposite effect of visual clutter by focusing the mind. Especially if you focus only on a single picture or one or two mementoes that open the gates of memory. Proust was inspired to write his multi-volume Remembrance of Things Past by looking at (well, okay, eating) a madeleine. (But then, one would expect such erudition from a French baked good.)

Carefully chosen prompts – even certain words – are known to act as powerful meditational devices. Which is why mantras and prayers, as well as thangkas, icons, frescoes and sculptures have been employed for millennia to effect and empower spiritual focus.

The mind is the gateway to the deep interior, where creation springs from. And it is my experience that a creator’s need to create is as essential to their health and sense of wellbeing as air, light, water, nourishment. Our first work is to create an uncluttered space, in which mental focus for creation can come into a laser-sharpness.

Creativity and Quiet ~ #3 in Series

To open up creative space in our world requires that we find, or make, a quiet place for ourselves to work.

As with visual distractions – bills, unwashed dishes, windows that look out on untended yards – sounds call us away from our work too easily.

Since quiet is the counterpart of solitude in making a space for creation to occur, I suggest:

Eliminate potential noise distractions. Turn off the email program on your computer. Silence your cell phone – or better yet, leave it, silenced, in another room.

I was once obliged to write in a loft over the family room, where, below, my three small children sometimes watched TV. Volume was limited, and I wore earbuds and listened to nature sounds – no lyrics, only flowing water and winds – to create a “wall” of white noise that worked for me.

Eliminate foot traffic to where you are. With traffic comes noise. Police tape across the doorway is a bit severe. But sometimes necessary. If asking for alone-time to create is not enough, create your own version of a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Use it.

Enforce your quiet zone by not answering knocks or intrusions. It may seem like the better part of valor to respond to, “Can I interrupt you?” But it isn’t. “Not just now” is a fair and sometimes necessary response. (More on this in the next post.)

Many actors know that, to steps into character is hard, and to answer someone who is speaking to the personally they just stepped out of will break the power of imagination from which a great performance arises. In the same way, entering our own private space, from which our powers of creation arise, requires us to build – and maintain – a space of quiet.

Stationed on the mind’s quiet edge, able to tune-in to the heart and soul’s voice, we then get to witness creative images and words to arise.


Creating a Support Team to Protect Your Space and Time ~ #4 in Series

Creativity requires and deserves our best focused attention. Eliminating clutter and noise we know will distract us can be the easy part of opening and maintaining space for our creative work.

Preventing people from entering that space and interrupting good work-flow can be a harder task.

People we love and care about, people who are important to us otherwise… can become the destroyers of creative focus – sometimes at the very worst moments, when something brilliant is about to emerge – and then become a source of non-productivity, if not irritation.

Rather than risk losing that ephemeral thread of creativity, maybe for good, and rather than building up a charge of anger, here’s what I suggest:

Create a support team. And start by deciding who is in your inner and outer circle. You want to create a positive atmosphere among you and your circles of friends and loved ones, not a negative atmosphere.

“You’re bothering me” and “You just ruined what I was doing” creates a very definitely negative vibe. “Creating is hard work. And I sometimes have trouble staying focused myself. I want you on my support team, protecting my creative space” – that creates a positive vibe and welcomes people into your circle of trust. Who doesn’t like that?

Invite people into that circle of trust.

Tell them your work times. Letting your family and friends know you are not available, for instance, Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays for coffee or trail run or to drive them somewhere – and that you will not be answering the phone or the knock at your door if they forget and call you anyway, is a great way to set time-boundaries.

   Tell them the circumstances under which they can connect with you, during your work times. When I was an at-home dad, working full-time to supporting 5 people, 3 dogs, 2 cats and countless lizards and tree frogs – while consulting with two publishers as associate publisher of 2 lines of books – clear signals and distinct boundaries were necessary between me and my children. They knew the things for which I could always be interrupted and the things for which I could never be interrupted.

They also knew they were part of my support team, protecting the time in which I created… and earned money for stuff like food, clothes, baseball gloves, soccer shoes, video games, dolls. Sometimes I would hear one or the other stopping a sibling from coming to interrupt me, saying in stage-whisper, “Stop! Dad’s working!”

While to this day I keep my email program turned off I do keep my smartphone turned to vibrate, should one of my children have an emergency and need me. They know they are the only ones whose call or text I will answer.

Enforce boundaries. The truth is, we are the ones who train others how to treat us. Too often, we suspend boundaries around creative space and allow others in, which destroys the flow. Then we’re irritated with them. Boo.

I once had a therapist, a professional woman in her 60s, tell me she could not write mornings because her husband invariably interrupted, needing her to make his breakfast sandwich. I suggested that if an adult male cannot ingest calories on their own, their genes should probably pass from the gene pool. She did not take the subtle hint. She also did not finish her book.

Learn how to hold up your hand in a “Stop, not now” signal… learn to keep ignoring even pleading and whining… and to continue working. It does works.

Remember that retraining takes time. We mammals are all creatures of habit, and it does take a bit of time to retrain us. Set your inner circle. Make your boundaries clear. Enforce them. In time, people do get the message and change.

The main thing you have to do is to decide that you and your creative work are important enough to protect. (Are they?) And then get your family and friends on your support team, to help police your creative space and time.

Ritual and Creative Space ~ #5 in Series


There is a reason why baseball players adjust their helmets ( and, ahem, other accoutrement), spit and kick the dirt a certain number of times when entering the batter’s box. Just as there is a reason why a ballet dancer might tie on his or her shoes a certain way each time, before stepping onto the stage to perform.

Ritual is a way to help us enter creative space, which, for creatives, may also be thought of as sacred space. By sacred space I mean the great silence and solitude that is inhabited by the moments of trudging through routine planning, writing, drawing… working out the details… until we suddenly cross the invisible barrier inside us… and find ourselves as observers watching the work happen through us.

Whether you are a believer in a higher being or not isn’t my point here. What I mean to point out is that there is an inner threshold between the mundane and the creative minds, and you can experience the crossing over as definitely an act as leaving a city sidewalk and entering a temple.

What helps some of us is to create a simple ritual to help us enter the creative zone. While this also falls into the category of Clearing Creative Consciousness, which I write about separately, it straddles into this series of articles because it affects how you set up and treat your creative space.


   Adopt a personal ritual to enter creative space can begin to separate you and your mind from the cares and demands of the mundane world.

   Having a distinct “threshold” can help you begin the crossing-over process, leaving one set of thoughts and tasks behind and angling your mind and body toward the creative work ahead. This can be as simple as fixing a cup of tea or coffee or filling a bottle of drinking water… or, say, an actual meditation practice. (Long, slow deep-breathing is a wonderful mind and body cleanse, releasing stress hormones that have accumulated in muscles and centering the mind.)

Keep the ritual simple. The mind is tricky and can work toward complexity. The creative’s task is always to simplify. Elaborate rituals can take over the time. Remember, they are always only a bridge to the open space inside you, from which creativity emerges.

A word… a single act. Currently, a door-curtain made of bamboo “beads” separates my writing room from the rest of the house. When I pass through it I know I am in my space.

And while my own morning and evening regimens include various meditation practices, entering into the creative space of a book I’m writing, say, a novel, takes only a single word. Sometimes it’s just the name of a character, or a tag-phrase for the situation they’re in (“jeopardy,” “tricky conversation,” “confusion,” “awareness the other character is hiding something”), and I’ve left the mundane world of the writing room and entered into the imaginal world of the characters.

Ritual does not work for every creative person. Some find it burdensome (or make it so). Experiment and see if it supports you in not only entering the space in which you create, but the inner space from which your creativity wants to pour.