Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 24, 2021

Are You a Whole-Hearted Writer?

by Tasha Seegmiller

There is a tricky situation that occurs in the lives of writers. To people who are not engaged in some kind of similar creative pursuit, explaining a difficult day can be met with expressions of disbelief. “You mean sitting in your seat and typing words was hard? Exhausting? Really?”

These people may also not understand why the words of others can hurt, whether that hurt was intentional or not. It can be anything from a bad review to a critique from a well-meaning colleague or beta reader that can make us doubt, stall, quit.

I’ve been on a bit of a Brené Brown kick lately.

[Full disclosure: I gave away nearly a dozen copies of her Daring Greatly, have been listening to every talk I can get my hands on, and recount key points almost daily to my very patient husband.]

Most recently, I’ve been listening to The Power of Vulnerability, which has been great because it is a live recording of Brené and I get to hear that she is a lot like me in her resilience to this whole open and honest thing.

But it has got me thinking quite a bit about what it might mean to be a whole-hearted writer. To start with, these are the guideposts she suggests of whole-hearted living:

  1. Practice Authenticity
  2. Find Self-Compassion
  3. Cultivate Resilience
  4. Build Gratitude, Joy, And Sufficiency
  5. Trust Your Intuition and Faith
  6. Foster Creativity
  7. Protect Your Play and Rest
  8. Don’t Fear Calm and Stillness
  9. Pursue Meaningful Work
  10. Laugh, Sing, And Dance

(There’s a great visual of these you can print and/or color here)

While writers may be some of the most generous people I’ve ever met, we are also, by necessity of our craft, hyper-aware of the world around us. That is great when it comes creating characters and stories and settings and plots, but it’s less than great when the business and real world side of writing comes trickling out.

To get a quick overview of where you might stand as a whole-hearted writer, consider how you’d respond in the following situations:

  • Someone signed with an agent after you and got a good book deal before you.
  • People who are not now (and probably never will be) writers ask why you aren’t done with a book yet.
  • You find an error in the final final copy of your book.
  • You are at a conference when an agent/editor says another genre is growing faster than the one you are currently writing.
  • You send out another batch of queries or go on submission.
  • You are told that is the cover for your book, thanks but no thanks to your offer for additional feedback.
  • You are presented with a publishing deal that is not quite what you were hoping for with a company you aren’t sure is a good match.
  • A call to your agent or editor goes unanswered. Two calls. Three calls. And emails.
  • Someone who writes a similar genre to yours had their book sell in several foreign countries.
  • A writer shares their victory in completing 10,000 words in a day.
  • Every week, you come across an article that undercuts your genre or mentions that the interest toward what you are passionate about is fading.

What was your response? Did you feel shame or unworthiness even though the situation was hypothetical? Did you want to hide, dismiss what you were genuinely feeling, or downplay the stress that was very tangible and very real? Could you envision yourself squaring your shoulders, bringing out your greatest attitude and showing “them” that you weren’t affected?

In these kinds of situations when we feel like something we hold dear, something we are working on or through is being attacked, Brené Brown suggests the following mantra:

Do not shrink.
Do not puff up.
Stand my sacred ground.

Is your writing sacred? Is your writing time? Do you allow yourself to acknowledge that people may not understand or do you feel the necessity to downplay what you are passionate about because it is entirely possible that explanation won’t change the opinion or someone else, or worse, will give them the excuse to think even less about your passion than they already do?

Do you have the courage to put out a piece of work that is honestly and truly the best you could do, knowing there is a decent chance it will be attacked in some way by someone? Do you have the courage to respond with grace and conviction, to acknowledge there was a mistake and you and your work might not be perfect? Do you really feel better when you belittle the person who left the review, gave the advice, passed you on the career path?

The greatest takeaway from all this is that being whole-hearted IS NOT EASY. But when compared with living a life that is detached, false, insincere or unfulfilled, I bet it’s the option where most of us would really like to spend a little more time.

How have you practiced being whole-hearted? What tips or tricks have you learned when your first instinct is to respond in a way you may regret later?

* * * * * *

About Tasha

Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. She is an MFA candidate in the Writing Program at Pacific University and teaches composition courses at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven, is the mom of three teens, and co-owner of a soda shack and cotton candy company. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.

29 comments on “Are You a Whole-Hearted Writer?”

  1. Such a brave, vulnerable blog! Thanks for this, Tasha. I watch Brown's The Power of Vulnerability every other month or so. Love her.

    Thanks for being whole-hearted. You gave me something today.

  2. Tasha, I love Brene Brown's whole philosophy about vulnerability, but I have not kept up with her latest books, podcasts, and fame. But these gems--Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand my sacred ground--wow. I just printed them for my bulletin board. Thank you for sharing them, and all your whole-hearted insights.

    1. She has done some amazing work and somehow just keeps getting better. Glad it could provide some inspiration.

  3. Tasha, I think "self doubt" is every writer's shadow, and some days that shadow towers. Mine is doing that at this very moment, so thank you for this post--and for reminding us to keep daring.

  4. Ever have one of those moments when someone steps forward and offers to you that which you needed more than anything at that very moment? I just did, and it was you who gave it to me. I mean this sincerely. I've been desperate for a lift and you delivered the air current I needed. Thank you!

    1. Oh my goodness - I’m so very glad. I have had people who stop by at just the right moment OFTEN. I’m grateful I got to return that for someone else.

  5. The hardest thing for a writer to do, BEFORE significant public reaction, is to OWN her writing, her quality, her aims - and give up Impostor Syndrome.

    But it is highly freeing (and is of course based on the reactions of the people who review when you aren't yet much known), even if it doesn't speed you up. If terrifying because you have claimed standards you then have to maintain!

    The world looks different from the other side.

    1. I agree, Alicia. And for many of the writers I know, owning and claiming their writing as significant is the biggest struggle of all. I hear them downplay or disparage their talent - I try my best, my little hobby, my scribbling - and it always makes my heart bleed for them.

  6. No, Tasha, I haven't practiced being whole-hearted. But I sure will now. Your essay really articulated things I needed to hear. Thanks!
    And I will remember that mantra.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. It's a good one, as most people either puff or shrink - I like the reminder that we can identify and hold our sacred ground.

  7. Great post- Thanks.

    I suspect that I am not Whole Hearted, though I try to be....lol and usually end up a bit of a curmudgeon. I laughed at the list as I have grumbled over almost all the points made at some time or another.

    I have another to add too it. Two authors, friends, write a book on the same subject with similar characters (though completely individually) and the same title as a competition. Both were published, one sold thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of imprints the other a few hundred. Guess who wrote the latter?

    Rashin snashin fashin books. Harummpf.

  8. This is just what I needed today. Thank you!

    "Stand your sacred ground." I haven't done that nearly enough, and not just when it comes to writing. But I will.

    Thank you.

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