PROCRASTINATION, PERFECTIONISM AND A HARSH INNER CRITIC: The Enemies of Writing and How to Defeat Them!

Woman scrubbingDo you put off writing until after the whole house is cleaned, including sorting out those kitchen cupboards and scrubbing the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush? Do you start writing but then never get very far past the first paragraph because you can’t get it quite right and that first sentence is so sucky? Do you feel too inadequate to even start writing, even though you’ve secretly wanted to all your life? Or do you finally write something, but then tear it to shreds and bin it before it’s even had a chance to breathe?

Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone. Every writer faces these demons – the holy trinity of FEAR. That’s really what these deadly (well to your writing anyway) sins boil down to – plain old boring fear.

 Procrastination

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Procrastination is a protective device. If you put something off long enough, you’ll never have to write it, or you’ll have being rushed as an excuse for when you decide that it’s utter crap and that you’re as talentless as you thought. If that sounds like you, then your procrastination is really harsh inner critic lurking in the background just waiting for you to finish the housework and probably complaining about how you’re doing it too – look there’s a spot you missed!

But hang on a minute, what if it’s not crap? What if actually for a first draft it’s pretty damned good? What if writing it was the most fun you’ve had in ages? Certainly a whole lot more fun than cleaning the bathroom.

Perfectionism

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Perfectionism won’t ever let you finish anything. Because if it’s not perfect, and how actually can anything be, then it’s not any good at all. That first sentence demands to be rewritten a hundred times, so you never get any further into your story. Even if you do get all the way through, perfectionism won’t ever let you submit it anywhere because it’s never quite right. Never quite good enough.

Guess what? Perfectionism is just another protection device – protecting you from the criticism of others while you beat yourself up with your own, much harsher, criticism. It’s another face of that horrid inner critic trying to stop you making a fool of yourself.

Well thanks, but no thanks. Because nothing is ever really perfect. Ask any writer, any artist. There’s always something you can fix or change, even with published work. At some point though, you just have to let it go. Step back and send it out into the world.

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“Feel the fear and do it anyway,” as Susan Jeffers famously said in her book of the same name.

Fear used to serve us well. When we lived in caves, fear told us to stay away from that cave where the beast lived and not to eat that berry that made Aunty so sick. But these days most of our fears have become internalised and turn into anxiety. It’s not really our friend any more.

 

Fear has many faces. Most horribly it is the face of our harsh inner critic.

 

Your Inner Critic and how to tame it.

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Like fire, inner critics are wonderful servants but terrible masters. To write successfully, critics must be tamed and trained and forced to play nicely with our delicate creator selves in order to make our writing the best it can be. The craft of writing demands a domesticated critic to edit our messy first drafts, but that’s later. First, we have to get that messy first draft written.

Inner critics can be fatal to writing. First drafts need freedom – when we create we’re playing and mucking around, making stuff up. We don’t need a nasty critic hanging over our shoulder whispering abuse. I like to send mine from the room!

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Mary Philbin, Lon Chaney, 1925

It helps to know the face of your enemy.

rabid_squirrel_postcard-r5105695b7151488c9754e7b5013d2197_vgbaq_8byvr_307One writer described her critic as rabid squirrels in camouflage gear. Another described his as a giant, grumpy, old geezer. It could be a mean older sister, or a stern father who thinks doing anything creative is a waste of time. Mine looks like my third-grade teacher. A nun in a habit. With a ruler. She always liked to pull me down a peg or two.

Here’s a writing exercise to help identify and defeat your critic.

 

WRITE: Your Inner Critic

Set your timer for ten minutes and write about your inner critic.

Was it your mum who was always finding fault, or was it that awful teacher in high school who tore your short story to pieces in front of the class?smoking nuns

Whether your critic is based on a real person or is a monster from nightmares, a dragon with gnashing teeth dripping with blood, get it down on paper. If there is a specific incident you remember, or a particularly bad attack from your critic, then write that down too. Get into the meaty details. Take more time if you need to. If you’d like to, draw a picture. What you do with this picture is up to you. You can burn it, or shred it, or put a big red cross through it, but perhaps if it’s your mum maybe just stick a bit of plaster over her mouth!

