Friday, November 14, 2008

Kill the Chicken

This post is also at Christine Kane's blog. Christine Kane is a singer/songwriter and creativity coach.

Whenever I hear the word “chicken” I suddenly think of doing something I’m afraid to do. I think of my doubts and insecurities. I think about looking stupid. But I’m a writer and I’m always insecure, always trying new things, always pushing my writing skills and jumping before I’m truly ready. So, what does a reasonable person do? I kill the chicken. Yes, I kill the chicken of doubts, realize my value, and conjure up the faith I have in myself.

When I first became a serious writer, I was so enthusiastic and happy to be out of my old career I wasn’t afraid of anything. I placed my efforts in the right spots, I made up business cards, and I started a writing group. But the more invested I became in my work, the more I felt the presence of the deadly chicken. I’ve decided my chicken likes to come out during a full moon and when I have a deadline.

I felt my chicken roost when I was halfway through writing my thesis and my deadline was coming in three days. I had to write at least 50 more pages and add to my research. I’d been getting a total of ten hours of sleep in two days. My thesis advisor wanted more depth and I had to deliver, or else. The chicken told me, “So, Alice, it’s okay if you don’t finish. You need your sleep. You can finish your thesis later. If you don’t finish you won’t have all of this horrible stress.” And I really wanted to stop and take it easy. But if you stop and take it easy, you won’t get anything done and you won’t be anything! I couldn’t walk away from my thesis writing after all of my prior work! I did a few sit-ups, stretched my legs, and pushed through the chicken to get my thesis completed.

Same thing happened when I had a freelance assignment. I couldn’t get my words to work. I kept hitting the blank screen of white death. I heard that chicken. So I went to bed at 11pm, and got up a few hours later to finish my writing. Maybe I fooled my chicken my taking a short nap and recharging, but I didn’t hear from her again.

I coach emerging writers and so many of them make excuses to not get their writing done. They know writing is hard and revealing, plus who wants to do something painful when they can watch The Office or clean their bathtub? They tell me, “It’s too overwhelming and why try, anyway? Who’d want to read my work?” I say to them: Take it one step at a time. Set some time aside, say fifteen minutes and write. The next day revise what you wrote the day before. Keep adding to your writing time and you’ll see. You’ll see. Above all, I tell my clients to take themselves seriously as writers. If they don’t take themselves seriously, no one will.

So the next time you feel doubts creeping up and that old voice inside of your head is telling you to drop a creative project, please kill the chicken. You’re bigger than her anyway.



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