Episode Transcript

Tap Into Your Creative Forces with Kate Johnston

EPISODE 22

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:08] BS: Hi there. You’re listening to Love Your Enthusiasm, a show where creators, teachers and explorers talk about what makes them tick and how they make space to pursue their greatest passion. I’m your host, Britt Skrabanek. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Kate Johnston, who is a writing coach, book, editor, author, and the founder of Writers for Wildlife.

In this episode, Kate talks about her passion for empowering people to tap into their creative forces, through a technique she specializes in called mindset coaching. Living a joyful creative life is something Kate embodies fully, whether she is climbing over her own writing wall or helping writers get to the other side. Kate offers plenty of useful techniques for working on your mindset from affirmations to EFT, which stands for emotional freedom technique. This is something I myself learned from Kate and loved.

Real quick, if you’re a fan of the show, I would love a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. These gold stars are super important for encouraging other listeners to take a chance on little podcasts like this one. So take a minute to show the love if you’re feeling the love. Without further ado, have a fantastic time with Kate.

[EPISODE]

[00:01:35] BS: Welcome to the show, Kate.

[00:01:37] KJ: Hey there, Britt. How are you?

[00:01:40] BS: I’m doing just dandy. Fall is the air over here in Wisconsin. How about for you?

[00:01:46] KJ: Yes. Yes. It is. I’m in New Hampshire and I’m looking out at bright sunny skies.

[00:01:53] BS: I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that my husband and I, we were at a — there is a trivia night going on in the bar and we were there about a week ago. One of the questions was about, name three states that have the letter P in them. You actually live in the state that we couldn’t remember, which is New Hampshire, so I was really embarrassed because here you are. And it’s a really good question. Normally, I hate trivia nights, even though I’m such a nerd when it comes to learning things, I don’t really like them, but that was a really good question.

[00:02:31] KJ: It is. To be honest, I don’t know if I would have even thought of it because —

[00:02:34] BS: Because you live there.

[00:02:35] KJ: Exactly. It’s kind of a silent P. Not everybody says Hampshire.

[00:02:43] BS: Yeah, totally. We’ve known each other forever and we were starting to talk about that, but I want to save the conversation for the listeners to know that we are not strangers, but this is the very first time we’ve heard each other’s voices.

[00:02:59] KJ: That’s true.

[00:03:00] BS: We know each other through blogging and I’m pretty sure like every other blogger that I’ve had on the podcast so far, and there have been many, I’m pretty sure we probably met in 2012. Is that when you started your blog too?

[00:03:16] KJ: About that, I’m trying to remember. I’m going to be dating myself, but I do think it was around that time. I think I officially started in like 2010, but I didn’t actually really grow an audience for a couple of years, so 2012 is probably right.

[00:03:33] BS: This is the weirdest thing. I’ve had I think four different bloggers on here, and everybody started in 2012. There was something with that year where just blogging must have been really taking off and people were feeling creative. But it’s so cool, I think about you as one of my blogger buddies and somebody who’s been part of the writing community that I love for so many years. It’s one of those unexpected benefits of blogging that you don’t know about until you get into it, and you meet so many amazing people, and everyone is so supportive and you are one of those people.

[00:04:08] KJ: Oh, thanks. I feel the same about you. You’re always one of the ones that I remember. I made sure I read your blog every week, because I either smiled or laughed with every post that you put up.

[00:04:22] BS: Yay! Sometimes I make people cry too, so I’m glad I haven’t made you cry.

[00:04:28] KJ: No, you did not. I must have missed those.

[00:04:32] BS: That’s probably a good thing. Okay. The thing that we’re going to talk about today is joyful creative living. I’m really, really excited to get into this topic, especially with just all of the crazy bullshit that has happened this year. I am so happy to know people like you, and so many of the people that have been on this podcast that are in my writing community that keep pushing forward against the odds and keep creating. You are definitely one of those people.

[00:05:05] KJ: Yes. Creating is definitely something that’s always been a part of my life. As far back as I can remember, I was writing stories. It always brought me such joy to be able to just kind of hide out in my bedroom or I’d go climb the Apple tree in my backyard, and I would write, write, write. It’s just taking me away into other worlds. It just helped me through so many different things in my life and it continues to, so it’s definitely my go-to method for dealing.

[00:05:41] BS: I love that you say joyful creative living. I’d love for you to talk a little bit more about what that means to you. Because having been a creative person for so many years, I know that it’s not always joyful. There’s so many ups and downs with being a creative person and being an artist. A lot of — well, I have like what I call a self-loathing phase whenever I’m in the writing process. There’s a distinct self-loathing phase that never fails to come up. Can you talk a little bit about what joyful creative living means to you?