Once you have this clear picture in mind you can begin to train your critic. You can train them to leave the room. Trick the squirrels with some peanuts and tempt them into another room while you get a first draft done. Tell the old fart you’ll let him have his turn in a while, after you’ve written your five hundred words for the day. Take the ruler out of the nun’s hand and send her to confession for the few hours you have available for writing. If they know they’ll be allowed back later, they will, most likely, go happily. If they start skulking back, however, then gently remind them that this time is yours, they’ll be welcome in a while.

In my workshops, retreats and even at the creative writing classes I teach at university, I always start with a guided relaxation to help participants send that critic from the room. I’ve found the results to be outstanding.

Try it for yourself!

RELAX: Meditation for removing your inner critic

meditating

Sit and breathe deeply, bringing your attention inwards, then slowly relax your whole body. Once you’re relaxed, visualise your critic and imagine sending them from the room. I like to send them to the nearest body of water and drop them in there. Don’t worry they always find their way back in time for the next draft!

I’m working on a recording of the guided meditation I use in workshops. If you’d like to be kept in the loop and be one of the first to use it then click HERE.

Once you’ve sent your critic away, then I like to set a timer. 10 minutes, half an hour. It helps give me that sense of urgency procrastinators thrive on (procrastinator – who me?). Then WRITE! Write like a fury. Write like you’ve only got 10 minutes until the world ends and you’ve just got to get your story down. Spelling and punctuation don’t matter. Just go where your brain flow takes you. Follow tangents, explore weird things that pop up. Let the story show you where it wants to go.

Nothing matters in that first draft except being in the flow and trusting your own creativity. Remember – Writing is fun! Creating is playing. Take all the pressure off and enjoy yourself mucking around with words and making up stories.

 Let go and let the words flow!

woman writing

Let me know how you go. Did these techniques work for you? What other tricks do you know forgetting those first drafts done? Are you a procrastinator or a perfectionist – or both. What does your inner critic look like?

If you’d like to experience just how freeing doing a guided relaxation and meditation can be for liberating your creativity and getting you writing, then please contact me HERE for information about my upcoming RETREATS.

Or sign on HERE to get regular updates and hints and tips for your writing.

GOOD LUCK taming those critics.

Happy writing!

woman typing

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

RELEASE THE RETREATS!

relax writers at work

Feeling frazzled? Had enough of the rat race and housework and looking after everybody else? Treat yourself to a writing retreat in paradise, at a price you can afford.

A couple of wonderful retreats coming up!

Only a few weeks away until Relax and Write 3 at our Mermaid Base Camp at Evan’s Head. From Friday 31st August until Monday 3rd September our Mermaids and Scribes are taking over Camp Koinonia by the sea to write, relax and revel in each other’s joyful company. Yoga in the mornings, creative writing workshops through the day, lots of free time for beach walks and swims if you dare, and evenings full of feasting and fun. Can’t wait to get there! We still have a few spots available but please do hurry if you’re keen to come.

If you ask very nicely we may even extend our early bird prices 🙂 Contact Helena on helenapastor2@gmail.com for more info and to book.

mermaids swimming

But wait – there’s more!!

From Friday 5th to Sunday 7th October 2018, while Helena is away at KSP (we’re both KSP residents this year), I am running a retreat in Toowoomba in collaboration with the Unleash the Beast Writing and Wellness Symposium.

It’s a fabulous initiative tackling mental health issues and discussing how we can use creative techniques like writing to help heal ourselves and others. I’ll be busy on their big day, Wednesday the 10th October, running a Writing for Trauma Workshop and speaking on a panel on Early Intervention Strategies for Children with funny woman Mandy Nolan – looking forward to that! You can check out the program HERE and book tickets HERE.

But most exciting is that I’m running their companion retreat – Relax. Write. Retreat.

High in the mountains, this retreat is set among the trees and views of Highfields near Toowoomba on the top of the range west of Brisbane at the lovely Koojarewon youth camp (Ok ok, we’re not youth but they still let us in!). This retreat is fully catered. In fact it looks like they intend to stuff us like geese- with force-feeding scheduled every few hours!

