All posts by Emmeline Chang

The Unconscious Habits that Sabotage Your Creative Work

Want to do your writing or art, even during the busiest times? 

Want to keep your momentum and creative work up… even when your kids are home from school, your partner is out of town, you’re preparing the house for visitors, and you’re fighting off a cold?

You can. 

There are some common pitfalls, but once you know how to handle them, it IS doable.

Last week, my kids were home for Election Day, my husband was away, and I was preparing the house for a new au pair, all while fighting off what I thought might be strep throat.

I was determined to keep writing my latest story, so I planned to go to bed early and get up at 5 a.m. 

As I was trying to get to bed, I noticed something: I was resisting… in a lot of small and subtle ways. 

There was a pushing feeling inside me–a desire to keep DOING things. 

Some were things I did have to do, like ordering groceries for the next day. But, I also felt other impulses come up: to answer an email, do another quick load of laundry, check in with my mastermind group, submit a story to a publication.

This is because one of the internal beliefs–handed down to me by generations of ancestors working the land in Taiwan—is “You have to work hard to survive.”

So naturally, even when it’s time to close down for the day, I have an internal urge to keep going and going… to squeeze in just one more thing.

But, if I had kept going and going, it would mean going to sleep late and then getting up too late to write… losing momentum… and feeling low on energy and “willpower.”

That could mean falling into another negative cycle the next day.

You have your own version of this dynamic.

You might have different circumstances, default beliefs, or pitfalls. 

However, when you try to do your art, you have an internal resistance that emerges. Old beliefs, stories, and habits come out, sabotaging your efforts and making it hard to succeed.

Sometimes these stories and habits play out unconsciously. Other times they play out DESPITE your conscious efforts to resist them.

Until you RECOGNIZE and HANDLE and ultimately SHIFT those habitual responses, they will keep slipping in. They will keep sabotaging your efforts to do your creative work.

By Andrey Kuzmin via Adobe Stock

My clients discover how to recognize their own hidden “habitual resistance” when it comes up (especially when it masquerades as “positive behavior” like taking care of their family).

They get good at stopping the self-sabotage and turning a negative habit into a positive one… so that day after day, they’re taking more photos, adding more pages to their novels, finishing the songs and screenplays and animations they’re meant to bring into the world.

If you want this for yourself, I’m opening a round of my Artist in Action program soon. 

You’ll figure out the unconscious habits that sabotage your creative work (especially when life gets busy!)–and how to transform them into habits that help you DO your art.

You’ll also master the fundamental steps to doing your art regularly and easily. You’ll find time for your creative work and generate the “creative excitement” and momentum to keep moving forward.

Most importantly, you’ll walk away with a full-on commitment to your creative work and career–a true, down-to-your-bones knowing that you are an artist in action. 

If you want in, email me!

The Key to Doing Your Art–Even When “Life Happens”

We all want to the ability to do our creative work, even when things come up or life gets tough.

And it is possible to keep going when the nanny leaves, the roof springs a leak, your mother goes into the hospital, or your partner is working 60-hour weeks.

I talk about this… and I was TESTED these last couple weeks. 

Watch this in video

Our au pair is leaving and we had to find someone new. There were home repairs. My mother-in-law ended up in the hospital, and my husband went out of town to be with her.

At one point I found myself spinning in fear and stress and exhaustion. 

And… being a writer and creative mentor makes me SUPER aware of how I’m being, and what I need to do.

I remembered what I teach: Your state (the state of your body, emotions, thoughts, energy, and spirit) is the most important thing. 

Here’s what I mean: When we have trouble doing our creative work, it seems like doing that work (or finding the time or energy) is so hard. 

But the truth is, what’s hard isn’t DOING the creative work–it’s getting our emotions, thoughts, energy, and schedule in place so we can.

If you’re in a good state, you’ll find a way to do your creative work–even when life gets tough.

Your state is the most important thing. If you’re in a good state, you’ll find a way to do your creative work–even when life gets tough.

And I had to go back to the basics: 

How to get out of the fear and upset and emotional whirl. 

What to do when I was so f*ing tired. 

How to protect my energy. 

What to do so I could make time for my art (in the middle of dealing with the childcare, the household, my business, everything…). 

How to set things up so I could actually succeed at it.

This is what I’ve learned over the years–and what I teach in the Artist in Action program. 

If you want in, let me know. 

You’ll create a strong, flowing, regular practice of doing your art–in the good times, yes, AND also when your child gets sick, you have to work extra hours for a client, relatives come to visit for two weeks, or your partner is on a business trip. 

You’ll know exactly how to manage your state of being, find time, get started, and create momentum. 

And you’ll USE those skills every day–because you’ve BECOME an artist in action.

Interested? Email me!

The Powerful Message Halloween Holds for Your Art

It’s Halloween.

Today is also Samhain, or the witches’ new year. In Celtic tradition, this was the time of year when people honored and connected to loved ones who had died.