[00:06:14] KJ: Yeah. Well, that self-loathing phase, I think is really common and I know that I’ve gone through phases like that. Right off the bat, I would say for me, it has to start with how I enter the day. When I can enter each day with inspiration. and self-acceptance, or curiosity, or even an eagerness to learn, then I know that I’m tapping into my creativity. I’ve gotten to the point — I wasn’t always like this, but I’ve gotten to the point where creativity is my opportunity to grow. And even when things aren’t going well, I have come to the understanding that that’s just because I’m in a learning stage right now, or I’m growing, or I’ve gone through some new growth, and I have to adjust and I have to acclimate. It’s like growing pains in some ways where you start developing and growing as a new person in your new version of your creative self. When I finally came to that acceptance, I realized how happy that made me, because even when things weren’t going well, I understood that there was a reason behind it. That just made it a lot easier to deal with the bad, the bad days, the ugly days, as well as the good days.

[00:07:45] BS: You’re talking about how you kind of approach each day. Do you have any sort of morning rituals or anything specific that you do to start the day off on a positive note?

[00:08:00] KJ: Yeah. Actually, well, when we first started blogging, you knew me as 4:00 AM writer.

[00:08:05] BS: That’s right.

[00:08:08] KJ: There was a reason for that tagline. I would wake up at four in the morning to do my writing when my kids were really little. Because I was a stay-at-home mom and I also was part of the sandwich generation, so I was also taking care of my mom in her home because she refused to go into an assisted living facility. I was glad to be able to help her, but it did mean that I had to go over to her house during any time that my kids were in school. I was bouncing around a lot and four o’clock in the morning was the really the best time for me to write.

Even though my kids are grown now, I still find that early morning for me is the highest creative time. What I ended up doing now is I wake up somewhere between four and five, and I can’t say that I’m always up at four anymore. I’ll take my dog for a walk, and that’s been — that’s interesting because now it’s getting dark. But I enjoy the starry sky and I really just kind of appreciate the quiet, and a solitude, and the fact that I can get up and do this morning walk with my dog. Then we’ll come home and I’ll do, depending on how I’m feeling, so I do a variety of things. I’ll do a meditation, I’ll do EFT, I’ll do affirmations and I’ll script or I’ll journal, I’ll pull affirmation cards. It really depends on the mood that I’m in, but I’ll spend a good hour just enjoying the time to myself before everybody else is up. That hour is very empowering and it really just sets the tone, as what we’re talking about, the joyful creative living. It really gets me into a higher vibe state so that I am really ready to start my day.

[00:10:11] BS: We have to back up for a second, because you said something, an acronym that I know nothing about, so there may be listeners that don’t know about it too. What the hell is EFT?

[00:10:23] KJ: Yeah. Oh, okay. EFT stands for emotional freedom technique and it’s tapping. What that is essentially, it’s — you have meridians throughout your body, and how you tap on them. It’s kind of like acupuncture, but with your fingers. There are pressure points throughout your body, so you have like the karate chop on the side of your hand, you’ll do the third eye, which is right between your eyebrows. The top of your head, your temple, and there are some others. With each point that you tap, you will make a statement about whatever’s on your mind, so you might do it for if you’re trying to get through a block, like an emotional block, you can tap through that. Or if you wanted to just have as simply just an amazing day, you can tap through that and you can repeat certain statements that help you kind of clear out any of the cobwebs from the previous day, or if you’ve got some limiting beliefs that are going on that are kind of holding you back. It’s just a really powerful technique that I use that just kind of gets me grounded.

[00:11:42] BS: Very cool. See, just when I think I have all the wellness stuff under my belt, then I learned something new. I mean, there’s so much to learn. So yeah, thanks for explaining that. I’ve done a version of this and I do qi gong sometimes, and we do some tapping on different parts of the body. But minus some of the kind of affirmations and more specific mental connection that you were talking about. So yeah, that’s really cool.

[00:12:15] KJ: Yeah.

[00:12:16] BS: Dare I ask. How have your morning ritual has been going this year? Are you still able to hang on to these beautiful mornings that you just described or has that been a challenge?

[00:12:31] KJ: It has not been a challenge, it’s been fine for me, but I think that’s also because I’ve been doing it for so many years. I’m not fine when I don’t do it. And even though this year has been, well, crazy, I guess I have to say that I responded with even more creativity than I normally do. Because creativity for me is healing, it’s my comfort zone in a lot of ways. So when I know that I can have a whole morning to myself or a whole ritual to myself, it just — I knew that was going to lead me into a good day, a better day than I might have otherwise had.