Koojarewon koojarewon food koojarewon grassy

Yoga in the mornings, writing workshops through the day, feasting and fun and naps and long walks and lots of good company. For me that’s the recipe for a perfect retreat.

For more info on the Toowoomba retreat and to book click HERE

Whether you want to escape to the beach for a luxurious long weekend of yoga and writing, or just pop up to the hills for a dose of pampering and creative inspiration, we have the retreat for you!

I love facilitating these retreats and watching people relax and write stories that surprise themselves, and the rest of us. The accommodation isn’t posh but we’re not either. Our aim is to keep these retreats as affordable as possible because we know most women don’t have much cash to splash around – especially on themselves.

But sometimes, a bit of time out and nurturing of your creative self is just the ticket!

Come along and join the fun – we’d love to have you.

evans head

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

RETREAT COMPLETE :)

beach

I’m back! And what a wonderful retreat it was. Above is a photo of the beautiful beach where I wandered and thought about my characters, and other things, every morning and evening. Ah, it was heavenly!

So – here’s a rundown:

2 weeks

1 writer

1 cabin in the woods by the sea

cabin

26 swims

2 tubs of zinc cream

40 000 new freckles

2 beaches

1 waterhole

waterhole

 

10 kangaroos

I special kangaroo friend

kangaroo friend

1 possum

I Wanda the Wonga pigeon

100s of other beautiful birds

2 massages

5 new human friends

100 shells

shells

and

1 fully completed screenplay manuscript!!!

writing space

Yes, I worked hard and got it done. 125 pages – hopefully not all crap!

It’s now being read by my fabulous mentor Stephen Lance.

Thank you Screen QLD!!

It all equals one very happy writer 🙂

edwina pic (2)

Wishing you all 2 weeks retreat of your own.

Lots of love, Ed xx

 

RELAX AND WRITE RETREAT 2018

sunset evans head

YAY! Dates are now set for the next Relax and Write Retreat!
Friday March 16 – Monday 19th 2018
Feeling like you deserve a special treat this Christmas?
This retreat may be just the ticket.
Three nights away in a beautiful beachside location with like-minded women, relaxing with gentle yoga and inspiring your inner writer with fun writing workshops.
It will still be lovely and warm in March so bring your swimmers and sunblock. We’ll be staying at the beautifully basic Camp Koinonia in Evans Head, Northern NSW

relax writers outside

So, whether you’re a writer in need of relaxation and a good stretch, or a yoga practitioner yearning to write, this is the retreat for you.
Here’s what participants from the 2017 retreat had to say…
“Edwina and Helena have an easy style of putting people at ease and making each individual feel welcome and they were flexible in altering the program to meet the needs of the participants.”
“It was a great break away, affordable and I left feeling refreshed and with a significant amount of writing done.”
“I came away with a lot of information about entering into the field of professional writing as well as a wealth of ideas and starting points for fiction and memoir writing.”

Also announcing our MORE DASH THAN CASH positions. Would you love to do a retreat like this but don’t have the available funds right now? We know what that’s like (and we need some helpers!) so we’ve created a couple of sponsored positions.
Apply for one of our supported spots where for a few hours assistance with kitchen and other duties you can join us at a greatly reduced cost.

For more information and to book please contact Helena:
helenapastor2@gmail.com or
phone 0447 334 665

relax and write yoga

So, come along and join our merry band of scribes and mermaids. Relax, write and enjoy yourself in a beautiful coastal setting with experienced workshop facilitators and published authors Helena Pastor and Edwina Shaw – see their bios HERE.
Unwind with yoga and free your creative voice with lots of fun writing activities and workshops. All only a minute’s walk from a glorious beach surrounded by national park where you can swim, walk, laze in the sun or meditate to your heart’s content.
Pick up from Coolangatta or Ballina airports is available if you’re coming from afar.
PROGRAM for March 2018
Friday
2 pm onwards – checking in
5:30 – meet and greet, drinks and nibbles
6:30 – Deep relaxation and introductory writing exercises
7:30 – Dinner
Saturday
7:30 – 9 am – Gentle morning yoga and breathing exercises with Edwina
10:30 – 12:30 – Writing Your Way into a Story – Helena
FREE TIME FOR LUNCH AND BEACH ACTIVITIES
3:30 – 5:30 – Using yoga and drama techniques for developing your characters – Edwina
7pm – dinner
Open Mic Night. If you would like to, please bring along a song or other musical item, a poem, a short performance piece or whatever else you would like to share 
Sunday
7:30 – 9 am – Yoga with Edwina
10:30 – 12:30 – Structuring for Suspense – Edwina
Excursion to Chinaman’s Beach for picnic lunch and freewriting
4pm – 6 pm – Writing Dialogue – Helena
7 pm – dinner
Monday
7:30 – 9 am – Yoga with Edwina
10:30 – 12:30 – Pitching your work – from bios to synopses to grant applications – E and H
Feedback and farewells.
For more information and to book please contact Helena:
helenapastor2@gmail.com or
phone 0447 334 665

