Get Those Keys Out

Stop overlooking your natural talent

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Keys
you have them
Slippy mind
you tucked them in your chest
prepared to unlock
the world

You don’t need to wait,
you can open it
for you.

Saschia Johnson

There are so many times we wait for someone else to unlock the door for us but the whole time we have the keys tucked away. Don’t forget that you have everything you need inside you. I know, I know, sounds like something from an animated children’s movie. But hear me out, let’s cool the keys what they are, tools. The tools you’ve acquired to get where you are now, are so valuable.

Our minds filter out what it thinks we don’t need. They say we don’t notice details when we take the same route to work every day. The same happens with our natural gifts. When we do something so easily, we tend to undervalue it, maybe even think anyone could do it. But it’s not true. Yes, some people could probably do it and some people might do it better but the point is, that tool is yours to open doors with. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing with theirs.

If you’re good at walking and you just love walking, organize a group. Walk in a way that challenges you. Find a job that you can walk to. Add music and make videos online until you and your tribe find each other. It’s way too often in this life that these valuable gifts are overlooked. Those doors are yours, so get those keys out.

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over. -Richard Branson

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The parts that are highlighted are the parts my Medium community thought were pretty cool.

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We are Agents of Beginnings

For the conscious writer

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“We are agents of beginnings.” –Art as Existence by Gabriele Guercio.

When I first started writing, I wanted to hide behind my creations. I wanted to be an anonymous figure that created something powerful. For me, there was a sense of humility in creating a profound piece of art while living in secret without all the reviews and rewards. Living a private life, hidden from the world is something I do treasure. So this seemed like a marvelous path. But there’s a problem with this mindset. First, let’s talk about our new beginnings.

“Who am I?”

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves as artists. This really is the bedrock of our creations. This is where writing is transformed from mimicry to individual and original works. Okay, now that we’ve clarified our foundation, let’s keep moving forward. What accompanies our who?

With our “who” we are led to our why? Like, why are we writing? Then we are led to our what? What are we doing about our why and our who? For clarity, this might be what your why looks like:
I am the representation of a strong woman who perseveres as a writer to show others the gifts and tools writing can provide.

Ok, let’s just say you know your why, how are you acting on that? Not in your art, in your life. What are you actively doing to pass on this mindset? So what I’m saying is, you are what you do. Not what you’ve done but what you do presently. The monotony, the unexpected, the things you say yes to are all who you are. This isn’t to create a sense of unforgiveness or shame but to bring awareness to your actions as a conscious writer.

I am [insert your action] because [insert why].

When you begin to explore your who, the goal is, or should be, to become aware of both your internal and your external until you overcome the gap. Freud would say making the unconscious conscious. Whatever you label it, this exploration has no end. Closing the gap between the two isn’t to reach a fixed state. It should be understood as a constant “production of presence.” According to Gabriele Guercio in Art as Existence; Hanna Arendt, a twentieth-century great thinker, argues,

for a view of the the human condition in which everyone’s insertion in the world must be understood as a ‘second birth,’ singularity revealed via praxis. This birth ‘is not the beginning of something but of somebody, who is a beginner himself.’ It occurs when one stops belonging merely to a natural species and asserts one’s own initiative.

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We are a species of new beginnings. The initial “insertion into the world” (what Arendt would like us to call second-birth,) is what some call self-actualization. Part of the second birth is accepting that we aren’t a fixed state. Which means your “who” and your “what” can evolve and change as the gap between the two closes. And as it closes you become fully embodied in your who. What a beautiful thing it can be to become an unpredictable and unique individual. Someone with their own initiative who doesn’t just go with the flow of things.

This is why my mindset shifted from hiding behind my art. I realized that my becoming is part of my novel writing. This becoming and unbecoming is what is going to make my art art. I show up with my flaws, and my mistakes, and my manic days, and my downward spirals because my awareness of all these details is going to close the gap. It’s going to insert my humanity into the world with all my “beginner” showing. It is now my intention to allow my life to compliment my art. I want to mirror something other than the outside world, I want to mirror myself.

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The quotes in this article were taken from Art as Existence by Gabriele Guercio.

The Single Story

For the Conscious Writer

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This is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is an award winning author from Nigeria. She speaks in this Ted talk (which is now one of the most viewed Ted talks of all time) about how we need to be careful of the single story.

Without saying too much, I find it so commendable and inspiring of her to admit that she fell into the same flaw as the people who frustrated her most. She fell for the flaw of believing the single story.

When it comes to stories, I’d never refuse a good book that was handed to me. I read books from outside of my culture regularly. But then I thought about it and the truth is, I only read them because of school or because someone well read suggested them to me. I haven’t intentionally searched for reads outside of what’s suggested to me. Which naturally leads me into the world of dominant culture.