[00:13:18] BS: Totally. I feel like just all my years of yoga and meditation have definitely helped me this year and I know a lot of people who have said the same thing. I mean, when you practice that type of mental, energetic, spiritual, whatever you want to call it exercises, you keep those with you. Then even on the good days you use them, and then on the bad days, you have something to turn to. It’s just such a healthier way to release that energy versus the many unhealthier alternatives.

[00:13:56] KJ: Yes, I think so, and knowing that you have choices throughout. For me, at least my ritual, I can just kind of pick and choose as I want, depending on my mood or maybe even what I know I’m going to be facing later in the day that I know I might need an extra 20 minutes of meditation or something like that. It’s helpful to really know how you might handle certain things in order to figure out, “Okay. This morning, I really need to focus on this because later in the day, I’m going to be dealing with X.”

[00:14:33] BS: I love that you mentioned the pick and choose, because I think that’s where people sometimes fail with morning rituals, is that they think it needs to be the same freaking thing every day. I’ve tried doing that. It just kind of depends, but also I feel like my morning ritual has changed based on the seasons too, based on the darkness in the morning or lightness, or just whatever is going on. It’s a lot easier in the mornings to go for a walk in the summer first thing versus in the winter.

[00:15:04] KJ: Yes, definitely. I don’t know when I’m going to do come winter time when it’s six-feet of snow out there. I don’t — sometimes I’ll walk, but I’m happy just kind of hunkering down and doing nothing.

[00:15:17] BS: Yeah, exactly. You just kind of have to adjust what the seasons as needed for sure.

[00:15:21] KJ: Right. Yeah.

[00:15:23] BS: Well, I’d love to get into your teaching perspective a little bit, because creators, teachers and explorers are my guests on this podcast. And we haven’t talked too much about teaching on the podcast yet, because a lot of the guests that I’ve had on the show kind of like yourself too, are just teachers, almost as by default. Like it’s something that they ended up doing down the road, or it’s something that they just kind of do naturally with the things that they create or while they explore. I’d love to learn more about how teaching has helped you grow as a creator.

[00:16:01] KJ: I would say, well, I was a creator first and I fell into teaching kind of by accident when I was in — well, it all started when I was in college and I had people come up to me and ask me to help them with their papers. I would end up editing them. I was always given great compliments. “It was so good. My teacher said, it’s just so well edited.” So I kind of was like, “Oh, I have a little skill there.” When I graduated from college, I was looking for jobs, one of the things I ended up doing was freelance editing. I fell into that mainly because I didn’t have — I was a struggling writer, one of the struggling artists. It grew from there, the editing kind of grew into the coaching because I would have to explain why I edited something a certain way. Then a writer would say to me, “Well, can you explain to me why you did this?” Then I would, and then it would turn into a whole conversation.

From there it just, “Oh, I’m getting a client. Somebody wants to actually pay me for this.” I was doing that for free at the time. My business then kind of blossomed at that point. I would say that the benefit from that in terms of how I grew as a creator is that I ended up learning. I learned from anyone I work with to begin with. I learned from my students and my clients because their world views open up new ideas for me and new ways of looking at certain things. Because it’s really easy to just have our own vision on something, and that really, the only way we’re going to find a different way of looking at something is by talking to other people, and having conversations and listening to other people. I found that to be a good teacher, you have to be a good learner. When you’re a good learner, you grow as a creator. It was a cycle for me. So every time I was teaching somebody, it absolutely came back to me in a way that ended up growing my creativity.

[00:18:30] BS: Very cool. I got the same thing out of teaching when I used to teach dance for so many years, and then teaching yoga after that, you definitely grow more as a creator because you are constantly being inspired by the people around you. Maybe you’re teaching younger people too like I was, where they have just a very different generational perspective than you have. Maybe they’re a little bit more ballsy or bold than you would be, and you’re like, “Hmm. Maybe I should push myself a little bit more here or here.” Yeah, there’s so much that you can learn from your students and apply to your creativity. I totally agree.

On the flip side of that, I was wondering how teaching maybe impacts your creativity in another way, which I don’t want to say negatively. But do you ever deal with burnout or anything? Because I know that that was something that I really struggled with when I was teaching all the time for a living, and then also trying to create, and it was all very intertwined.

[00:19:40] KJ: I don’t know that I’ve ever struggled with burnout, but what I would say is, yeah, I find it hard to juggle the different aspects of everything that I do. More than once, I’ve asked myself, “Is there any aspect of my business that I could pull back on?” Because I am so busy and I’m so inundated. I love everything that I do and that’s why I’m doing it. I don’t feel like I’m forced to do anything, and I don’t feel like I’m being dragged to do anything. I love working with people, I love the editing, I love the coaching. I love writing books, all of that, but I also love my fiction. More often than not, I keep saying, my fiction is being sacrificed for my business, the paying part of my business.

