First Level of Trust Needed to Write

Have you ever gotten an idea for a story or an essay and dismissed it immediately? Too complicated, too ordinary, uninspired, already been done are some of the condemnations my clients toss at their ideas.

“But how do you know without even starting?” I ask.

“I can tell,” is the universal response.

“But you can’t,” I say.

And they can’t. I know this from my own experience, along with the experiences of countless writers I’ve worked with.

I used to be a blocked writer who didn’t trust a single moment of the writing process–not my ideas, not my words, not my punctuation. The first step toward my unblocked was to learn to trust my own imagination. I had to find a way to dismiss the overzealous gatekeeper who considered every idea, every sentence, period and semicolon suspect. The truth is: if you monitor your original ideas and thoughts too closely, you will likely never allow yourself to feel excited about writing. If you squint suspiciously at every writing possibility that comes your way, you block inspiration and the energy and uplift it offers.

Another truism here: Your story or poem or essay may begin with one idea, then veer off into a different direction. And sometimes that direction is just where the piece needs to head. But if you don’t give your original inspiration a chance, you will never make this discovery. If you never allow yourself access to your imagination, if you never allow yourself to begin writing, the new direction will never show itself to you, and whatever it is you might have written will never be born.

I know from hard-earned experience just how challenging it may be to trust your initial idea. So here’s a suggestion: The next time something comes to you as you’re walking your dog, working in your garden, or sitting down in the morning to begin your day job, jot the idea down. Then, at your next appointed writing time, take a look at what you jotted down and allow yourself to start writing. Not for long. Say, for 15 minutes at the most.

Try to write without judging and condemning what’s finding its way to the page. Then, when your time is up, walk away and congratulate yourself for having trusted yourself.

This doesn’t mean that your idea, the very seed of your writing, is going to work out fabulously in the end. It simply means that for that day you didn’t turn yourself off at the pass, and send your horses trotting in the opposite direction. Then, the next time you write, you can either take up from where you left off, or look at your jottings and begin another piece.

I suggest doing what I’ve just outlined for two or three weeks, writing 15 minutes each time, in order to launch an idea that has recently come to you. At the end of those weeks weeks, you might have the beginnings of several pieces. You might also find that one day multiple ideas knock at your door. Jot them all down, and then, at your next writing window, look over your collection of seeds, and notice which one feels as if it energizes you the most, and has the highest likelihood of growing into a beautiful plant. Write for 15 minutes beginning with that seed.

Above all, every time you trust yourself enough to plant your seed, allow yourself to feel good for what you’ve just accomplished. Then, once you have a small collection of beginnings and compliments, you’ll be ready to learn about the next moment of writing trust you’ll need to practice.

Flower Gone to Seed


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