Creativity Jumpstart: Finding Your Voice

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Here’s a suggestion from writer Jeff Goins. He has a wonderful blog, and if you want to see his post with other find-your-voice suggestions, read it here.
One of his exercises is to imagine your ideal reader as a specific person.  For example, not just “anyone interested in yoga,” but  more like this: “A 45-year-old woman with two kids in college. She is smart, divorced, and generally happy, but sometimes feels as though she can’t keep up with the demands on her time. She loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has a witty sense of humor, found yoga while going through her divorce, is considering becoming a yoga teacher, is really into music, works as a packager for bands, and has a weakness for everything French.” (And no, this is not my personal ideal client. I just made this up.)

See the difference? If you create your ideal reader very clearly in your mind’s eye and then write for him or her, you will find a voice that is unique to you while being meaningful to your ideal reader.  And as a side note, doing this might also help you figure out how best to market your classes or studio.

Give it a shot! Set a timer for five minutes and jot down specific details about who you would like your ideal reader to be. Then, set the timer for ten more minutes and write something directly to that specific person, whether it be a workshop description or the introduction to your book. See what happens!

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Top 5 Ways to find your Writing Voice

1. Ask one of your long-time students to help. Often when we teach, we say the things that matter most to us over and over. Students who have been attending our classes for a long time most likely remember (and love!) a lot of our regular sayings. Ask a student who has been coming to your class for a while to write down ten favorite things you say in class. Better yet, ask two or three or more students to do this! Then take those phrases and add them to your book, brochure, website, or teacher training manual. You might need to rewrite them slightly in order for them to work as a piece of writing, but doing this will infuse your writing with your true voice.

2. Keep paper and pen by your mat or meditation cushion. A lot of our best ideas flash through us when we are involved in our practices. Allow yourself to come out of the practice long enough to write these things down, and then put them into your writing later on. These are true gifts from our most authentic selves.

3. Write something really derivative first. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it often works. When I’m working on something and I just can’t seem to figure out the right words or voice, I read all kinds of similar things first. Then I let myself write something that’s dry or derivative, or even steal direct lines from something else I’ve liked. Then I start to play with it, rewriting and rewriting and, then, rewriting again. Sometimes this starting point of someone-else’s-voice is all you need to wake up your own voice.

4. Ask a dear friend to help. This is similar to #1, only more personal. Ask someone close to you what words best describe you. Do they say sweet or witty, acerbic or sincere, serious or goofy? The words they use will help you understand the voice you have in your everyday life. From all the words they use to describe you, pick your favorite one or two. Then, when you go to write, use these words to help you set the tone of your writing. When you write, try to sprinkle words that imply this tone throughout.

5.  Read your writing out loud. When you read out loud, you’ll find the places that flow because they feel natural to you and the places where you stumble, because they don’t. The places that flow are spots where you’ve found your voice. Keep those. The places where you stumble or can’t quite speak the words as they are written are places you can play with a little more. You can do this in a room by yourself where no one will ever, ever hear you (this is how I do it) or with a trusted and patient loved one…or maybe a pet! However you do it, you will be amazed how your writing smoothes itself out when you read it aloud.

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Letter from Lori: The Fraud Factor

loripic_cropWhen I first started teaching yoga, I sometimes felt like the Wizard of Oz: you know, all huge and knowing on the surface, but really just hoping no one pulled aside the curtain to reveal the very human creature hiding behind it. Sometimes it felt as though everyone else was a real teacher and I was a fraud.
Luckily, I was old enough — and had been involved in both meditation and the arts long enough — to recognize this for the state of mind I have dubbed The Fraud Factor: the state of feeling like a fraud who might be found out at any moment, whereas everyone else is actually the real thing.
Whether we write, teach, become a parent, or attempt anything else worthwhile, the Fraud Factor can be debilitating and can keep us from being our fiercest, most explosive selves. This tends to happen most when we really care about what we’re doing. Learning to recognize our own particular version of this is one of the best ways to take it a little less seriously.
But know that the Fraud Factor can also help us define our strengths and our ideas about quality and keep us learning and growing. Like most things in this world, it is neither good nor evil. Rather, it’s just one more tool to help us unabashedly stand up for what we love.
That said, it also sometimes sucks. (Dear Things-That-Make-Us-Grow, why oh why must you so often be so very sucky?) But take heart! Almost everyone I know, including acclaimed authors as well as master yoga teachers, has struggled with this at some point. Which means, in the most delightful way ever, we are all frauds…which makes us all, in the most fabulous way possible, also brilliant experts. So if you find yourself falling into the Fraud Factor mindset, take a deep breath and consider softening a little toward yourself. Because the more we let ourselves be who we are, the less often we feel as though we’re hiding behind that curtain.
Much love ~
Lori
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Creativity Jumpstart: The Fraud Factor

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Here’s an exercise to help you remember what you loved about your work/art/practice in the first place:
When you are creating, think quantity, not quality.