[00:20:43] BS: You’re like, “Well, this one pays. This one doesn’t and it’s a lot of fucking work.”

[00:20:49] KJ: It is. For me, I can’t do one — they work hand in hand. The reason I work with clients, I’m a writing coach is because I am also a fiction writer, so I can do that. And I’m a better fiction writer because I’ve been working with these clients who I’m learning various things, from whatever that might be. Then there are some days where I just really struggled with juggling it all.

[00:21:27] BS: On top of all the things you just mentioned, you’re writing coach, you edit books, you’re an author. And then you also founded Writers for Wildlife. Is that a program that you still have going as well?

[00:21:39] KJ: Yeah.

[00:21:46] BS: Oh, yeah. Let’s do that too, throw it all in there.

[00:21:48] KJ: Right, right. That one is definitely my way of giving back to the earth, to the community, to people who are in need, to species who are in need. Really, I’m a big believer in wildlife conservation and I support all kinds of foundations that are trying to basically save us from the next mass extinction. I’m very angry about all of the climate issues that we’re having, and so this is my way of speaking up or helping out. If I could do that full-time and be like full on in, I probably would. Because next to writing, that is my passion.

[00:22:46] BS: Yeah. I always think about that beautiful photo I have of you. I’m actually looking at it right now on my computer, on my blog. You were — and this is something I forgot to mention earlier with how we know each other, is that you were a guest on the Life Enthusiast Chronicles on my blog. This is basically version 2.0 of the Life Enthusiast Chronicles, this podcast. There’s this beautiful photo of you with a wolf and I just love it. I always think about your passion for wolves, wolves and writing.

[00:23:22] KJ: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yes, that picture, that’s when I went to a sanctuary in Maine for wolves who had been rescued from, basically from people who own them as pets and then realized that a wolf is actually doesn’t make a good pet, and they were given up because the wolf became too much to handle. These wolves, it’s the end of the line for them. The wolves can’t be returned to the wild after being a pet, so they have to go to these sanctuaries or be euthanized. A lot of these sanctuaries, there are little holes on the wall in all honesty. This one in Maine is in a backyard of a woman’s house. I mean, she’s definitely — she’s has all of the — she’s legal, so it’s nothing like that. But I mean, these are the really the only sanctuaries that these wolves can — they have a chance for. Otherwise, they would have been euthanized.

That one, Denali, that’s the wolf that is in the photo, sweetest, sweetest little guy, but that’s as far as he could go. He could never be put back to the wild and he could never actually be a pet, so he had to be in the sanctuary. It was the best place for him, but it’s stuff like that where I get so angry with people and their interference with nature.

[00:24:50] BS: Yeah, I do too. I don’t even know what to say about it. Like I almost get so upset about it that I can’t say anything. It’s the weirdest thing. I can’t describe it. I’m glad there’s people like you who are bringing that story forward, and sharing your voice and your passion for those causes as well.

[00:25:10] KJ: I try to get back to a neutral place, where once I’m in that neutral place, then I can look at the situation that I was dealing with that set me down the downward spiral and ask myself, “Okay. What just happened there? Why are you slamming herself? Why are you allowing this situation to ruin your day?” From there, I’ll be able to figure out what’s really going on, because it’s never really about a client that might be unhappy, or the book that just isn’t going well or anything like that. There’s always something deeper that’s happening.

Once I’m able to do that and just kind of rely on the positive thinking, I can turn my day around. This was something that I actually — I just wrote a book on this, which will be published later this year called Positively Creative, and I actually did affirmation cards to go with it. I wrote this during a really tough time when we were dealing with quarantine, at the very beginning of quarantine. The only thing I could really focus on was creativity to try to get me through what was very scary for everyone in the world. Creativity was what pulled me through and I ended up writing a book.

[00:26:41] BS: You were feeling extra creative.

[00:26:43] KJ: Yeah, exactly. I did, I just talked about how positive thinking. There’s so much power there that can really get people out of any rough situation, any negative situation and you can literally improve your life just through positive thoughts.

[00:27:10] BS: I love that. You’re actually the second person on the podcast to talk about affirmations, which is not something that I’ve gotten into. But back in Episode 10, with Meena Azzollini, she was talking about affirmations and I made her explain this to me. Because I was like, “Okay, I’ve heard of this.” But I just don’t know if it’s for me, I guess, sometimes I’m thinking, is this cheesy? She had some good examples of even just going really simple with the affirmations that you choose. I mean, she’s a writer as well, so she creates her own. But she said, you can go as simple as even being thankful for your bed and saying that as you’re going to bed. I’ve actually used that one a few times, and I really liked that one.

