Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Guest Post by Preslaysa Williams: Easy Ways to Nurture (and Sabotage) a Creative Life

Have you ever heard of a neurosurgeon who suffered from neurosurgery block?

You know what I’m talking about?

It’s the moment right before a scheduled surgery when a medical professional freezes and forgets how to wield their scalpel on an unsuspecting patient.

You haven’t heard of neurosurgery block? How about school teacher block? I know you’ve heard of this one. It’s the moment right before a teacher steps into a classroom, and he or she forgets how to teach multiplication tables to a sea of rambunctious children.

You haven’t heard of school teacher block either, huh? How about writer’s block? Ever heard of that?

Thought so. Why does creative self-expression cause many to avoid doing something as simple as scribble words across a page?

Image by Idea go, courtesy of

A lot of the problems of so-called writer’s block stem from the fact that, as ego-centric human beings, we are intrinsically attached to the work we create. If we write something bad, this proves the deplorableness of our fallen moral nature. On the flip side, if we write something brilliant, this proves we are God’s gift to the publishing world. (And with brilliance comes the added pressures of having to continue to produce more brilliance before everyone discovers the truth: You are a hack and, on top of that, you possess a deplorable, fallen moral nature.)

I’ve suffered both sides of this crazy spectrum, and I’m here to say it can drain you, folks. In addition to being a writer, I am an actress. I love, love, love the acting craft. As a child, one of my favorite pastimes was curling up with a good Uta Hagen book on theatre technique and then studying old movies to see how the masters worked. However, the day to day grind of going out on audition after audition (488 auditions to be exact) and getting a bunch of ‘no’s’ was a lot to take.

As a young girl, I believed those rejections were a reflection of Preslaysa the Person. As I got older I learned that to succeed in my creative pursuits, I needed to build a psychological construct around myself or else I’d end up in a padded room. And I’m not kidding. There was a time when the acting work stopped, and I went into a deep, crippling depression for many years.

So here are my profound, life changing ways to ensure that you nurture (and not sabotage) your creative life:

1. Repeat after me: “I am not a bad writer.”
When I seriously pursued the craft of fiction years ago, I joined a critique group with a bunch of writers who ripped my work to shreds. Yes, those first attempts at writing novel length fiction were not the best, but I took it personally and believed I was an untalented hack. Of course my writing sucked, I was a newbie. All newbies suck. Duh! Yet, I created a lie which said: “Why even try? I am no good at this.” That lie set me back from growing as a writer.

Know this, you are not a bad writer; you are a writer embarking on a very beautiful journey.

2. Repeat after me: “I am not a good writer.”
Yes, you read that right. You are not a good writer. Don’t believe the hype. You are not an innately talented genius who could never be replaced by anyone in the world. When I gained success as an actor, I believed I was an “innately talented genius who could never be replaced by anyone in the world.” A couple of years later when the acting work dried up, my genius self (ahem, my ego self) was crushed.

Same thing happened to me in the writing world. After I started to get a hang of the craft, people complimented me on my work. I started to believe it, but when I turned over my next project to someone I trusted, they red-lined it like crazy. I was crushed. How could they do that? Everyone said I was a great writer. Past success doesn’t ensure future results. The only thing that matters in the writing game is what I’ve produced or edited for that day.

All writing starts out rough, whether it’s written by a newbie or by a master at the craft. It’s only time, effort and skill which shapes a rough piece into a thing of beauty. So don’t believe the hype. Keep a clearheaded view of your writing skill, and you’ll last a very long time.

3. Repeat after me: “I am a writer.” 
You are a writer. You are not a brain surgeon. You are not a school teacher. You are a writer. Although you may have a day job, your calling is to write. Don’t doubt it. Don’t question it. Write every day. Write good stuff. Write bad stuff. Show up when they praise you. Show up when they rip your work to shreds. Show up because it’s your job. That’s what professionals do.

Preslaysa Williams is a wife to one, a mom to two and a writer of inspirational romance and middle grade fiction. A 2014 ACFW Genesis semi-finalist and a 2013 ACFW Genesis finalist, she enjoys writing stories that make you smile. Visit her online at where she blogs about romance, faith, writing and mommy brain randomness.


Casey said...

Such wisdom in this! #1 and #2 are brilliant and #3 reminds me to pull myself up by my boot straps and keep marching forward. Just the dose of kick-in-the-pants I often need. Thank you for being here, Preslaysa!

Jaime Wright said...

Wonderful article. And encouraging!!!! You are one beautiful lady! Hugs!!!

kaybee said...

Preslaysa, this is so true, and hard-won for some of us. We need to keep a focus on who we are in God's sight. Not the critique group, not the editor, not the agent, not the contest judge.
The difference with Christian writing is that we want each other to succeed.
I have often compared writing, especially fiction writing, to the pastoral ministry. My husband pastored two churches in the 1980s and attempted one church plant, in addition to talking to literally thousands of people about Christ. Sometimes there's a small "return," sometimes we won't know till we meet someone in Heaven. He had to establish early on that it Wasn't About Him. We need to do that too. Keep our eyes on Jesus and keep writing.
Kathy Bailey
Focused in New Hampshire

kaybee said...

It's especially stupid to get our feelings hurt over something like a contest score. These people REALLY don't know who you are, hello.

Preslaysa Williams said...

CASEY, thank you! Writing this post, was the kick in the pants that I needed too!

JAIME, Hugs to you, girlfriend.

KAYBEE, I have to confess I am a contest diva. Contests give me an opportunity to see where my strengths and weaknesses are, especially on a new story. And yes, we have to keep our eyes on the Lord. So true!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

So happy to have you here today, Preslaysa! Loved every word of this article, but that last paragraph? Man. Oh. Man. I needed that! Pure gold, my friend!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Wow, Preslaysa, what truth you shared! I so appreciate the reminders not to place my value in what people say about my writing. :) Thanks for sharing a bit of your personal experience too. :)

Preslaysa Williams said...

Thank you, KAREN! Hugs to you.

JEANNE, glad that you found the post helpful. And congratulations on winning the Frasier!

kaybee said...

I am just dipping my toes into the contest waters. It's fun. Got a fair to middling score on the Phoenix Rattler and had to think how to respond, and I CHOSE to take it in the spirit it was meant and use it to make the piece better.
I want to be a DIVE! But I'm not there yet.

kaybee said...

OOPS, I meant a DIVA! Sheesh. No, I really want to be a lower-class biker bar. That is my goal in life. Smiles.

Preslaysa Williams said...

You'll ignite your inner contest diva soon, KAYBEE! Just wait...

Shawnda said...

Nice article. I m not a writer but I found the article applicable to being a mom. I just replaced writer with mom :)

Preslaysa Williams said...

Ha! Love it, Shawnda. Thanks for stopping by!