Death is part of the cycle of life. It’s also part of the creative cycle. To let in new life, we have to let go of something that is dying.

So, what will you let go of in your creative career? In your life?

(Hint: If you have a “perpetual complaint,” that’s a good place to start. Does one thing always seem to be in your way? Maybe you’re always thinking, “I don’t have time.” Or “I can’t afford it.” “I’m too tired.” “I don’t know how.” “I’m not good enough.”)

If something is always in your way, you MUST let go of it to flourish and thrive.

“But,” you say, “That thing is TRUE! I really don’t have the money, time, energy, connections, talent to succeed at my writing…”

Actually, no. That thing is NOT true. You only believe it is.

I say this lovingly, and with full recognition of how REAL that obstacle may look.

Yes, the numbers in your bank account are real. However, *opportunities* to bring in money are all around you. If you are in the right state, you’ll be able to see and act on them.

The same goes for time, energy, health and more. The limitations you experience feel so real. But there is something you can let go of–some obligation that is draining you, some habit that sucks away your energy–that will free up your time and energy.

If you don’t have the time to do your creative work, you must let go of that story about time… and let go something else you’re spending time on.

(I guarantee there is something you don’t enjoy that you can let go of, or change, or rework, that will give you the time for your creative work AND free up your life force.)

If you don’t have the money to invest in your creative work, you must let go of the belief that you can’t afford it. Let go and choose the commitment to have what you want… and take the actions necessary to come up with the money.

If there’s a toxic belief about yourself that robs you of confidence, a persistent habit that drains you of energy, a situation that keeps getting in the way of your creative work… let it go.

To have something better, you must choose to let go of something worse. You must let it die.

Yes, death can be scary. It’s a journey into the dark unknown. It can be ugly and messy and heart-wrenching and raw. But sometimes it’s a peaceful letting go in the middle of the night.

And always, whatever the night is like, morning comes. Always, when you let go of what is no longer right, freedom awaits.

The witches believe a new year begins this night.

Let your new year–and new life–begin as well.

Photo by Dark Illusion via Adobe Stock

P.S. If you want to let go of the stuff that gets in the way of your creative work… and start being an artist who does your work easily and regularly, let’s talk. 

I’ve put together a program–ARTIST IN ACTION–for talented, hard-working, writers and artists who want to let go of those blocks–and DO their creative work.

Interested? Email me!

The Secret to Cutting Through Those Critical Voices

Ready to cut through those critical voices that sabotage your creative work sessions?

There you are, writing away, when the thought strikes: “This scene isn’t working. It’s not quite believable.” 

As you think about it more, you start to feel doubt: “What if I can’t get this scene to work? The story isn’t going to work if I can’t get this scene.” 

Then, “I’ve been working on this story so long, and I still don’t have it. It’s just not publishable. And I got that other rejection last week. My career is going nowhere. Maybe I’m just not good enough…”

These are your critical voices–working overtime, sabotaging your ability to do your creative work. 

Of course, an inner editor is important for quality control. 

Want to know the difference between an inner editor that SUPPORTS your creative work and one that sabotages it?

It’s whether your editor is mixed up with all your past pain.

If you have a “Wounded Editor,” your editor will be barraging you with negative judgments that have NOTHING to do with your art.  

(If you’ve got an “Empowered Editor,” it will NOT cut you down. Instead, it will make discerning judgments and make your work better.)

So, do you have a Wounded Editor or an Empowered Editor?

Signs that you’ve got a Wounded Editor:

  • Judgments about your work are loaded with value judgments about YOU 
  • Negative feedback is filled with strong emotions like disgust, contempt, guilt, and shame
  • The critical voices barge in randomly, interrupting and drowning out creative inspiration
  • The critical voices sound a lot like the way you criticize yourself in other areas of your life
Photo by fizkes via Adobe Stock

Signs that you’ve got an Empowered Editor:

  • Judgments about your work aren’t connected to judgments about your worth
  • Judgments are grounded and calm–not connected to excessive emotion
  • Your editor works with your creative process, coming in when you need to assess if something’s working and stepping back so you can get back to the work
  • Critiques of your work are not echoes of negative things you say about yourself–but genuine judgments about the work that stand on their own

If you have a Wounded Editor, it will shut down your art–unless you heal it.

I do this with my clients.

Once you heal the Wounded Editor and put the Empowered Editor in charge, your editor becomes your ALLY, helping you do the best creative work possible.

This means…

…You can do your creative work without being overrun by critical voices.

… You can do your work regularly and easily… and keep going until your work is done.

…You can do high quality work… novels that get published, paintings that get chosen for exhibits, compositions that win grants, all that good stuff.

And all this boosts your creative career in powerful ways.

So if you want to cut through those critical voices and start kicking out the pages (or paintings, songs, or dances), let’s talk.