Helena and Edwina photoCome along and join the fun. We’d love to have you with us.
Get in fast. Places are strictly limited to no more than 15 places.

Last chance for early bird rates for RELAX AND WRITE

 

Cathedral writing kids

 

Just back from my trip to far north Queensland and Cape York. Part of my adventures there was running writing workshops for kids, first at The Cathedral School’s Writers’ camp and then at Lockhart River State school. A couple of happy snaps of kids happily writing like furies. Just like you’ll be doing if you come along to Relax and Write! Last chance for early bird rates, so get in quick!

Email Helena on helenapastor2@gmail.com for booking forms and more info. More info in my last post too 🙂

Lockhart writing kids

RELAX and WRITE RETREAT

logo relax and write

Since 2002, my best writing buddy, Helena Pastor, and I have been heading to Camp Koinonia in beautiful Evans Head NSW to write, read and edit each other’s work and have lots of fun doing yoga, swimming, walking on the beach and feasting.

This year we’re opening up our special place to share it with other like-minded women who want to do the same.

This is how happy we were at the end of our retreat earlier this year. We’d love for you to feel this relaxed and happy too.

Helena and Edwina photo

So, whether you’re a writer in need of relaxation and a good stretch, or a yoga practitioner yearning to write, this is the retreat for you.

The program includes gentle yoga sessions to suit every level of ability and fitness, and writing workshops guaranteed to get your creative juices flowing.

All activities are optional, so if you just want to lie around in the sun all day you can do that, but we’ll be having lots of creative fun in the beautiful hall just across the road from the beach.

PROGRAM
FRIDAY
Arrival from 2 p.m.
5:30 p.m. Welcome nibbles and drinks, introductions
6 -7 p.m. Introductory deep relaxation and writing
exercise
7 p.m. Dinner
SATURDAY
7 – 8:15 a.m. Gentle morning yoga with Edwina
9:30 – 12:30 Memoir workshop with Helena
12:30 – 3 Lunch and free time to enjoy the beach (or
have a nap!)
3 – 5:30 Writing the Body with Edwina.
7 p.m. Dinner
SUNDAY
7 – 8:15 a.m. Yoga with Edwina
9:30 – 12:30 Writing fiction using yoga techniques
12:30 – 2:30 Lunch and free time
2:30 – 4:30 Self Editing with Helena
4:30 Feedback and farewells

We’d love to have you along to join in the fun. Women only (Sorry boys!)

As I’m away for most of July on an expedition to Cape York (more about that later) please contact Helena on helenapastor2@gmail.com for more information and to book

COST

We’ve kept our prices as low as possible – we wanted something we’d be able to afford ourselves 🙂

$400 for twin share with ensuite or;
$350 twin share with communal facilities
EARLY BIRD $380 / $330
if booked and deposit of $150 received before 31st July
2017
This includes
• all yoga and writing workshops
• 2 nights twin share ensuite accommodation / or
twin share with communal facilities
• healthy home cooked meals on Friday and
Saturday nights – self cater for breakfasts and lunches
Optional extras:
• Massage
• Personalised Editorial Feedback (10 Pages in 20
Minutes).

Treat yourself to a weekend that will leave you feeling relaxed, creative and inspired. We’d love to have you with us!

With lots of love

Edwina

Just to tempt you a little bit more – here’s a shot of an Evan’s Head beach at sunset.

sunset evans head