How to Tackle Something New

A few years ago I lamented to a friend that at my age it’s rare to experience something completely new — not because I’ve experienced everything possible, but rather because most things will remind me of something else. For instance, visiting a foreign country will remind me of another foreign country or even a part of the U.S. That happened when I went to Denmark for the first time — the landscape reminded me of Iowa. And visiting Banff in Canada reminded me of the Pacific Northwest.

When it comes to tasting a new food, it will inevitably have notes of something I’ve already eaten. The other week I ate jujubes for the first time and they reminded me of a mix between dates and apples. Does that mean I’m doomed to never experience something new again? It turns out, no. There are experiences off my radar that are or will be completely new to me.

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These are jujubes. Photo by Mona Mok on Unsplash

In fact, that happened recently. In addition to working as a healthcare journalist and being a writer for mental health professionals, I’ve also written a romcom novel. While I could publish it myself, I want to go the traditional route and have been trying to get literary agent representation for the past year and a half to no avail. Did you know literary agents receive 18,000 submissions a year and they only sign five new clients from those submissions? I didn’t.

Most literary agents sign new authors NOT from wading through the slush pile of unsolicited query letters, but rather via referrals from existing clients and meeting them at networking  events like conferences. Often those conferences have pitch sessions, which are typically 10 minutes of one-on-one time with a literary agent. Those sessions are a chance to do what it sounds like — pitch your book.

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There’s a lot that takes place behind the scenes to get one of these out in the world. Photo by Mikołaj on Unsplash

As someone who has her own business as a ghostwriter for mental health professionals and is a content writer for small businesses, I’ve written oodles of things over the years about why people should work with me, how I’m better than artificial intelligence, etc. but I’ve NEVER had 10 minutes “in person” with a literary agent to tell them about my book and why it matters. (My recent meetings were over Zoom so not quite in person, but similar.)

I’m not ashamed to say the prospect scared the beejezus out of me. Here was a situation for which I had no frame of reference! Just like I asked for! And it was terrifying! But also thrilling! At first I cried because I was stressed about it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well because this could be my big break. And then I reminded myself if I performed dismally I could only get better. And there would be other conferences, other agents, etc. Plus, I searched YouTube high and low for a video to help me prepare. I didn’t find quite what I was looking for but I did get some tips.

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I scoured YouTube, let me tell you. Photo by CardMapr on Unsplash

After rehearsing over and over again (and practicing with my sister who is a performance coach), I reminded myself I didn’t have to be perfect or “right.” Instead, I can treat myself like I would a niece or nephew.

I said, “Rebekah, no matter what happens, I’m proud of you. You’re doing something new, you’re showing up for yourself and your dreams. That’s amazing! Great job!” And you know what? It helped. I brought that attitude into my anxiety-provoking experience and reminded myself I didn’t have to be perfect. I was in the situation to learn, to try my best, and that’s all anyone could ask for.

You know what happened? I knocked it out of the park. All the agents I spoke with said my pitch was fantastic and they were surprised I hadn’t pitched before(!!!). That’s very much NOT the outcome I expected but I’ll take it!

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This was me, metaphorically speaking. Photo by Josh Hemsley on Unsplash

Why am I writing about this on a business website? Because it makes me wonder how often we stop ourselves from doing something new, something that scares us, because we want to be perfect, we want to do it “right.” Or maybe we stop ourselves from doing something because it’s too scary. Maybe we’re nervous to reach out to a new client, or charge the rate we really want, or whatever. Instead of talking ourselves out of it, why not treat ourselves the way we would a beloved small child? Why not say, “You can do it! I believe in you!” What would the outcome be in that situation? You might find the experience to be exhilarating instead of terrifying.

Maybe reaching out to me, growing your online presence, getting your voice heard, feels scary. I get that but it could also be the best thing you do for yourself. I write for mental health professionals just like you and create content for small businesses just like yours. Contact me today to see if we’re a good fit.

The Two Schools of Writing Thought

As you might have guessed, I do a LOT of writing. Not only am I a freelance content writer and a ghostwriter for therapists and other busy professionals, I also write for fun! I have a blog called “Another World is Probable” that I post in every week and I wrote a novel! Some days I feel like a writing machine.

What’s my secret to writing so much? I blend together two writing philosophies: write on a schedule and write when you feel inspired.

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1. Writing on a Schedule

Some people say you can’t wait to be inspired to write something because then you’ll never sit down and write. Instead, treat writing like a job and write at a specified time every day or every week. Getting into a routine will clear the pipes and let you write a blogpost for a therapist or your submission to the Huffington Post.

There’s a quote that perhaps comes from William Faulkner, perhaps someone else (there’s not clear evidence supporting who said it) that goes:

“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”

For some people that works. They create a schedule and stick to it. They’re more productive, they procrastinate less, and they’re able to be prolific. This is the tactic I use to write in “Another World is Probable.” I sit down to write those posts usually around noon on Sundays. I also more or less stick to a schedule when I ghostwrite blogs for therapists and other busy professionals. It may not be at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, but I write during my work day because, well, this is my job.

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2. Writing When You’re Inspired

There are other people who swear by writing when they’re inspired. When they’re in a flow, they just write and write and write. They’ll prewrite 10 blogposts and schedule them in advance, and then they no longer have to worry about what they’ll say and when. It’s called batch producing them.

