I don’t know if you’ve noticed but my blog posts are not like the blog posts of other people. Obviously, though, some of you notice the difference. You send me blog comments and tweets indicating that you do. I want to thank you because it’s gratifying to know that one’s ideas are of value to the people you’re trying to reach.
For example, when it started getting out that I was talking about ideas that were different, I was happy to receive an email from novelist Josephine Rose letting me know she thought I was on the right track: “David, it’s great that you focus on the practical aspects of being a writer. If I had read you 10 years ago I think I would have said, ‘Nah, it’s all about talent. Either you can write or you can’t.’ Now I know this is an error…Thank you for these wonderful reminders.”
I write about creators’ need for confidence because confidence may be the most important factor of all to the creator. Confidence touches every aspect of the creator’s being—whether you think about your prospects positively or in a self-defeating way, how strongly you motivate yourself, whether you will persist in the face of adversity and setbacks, your susceptibility to discouragement, and the changes you will be able to make in your life.
Believe in yourself. The higher your faith in yourself, the higher you’ll set your creative goals and the stronger your commitment to achieving them will be. You’ll feel serene, for now you can make full, free use of all your talents.
Failure can actually increase your confidence. If you experience only easy successes, you come to expect quick and easy results, and your sense of confidence is easily undermined if you fail. Setbacks and failures serve a useful purpose by teaching that success usually requires confident effort sustained over time.
Once you become convinced that you have what it takes to succeed you quickly rebound from failures. By sticking it out through tough times, you come out on the far side of failures with even greater confidence. If you’re not failing some of the time one thing is true: you’re not aiming high enough.
I write about human qualities that distinguish one creative person from another such as strength (suggesting that it’s worth a creator starting every work day by asking, “Am I strong today? Will I be strong?”) And I write about courage, persistence, tenacity, will power, commitment, empowerment, sense of purpose, discipline, good writing moods and bad writing moods, and ideal writing moods.
And the creator’s experience of ecstasy, and the need for stamina, which I call “the creative person’s inner power.” And self-resilience, enthusiasm, self-motivation, energy and your capacity for work, sacrificing for the sake of your craft, boldness, doggedness, adaptability, endurance, resilience, maintaining at all times the highest hope of succeeding, and other spiritual dimensions of your personality.
My interest in the inner dimensions of creative people springs from the work I did on my international best-selling print book (now an ebook), Fighting To Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life, which is now considered a classic. In that book I said that a frightening 70% of the blocks–obstacles–impediments to fulfillment that a person encounters are inside them. Something is wrong and needs mending in their minds and spirits.
All people need to be inspired to overcome obstacles and shown strategies for accomplishing that. That’s what I set myself to accomplishing in Fighting to Win.
The main inner blocks people anywhere on earth and especially people trying hard to do creative work are encountering right now as they set out to work today are these:
Being Afraid to Take Risks
Thinking Too Much of What Could Go Wrong
You will see that you’re no stranger to blocks.
So a person’s inner territory has been my main concern for more than thirty years–in fact probably much longer than that.
Rarely will you find me writing anything about how to write or paint or act or dance because that’s not my main interest. I will not tell a painter how to paint because I don’t know enough about that. But even if I did I probably wouldn’t talk about good technique or good use of color, or composition, or perspective except to say I recognize them when I see them. I’m a great lover of art. And I’m grateful to many accomplished artists who have allowed me to include their work in my posts. I will talk about what makes great artists tick and why they’re so special. And I will say that creators who do great work are great in themselves.
I know enough about writing to apply careful technique to my own writing and to have taught serious writers and found great pleasure in that and discovered I have a lot to say. I’ve written about extraordinary writers—the most extraordinary ever to write.
But you won’t hear from me these days anything about developing characters, scenes, conflicts, and episodes, or how to write dialogue, or generate a mood, or structure a plot, or anything dealing with technique and mechanics.
There are two reasons for that. First, technical skills aren’t my main interest. My main interest is the psychology of creative people and how to teach them and support and inspire them to reach tangible success and personal fulfillment.
Also, there are already thousands of books, magazines, web sites, classes, and blogs for learning technique and mechanics. People have been writing books giving advice on how to write better for 2,000 years. The fact that information is so easily accessible is one reason why so many creators are autodidacts and have taught themselves their craft.
In contrast, almost nothing has been written about what I write about and what the book I’m finishing up after 3½ years of researching and writing is about. I’m convinced that inside, in your mind, in your gut, in your spirit, in your highest and dearest aspirations will be found the magical difference between adequate creators and great ones.
Creators who have technical skills, but lack these spiritual inner qualities and the ability to overcome internal obstacles will not go as far as they could. Or may not go far at all. Or they may give up and quit long before they would have reached their peak performance. Isn’t it sad to think of the thousands of gifted writers, painters, and performers who will quit this year, telling a spouse or a friend, “I’ve had enough”?
Who you are—what you are made of, what you know, what constitutes you, what you stand for and dream of—cannot be separated from your strange, puzzling creative self.