[00:27:55] KJ: That’s a great one.

[00:27:58] BS: Yeah. Do you have any affirmations that you go to regularly or do you kind of change them up?

[00:28:06] KJ: Both. I have some that I automatically use when I noticed that I’m going through — getting into the limiting beliefs, and those are starting to take over. Then once I catch myself, I’ll just repeat something like, “I am worthy” is a really good one. “I am worthy. I am good enough.” That one is a big one for me, especially with my fiction, because it’s such a competitive field. “I am a good enough writer.” Anything along those lines has a lot of value to it, and you can mix it up in whatever way you need to, to kind of fit the situation that you’re facing as far as doing just random ones.

One of the things I love to say is, “I am so grateful for this beautiful morning that I get to walk with my dog.” My dog is 12 and a half years old, so the fact that I get one more morning with her, where she’s able to walk with me, I find it helps me get just in a really good state of mind. It can lead. One thought, one positive thought will lead to another, will lead to another, just like it works with the negative thoughts. One negative thought will lead to another and they build upon each other. Before, you know it, you’ve spent three days slamming herself. Well, it’s the same thing with positive thinking. If you just start practicing it, you can really get into a very strong, powerful state of mind that can do a lot to move you through blocks and other really tough situations.

[00:29:48] BS: Yeah. There is a mantra that I do love, and I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it. It’s called — and this is in Sanskrit, so it’s, “Soham” and it means I am that. Your “I am worthy” one to me is, I love “I am that” because it’s really one in the same. I think worthiness is something that we all struggle with and creative people especially struggle with it. Well, thank you for sharing those. I did get a little choked up when you were talking about your morning, walks with your dog, because as you probably know, my black and white Panda cat also known as Aphrodite. She is really getting up there in age, she is going to be 17 next month. One of the positives of this year was being able to spend so much time with her instead of traveling or running around like I was before. I’m with you just really appreciating those beautiful moments that we have with the people in our lives, of course too and and also our pets, especially anyone or any animal that’s getting up there in age.

[00:31:08] KJ: Totally! Yeah. That’s a great way. Every day you could just say, “I am so happy to have this cat in my life. I am so happy to spend the snuggle time with my pet.” It’s just — it makes you feel like — I feel like the pet knows it too when you have that moment with them, so it’s win-win.

[00:31:31] BS: They do. It’s strange. They look you right in the eyes and you just have these various special moments. Of course, I always cry. I’ve cried so many times this year when I have those moments with her, but I feel like she knows or she just thinks I’m crazy and she wants me to feed her. She’s like, “Come on! Where is the food? Where is the salmon pate?”

[00:31:57] KJ: “Feed me woman.”

[00:31:58] BS: “Feed me. That’s all I really want.” Okay. Let’s talk about mindset coaching, because this is something that you mentioned that you do, which I found interesting. Can you talk about how you use mindset coaching to empower people to tap into their creative forces?

[00:32:17] KJ: Sure. Creative forces is kind of a term that I came up with when I was struggling a while back, trying to find a writing process that would work for me. I had been reading up on what all the gurus had to say, but they did this or they did that. So I would try all of their advice and while it was great advice, there was always something that didn’t fit for me. Maybe it was because I was a stay-at-home mom, so I wouldn’t be able to do this guy’s advice. Or maybe it was because I was working several different jobs at once, so I couldn’t do this advice. Then it finally dawned on me that really, what I needed to do was to figure out who I am as a writer, and how I work and then come up with a process based on that core information.

Every single one of us has a system of what I call internal and external forces, which are basically made up of personality traits, values, lifestyle, triggers, habits, moods, beliefs, you name it. We all have it, but it all is very different from one person to the next. I believe that once you know who you are as a writer, and how you work and under what conditions you work best, then you can defeat writer’s block. You can finish that project. You can manage your time. And that from there is all about your mindset, because if you have the confidence and you understand how you work, then you can do whatever it is you need to do to get through the day. I think that when we get into a situation where we don’t know enough about ourselves, we might be struggling with productivity or setting goals. We’re from one day to the next, we’re not meeting our goals.

Then we start thinking we’re terrible, that we suck at this, that I’m not meeting my goals, so I must be a terrible writer or whatever. We just really get on ourselves. If we can bring it back to the mindset and remember the positive thinking, that can combat all those limiting beliefs that we have going on, and we get back into our natural state of, “Oh! This is how I work, and this is what I need to be able to do my work. It’s not that I’m bad at setting goals, it’s just that maybe I need to do this first because this is my — I’m letting this habit get in the way or I’m letting this distraction get in the way.” It’s really just about understanding who you are as a writer or any creative really. Then understanding how you work and then applying all of that knowledge to your day.