Yes, you read that right. It sounds counterintuitive and backward from what we’re so often told. But remember when you first fell in love with yoga, or anything else? Most likely you did it because it was fun, not because you had to or wanted to perfect a skill.

There’s a famous story in the art world about a ceramics teacher who decided to do an informal study in his college class. He divided the class into two groups. One group was told they would be graded only on the number of pots they produced: the more they made, the better their grade. The other group was told they would be graded on quality, and that they should attempt to create one perfect pot to turn in at the end of the semester.

The end result? The group who made pot after pot without worrying about making them perfect improved far more in skill than the second group. The second group was so focused on perfection that they stopped practicing craft and started trying to figure out what “perfect” looked like. (As a note: I believe this would make them critics, not artists.)

What does this mean for you? It means that whatever you are doing, sometimes just do a whole lot of it without trying to do it perfectly, or even well. If you’re trying to write, maybe do 2-minute writing bursts about your chosen topic… and do this about ten times in a row. Whenever you think of it. Or make a list of words you love simply because they sound cool. Or just do whatever it is you do all the time without caring whether it’s good or not.

Give yourself a week or a month or maybe a whole semester of trying this. If nothing else, you’ll have a lot more fun!

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Top 5 Ways to Soothe the Fraud Factor

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1. Talk about it with people you think are masters. I have yet to meet anyone, no matter how established and amazing, who hasn’t at some point in their life felt like a fraud. Find someone whose work or life you admire greatly and ask them about it. Or, talk more to your peers about it. Realizing we aren’t alone in this is extraordinarily healing.

2. Invite your inner critic in and have a conversation. Our inner critics/editors/hecklers can help us out, although more often they just beat us down and get in the way. So, give yours a name and a face. Next time he/she/it shows up, invite it in. Let your inner critic know that you appreciate that it’s trying to keep you out of trouble but that you’re good for now. Give it a cookie and send it on its way. Or, if it gets too rowdy, ask the bouncer to throw it out of the club. (On a personal note, when my totally insane Inner Lunatic of Perfectionism appears, Bill Murray from MEATBALLS shows up and screams “It just doesn’t matter!” at the Lunatic, over and over, until even the Lunatic has to laugh. This makes me ridiculously happy.)

3. Remind yourself you are good. Because you are.

4. Do something just for the play of it. Pick something creative that has nothing to do with your work or life’s mission. Then do it 15 minutes a day just for fun. For example, I have a writer friend who colors in a coloring book for 15 minutes a day. There are no rules about how to color or about making it look like “art.,: and since it’s not her life’s passion (and income), she isn’t as attached to how “good” of a coloring artist she is. It’s just to get the creativity flowing without that dang inner critic talking at you too much.

5.  Stop reading Facebook so much. I’m so into this one right now that I wrote an entire article on it below.

  Facebook & the Fraud Factor

Before I begin, let me make this clear: I am  not a social media naysayer. In fact, I love Facebook. It’s a fabulous way to connect with people you don’t get to see or talk to very often, and a great way to see what other people are up to. It’s also my main source of news: if it’s important, someone will post about it on their page.

That said, I am currently on a self-imposed hiatus from Facebook and all other social media. Why? Not because it’s a time-suck, although of course it can be. No, it’s because Facebook, as much as I love it, is a “best-of” reel of people’s lives. People mostly post their successes, the parts of their lives that look really, really fabulous. It’s not because any of us are bragging, but because that’s usually what we want to share with others. Even when we post about our sadnesses and bad days, it’s still somehow sanitized and a little shiny.

Usually I like this “best-of” reel. And I’m also very aware of it. But I do find that, when I’m questioning my worth or when things aren’t going as I’d hoped and I’m feeling frustrated or down about it, what I start to do is compare my life to everyone else’s best-ofs. And, as you can imagine, this leads to nothing good.

If you’re going through a fraud moment, consider signing off for a while. A day, a week, a month…do what feels right for you. I’ve been off about 2 weeks and will probably take another couple weeks. And when I come back on, I’m rearranging my use of Facebook so it serves me better.

Sharing our lives through Facebook can be wonderful and inspiring and bring us closer. But in those times where it doesn’t, it’s really okay to step away for a while. Like me, you might even love it.

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