Why All Writers Should Have a Therapist (or Life Coach)
I haven’t been running many guest posts lately simply because I’m phasing them out for when I launch my new site either next month or early May.
When I got this post my first thought was, “What has this got to do with self development or Life Coaching?”.
But then I stopped to think for a moment and realized that writing is becoming more and more important for all of us.
It’s no longer something we can ignore once we leave school.
To be successfully in the cyber age we have to be able to communicate efficiently through the written word, it’s one way we can separate ourselves from our competition.
So on reflection, this post is highly relevant to self development and probably is to you too!
So take it away James Chatrand.
Why All Writers Should Have a Therapist (or Life Coach)
I know, I know – that title is almost insulting. After all, doesn’t having a therapist imply that you have some sort of mental issue? That you can’t cope, or that you’re a little crazy?
If you’re a writer, that’s pretty likely the case.
I’m not talking the Van Gogh cut-off-your-ear level of crazy or suggesting writers hear voices when no one’s there. Those are mental illnesses of a different sort, and best dealt with by a doctor.
But let’s face it: writers can be a little cuckoo.
You’ll see writers penning articles full of advice on all sorts of mental issues – they commiserate about dreaded writer’s block, joke about that little “editing habit”, and sympathize over that not-good-enough tailspin that sends most writing to the trash can.
Writers share all kinds of advice on psychological roadblocks, because these mental issues are so prevalent in the field.
And these mental issues can get big. Real big. Many a writer has been snapped up in the slavering jaws of a psychological trap that quickly leaves them unable to write at all.
Writing becomes a painful, stressful struggle
This is therapy-worthy stuff, people. Contrary to popular belief, writing shouldn’t be a difficult task, and it definitely shouldn’t be an anxiety-ridden one either. It should be enjoyable, pleasant and fun
And if it isn’t, it’s time to get some help.
But how do you know whether you’re a perfect candidate for a little therapy? How can you tell whether you’re one of those writers with psychological roadblocks?
Deep down, you know the answer. And if you still want a little assurance that you have something you need to deal with, take a look at these three mental issues that crush your writing abilities.
A Permanent Lack of Confidence
This writing roadblock is one of the most common problems out there. Just Google “writing confidence”, and you’ll get over 166,000,000 results.
A lack of confidence isn’t so bad on its own. It basically means you feel unsure about trying something new, and that’s pretty normal.
The solution is simple: you build confidence by learning new skills or getting more information about what you need to do, and how to do it, and then you give it a try.
You’ll realize it isn’t so bad, which gives you a little bit of confidence to go further. Each step forward, your confidence grows, and eventually you feel just fine.
Building writing confidence is a little trickier. Writing is a solitary, subjective task. You can learn new skills and get how-to information, but it’s hard to know whether you’re doing well.
There’s rarely any feedback. And there aren’t many people you can ask for help, short of getting a mentor.
You’re on your own, and that makes building confidence difficult. Your uncertainty is ever-present, and each step forward feels unsure.
Soon your lack of confidence is feeding on itself, and writing becomes an anxiety-ridden task more painful than a root canal.
Unrealistic Expectations and Limiting Beliefs
Everyone has unconscious expectations they hold themselves to. Most of the time, our self-imposed bar of standards is set at achievable heights, and all’s well. We can keep those expectations in check.
For example, no one expects themselves to be pro racecar drives the first day ever behind the wheel of a car.
A new driver doesn’t want to make a mistake, sure, and tries not to, but knows he might – so he tries to do well, which is perfectly achievable.
Writers? They tend to think they’re hot shots from the get-go. They expect themselves to be good writers from day one.
They might not think that, of course. They might tell themselves they’re new at this or just learning… but deep down, they think they should be better at writing than they are.
Their bar of expectations is set too high – and failing to reach it, limiting beliefs worm their way in.
“This is hard. I’m not a good writer. It should be easier than this. Why can’t I write as well as so-and-so? I have to work harder; this needs to be perfect. I can’t publish this. Who’d want to read it?”
Unrealistic expectations and limiting beliefs are rife in the writing industry, like a cloud of flies continually swarming over writers’ heads.
Worse, writers beat themselves up. A limiting belief can leave you feeling like a failure, struggling for hours on end, discouraged and disgusted with your efforts and starting to wonder if you’ll ever be good at this.
Nasty stuff, that. Dealing with this psychological roadblock completely tanks your energy levels, constantly batters your self-esteem, and leaves you feeling like writing is a battle you can’t win.
Fear, Plain and Simple
Fear is the root cause of all psychological traps in writing, and it’s the real reason writers screw themselves up. It comes in plenty of flavors and variations, too:
Fear of embarrassment. Fear of negative comments. Fear of “not good enough”. Fear of putting oneself out there. Fear of not being able to compete. Fear of failure. Fear of success.
And so on, and so on. Fear lurks in every dark, unconscious corner of a writer’s mind. The second you allow a tiny worm of it to slip out, it’s tough to send it back where it came.
That tiny worm of fear slithers forward. It begins to fill your thoughts. You become aware of it – and you hear its whispers loud and clear. You’ll pay attention to it too, and the more you do, the more you find your writing becomes difficult
Some writers try to overcome their fears. They tell themselves positive affirmations (which can help) and find ways around their fears, but rarely do writers actually succeed in exorcising fear from their minds.
And since the human brain loves fear-mongering (it’s the survival tactic of choice to keep us safe), it blows up mild doubts and concerns into full-blown mental disasters.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
Writers aren’t destined to struggle with mental roadblocks and psychological traps. Issues that prevent us from writing aren’t par for the course or part of the necessary equipment.
There’s no rule that says writers need to suffer or struggle. And if you do, it’s a clear red-alarm signal there’s something going on, and that you need some therapy (or maybe a little Life Coaching?).
You could hang onto your problems, of course. Plenty of writers do, wrapping their quirks and eccentricities around themselves like comfort blankets. They never seek help to overcome these issues, and they live with them all their lives.
But that’s a little silly. If you had a tooth that hurt when you bit down, wouldn’t you head to the dentist to have it checked out and repaired? Of course you would
Getting therapy or coaching for your writing roadblocks is much the same. “I’m feeling a little twinge when I put my fingers to the keyboard. Take a look for me, would you?”
A few sessions, and you’re good as new, feeling happier and more mentally healthy than ever before.
There’s no need to perpetuate the stereotypes we writers commonly display, and definitely no need to live with any psychological problem that holds us back from enjoying the task.
A healthy mind equals healthy writing – done in less time, with more confidence, and to much greater satisfaction.
James Chartrand is a professional writer who blends a little good psychology into all her writing and business advice. She also runs an online writing course, Damn Fine Words, where positive benefits come guaranteed.