I think the other thing that’s really important to keep in mind is that we don’t work the same way all the time. A lot of times we’ll say, “Well, last month, I was able to work eight hours a day with no problem. But this month, for whatever reason, I can’t even work five hours a day.” A lot of that is just, there could be something else happening in your life that you might not have even been fully aware of that was impacting you. Maybe your kids are suddenly home, which is brand new for a lot of us. Maybe last month that wasn’t the case and this month it is and it’s subconsciously affecting you. Because maybe you feel like you have to be a mom and you can’t focus on your work. There’s just a lot of things that happen that we’re not even paying attention to. We automatically want to blame ourselves, or we want to point the finger at something else rather than just taking it in and understanding, “You know what? This is all about how I am mindfully and where I’m at mindfully every single day.”

[00:36:44] BS: Yeah. We are way too hard on ourselves, and a lot of that has to do with us living in such a goal driven society. It’s just strange that it actually starts when we’re really young. I mean, it goes back to school. It goes back to the classroom and getting good grades, and a little bit of competition maybe too with other students in the class. And a lot of these competitive games and sports, and just all of this stuff. Then it continues as we become adults in the workplace, and it’s just something that you really can’t get away from.

I personally have really worked on having more meaningful goals versus having lots of goals. Lots of goals too, what sucks about it is, you can end up having goals and like domestic things, or even like hobbies that you really enjoy and maybe you don’t need to have goals. Like, did you ever do on Good Reads, and I’m looking at an old blog of mine where I talked about this. I used to do those Good Reads reading challenges.

[00:37:48] KJ: Oh yeah. Like a hundred books a year or something like that.

[00:37:52] BS: Those were stressing me out. I stopped doing them. I mean, I’m sitting here thinking and there’s this progress bar too. And speaking of feeling like you did a bad job or that you failed, that was starting to make me feel like I was failing or that I wasn’t reading enough. And reading is something that should be enjoyed and I stopped doing those. That’s just one example of having a goal in a place where maybe you don’t need a goal there. Just chill out.

[00:38:26] KJ: Yeah, exactly. Isn’t that funny? I think that when we have these challenging situations that come up, and I mean, we can look at anything and make it a challenge. Just reading a book can be a challenge. When we start to understand how we’re approaching it, that’s really where we get ourselves stuck, is in our approach. Then we start blaming, then we start getting all mad at ourselves or criticizing ourselves for something. Then once you’re in that space, it makes the whole — everything just kind of takes a new negative spin, and it’s really hard to get back to the original situation like, “Oh, I just needed to read a book.”

[00:39:13] BS: Yeah. Something I’m supposed to be doing in my downtime. At first, when I started the challenge, it was for a good reason. I wanted to read more. I was really struggling with reading because of writing so much fiction, and I have talked about this on the podcast where sometimes it’s really difficult for me to unwind with fiction depending on where I’m at in the writing process. Like if I’m writing fiction, especially if I’m editing fiction, it’s hard for me to enjoy reading. It came out of a good place, but eventually I was strong enough to realize that it was overpowering my life in some sort of odd way and that I needed to ditch it.

Kate, can you talk about a time when you hit a wall. And I know we talk about in writing, we actually have a writing wall that we might hit, but this might be more of a wall that you’ve hit in your life. Talk about a time you hit a wall and how you move past it.

[00:40:07] KJ: Yeah. Well, my wall is definitely writing related. Most of my walls are. One of the ones that comes to mind right away is, I had finished one of my novels and I had made the decision that I wanted to do the traditional publishing route versus independent publishing route. What that meant for anyone who has never gone through this process, you have to query literary agents. That just a whole other podcast.

[00:40:44] BS: I’ll have you back on so we could talk about that joyful experience, because I have a spreadsheet, and I think I emailed like, I don’t know, 200 literary agents over the past two years for my fourth novel. Now, I’ve decided I will be self-publishing.

[00:41:00] KJ: Oh my goodness. Yeah. Okay.

[00:41:01] BS: But anyways, continue.

[00:41:04] KJ: Yeah. You are familiar. You basically have to make that decision of commitment and that it’s not something that you can just kind of throw out five queries, and sit back and eat bon bons. Like this is something that you have to really make a commitment to. It’s a time commitment, it’s an energy commitment, the whole nine yards. I knew all that, so I was like, “Al right. This is fine. I figured out what I needed to do and did it.” I don’t know how many months and how many rejections I went through when I hit that wall, and those limiting beliefs started filtering in like, “Ugh! My book must be awful. I must be a terrible writer.” Even though I would get requests here and there for, “Oh, can you send me your first 50 pages” or “Oh, I’d like to see the whole thing,” which is like, “Oh my God!”