© 2017 David J. Rogers
For my interview from the international teleconference with Ben Dean about Fighting to Win, click on the following link:
Order Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life eBook by David J. Rogers
Order Waging Business Warfare: Lessons From the Military Masters in Achieving Competitive Superiority
26 responses to “Crucial Inner Skills for Writers and Artists ”
“If you’re not failing some of the time one thing is true: you’re not aiming high enough.” That phrase alone is enough to give both reassurance and encouragement… and not just to writers.
Hi Sue. How are you? Thank you for pointing out how important that statement is. You point out that it applies to everyone, whatever their art, whatever their occupation.
It seems to me that aiming too low is related directly to something else I mentioned in the post as one of the five greatest internal blocks to fulfillment. That is Being Afraid To Take Risks. We are insecure and repeat ourselves rather than aiming higher and striving harder. So rewards that may be within our grasp are never reached. You can see why my book is read by people not only in the arts, but in finance.
Who knows what heights we could reach if we were more confident and took more daring chances?
I’m not a great fan of ‘striving’…life should be a joy, not a chore, though I know many find their joy in treating life as a battle to be won…and I’m not about to say who is wrong and who right 🙂 But stretching our wings, seeing where we can fly to instead of staying beneath the safe branches, yes…that is the way to grow.
Sue, I’m a great believer in striving and battling. I think I should explain what striving and battling mean to me. I believe in striving for excellence–working hard, committing myself–striving to make the most of my abilities, striving to improve in every way I can, striving to make happy people I love, and so on. I don’t consider such strivings chores, but rather joyful pleasures and adventures.
Some battles are good. For example, the battle to overcome fears that prevents people from achieving fulfillment, and the battle against self-doubt that troubles so many people all their lives, from childhood to old age.
I think we are more in agreement than might appear.
We may well be, David. I prefer to use terms that embrace the natural power of the human spirit though, rather than makng life feel like a constant struggle.There is such a fine line between setting the bar a little higher to stretch your ‘muscles’ and setting yourself up for failure through the simple fear of having set it too high.
Sue, what you say is so true. I too think we should stretch our muscles. I think we also should trust in the goodness of the universe. I think the secret of achieving goals is to be sure you develop the skills that are adequate to achieve them. I enjoyed our conversation and look forward to more of them.
I certainly agree that the old dictum that God helps those who helps themselves is true.. you can aim for the stars, but learn how to drive the spaceship first 🙂
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“Complicated rules to adjust behavior are a weak substitute for simple principles.” Mary Wollstonecraft.
What I appreciate about your writing is that you address the simple, global principles of creativity. You are correct; in this your writing is unique.
Sharon, what a wonderful quote. Yes, you’re right. The core principles are what I’m attracted to. I can see that you, in your intelligent posts, are aiming at those too.
I plan to spend today reading fifteen or twenty major essays on literature that tried to get at those principles. To me that promises an exciting day.
I always appreciate and look forward to your thoughtful comments. Thank you.
Very interesting David. I am more interested in helping others with their creativity for health and happiness, rather than to make money. I am more interested in teaching them how to write but for the purposes of their wellbeing. I taught 3 social media courses for the recovery from mental ill health for the NHS and plan to teach a very similar blogging course to what I taught for them, on my new Quirky Academy site. I want to teach people how to write and blog, for themselves, to improve their life. So that is something I plan to do. I own the copyright to my courses for the NHS.
Your pride in your accomplishments comes through loud and clear. We all should be proud of the good things we’ve done. I am proud too. If “success” means to my reader’s making money I hope they make millions and can afford Leer jets and live in mansions the way some writers and artists do. Whatever their goals are–professional, amateur, for profit or for mental health, or fun, I wish them great success and think my work will help them whatever their goal may be. My work, like yours it seems, is intended to help people. That is the main motivation.
The pursuit of wealth has never been of importance to me, but making money from their work is important to many people–writers who have bills to pay and families to support. To them writing is a quite serious undertaking full of financial risks. I think not all, but the overwhelming majority of writers reading blogs would give an arm or a leg to be a highly successful professional though writing is the only profession you don’t have to be embarrassed about making no money at because almost all your peers aren’t making a nickel either.
I’m familiar with writing applied to improving people’s mental health, and have written about it. People in my family, including my children, are in mental health fields–a psychologist, a social workers, a counselor, a therapist. For some years they and I have been interested in the use of the arts to improve one’s mental health and sense of well-being. As research shows, as you know, whatever mood you’re in when you sit down to write, however miserable, when you stand up you’ll tend to feel terrific–more optimistic and heathier. That’s something people suffering the miseries of sickness should be exposed to just as you are exposing them to it.
Thanks for the comment. I hope you have even more success in your important work.
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Hi David, that is wonderful. Thank you very much for your positive feedback and analysis of my situation. I think mental wealth is just as important and maybe more so, than material wealth. But money is important too. I just seem to be good at more of the creative intuition side of life. I wished I could make a full time living as a writer as nothing makes me more happier than to write – I also have to pay bills. I do enjoy teaching too and especially if it involves creative stuff. I could create things all day and be quite happy.