This talk was eye opening for many reasons, but most of all, that it is time I began to intentionally search for stories outside of American and European pop culture. Then I want to listen to what is missing from the stories I’ve already been told. I want to do this because I don’t want to limit myself from learning to accept that humans, in every walk of life, are my equal.

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Use the Frustration

For the Conscious Writer

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I understand the frustration that comes with wanting to write. I understand that sometimes things don’t feel right. That frustration can cause a spiral. It can cause negative reactions but as conscious writers, it’s important that we focus this energy into our art and creativity. Use it in the story.

But first, encouragement! Because I know how that frustration can really bring you down.

Encouragement

You are a creative. You have boundless creative ideas that flow from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes. You bleed new ideas. You sweat stories that remain for centuries. You are here to listen, to observe, and to learn then to write it down. That may seem like an easy task, but it isn’t. Conscious writing is complex and layered and universel in ways that others will never understand, but they’ll want to. They will never know what you sacrificed to find these words. They will never know a lot of things you’ve gone through, and that’s ok. You know. I understand. So, let’s get back to writing.

Frustration is no fun

I envision tossing my computer on a regular basis. It sits between my heart and my stomach and bubbles over my entire body. If this feeling comes up with something I’m not committed to, I just walk away. But when it’s something I’m committed to (like writing), the tears well up and I push to adjust. It took time to learn to stay put even when I’m frustrated. But over time, I’ve learned a few techniques that help me use my frustration as an advantage rather than a hindrance.

What to Do With Our Frustration?

First things first. Figure out where the frustration is coming from. In the Harvard Gazette article titled Soothing Advice for Mad America, Dr. David H. Rosmarin explains that during the pandemic, frustrations are heightened and people are reacting with more anger than usual. Instead of reacting in anger, he suggests that we voice what really worries us about the things that make us angry. He suggested that,

we grow in our emotional strength when we admit and acknowledge [our] weakness.

So, the first thing to do is find the root to your frustration. What is frustrating you? What are you not getting that you wish or need to have? How can we fill this gap?

The second thing to do. Use your struggles to connect with other writers. Admit you’re struggling to writers. We are story machines, but it isn’t always easy and it’s important to admit that. In the same article mentioned above, Dr. Rosmarin said,

As attachment theory teaches us, what we really need is not to be strong, but to be close and connected to the people around us.

Connecting with like minds in a respectful manner is important me all the time. More important than I often admit. So, when I’m struggling I like to reach out for support. I appreciate the small group of people who have supported me through my struggles. Connecting with them mean more to me than the story

The third thing to do. Use what you have. Now that you’ve gotten to the bottom of your frustration, use that in your story. Use it in a poem. Use it as an idea for your next book. Journal about it.

This routine is what separates you from other writers. This is what makes you conscious and aware of who you are. I think the most challenging part of these tips for me is getting to the bottom of my frustrations. Figuring out where it is all coming from, but in the end it’s always worth it.

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Blocked? There’s a Way Out

Encouragement For the Conscious Writer

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Writer’s block’ is an emotional or logical incoherence in a future work slowly working its way through our unconscious. — Alain de Botton

So you’ve hit it, the emotional block. It grows. That block grows and grows until you’ve spent the day avoiding the one thing you love doing. It then turns into doubt and fear and all sorts of negative thoughts. So you shift your focus some more. It can turn into a vicious cycle gnashing at the little bit of confidence you have left.

I’m here to shed some light.

What is a writer’s block? More importantly what is a writer’s block for conscious writers?

Well, let’s start by discussing the fact that you are an amazing writer and you having a block does not make you any less or any more of a writer. It makes you a healthy functioning human being. If you’ve written to the point of a writer’s block, you are doing a phenomenal job. You have gotten past the hardest part and that’s being consistent enough to reach a block. On top of that, you are reading a post about how to unblock that block, which means, you are actively seeking to fix the problem instead of just walking away when it got hard. This is progress. This is maturity. Seriously. You are doing a great job. Do not let negative thoughts make you think for one second that you are not cut out for this, because let me tell you, if there’s anything you’re good at, it’s this.

So what is writer’s block?

It isn’t just a part of the story you can’t figure out. It is a psychological barrier that is holding you back. Before you can work on the block you’ve get to get yourself back into that creative space. Some things that help me step back into my creative space are to:

walk
talk it out
put away the story
edit parts I’m not stuck on
do something else creative
focus on something else I’m interested in like research, empowering friends, or whatever else will take my mind off of it.
write an unrelated poem or short story

These things really loosen up my brain space from tension. Once you get relaxed you can return to the writing space.

When you get back to that space it doesn’t mean the block is gone. It means you’re ready to figure out why it’s there so you can continue. Is the block emotional? Is something in this scene or idea triggering you? It seems at surface value that you’re fresh out of ideas but this isn’t true because you are an idea machine. You are made of amazing ideas sparked by infinite creativity.

