Ep. 25: Creativity Quest – Assessing and Acknowledging

In this insightful episode, we journey further into the Creativity Quest with Gina Hogan Edwards, diving into the critical stage of assessing and acknowledging. We explore this often-overlooked phase, where the true voices of creative individuals begin to show up and discuss how the Creativity Quest isn’t linear and how the stages of assessing and acknowledging lead to a deeper understanding of oneself as a writer. We reflect on our personal experiences with self-coaching, the importance of honesty, and the struggle with being performative in our work. Join us for this illuminating conversation and gain insights into recognizing your growth, embracing self-compassion, and finding your authentic voice in the creative process.

Enhance your creative journey by downloading the accompanying worksheet on assessing and acknowledging. Dive deeper into the stages of the creativity quest, and align your writing life with your values.


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Ep. 25: Creativity Quest: Assessing and Acknowledging

Dave Hogan, Gina’s Pop
Welcome to Around the Writer’s Table, a podcast focusing on the crossroads of creativity, craft, and conscious living for writers of all ages and backgrounds. Your hosts are Gina, Melody, and KimBoo, three close friends and women of a certain age, who bring to the table their eclectic backgrounds and unique perspectives on the trials, tribulations, and the joys of writing. So pull up a chair and get comfortable here around the writer’s table.

KimBoo York
Hey, y’all, welcome back to Around the Writer’s Table. This is episode 25. Hard for me to believe we’ve come that far along in this trip. And we appreciate you joining us as we go. This week, we are returning to Gina Hogan Edwards’s Creativity Quest, analysis of the cycle of writing. That sounds a little pretentious, but it’s actually a really down-to-earth way of looking at the cycle of writing and looking at the different phases we go through and getting the tools you need to keep writing, which is one thing we’re really try to give all of you, as well as ourselves, when we do these things. It’s actually focused on Assessing and Acknowledging. Not going to go in too much detail on that right now because Gina is going to give us the big insight on it. 

But first, a little bit of an introduction. I am KimBoo York. I’m a romance novelist and former project manager. I help writers and solopreneurs find time, energy, and motivation to create through different venues. Helping writers write is my big thing. So we’ve also got here with us today, Melody, A Scout. Melody, if you’d like to give us a little bit of an introduction.

Melody, A Scout
Thanks, KimBoo. I’m Melody, A Scout, and I help my clients find their sense of home by restoring balance and harmony to their lives through plant spirit medicine and through my book Soul of the Seasons.

And we, of course, have Gina here as well. Gina, give us a little bit of insight into who you are, stranger.

Gina Hogan Edwards
Hey, ladies. It’s great to be back. I missed you guys. I’m glad to be here. Hello, listeners. I’m Gina Hogan Edwards. I am passionate about supporting women in finding their voices, including myself. I’m a writer and an editor and I am a host for writing retreats in the beautiful, peaceful environment of St. George Island, Florida.

Which is sadly not where we are right now, because that would be awesome. We like being on the beach, man. That’d be great. But we’re not. And we’re here, we’re back to talking about The Creativity Quest. So Gina, maybe you could give our listeners a quick overview of what the creativity quest is. And then get us into talking about this Assessing and Acknowledging, which I have this great fear is going to be about knowing thyself and learning how to know thyself better. So, yeah,

Dang it. Not that.

Okay, here we go. Yes. So just briefly, to give listeners a little bit of background, if they haven’t heard some of our previous episodes, we’ve been talking about The Creativity Quest, which is based on my work as a creativity coach with clients, as well as sort of observing myself and how I’ve navigated the creative process. And I’ve sort of envisioned this quest as involving 10 stages or phases. And while it’s easy to sort of depict it on a piece of paper as this two-dimensional cycle, as anyone who is a creative person knows, we don’t navigate it in any kind of rhyme or rhythm. We don’t go through it linearly. We sometimes repeat stages. We will skip over stages depending on where we are in our growth process. 

But we’re now on the fourth stage. We’ve already talked about Carrying Inner Disquiet. We’ve talked about Releasing. We’ve talked about Emulating and Mirroring. And now we are on Assessing and Acknowledging

So those previous stages that we’ve spoken about are in earlier episodes, if you want to go back and listen to those and get caught up with where we are now. But just know that if you want to dive in here, that’s fine too because like I said, we don’t experience these in any kind of rational order.

That’s why they call them cycles.

Not linear, not linear.