I’ve put together a program–ARTIST IN ACTION–for talented, hard-working, writers and artists who want to stop the spinning and mind games–and DO their creative work.

Interested? Email me!

Photo by Levi Stolove

3 Steps to Ensure You Do Your Creative Work

If you’ve been avoiding or resisting your creative work, there are ways to change the dynamic–and practically GUARANTEE that you do your creative work.

In fact, there are three steps that ensure you’ll do your creative work.  

Before I go into them, I want to talk about why it matters so much to do your creative work.

Why is it important to do your true creative work?

It matters because if your true creative work is stifled, it affects every area of your life.

When you stop up your deepest creative urges, you block the flow of life through you–and the negative effects leak out into the rest of your life.

Years ago, I struggled every day to write. Some days I managed it. Other days failure-fearing, desperately procrastinating part of me won out. I lived in a state of dissatisfaction–with my writing career, my life, and everything around me.

On days when I didn’t write, my frustration seeped into everything. I was annoyed about people on the subway. Things my boyfriend said. Taking time to do errands, wash clothes, clean my apartment.

I resented the time I spent at my money-making jobs. Even though I was great at what I did, I was always holding back because it wasn’t my “real” work… so I rose, but never to the top of my field.

Meanwhile, I stuffed my frustration down with busy work, escapist reading, and surfing the internet.

If you’re not doing your true creative work, there are big costs for you too.

You might tell yourself it’s enough to raise a loving family, to contribute to society through the job you do. You might say your creative “day job” or commercial work is enough.

But deep down, you know that’s not true. You know you want more.

Denying that truth squashes your soul. Slowly but surely, you are letting yourself die.

I don’t exaggerate, by the way.

Your soul is at stake, and so is your health.

Months, years, and decades of frustration, irritation, and self-denial… what does that do to your body? Depression. Anxiety. A lower immune response. High blood pressure. Heart disease. And more.

The biggest thing you can do for your health is to seek joy.

So how do you choose joy–and do the creative work that feeds your soul?

Step 1: Commit

Make the choice that you WILL do your TRUE creative work.

It’s not enough to want it or try for it: you must make an absolute commitment to doing your true creative work. When you “hope” and “try,” the underlying belief is “I wish for this, but I’m not fully committing because I don’t really believe I can do it.”

When you say “I will have this. I will find a way, no matter what,” you cut off all other alternatives in your mind. And that creates an ENTIRELY different energy and result.

When you STOP imagining how you might fail and ONLY look for ways to succeed (yes, this takes conscious choice again and again, in each moment!), you will see opportunities and choices you would have overlooked before. The way will open.

Step 2: Take steps to keep yourself from backing out

Even after committing, your body and mind will naturally pull you back towards your default way of doing things. You need to put structures in place to keep you moving forward.

There are three key ways to do this:

  • Money: Make a big investment in yourself or your creative work. When you invest a large amount in yourself, you’ll do the work to move through blocks and reach your goals because you don’t want to lose the money you invested.
  • Public declaration: Commit to your goal PUBLICLY. When you tell people what you commit to, you’ll be motivated to act because you don’t want others to see you quit or fail.
  • Big action: Take immediate, bold action that requires you to take the next step toward your goal.

To get life-changing results, do all three.

I’ve used all three of these, again and again, in my own life and with clients. They work.

Step 3: Put in place ongoing support for your true creative work

  • Hire a coach: Don’t waste months or years floundering around in DIY mode. Get support and guidance from someone who knows the way. (I’ve been working with coaches for more than twenty years; without that support, I would not be where I am today.)
  • Find community: If you came from a family or community that doesn’t believe strongly in the value of creative work, part of you might be afraid that if you pursue your creative work, you’ll end up alone. Find a community of people who support your new way of life. 
  • Set aside time: Create time in your schedule. What is the OPTIMAL schedule that lets you create at your best, most inspired time? How do you need to shift your schedule so it supports the life you want? What will you say no to so you can say yes to your creative work?
  • Invest in personal growth: Do the deep work to transform your fears and blocks. Without this, you’ll be pushing a boulder up a hill. But when you transform your fears and blocks, you will open to higher and higher level opportunities–and accelerate your progress toward your goal.

When you do your true creative work, EVERYTHING changes. Your energy shifts, and you magnetize people, opportunities, ideas, adventure, love, money… because people are just drawn to creative expansion and sheer joy. You experience an unprecedented level of success… because you’re drawing on your highest talents, in love with what you do, and doing your most brilliant work.

It’s the magic of creation–and once you make it the foundation of your life, you can never go back.

P.S. I’ve created a program that combines these three steps (and some ninja coaching techniques!) to help you get started, get through blocks, and do your creative work. 

If you’re talented, hard-working, and determined—but avoidance, procrastination and self-criticism keep getting in the way, I’ll guide you to move past all that… so you can finish your novel, get your play produced, or finish your song cycle.

Interested? Email me!