In writing her book Healing the Heart of Your Business, Lisa Fitzpatrick has had to push through a serious bout of writer’s block, a chronic case of not good enough and recurring rounds of it’s impossible to finish. Yes, like many of life’s challenges, in writing we are often our own worst enemy. And yet she did it – she finished her book and it’s fabulous. I am in awe of the power of this woman’s commitment to keep writing, no matter what. First published at www.LisaFitzpatrick.com.au, here is Lisa’s story…
When I was growing up, I was called to the principal’s office to be commended for a short story that I’d written about narrowly avoiding a dugite snake bite whilst swinging on a swing set at the local park. It had been a close shave, having a deadly snake brushing past my feet. Apparently, my story had captured the moment well. The principal said that my story was going to be sent away to a writing competition to be judged and that it might even win a prize as it was a very fine effort. I was around nine years old and it was at a time when Enid Blyton books had consumed every waking moment for me and many other girls. I waited and waited to hear the results of the competition. Nothing ever came back. I never heard who the winners were either and I never asked. I was too shy. In addition, I was too embarrassed that I hadn’t won anything. Defining moment number one: I am not a good enough writer.
In early high school I heard about a girl my age (13) who had published her first book of fiction. I started to write my own. It was an elaborate story about a mokey pokey, some kind of strange hybrid creature that really didn’t have much purpose. I spent an entire Christmas holiday break slaving away at a book that felt directionless because I couldn’t find an ending to the story. Eventually I just gave up and put all my hard efforts in the bin. Defining moment number two added to defining moment number one: Not only am I not a good enough writer, but it’s impossible to finish a book.
My second degree at university I majored in Arts and Creative Writing. As soon as I finished uni, I wrote a manuscript based on my dad’s life. It was historical literary fiction. It was picked for a mentorship along with the prestigious prize opportunity of being introduced to the publishers at one of Australia’s top publishing houses Allen and Unwin. They read my sample chapters and told me to polish up the manuscript and resubmit it to them with the view to it being published. It was a huge opportunity only reserved for a chosen few at the time. I completely lost my nerve. I never finished it. My painful divorce at the time had broken my self-esteem so much that I didn’t have the self-belief to push through with the dream. However, I can’t really blame divorce although I did at the time. The earlier beliefs that I’d formed meant that not only did I believe that I was not a good enough writer but also that it was impossible to finish a book. Defining moment number three: Writing a book is not realistic for me with all my issues, only for other people (who don’t have issues like mine).
By now, I have realised that what you seek is always seeking you. I have never stopped seeking ways to scratch the writer’s itch that has always been there. Despite being chronically blocked, a soul purpose is a soul purpose and will persist despite our best attempts to block it. Amidst the much loved work I was doing as a coach, therapist and yoga teacher, I knew I needed and wanted to write. Even if it wasn’t good enough, even if I couldn’t finish things and even if it wasn’t realistic for me to be a writer, none of those stopped the fact that I still had a desire to write. By now I was starting to see where I had formed unhelpful beliefs about myself that weren’t true and decided to honour the desire itself.
So I started small and committed to my blog. Just once a week on a Monday, all I had to do was write around 350 words. That’s all – not an entire chapter. Just nuggets and they didn’t even have to be perfect, I decided. I made a commitment to scratch the itch on my writer’s block and see where it took me. Then I did the one epic thing that’s guaranteed to cure writer’s block. I told my virtual assistant Kari that I’d have my piece of writing for my ezine and blog ready every Monday to send to her in South Carolina. I set myself up for accountability. I might not have been able to be accountable to myself but when someone else was relying on me, I was on top of my game. It’s one of my strengths and I needed all the strength I could muster.
Every week Kari would pretty it up and then send it out to my subscribers on Tuesday mornings. Every week for the past 88 weeks, it’s been put out there at least once and sometimes even twice, a week. Come rain, hail or shine, slippery snakes, sick kids and blocks as big as Everest I’ve written a blog. Believe me there’s been weeks where it’s a small miracle that it’s happened. I now firmly no longer believe that you should only write when inspiration strikes. You need to have discipline, it’s a practice and it’s something that gets easier the more regularly you engage with the page and find your real voice.
Miracles often start from small things that you think are insignificant. I’d been writing my blog for less than a year when I was approached by the fabulous Christine Marmoy to contribute to her anthology Manifesting in High Heels. I said yes – the book stood for all the values I ascribe to – collaboration with other amazing women and more power to women. I said yes to accountability and the book went on to become an Amazon best seller in over 5 categories. It was the one small piece of encouragement I needed to finally finish a manuscript I’d had ticking away in the background. Freaking. Awesome.
