Episode 18: The fear beyond the leap

In which our protagonist’s inner critic asks: “who do you think you are?”

Dear reader, I took the leap. Y’know, The Leap. I carefully planned and organised a Big Thing and I put it out into the universe, taking The Leap with a lovely friend also taking Lots of Leaps towards a bright future.

And The Leap is exciting, and we are excited and we put it out there and… 

Hello, Lauren’s Brain-in-Overdrive. It’s been a while.

Ironically, as I launched a programme aimed at tackling the inner critic for writers, my writerly inner critic got Very Vocal Indeed.

Let me rewind a bit. I’ve been talking about my Top Secret Project for a while now, and all was revealed late last week: I’ve teamed up with Jo Bell of Write to Thrive, and we’ve launched a six-month programme aimed at supporting writers with strong self-doubt to move forward with their writing projects. It’s called Show Up For Your Story (details later in this letter), and it’s a huge, massive thing full of valuable content and community. We’ve both been super excited, hailing (in private) our magic collaboration and all the goodness we can bring to struggling writers. 

And, I’ll be honest, thinking about this project has been one of my big saviours in recent weeks because I started sliding downward. These things are all part of the recovery process; it’s not one march up towards Being Fixed. There will always be ebbs and flows, two steps forward and one step back. Unfortunately, I’ve taken a few extra steps backwards lately, spurred by making a public arse of myself and generally losing my grip on the health drive by punishing myself and crawling back into my hermit hole. Dear reader, I have been so f***ing tired and over it all, but this amazing collaboration with Jo has kept me going. 

However, once it was out in the world, once we’d had our live launch on Instagram and told the good people about what we’re offering, I started hearing That Voice. You know the one - it starts quietly, just whispering in your ear, gradually getting louder and louder until it’s jumping up and down inside you screaming obscenities. 

“Who do you think you are, launching a writing coaching programme?”

“Who is going to listen to you? What have you ever done for the world?”

“As if you’ve got anything to offer!”

Seek the sparkly angel, not the loud devil

I know that voice well. That voice is difficult to ignore. And, do you know what? That’s exactly why I jumped at the chance to work with Jo on this course. We both know that voice well. We’ve both developed our own ways of dealing with it, of quieting that inner critic who likes to be the proverbial devil on your shoulder. The trick is to make the angel on the other shoulder louder, more sparkly. 

Dear Reader, I’m sick of that voice. I’ve let that voice rule my life for far too long, and it’s time for it to shut the hell up. I’ve had an intense few weeks and I’m feeling lethargic and run-down; it’s the perfect environment for the voice to thrive. But I refuse to let it grow. I can’t ignore it because that’s the highway to hell; instead, I look it in the eye, and I acknowledge it. “I see you,” I tell The Voice. “I see you, and I acknowledge your presence, but you are not welcome here.”

The difference this time is my trust in myself and the process. The difference this time is I know I’m not alone. The difference, Dear Reader, is that I’m now willing to fail in order to fly. Mistakes are natural, and essential to learning and growth. That voice is just trying to protect me, to keep me safe. But it’s been keeping me too safe for too long, not letting me do anything at all. If I want to live out loud, I need to live louder than the voice can shout. I need to see it, then run faster, jump higher and drown it out. It won’t be easy, and I will have those moments, those days, those weeks where the voice looks like it’s winning. But the voice is the Hare and I am the Tortoise, and my shell has hardened from years of dealing with its shit. I am ready for it. I am ready to fly. And yes, I am mixing my metaphors now so I’ll leave you with one thought.

Restored on the shore

The world is waking back up, and it’s time for us to follow suit. While I’m still nervous about being Out There in the real world, I’m giving myself permission to go slowly with everything. There is no rush, no race to get “back to normal” (whatever that means). I still have a lot of figuring out to do, not least of which is deciding what my career looks like post-plague. I do need to get back to earning money sooner or later, no matter how much I’d love to be permanently on sabbatical!