So Assessing and Acknowledging. I love this stage because it is where our true voices really begin to show up. And the crux of it, although there are many aspects and dimensions to it, the crux of it is about reviewing what we’ve learned, both about ourselves and our writing process and creativity in general, recognizing where the growth has been, and also acknowledging where we may still have aspects of growth to experience. So, in terms of experience, this is actually a cycle that, or a stage rather, that many of us will revisit on a pretty regular basis. 

This is still one of those stages, that requires a lot of inner work. It’s not a very popular stage, because the ones that are a little bit, the ones that are a little more feel good are the ones that we tend to gravitate toward settling into. But honestly, for me, I see this as one of the most critical stages for our creative growth. It requires a lot of honesty with yourself. It requires being able to step away and be an observer of yourself. It’s a stage at which a lot of fears of judgment from others, as well as our perfectionism, can show up. And it can, as we’re going through that sort of assessing and acknowledging stage, fears can show up. And that can keep us from putting our work out into the world. 

There’s kind of two levels to this stage we talked about in Episode 12, we talked about appraising our work, which, certainly, that is an aspect to this particular phase. We’re assessing our individual pieces of work, if they are what we envisioned, if there are things that we need to do to refine them. But also at this stage, there’s sort of a higher level of where we’re assessing and acknowledging ourselves overall—our writing life, our living into being a writer. And so this can be experienced at the beginning stages, when we just start on The Creativity Quest. When we’re just beginning our journey as a creative person, this will be one of the early stages that we will experience, but as I mentioned earlier, we can repeat this stage, return to it. And it’s really actually good to have an intentional practice of periodically, routinely revisiting this stage. 

One of the things that you do at this stage is look at, as I said, the individual pieces of our work and maybe assess whether you’re ready to share something. A beginner or someone new to the creative life might want to get a little bit further on their journey with developing their inner resources before they actually put their work out into the world when they’re in this stage. But even if you’re sharing with others, this assessing and acknowledging comes into play when you’re sort of looking at whether you’re living your creative life in the way that you want to, whether your intentions are really there, whether you’re speaking your truth, writing your truth, whether you are living into the values that are related to the creative life that are important to you. 


Right. That’s not deep at all. No, absolutely. 


Yeah. Okay. Thank you for joining us today.

There’s several skills that come in really handy in this stage, the major one being self coaching, being able to coach ourselves. And so some of the skills that support that overall skill are self compassion, being kind to ourselves, the ability to be objective about ourselves, and that requires intense honesty. So I kind of see those two things as two pairs. So you’ve got self-compassion and kindness that are related to one another that are skills that can support you in this self-coaching endeavor. And then you’ve got objectivity and self-honesty. And so being able to use those skills in this Assessing and Acknowledging stage, are really where the growth comes in. 

I’d love to hear a little bit from both of you about this idea of self-coaching, and what that term kind of means to you and how it may have played into your own ability to assess where you are in your life and in your writing, and for your growth. So I’m throwing it out there. Who wants to go first?

Go, yeah, yeah. 

Melody you go.

Yeah, well, looking back, I can see that for me, in my history, even before I got into the writing game, and the subject of critiquing, and all that business, I was doing a lot of self-coaching, on my own, because I felt at the time, I did not have outside resources to give me balanced feedback. And I am the type that likes to dig deeper. I am one of those people. So I don’t mind digging deeper. I do a lot of self-reflection. I think it’s important to note that there can be such a thing as too much self-reflection. When I constantly go over and over the same issues, and don’t give myself a break or just be able to move on or move to the next. And anyway, I found it a valuable resource for myself, and I actually enjoy feedback and critiquing and coaching. I wish I’d had some when I was younger. But I learned also to rely on my own judgment. And to be able to assess when something was right for me.

That is critical at this stage. Because if you are listening to the voices of others and you are letting them influence or maybe sway you from what you believe, then you will not be honoring your own true voice. And so at this stage, really being able to listen to yourself in that way that you describe, Melody, is super helpful to navigating not only within this stage, but then getting us on to the next stage of our growth. What about you, KimBoo?

As you’re both talking, I’m trying to think back about self-coaching and when I became aware of self-coaching as something that you can do. And that’s pretty recent for me. Prior to that there was therapy, oh, so much therapy. So, I think it’s one of those braided type of things. It’s very intertwined with self-compassion and self-confidence and self-awareness. I think, for me, the self-coaching component didn’t really solidify as something that I could do for myself until, and this might be different for other people, but until I got past listening to the voices of others. I had to learn to listen to my own voice. 