The idea is that it’s quicker and easier to produce a blogpost (or whatever) if you’re already in that groove. If you’re already looking for images, look for several images that you can use later as well. If you’re already brainstorming ideas, keep brainstorming so you don’t have to pull an idea from thin air next week or next month. And if you already jot down key points as well as sources you’d like to cite, then when you’re doing the writing, it will be less work because you’re just “filling in” the details.

In this way, you’re harnessing your creative energy cycle and you’re focusing on one task at a time. Some people swear by batch producing because it frees up their time to work on other things when they feel like it. I also do some batch producing — I’ll have a day where all I do is write and then the next day I focus on editing.

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3. In the End. . .

For me, what it all comes down is working with what’s there. If I’m too exhausted to write something new, if I can’t seem to use the right “they’re and their” (it happened!), then I know I shouldn’t be writing. If I’m that depleted, it’s better for me to do something else, like editing, because it uses a different part of my brain.

Everyone likes to say what you “should” do and the “best” way to do             , but in my opinion all that really matters is it working for you? If it does, awesome. If not, try something else. And if you find the whole writing process to be very stressful, that’s fine! Reach out to me — I’ll take the stress out of writing and whether I’m writing on a schedule or batch producing, you can count on me to get the job done.

An Example of Ghostwriting for Therapists

One of my specialties is ghostwriting for therapists, whether that’s blogs or books. Today I wanted to showcase an example of that work. As a disclaimer, I am NOT a licensed therapist so please don’t hold me liable for your mental health care. My work as a ghostwriter is to serve busy professionals who don’t have time to write for themselves, not to be a stand-in for a therapist.

Why Therapy Works

If you’re not currently in therapy, you may be wondering if therapy actually works or if it’s a bunch of baloney. Is therapy just for people who don’t have enough friends to talk to? (The short answer is “no.”)

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There are many different kinds of therapy – EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, used to treat trauma), cognitive behavioral therapy (used to disrupt negative thinking patterns), somatic therapy (used to put a person in touch with their body), expressive arts therapy (using art to promote emotional growth), and about a billion more. Each modality has its own unique characteristics with research backing why it’s effective. This is not a post going into the science behind every sort of therapy, but instead perhaps a controversial statement about why therapy works in general. Therapy works because at its heart it’s a healing relationship.

What I mean is regardless of the modality, the therapist and the patient inevitably enter into a relationship where the therapist is viewed as an authority figure, perhaps even a parental stand-in, which is often called an attachment figure. When the therapist meets with the client consistently, that creates a secure base and allows the client to feel safe, if the therapist isn’t abusive or critical that is. The therapist becomes a person the client can rely on, a person they can trust consistently for perhaps the first time in their life. Don’t underestimate the power of that.

There are several therapies focused on repairing the ruptured attachment bond people experienced in their childhoods from parents who couldn’t give them what they needed. One such therapy, person-centered therapy, stems from influential humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers. He proposed healing occurs in a climate of safety and trust. In person-centered therapy, the therapist becomes a secure attachment figure and part of that means empathic understanding, or mirroring a client’s emotions without judgment.

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Often the therapist will help the client regulate their emotions through empathy and a change in perspective, which helps the client learn to do the same thing for themselves. The client internalizes the warmth and understanding of their therapist, often hearing their voice internally. That voice becomes the new tape playing in the client’s mind instead of a highly critical or shame-based one. The therapist assumes the functions of a nurturing parent to repair lost trust, restore security, and help a person regulate their emotions as well as experience healthy intimacy, which many people did not receive during their childhoods.

What’s interesting is in the book Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: An Integrative Approach, Elsie Jones-Smith states in the 2013 Delphi poll of expert therapists, only a relatively small percentage said their primary theoretical affiliation is person-centered, even though most subscribe to the importance of therapist empathy. What I take that to mean is whether a therapist is conscious of it or not, empathy plays a huge role in a client’s healing process, and inevitably so does the relational aspect.

In fact, research from Ohio shows that empathy, warmth, hopefulness, and emotional expressiveness led to improved client outcomes more so than adherence to a specific approach.

What’s also fascinating is the research coming from psychologist Allan Schore of the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied attachment from the viewpoint of neurobiology over the past 20 years. He said change as a result of therapy occurs not so much in the intellectual communication between client and therapist, but in a more imperceptible way – through a conversation between two brains and two bodies.

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A good therapist subconsciously tunes in to the unexpressed emotions of a client and adjusts their body language in response to the client’s internal rhythms, engaging in a “kind of dance in which both partners mutually influence and synchronize themselves to each other,” according to an essay on regarding the subject. The essay also states that according to Schore’s research, over time the nonverbal attachment communications from the therapist can “become imprinted into the client’s right brain, revising stored coping patterns, and giving rise to more flexible and adaptive ones.”

That means during therapy, a client’s brain is getting rewired. They are learning a new way of being and thinking. That in turn allows the client to cope better with stress and difficult emotions so that eventually they no longer need therapy. And because the clients have learned to take better care of themselves, they can in turn take better care of others, which creates a ripple effect. That ripple fosters safer homes and communities, but it all starts with the one-on-one relationship.

When you’re working with a client, keep in mind that you may not say the “perfect” thing, or engage in the “perfect” way, but ultimately that’s OK because when it comes down to it, your relationship is more important than any of that.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, contact me about working together. I’d love to partner with you on your writing project.