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Mindset Matters: Just Show Up by Tracy Vogelgesang

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

You want to be a writer. You feel it there, somewhere deep inside. It seems to be in your thoughts frequently, maybe always, and the idea of it feels good.

Something, though, are not quite sure holding you back.

What could be preventing you from following that urge to put your thoughts on paper?

Could it be fear? Self-doubt?

Think about this quote from Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland. (Substitute the word writing for making art, if you wish.) Does this sound familiar?

“Making art can feel dangerous and revealing. Making art is dangerous and revealing. Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be. For many people, that alone is enough to prevent their ever getting started at all…”

You see, fear prevents us from doing so many things.

It makes us question our dreams and worry about what other people may think.

Do any of these thoughts ever come to mind?

  • Will people think I’m stupid or foolish?

  • Who would want to read what I write?

  • What if I have nothing worthwhile to say?

  • I don’t have what it takes to be a writer.

If you have these thoughts, it is okay! We all have similar thoughts and feelings about writing.

As Steven Pressfield explains in The War of Art, even seasoned writers are often plagued with self-doubt and fear

“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

The trick to overcoming this fear is to push through it and write.

Sit down with paper and pen or your computer and write.

Give your self-editor the day off.

Don’t worry about the audience. Your audience can be an audience of one...yourself.

The main thing is that you get started writing, even if no one but you is going to read it. You can think about an audience later after you have developed your writing habit.

When you sit down to write, do not worry.

There are no writing rules to follow.

No one will check your spelling.

What do you want to write?

  • An entry in a notebook (journal, diary, etc.)?

  • A letter?

  • A list of ideas?

  • A comic?

  • A story?

  • A blog post?

  • A book?

It doesn’t matter.

The important thing is to sit down and write as often as possible.

With the act of writing, the ideas and type of writing will come.

In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King warns us not to wait for inspiration to strike. When you write regularly, the inspirational muse knows where and when you are and it will find you.

Just show up.

In the words of Louie L'Amour: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

Your Invite to Write

So, today I invite you to just show up for your writing.

Find a comfy spot, open your notebook or laptop, find your favorite pens in your favorite colors, and write whatever is on your mind.

Need some ideas to get you started?

  • Start with a list of what is holding you back from writing

  • Begin with a memory of someone or something

  • Pick a random word and see where it takes you

  • Write what is happening all around you at that very minute (Go deep and use all of your senses.)

  • Fill a page with a thought download of anything and everything that's on your mind. (Here at Teach Write, we call these pages 'Anytime Pages'.)

Sometimes when my students are at a loss for ideas, I suggest that they write in great detail about what they ate for breakfast or lunch. I ask them to describe how the food looked, smelled, and tasted. What textures did they experience? What did they like or dislike? My students often look at me like I am crazy, but I find that this is a good jumping-off point for them. Soon they are writing page after page in their writer’s notebooks. Simply noticing what is going on around you can often be enough to trigger other ideas.

After you write today, I encourage you to set aside a time to show up again tomorrow.

Make it a special time, if you wish, a ritual just for you. Bring your favorite beverage and perhaps a snack, find a comfortable place that brings you joy, and write. You may find that this is an act of self-care that becomes a treasured part of your day every day.

You will notice your fear and self-doubt become quieter.

“You are a writer. You just need to write.”-Jeff Goins, You Are a Writer

Tracy Vogelgesang is a writing and science teacher for students in grades 3-5 in Indiana. She is proud to be a teacher who writes because it creates a true sense of community in her classroom. As a longtime member of Teach Write’s Time to Write workshop, Tracy has pushed herself to change her mindset and say “I am a writer” as often as she can. In her monthly post, she will write about ways you can change your writing mindset too! You can connect with Tracy on Twitter and her blog.


At Teach Write, we believe that teachers who write make the best teachers of writers.

We provide professional development, workshops, and education to help teachers connect their writing life to their writing instruction.

Through this blog, we share ways to help both you and your students grow as writers.

Follow along with all Teach Write happenings by signing up for our email list, following us on Twitter, enrolling in a writing workshop in the Teach Write Academy, and by joining the Teach Write Community on Facebook.

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