5 Ideas to Unlock the Writer in You (visual edition)
Today is about writing lessons, from one beginner to another.
Hey everyone 👋. I'm John. Welcome to Creators' Corner: a place where I share advice on creativity & mindset. Here's the previous edition of the newsletter if you missed it.
Over the last 6 months, I have hosted workshops for over 100 people wanting to learn more about writing.
Do I see myself as an expert writer? Not by any means. I only started writing online 18 months ago. I still have a lot to learn. I still have bigger dreams for my writing journey.
Funnily enough, my relative inexperience counts in my favour. Especially as a teacher. I can help other beginner writers because I am only a few steps ahead of them. I recently went through the challenges they are currently facing.
In my mentor sessions in Write of Passage, I've focused on exercises that help my students generate ideas and overcome limiting beliefs.
Today I’d like to share short summaries of five of my favourite lessons.
1. Embrace Beginner's Mind
Starting is tough. Since we have high expectations of ourselves, odds are our first attempts will fall short of our lofty standards. And that’s okay.
One way I tricked myself into starting was by embracing Beginner's Mind (also known as the spirit of the fool).
By looking at everything as a learning opportunity, I lowered my expectations. By saying everything is an experiment, I removed the pressure. This way I overcame the perfection monster and got started.
You can only improve once you take the first step.
Deeper dive: Beginner’s Mind
2. Catch your fish
Ideas are like fish.
As writers, we need to be aware of the topics that resonate with us (get our rods ready) to capture the ideas (the fish) when they appear.
For this to work, we need to know what is important to us (define our favourite themes and topics) and then set up a system to record our ideas when they arise (take good notes).
As you go about life, try to incorporate the two states: an awareness of what resonates with you and a dedication to capturing information. Over time, you will have many topics to write about (or fish to cook).
3. Don't create, document
Before I started writing, I thought you had to be super creative or highly original to be a writer. The next Hemingway or Atwood at least.
But originality isn't always necessary. It's a limiting belief I fostered for too long.
Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, look at the content you’re already consuming – the books you're reading and the podcasts you're listening to. Look at the things you're already doing – your work and your habits.
Document what you're learning, the topics that make your heart jump, your process, and how you overcame setbacks in your life.
These are all essay topics. It all counts.
Longer take: Don't create, document
4. Storytelling Reframe
Your challenges are usually a blessing in disguise.
As the Stoic philosophers said, no matter what you're going through in life, as difficult as it may be, there is always one silver lining: you will have a great story to tell afterwards.
Collect and use your challenging moments in your writing. This can help you foster resilience, generate ideas and help others.
Write-up: Storytelling Reframe
5. Add value, then make noise
Doing great work is only half the job.
If you want to increase your chances of success (your luck), you need to tell people about your work as well.
This is something I learned the hard way.
At school, I came to understand that what you put in is what you get out. If you studied hard, you’d get good grades. In the real world, the schoolboy mindset limited me. My colleagues who were working hard AND better at promoting their work were, funnily enough, also better at getting promotions.
Doing without telling is a missed opportunity. After you write an essay, you need to distribute your work so more people can see it.
I’ve been in a creative mood this week.
I repurposed seven of my old newsletters as essays and added three new illustrations for those that didn’t have artwork yet. Check them out here.
I created a new section on my website called Visuals. It's a collection of all the illustrations I've made so far. A gallery of sorts. It's crazy the skills you can teach yourself. I never considered myself to be very artsy, but through practice and experimentation, I've built up a decent collection of visuals.
And, last but not least,and I hosted the 4th edition of the Creating Visuals for Writing (CV4W) Guest Series this evening. This time we were joined by research scientist and writer whose doodles make machine learning fun. Sairam was an excellent guest and instructor. Keep your eyes peeled for the recording and the write-up.
💬 Quote. Why we should train our minds and not only our bodies:
“But it is your mind, rather than circumstances themselves, that determines the quality of your life. Your mind is the basis of everything you experience and of every contribution you make to the lives of others. Given this fact, it makes sense to train it.” — Sam Harris (via the Waking Up app)
⏰ Habit. After watching this video by Ryan Holiday, I've been trying not to look at my phone for the first hour after waking up every morning. I don’t manage to get it right every morning, but in the mornings I do, I feel in control of my day instead of it controlling me. Instead of having my thoughts pulled in a random direction by an email or WhatsApp notification, I get to focus on good habits like meditation, stretching and journaling. Can recommend.
📚 Book. Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home by Boyd Varty. An excellent book that made me miss home. Authentic South African storytelling with lots of bravery and outright craziness at times. I laughed a lot and also enjoyed the deeper elements. Varty doesn't shy away from SA's history and issues, but also captures the beauty of our country and its people. Thanks tofor the recommendation.
📸 Photos of the week: short highlights package from visiting London last weekend. A visit to Daunt Books in Mayfair (second from left) is an absolute must.
Until next time, happy creating!
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