In the entire sum of my years of writing, the biggest problem that I’ve faced (and continue to face) is that of fear holding me back. There is this sense of perfectionism, this idea that if I can’t do things perfectly, then why should I do them? There is this intense feeling of trepidation; I love writing so much and it’s such an integral part of my identity, where would I be if I “failed”?
Does this sound familiar?
Luckily, I love writing so much that I’ve developed some techniques to help work around this self-sabotage. I’d love to share one of them with you now.
The idea is both simple and silly enough to battle these always serious and sometimes draining emotions: hats.
I got the idea from Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). He uses hats as a way to get himself in the right mindset and to signify to him that day’s approach.
When I tried his trick, I saw the merits of his avenue, but I saw additional possibilities, as well. Above and beyond using hats as a way to get my mind in gear, I’ve used it as a way to get outside myself and even to establish a closer connection with my characters. Different hats have different characteristics, so they can be used to consciously focus on qualities you want to channel, embody, write about, or some combination thereof.
I’ve included a collage of personas as examples. As a writing exercise, consider giving them names and traits you admire or to which you aspire. Give them a a fear or a flaw to see how they handle it and see if you can pick up any ideas from them.
1. Veronica “Ronnie” the cowgirl is tough, stubborn, down-to-earth, and endlessly optimistic. She loves all animals with a passion and has a fear of heights. She fell out of a tree when she was 9 trying to save a baby bird. Since then she’s tried to get over her fear by hiking mountains and is building her way up to rock climbing, something she’s always thought looked fun but has been too afraid to do.
2. Melanie lived a sheltered life, which makes her continuing transition into college a bit of a struggle at times. Her main goal in life is to be a singer, but she has terrible stage fright. In fact, she has acute social anxiety. She is fiercely proud of her younger sister and looks to her for inspiration. Melanie is a romantic who tries not to let disillusionment upset her.
3. Marie’s parents are both college professors so she has sailed the world during sabbatical with them in their family sail boat. Her parents pushed her into pursuing a medical career but she yearns to do something in international relations. Marie is organized and always planning.
4. Drífa is a shield maiden who lived in the 8th century. She protects her son and village with courage, determination, and skill. She knows her worth, is never afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and isn’t afraid to work to get her way. Drífa has a long memory and is determined to confront a demon from her childhood.
5. Reba is a quirky extrovert and is often taken less seriously than she deserves. Her childhood home life wasn’t the greatest and she currently doesn’t talk to her mom. Because of this she is independent and reliable but has trust issues and only has one or two close friends.
It goes without saying that this exercise doesn’t have to be done with hats. A broach, a watch, a scarf, even an object like a pen or typewriter, can serve similar functions.
Please let me know if this article helped or if you’ve thought of something to add. I would love to hear from you.