In the background, I’d decided that accountability was key and thanks to my blog writing, my writer’s block was slowly dissolving. So I engaged the services of a book coach Alex Fullerton from Author Support Services. Alex was assigned to help me be accountable to write the manuscript that was brewing and stirring as a result of all that blogging, coaching, speaking and chapter writing I’d been doing. The beautiful thing is, accountability bears witness. When we are being watched and witnessed, even though it is uncomfortable at first, it has the brilliant effect of diluting fear. I can honestly say, I would have been a lot more self-conscious about revealing my manuscript to anyone let alone the general public if I hadn’t first unleashed it to my book coach.
There’s actually plenty of book coaches out there but what drew me to Alex immediately was that she truly does understand what writing a book entails. How do I know? Because on the home page of her website, she has a video of how tricky it is to catch a wild snake and put it in a bag. Go watch it! It’s exactly how it feels to write a book (especially if you’re me). It’s slippery, it’s hard, it’s awkward, it’s even dangerous! After my earlier short story about the dugite and as well as an intense personal experience with kundalini-rising, the snake held significance
My commitment to Alex was sealed when I learnt that she had also braved the wild frontier of single parenthood to two children for many years. That totally sold me. I couldn’t care less whether she’d ever coached someone to complete their book or whether she’d even been to university. All I cared about was that she got it. For those of you in business who don’t think your personal story has any relevance to your clients, think again. For those of you who believe that your life experiences are not equally as important (if not more so) to your qualifications think again.
Alex held me accountable. Poor Alex had to brave my fear of snakes so many times in our accountability journey it’s hard to even fathom. She’s had to endure my tales of woe about how hard it’s been to find time to write the damn thing whilst juggling a business, blogs, three house moves and single parenthood. I’m forever grateful to her for loyally sticking by me while I wrote Healing the Heart of Your Business. Many times, I’ve fallen short of my deadlines and many times I’ve wondered if it will ever be done. Patient, graceful and ever wise, Alex stayed the course with me. She persisted and her persistence meant that I had every reason to stay the course. My Malaysian heritage has ingrained in me the importance of saving face. Whenever I failed on one of our set deadlines, I’d recalibrate, take some breaths and keep going. Accountability to Alex was as much about keeping and saving face as it was about the need to write.
Today, a cyclone hit my township and we were warned to stay indoors. I’m so pleased I got some unexpected spare time. I polished the final edit and sent it to Alex for the final proof-read. I’ve found my fabulous book cover designer and can’t wait to share her work with you on the cover of my book. I’m so relieved I don’t have a publisher to deal with and that the world has turned on its axis enough times to change things in my favour towards self-publishing. I feel excited about the fact that the snake is almost in the bag. I can see myself tying up the loose ends now on Healing the Heart of your Business and I have to say I’m proud of it. At the end of the day, the book’s not really about me but about the message it contains about running a sustainable business for heart-centred women….Actually, it’s hard admitting this but it is about me. It’s about how I learnt to wrestle a snake into a bag despite being petrified. But I know deep down that I never would have done it if I’d kept it to myself and neglected to engage with accountability – the one epic cure to writer’s block. Sharing is caring. I’m not sure words do justice to the gratitude I feel towards Alex and the fact that I’m on the home stretch tying up the bag. I think I’ve well and truly caught the snake! He’s in the bag and I’m bringing him home.
Lisa’s book is available at www.LisaFitzpatrick.com.au.
What is holding you back from writing? Please leave your comments below…..
This year I’ve committed to practising work/life balance. Yes, yes, I did think I’d made that commitment for each of the seven years since I set up a business working from home, but it turned out I’d only made a commitment to worrying about it. In my defence, this commitment was backed up by a comprehensive action plan, where I attempted to work full time as a book coach and editor, as well as working full time as a mum and award winning homemaker, settle two families into a new blended household, run a not-for-profit organisation for over 800 women entrepreneurs, and be at the gym before dawn at least three days per week.
I knew I was doing it wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on just which part of my goal-based, outcome-oriented action plan needed tweaking. Go figure.
Then my kids and I went to East Africa last December, and it all seemed to fall into place. Of course it’s pretty easy to get everything on your to-do list done each day when you are on the adventure of a lifetime, have a personal driver and all meals and accommodation are presented ready to go and then cleaned up afterwards, by persons other than yourself.