How to get to the block.

Look at what you’re adding to your story. Is it something directly related to your life? Is there something you feel limited from in your life. If it is, how can you change your perception to use what’s limiting you in a positive way?

Another way I’ve learned to look at a block is what’s going on outside of my writing. Am I exhausted? Have I been pushing yourself too hard? Am I getting too comfortable or eating too much junk. Now, don’t let your head spin from all these questions. These are good questions to ask regularly whether you have a writers block or not.

When I first started writing, I’d walk away and say I can’t write or I don’t know what to write. I’d have all sorts of writers block excuses but the truth was I was frustrated about something else. The longer I tried to ignore it, the longer I couldn’t write. So when I was ready to face the reason why I couldn’t write, things would begin to fall back into place.

Even if you’re not going through the dreaded writer’s block, these questions will help you learn who you are.

Keep Writing. You got this.

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Where Freedom Lies

For the Conscious Writer

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Freedom is great when no one gets hurt. But what is freedom? Is it the ability to have a finished product without putting in the work? Is it being able to lay around and do nothing all day? The truth is that freedom is in neither of those things. Freedom comes from discipline. Freedom comes from doing the hard work every single day and watching your writing bloom and grow into exactly what it needs to be, truthful. The ability to tell the truth is liberating.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

-Henry David Thoreau

There’s freedom in being able to speak your truth. Most times digging to these truths takes more work than most are willing to put in. The nuggets of truth get so buried, that they haven’t seen the light of day since who knows when. So getting to them is hard work. Don’t think for a second that your conscious writing is no sweat. It is hard work mining. So once we get to the truth, we write it down and we say it out loud and we are finally freed from hiding it under false belief for so long. Every time we find one of our hidden truths, we are one step closer to whole.

This is where the discipline is essential. It helps to keep you moving forward even during the darkest moments when you no longer want to. You are going to need more than motivational quote on those days.

There’s always a million other things to do.

There’s always time for a nap or cleaning or even an extra hour at the gym. If there is anything I’ve learned it’s that there is never enough time to write. It’s not just the clock, it’s the amount of energy, the amount of focus and mental stamina. It’s ok to spend time taking care of your priorities but when it’s time to write, it’s important to show up.

There’s not a huge expectation here. It’s just show up and write everyday. You don’t have to want to. You just have to do it. One more scene. One more detail about your character, one more juicy tidbit about your world. There’s no need to be enthusiastic or energetic. The page could care less about your mood or your energy. The characters just need you to be there, giving them a reason to come to life.

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

— Richard Bach

This is your path to the truth. This is your path to freedom.

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sources

https://www.brainyquote.com/lists/topics/top-10-truth-quotes

When You’re Tired

For the Conscious Writer

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When you’re feeling like you’ve got nothing left that means you have just a little bit more in ya. -Saschia Johnson

I believe in rest. I believe that we shouldn’t have to oppress ourselves in order to be successful. I also believe in discipline and hard work. Which means there should be a daily writing goal that you’re carving away at. I don’t care what your writing goal is, you should be doing it even with your lids shutting.

As a conscious writer, it takes a different kind of discipline. It’s the kind of discipline that is only seen by other conscious writers. It’s doesn’t have the same return as showing up for 8 hours somewhere and getting paid for it. It’s personal. It’s between you and the page and it’s no one else’s business even if they did understand.

We have other disciplines like cutting the grass, washing dishes, laundry, and showering. But completing a small writing goal everyday doesn’t give you the same instant gratification as a task you can complete in one sitting. You’ve got to trust yourself and you’ve got to trust your writing.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. — Benjamin Franklin

As a conscious writer, you already know why you’re writing, to accept yourself, love yourself, learn yourself, those are your rewards. Yes, money is important. We need to eat and we need to pay the bills. The point is that when you are developing the discipline, it is not for the money, it’s for the discipline. And when you develop the discipline, you learn to trust yourself, not the money. At this point you’re patient, you’re wiser, and you trust yourself. Then take those tools and multiply them by writing daily over a long period of time. You’ll develop trust, confidence, discipline, self love, you develop clearer thoughts and feelings, better communication, patience, understanding and so on. It’s ok to be a conscious writer and make money doing it.

It’s not a conscious writer who writes simply to make money.

A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart. — Jonathan Swift

It’s amazing how quickly writing 150 words a day turns into a novel. It’s amazing how your thoughts mold and change from writing 150 words everyday. And the most beautiful thing about getting 150 words down everyday is that you begin to observe the world rather than be swept away by it. We so easily get caught up in problems that don’t take priority in our lives and in our own growth. Writing everyday changes us. It makes us see things differently. It challenges us. The world becomes less impossible through the eyes of a conscious writer.

What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us. — Julia Cameron

It’s ok to be tired when you write. So when you’re tired and you feel like you’ve got nothing left to write, make sure you finished those writing goals. If you haven’t finished those goals, you’ve always got just a little bit more in ya.