Sandra,I give you all the positive feedback I can because I sense you are committed to doing good, practical, beneficial work. Nothing makes me happier than writing and teaching too. And reading great literature and great ideas. I like the thought of you creating things happily all day. Maybe some day that will come to pass.
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Hi David, that is beautiful. Thank you very much. I hope so too and I hope I help a lot of people with my work to come.
Sandra, I enjoyed our conversations these last few days. I’m sure you will help a lot of people. A skilled teacher is a gift.
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So beautiful. Thanks.
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Awwww, sorry for the late reply to this. Thank you very, very much. I really appreciate that. It is has been great and continues to be good to talk.
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Good morning David, and thank you so much for this post. From the first moment I began to read your blog, I knew that I had come across someone who truly understands what it is to be a creative. I have learned so much from you and continue to do so….
Thank you for introducing me to Alison Jardine’s work….I took a good look at her website and am greatly impressed.
I have had an artist friend here from Malaysia and seem to be in a bit of painting frenzy 🙂 I am beginning to feel all my energies return after having had to divide my time between work and Mother for so many years……it’s wonderful and I am revelling in each and every moment. Also getting prepared for departure for a short trip to Wales at the beginning of the month and then Portugal on the 11th for the remainder of April….where I will be doing much painting and immersing myself into the creative process.
Hope your writing is flowing and that you are enjoying glorious spring weather….janet
Janet, you make me blush. I read your comment to Diana and she said, “I just love Janet. She’s great,” and I said “Yes she is.” How rewarding it is to hear such things about myself from someone I have such respect and admiration for and who is able to produce such wonderful art.
Yes, your juices have been flowing so lately, as though you were all stopped up before. You’ve set sail again. You’re out to sea and the winds have taken you. The weather is fair.
I wish you the very best in all your pursuits, and am excited for you to have such activities coming up. I’m looking forward to seeing in coming posts what you will produce.
Thank Diana very much and please pass onto her that I look forward to the day that maybe we all meet either in the States, or even perhaps Wales…. Yes, the stopper has been released….and as you well know when this happens, it is most exciting. Janet 🙂
Janet, Diana will be joining me in retirement in a few months, and we do talk about visiting England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales one day, so possibly we will meet. And of course, if you ever visit our area, you must let us know. We look forward to meeting you very much. We will have lots to talk about, won’t we?
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Indeed we will 🙂 May I ask what Diana’s work is ..
Hi Janet. It’s me, Diana. I am a big fan of yours. For the past 24 years I have been an English Language Arts teacher of 8th grade (approximately 14 years old) children. I’ve enjoyed that work, but am happily looking forward to retiring at the end of this school year. When people ask me what I am going to do, my answer is “Whatever I feel like doing.” That’s what I’m looking forward to the most–the freedom to pursue whatever interests me. I look forward to meeting you one day in person. That would be lovely.
Hi Diana. What a lovely surprise to hear from you and thank you for your lovely compliment. I can well imagine that your work has been most rewarding, however having said that….I can also appreciate that you are now ready for a time of doing whatever you feel like doing….It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. It would be lovely if we could all meet up one of these days. Enjoy the remainder of your school year….not too long now before you will be free……..Nothing quite like freedom. Janet. 🙂
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Hi David, I really liked this post. When you first posted it, I wrote a really long comment, and it disappeared. That has happened to me before. I think I cannot reply when I am logged into my Word Press account. Briefly, I commented that I am especially interested in reading and learning about a person’s inner qualities. I have been researching the latest findings on the neuroplasticity of our brains as a hobby. We can actually re-wire our own brain circuitry. I used this practice along with therapy to overcome PTSD about two years ago. Recently, I intuitively knew that I had a writer’s block inside because I kept procrastinating finishing my book (in addition to some health issues). I figured out what my block was just recently. I have been working on deleting this false belief, and I can already see the difference. I wrote all day today, and I am really loving this again! A person can excel in all of the necessary skills to be a writer, but that special creativity gift has to do with our “mental wealth” as Sandra said. (Love that phrase!) Thank you, David. You always inspire me, and I enjoy learning from you. ~~Penny
Penny, I’m happy to see that you spent the day writing and that you’re over that block. I’m happy too that you too find yourself fascinated by peoples’ inner skills. I’ve kind of staked my reputation on writing about them, and am pleased when experienced creative people like you tell me they feel I’m on the right track.
That “special creative gift” is something of a mystery isn’t it? Two writers are alike in almost every identifiable way and their training and education have been identical. Yet one excels, but the other doesn’t. Why that is is a question that it’s worth spending years trying to find a satisfactory answer to.
About the only thing I know about the brain is that half the people believe that intelligence is malleable and can increase and half don’t believe it. You and I do believe it.
I’m not surprised you had trouble finishing your book because very many people relax in the vicinity of their goals. They work hard, even day and night, long hours, sacrificing, struggling, and pushing. Yet when they are an inch away from all the success they ever wanted, they stop. Just stop. This is something psychologists have theories about but have not been able to explain.
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