Yes, the second vaccination tonight will help me feel more confident with being in the world, but I did something last week that I haven’t done in a long time, and it set my veins alight. I saw the sea, for the first time in 1.5 years. For someone who grew up along the beaches of Adelaide, that’s far too long. I need to be near water to feel properly alive, otherwise I curl into myself and lose track of time. That’s been part of the issue in plague times; I am nowhere near water. I am drained of my essential element.

So, the other half and I drove to the New Forest for lunch and then on towards the coast. We went for a walk along the shore at Milford on Sea. I tasted the salt in the air. I heard the roar of waves on shore. I stood on the beachfront and watched the gulls dance. The ocean was still there; the plague did not take it.

Dear reader, I am restored. I can do anything now. I hope you’ll join me?

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Plugging the Formerly Top Secret Project

Show Up For Your Story is a six-month writing programme designed to support you to overcome imposter syndrome and get the work done. It features:

  • 28 hours of live content - every Tuesday, we’ll journal, troubleshoot, create, and hold each other accountable

  • 24/7 access to a supportive Slack community

  • Weekly email prompts and inspiration

  • Six months of support

We start on 31 May, and will keep the group small and intimate so everyone can really get to know the work and help take things to the next level. Discover more on the website, email us with questions, or join our taster session on Saturday 15 May at 10am UK time. Keep an eye on my Twitter for a link to that session - it’ll be free!

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The week ahead 🗓

I’m thankful for the NHS: my second vaccination happens tonight. But that also means this week will be slow and steady and probably be sidetracked by side effects (if jab 1 is anything to go by). 

  • Writing: I’m aiming for thinking rather than action on the novel; if I get a few things tapped out it’ll be a miracle.

  • Work: All systems go on promoting Show Up For Your Story! We’re running a taster session this Saturday at 10am London time. Keep an eye on my socials for details.

  • Health: I’m expecting a week of sleep and recovery, truth be told. Also, my back is killing me!

  • Routine: And of course, I aim to continue my daily practice as I’m able: morning pages, 15 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of stretches. Plus, join me and hundreds of others at the LWS Writers’ Hour every week day: 8am London, New York, California and NZ. Side note: I’m now hosting Kiwi hour several times a week!

On the stereo 🎧

Dreampop Classics 

I’m getting a bit worried that Spotify is suggesting lots of playlists with “sad” in the title. That said, I was listening to a lot of lo-fi beats and deep focus tracks as I tried to get back into the novel. The one non-beatsy playlist getting a thrashing this week centred around dreampop, which is not exactly super exuberant but I do love it. Slowdive and Cocteau Twins and Beach House FTW.

Off the shelf 📚

Personality Isn’t Permanent, by Dr Benjamin Hardy

My fiction choice this week was a behemoth, so I’ve only just dipped into this week’s non-fiction - first discovered via London Writers Salon last year - but so far it’s illuminating. I’ve been on a bit of a downward trajectory in recent weeks, and Dr Hardy is giving me the kick up the bum that I needed. With a tagline of “break free from self-limiting beliefs and rewrite your story”, Dr Hardy’s premise is that personality is not a fixed thing, and we adapt our personalities to suit our goals and passions multiple times throughout life. He’s not a fan of personality tests like Myers-Briggs, which he believes encourage people to stay still and live inside a box, and seeks to dispel a lot of the myths around personality. This “science-based advice for personal reinvention” is really resonating with this human who’s never fit into any of the boxes.

“If you take the personality craze seriously, then you have already forfeited your ability to choose. You’ve handed over responsibility for both your past and future to something outside of yourself. Instead of seeking change, you’ve limited your potential for change. Instead of focusing on what you can do to enhance your life, you’ve merely tried to discover or understand why you’re disabled or limited. Instead of improving yourself, you’ve submitted to simply accepting yourself for who you “really” are. Deep down, you know that’s all nonsense. Deep down, you want more for yourself. You want to believe you can make changes in your life - even radical changes. Perhaps you’ve given up hope that it’s possible for you. But if you truly want to change your life in powerful and deliberate ways, then this book will teach you how.”

Visual confirmation 📷

Happy mother’s day for yesterday to this nutter who is too far away.