Remember why you started writing.

Sources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertberger/2014/04/30/top-100-money-quotes-of-all-time/#368960514998

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Dear Author

A letter from your characters

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Dear author,

I am a living breathing human being. I’m not your show horse! I need thoughts and some external stimulation. I need you to give me something to solve or avoid solving by solving something else until I realize the true importance of what I was supposed to be solving. Those ah ha moments, I like those. When all the different things finally come together to make a bigger picture, it feels good. I’m not here to stroke your ego. I’m not here to gain you awards. I’m here to be like you in ways you don’t quite understand until you write in order to understand me better. Don’t change me simply because I point out your flaws. I heard Toni Morrison say the slave was important to the white man because it defined his freeness. So I ask that you don’t take away my freeness in order to know you are free. You are free to write me in worlds with clothes and people and situations and thoughts as you choose. You are in control of my story. You are in control of my ending. So let me be entirely myself. Let me be who I become in the unfolding of this particular story. Don’t just develop my thoughts, give me some way to share them. Don’t give me everything I could ever imagine with no internal dialogue. I want to think and to grow and to develop new perspectives. Don’t tell me why I’m here, give me reasons to be here.

Sincerely,

Your Character

Sources

Toni Morrison From Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the literary Imagination in the Critical Tradition pg 1791

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Overcompensating From Fear of Loss

For the Conscious Writer

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Impending loss has an aura of grief around it. It stalks the ones closest to it and it has not one ounce of sympathy for our very fragile emotions. -Saschia Johnson

When writing a character who feels like they are losing the one they love, they should overcompensate. They might think that going above and beyond will help them keep what they love. This isn’t just in romantic relationships. This is parenting, friendship, and loss, maybe even a job someone is passionate about.

We hang tight to the things we love, it’s natural for us. Some think it’s even romantic. Whatever it is, if your character is losing the one they love, it’d feel right and believable to have them overcompensating in some way.

All you need is one safe anchor to keep you grounded when the rest of your life spins out of control. -KATIE KACVINSKY

In what ways can our characters overcompensate as human beings?

They can become overly controlling.

When we feel like we are losing control of the things we love, we tend to try and control everything around us. It makes this illusion of having more control over the loss.

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. –MEGAN DEVINE

They can become overly generous

They give. They bake and clean. They do other people’s work with a smile and an oppressed heart. They justify the oppression with the idea that this is better than losing the person or the job. They’d give the shirt off their back if that meant they’d be together for just a tad longer.

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They don’t hold their love accountable

In fear of losing what they love, they allow things to slide. Over time this snowballs. They mention here and there that something isn’t right or that things need to change but there is no action behind it. Their boundaries become gray. Then they become doormats.

They can become overly critical and judgy

This is the opposite of the last one. Instead of being walked over, they become overly rigid. They don’t allow anyone else to replace their love. They don’t allow themselves to feel weak about losing their love which in turn makes them critical about others who show weakness. They turn their noses up in disgust at the mere suggestion that they may be weak to the situation.

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They flee

Instead of facing a smooth ending. Instead of allowing things to end civilly, they run away from having to face an ending at all.

These behaviors can happen to any person. Even mature individuals who are dealing with losing what they love are changed by that loss. I say that because it would be a good idea to use loss in your story as a way to show your character’s growth from not being themselves for a time.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.

-ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS

source

A little bit about For the Conscious Writer

There’s different types of writers out there. I prefer to speak to the writers on an inward journey. I prefer to speak to writers who write to become better human beings and who write to survive this insanely beautiful and chaotic world.

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Just Show Up

For the Conscious Writer

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How do they do it? Writers, actors, painters? How do they create so many works of art? They show up. There are days when they are inside out and upside down but they show up. Not 100 percent bright eyed and bushy tailed. Not with motivation.

They show up for their dreams, they show with their discipline, and they show up keeping that commitment they made with themselves. That’s how they do it.

I’m sure quitting crosses their minds from time to time. I’m sure some of them even walk away for a moment and in that very moment maybe they do quit but the truth is, they don’t. Successful writers come back to the page and finish what they started.

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There’s always a million other things to do.

There’s always time for a nap or cleaning or even an extra hour at the gym. If there is anything I’ve learned it’s that there is never enough time to write. It’s not just the clock, it’s the amount of energy, the amount of focus and mental stamina. It’s ok to spend time taking care of your priorities but when it’s time to write, it’s important to show up.

There’s not a huge expectation here. It’s just show up and write everyday. You don’t have to want to. You just have to do it. One more scene. One more detail about your character, one more juicy tidbit about your world. There’s no need to be enthusiastic or energetic. The page could care less about your mood or your energy. The characters just need you to be there, giving them a reason to come to life.

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

— Richard Bach

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