9 writing prompts to help you figure out what’s not working in your career

I once interviewed Lynda Monk and in our interview she said something that I saw for the first time hidden in plain view. It made something that I usually do seem and feel different. Before I tell you what she said, I’m going to metaphorically press “pause” for a moment and tell you about a little practice I have:

I do morning pages – 3 handwritten pages of whatever needs to be said in my confidence to me. In a journal. I write no more. I write no less. It’s from Julia’s Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. And I’m a fan. Though I was an extremely hard won fan.

Even though I experienced a hell-u-va-lot-of resistance and annoyance when I first began writing morning pages over three years ago, I can honestly say that nothing has been more invaluable to me as a human being.

(In fact this is the practice that led to writing for you here and creating the Bliss Kit – something I really thought I was completely incapable of once upon a time. These tasks required discipline from me and I didn’t think that was such a fun word. And now I feel very differently because I define that word very differently than I used to.)

We hide a lot from ourselves because we haven’t been taught, shown nor learned how to be there for ourselves in a genuine way. You unwillingly admit (if you do at all) that the psyche is searching for resolve through everyday life. Looking for the perfect listener.

(Psst … it’s ultimately you.)

You can’t make peace with a topic, so you push it away. And it somehow rules your life.

You really don’t know that nothing is wrong with you. You just feel like something is.

And when you try to do morning pages your ego will claim that it has nothing to offer for review. And that all is fine as it is when awareness is directed its way.

That’s never the case.

At its best, morning pages are kind of like showing up to a therapy appointment (with someone who honors and respects you and your path) to have the experience of being you reveal itself. If you go in with an agenda, you don’t walk away with what you really need.

I keep writing because I remember that before I started writing I struggled to sleep because thoughts were whirling and twirling as I lay in bed waiting for sleep to come, which it eventually did after an eternity of mulling.

Suddenly ego feels watched and self-conscious when it’s time for morning pages when before bed it had lots to say. So be it – I’ll write the alphabet or poetry or passages out of a book that I love, or new healthy self-dialogue I’d like to implement until my mind begins to disclose the clues of what I’m really there to receive.

Uncensored writing, writing in the absence of self-judgment, writing for the sake of clearing the internal pathways, brings much needed flow – like oxygen to your lungs.

I confess that no less than about two months after I started doing these pages consistently, I decided to take a break from them (were they really working anyway?!) and then something strange happened.

Something that I never would have guessed.

When before I was cranky about doing the damn pages, I found myself cranky now because I hadn’t done them.

And so it is with the mind. Remember this. And don’t take it’s response personally.

When you begin, you might mistakenly believe that you are complaining and “going on and on” when you do this kind of “automatic writing” as a discipline. You may also feel fear and shame at knowing what you write. But the truth of it is that one day, some way, or somehow, unwittingly before your very eyes, the truth – YOUR truth comes about in your own handwriting.

As well as your answers to things you’ve been wrestling with for what seems like forever.

What I now know is this: If you find yourself feeling like no one listens to you or understands you or gets you, this simple, but profound discipline is one of the best ways I’ve ever found to cultivate empathy for yourself -> which leads to awareness -> which leads to self-understanding -> leading to the courage to be real with yourself -> leading to authenticity in all of your relationships -> that leads to choices previously outside of your awareness.

And feeling good about *how* you make choices – not what choices you make or what choices you have before you – is really how you make your career fairy tales come true.

Freedom really is within.

So, let’s un-press pause. So what did Lynda say exactly? How or when did she know that things were amiss in her own life? In the absence of the kind of support or love or understanding from the external world, she could pinpoint what felt so wrong because “[her] journal told her so.”

Your journal will tell you that you’re sabotaging yourself in your career. Or that someone else is sabotaging you at work. Your journal will tell you that you want out of a relationship. Or that you really want to be in the relationship. Your journal will show you that underneath your frustration is clarity and confidence and authenticity wanting to bust out.

In the spirit of helping you to reveal and resolve some of the mystery as to why you might really be feeling unfulfilled in your career and what’s preventing you from your own career fairy tale coming true, I present some tried and tested writing prompts (excerpted from the Bliss Kit). But first:

Start small.

Write five sentences if that’s all you can do. Each day.

Write for 10 minutes if that’s all that feels do-able. Each day.

Work up to three pages. Just create a practice. For each day.

Make a cup of tea. Curl up with a cat/dog/blanket or all three or write when your mind won’t let go before sleep. Or first thing when you wake up.

Write when you’re on the toilet if that’s all the time you have to yourself (it doesn’t matter and no one has to know but you OR you can just say you’re going to the toilet and not really “go”).

Set a timer if you like.

Do whatever it takes to make a moment possible … and write whatever comes to mind, to which ever prompt calls to you – and it can be the same one over many days.

And when you do this, most importantly, offer yourself an inner ambiance of safety, friendship, authenticity and love to accept with your whole heart whatever comes forth.

Do it everyday. As best you can.

Miss a day? Do it the next day. It’s okay.

Think about it like you’ve never brushed your teeth before and now it’s importance or presence as an activity in your life is not questioned. It’s just part of the day.

(Yes, this assumes that you brush your teeth everyday to understand that something that was once un-normal became something normal. You control what is your normal.)

As David Whyte says, “It’s time to go into the darkness where the night has eyes to recognize it’s own.”

Here are 9 writing prompts to help you know your truth so that you can do something about it when you want to and not until then (because that’s really when things actually happen):

a) I feel insignificant (not valued or worthy) at work when …
b) It feels scary/shameful/sad to admit this because …

a) I feel incompetent (inadequate or stupid) at work when …
b) It feels scary/shameful/sad to admit this because …

a) I feel unlikable (rejected or objectionable) at work when …
b) It feels scary/shameful/sad to admit this because …

Sometimes in my work I pretend … because …

When I’m not present to the task at hand it’s because …

If there was no one I felt that I had to please, I’d probably …

The thing that feels the hardest to say out loud at work is … because I fear … because then …

The thing that feels the hardest to admit to myself about the work I do is … because … because …. because … because…

9:: I don’t give myself permission to do something different than what I’m doing now for work (and how I’m engaging with my work) because if I did … because … because …. because …

So, when you reflect on what you shared with yourself in your writing, what’s the most compassionate perspective you can have and hold for yourself right now?

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April 20, 2014 tagged as: ,


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