[00:42:00] BS: You’re like, “This is it!”

[00:42:02] KJ: This is it.

[00:42:03] BS: Not, it’s not.

[00:42:06] KJ: You get like, “Yeah. Sorry, it’s not, for me.” There’s not really a huge indicator of what it is in your book that didn’t do it. So you’re left with struggling even more because now you’re like, you have even less information. It’s very demoralizing, and it’s depressing and it takes so much out of you. I definitely hit the wall, definitely started self-criticizing, limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, you name it. I was in it. I don’t know how long I had been on this downward spiral of just slamming myself until I finally realized what I was doing and understanding because of the work — all that inner work that I’ve been doing already with — using the positive thoughts and really trying to get through any tough situation using positive thoughts. I’m like, “Oh my God, Kate! This is what you teach and you’re not even doing it. Like you teach people how to use positive thinking to get through stuff, why the heck aren’t you doing it for yourself?” I’m like, “Okay.”

What I ended up doing is, and this is very basic outline of one way I handled it is, I started tracking all of the limiting beliefs and all of the negative thoughts that went through my head, every single one in my journal. For every negative thought that I had, I wrote down the opposite of that. So if I wrote — if I had a thought, I’m a terrible writer, I wrote that down, but immediately I wrote the opposite. I am a really good writer or I’m a fantastic writer, or however I want to do it. The act of writing it down was really powerful for me because I saw it. It was an act that I was doing, so I was actually writing it. Which was telling my subconscious mind that I believed it, that this was something, even though I didn’t feel like it was my truth, there was something in there that made it like, this is your truth, you just have to get back to it.

This probably went on for a couple of weeks, and finally I got out of that negative spiral. I was back to kind of a very neutral flat zone where I wasn’t self-criticizing anymore, but I wasn’t feeling wonderful either. It allowed me though to come up with evidence from my past, all the times that I have been given compliments, all the times that I have been told, “Yeah, Kate. I love this blog post that you wrote” or “This email that you sent out for your Newsletter really spoke to me” or “I love what you said about this.” Any review that I got on a previous short story that I wrote, or a book that I wrote, anything that was complimentary or just made me feel good and I wrote all of those down. That totally helped me remind myself, “You know what? This is just an experience and it’s not the truth.” I’m just having an experience that I need to get through with my creative life. Once I realized that, I understood what I needed to do differently about my book, and where I had gone wrong with the querying. That opened up a huge opportunity for me. I went down a different path and came up with a different idea and basically came out of that, bounce back basically.

[00:45:57] BS: Awesome, Kate. I mean, I’ve been there. I’ve been there recently. Like you, I went into the querying process with a pretty confident skip in my step, thinking, “Okay. This isn’t my first novel. This is my fourth novel.” I’ve self-published the other three. I’m a content strategist. I help other businesses with their marketing. I know how to market my work and I do marketing for a living. So that’s going to be appealing to them. I’ve built my platform, the platform that we were all told to start as writers probably in the year 2012, when we all started our blogs. I’ve built my platform both on the blog and on social media, so I thought I was a catch. No, I’m just kidding. I didn’t think I was a catch. But I went to one of those writer conferences for my first time that kind of kicked this whole thing off. Talk about a demoralizing experience, I did one of those, whatever those things are called, those pitching sessions. They remind me of speed dating when that used to be a thing before Tinder and everything.

Anyways, for people who don’t know, this is just the worst thing ever. You basically just go into this. I was in a conference room at a hotel and you get like, however, maybe 5 to 10 minutes with an agent and you just try to pitch your novel to them. The very first guy that I pitched my novel to, and it’s an urban fantasy, dystopian, it’s called Virasana. Which for anyone who’s familiar with Yoga, Virasana means hero’s pose. The guy hated it, like he was just like, “No” and I’m like, “Will you tell me why?” and he’s just, “It’s just not for me. It’s not very good.” I almost burst out into tears in front of him. What sucked is I had back-to-back pitches that I needed to do right after him. I thought I was just going to cry and go home.

I went outside, took some big, deep cleansing breaths, probably said some of those affirmations without realizing it just to get my act together. And I went back in there and the other literary agents were much nicer. Nobody was mean to me like the first guy was, and they also asked for me to send some pages, which I got all excited about. Then of course, nothing happened from those either.

[00:48:35] KJ: Well, that’s too bad that first guy.

[00:48:38] BS: Yeah, the first guy, come on, give us a break.

[00:48:40] KJ: That’s not necessary.

[00:48:42] BS: Totally not necessary. Anyways, I almost — I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry or hit him, but that’s usually my reaction whenever I get angry, I just start crying. But I also kind of want to hit people, which I did not. But yeah, it’s really tough and you’re talking about like just going down that negative spiral and you weren’t practicing what you preach to your own students. But it’s tough, you’re so close to it. It’s something that you love. I mean, it’s your creative work that you literally as Hemingway once said, “You bleed on the page.” That’s what happens when you write, so it’s okay.

[00:49:18] KJ: Yeah, it’s all good.

[00:49:20] BS: Yeah. It sounds like you came out of it. I’ve come out of it as well, where I’m just like, “Well, I can always self-publish. That’s always there.”

[00:49:29] KJ: Right. You really do have to kind of look at things and just believe that there’s rejection as God’s protection. I’ve heard that before and whether or not you believe in God, you can say spirit. universe, Allah, whatever you want to say. I have come to the understanding that there’s always something better after a loss, or after tragedy, or after a rejection from a literary agent. That it just opens up your space for something else to come in. As long as we’re ready to receive that, then we are able to move on to a better place. It’s when we’re resisting it and when we’re fighting it, and when we’re in denial or saying, “No, they’re wrong. That agent just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Then that’s how we stay stuck.

[00:50:25] BS: Yeah. Like said when you’re fighting it, and that’s such a great way to describe it. You actually feel like you’re fighting, you’re fighting the world. Like you feel like you’re fighting that agent, you feel like you’re fighting yourself, you’re fighting the book itself. I mean, just everything is just this fight and it really shouldn’t be that way. It doesn’t need to be that way.

[00:50:44] KJ: No.

[00:50:46] BS: Kate, if an author was dealing with imposter syndrome, which is something that happens very, very commonly in our world, what would you say to help them feel more confident?

[00:50:58] KJ: This is such a good question, because I’ve definitely been here. I think everybody has in one way or another. The first thing I would say right away is, if you’re feeling like you’re being an imposter, then that means you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone. You have taken a chance on yourself, you’ve taken a risk, so that’s a high five from me. Because way too often, we keep ourselves safe. We don’t try something new because we’re afraid that we’re going to mess up or we’re going to look like fools. We’re going to be made fun of or laughed at. So then we don’t and we don’t grow in that space. I would say if you’re feeling it, then that means you’ve done something amazing, so congratulations.

Beyond that, I would say, you need to accept where you are because you are where you are for a reason. How you got to this moment is an evolution. It’s an evolution of growth, mistakes, wins, and everything you brought to this moment is a result of showing up last week, six months ago, two years ago, the courses you took, the writing groups you joined. Basically, you’re here because of all the times you cared about your creativity. Where you are today is not where you were six months ago. But what you did six months ago led you to today. If you really stopped to think about that, then you know especially if you’re thinking you’ve wasted your time, or you’ve made a bad choice, you’ve made the wrong decision, or you have any regrets. Then you have to know though that it got you to this moment. And what you’re doing now today is just going to lead you into a new version of your next creative self and that’s going to look different. That’s because, the bottom line is that we are lifelong creators and lifelong learners, and we’re always evolving.

Where you are today, you’re not going to stay here today and you’re going to be somewhere different down the road, whatever that means for you. There’s nothing fake, nothing fake about your journey. I think you need to embrace how far you’ve come because that’s evidence of you showing up before

[00:53:36] BS: Beautifully said, Kate. Can you let the listeners know how they can stay in touch with you and find more info?

[00:53:43] KJ: My website, which I also blog on is katejohnstonauthor.com. I run a writing group on Facebook called Team Writer. I’m on Instagram, and Pinterest and Twitter as katejauthor.

[00:54:04] BS: Awesome. I will include all of these in the show notes. I did not know about your Facebook group. I should get in there.

[00:54:11] KJ: Oh, yeah.

[00:54:12] BS: What the hell? I don’t know why I’m just finding out about this.

[00:54:17] KJ: Yeah, it’s a super-secret society.

[00:54:20] BS: Okay. Well, I would like to be included. All right, Kate. Thank you so much for being on the show. It was awesome hearing your voice for the first time ever in our eight years of knowing each other. Such a wonderful conversation.

[00:54:36] KJ: I’m so happy to have had this chance to get to know you better and to chat with you. This was so much fun. Thank you so much.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:54:47] BS: Hey, thanks for tuning in to Love Your Enthusiasm. Any links and resources mentioned during this episode can be found on loveyourenthusiasm.com. While you’re there, subscribe to get the latest episodes delivered straight to your inbox. And if you want to show your love for the show, I would be very appreciative if you would rate, review and share on social. Take care and I look forward to hanging out with you next time.

[END]

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