And I don’t, yeah, it was, it’s tough. I know we’ve talked about it on this podcast before. I certainly talk about it enough in my blog posts and everywhere else about how I kind of gave up on being published. I didn’t really stop writing a lot. But I did pull back from my writing as an idea for a career in the ’90s because I was listening to so many other people telling me what is acceptable to write, what is, what you’re allowed to write, what are you allowed to publish. It was a lot of gatekeeping back then, even more so than there is today people might be shocked to find. Learning to respect myself was such a huge issue and I’m really not, sorry, I’m just not identifying the moment or the thing that that happened because I really think it was a long, evolved process for me, coming out of PTSD after the deaths of my parents. The fact that I grew up in a home with mentally unstable parents. 

So there was a lot of self-doubt along that way, and it wasn’t until the point I gained to say, well, maybe I do have something to say for myself and on my own. Maybe it’s just not about always being performative. I think that’s the word that really strikes me is I was so busy trying to be performative in whatever ideal I thought I was living up to that I just didn’t listen to myself. So when we get to the Assessing and Acknowledging for me, I think the biggest lever on that in being able to self-assess and self-coach was self-acknowledgement. I just couldn’t get anywhere until I got over that hurdle.

Hmm. Wow. Okay. So, a lot, a lot that was encapsulated in both of your comments there. So you mentioned being performative. One, so there are a number of things that can sort of go awry at this stage, depending on where we are in the growth process. One of them is being performative. We feel like we have to be something or behave in a way that others expect us to, and we don’t acknowledge what our true values or what our true purpose is, because we feel like we have to be what others want us to be. 

Also, it can be a survival mode. I know I adopted that, and I just want to note that I didn’t intend to make it sound like, oh, I had this deep inner knowing from a young age. I perhaps did. But I also struggled with gaining acceptance and approval from others. And the same performative, I was a good chameleon. I managed by taking on other people’s ideas or changing myself to fit into their world. And so it was not easy for me to claim what was mine, what was my true voice, and all that. I could, I knew some when something was off. I did know that. But I couldn’t tell you what it was or how to do anything about it.

And that’s one reason why we go through this particular phase and stage, possibly more than any of the others. I will say, so, Melody, you said that you didn’t want to give the impression that from a very young age, you had all of that deep inner knowing. I would say that we all do, from a very early age, have that deep inner knowing.

I was thinking the same thing when she said that. I’m thinking, oh, you had the knowing.

I did. I did not trust it. 


Yeah, didn’t listen to it, didn’t trust it. Yeah.

And that’s what happens to us is that as we get a little older and become a little bit more, not only self aware, but sort of figuring out where we fit into the world, those other people around us start to have an influence on that inner knowing and we forget to listen to ourselves. We forget how to listen to ourselves.

Can I just jump in real quick, because one of the things that’s on my mind lately, and has nothing to do with the Barbie movie, which we have not seen yet, but is the gender roles. And I don’t think this is specific to women or to men or any gender identity you may have. But it’s this whole function of society to try to jam people into a predetermined, predefined behavior mode, right? And so for men that’s repressing your emotions. The only allowable emotion is anger. You’re not allowed to be soft and vulnerable. And for women, it’s the idea that we’re not allowed to be there for ourselves. We have to be there for everybody else. And so I think we’re taught specifically, men are taught to tighten down those emotions, women are taught to just not acknowledge them at all. And I think that’s at least part of where it came from for some of us. 

Like what we’re talking about now, especially in our age group. I think maybe younger Gen Z might be on the cusp of being released from these horrible constraints. But, no, there was an expectation that little girls look and act like this, little girls behave this way. Young women need to keep their knees together and be polite and not get mad and not do anything that might reflect our own inner awareness. We weren’t allowed to acknowledge any of that. So that was just something that came to my mind while you were talking about it. 

Yeah, that expectation of paying attention to and caring for others above ourselves. And you had mentioned when you were talking earlier KimBoo, about self respect. And I think that that is intimately related to one of the ideas that, if we can embrace it, helps us navigate this stage with grace. And that is one of valuing ourselves, not simply respecting ourselves, but really valuing ourselves, and not only the work that we do, but us as human beings, as a creative person, really valuing what we bring into the world. And that’s, as I said, that’s one of the aspects that I think helps us navigate this phase gracefully. 

One of the other aspects that can get us stuck in this stage is the inclination toward perfectionism. If we have that any way, and if this becomes a really troublesome phase for us, we can really get stuck when we start looking at our work, and then we aren’t able to manage those voices in our heads, and we don’t value what it is that we have to say. And so we continue to refine and revise and aim for that perfectionistic thing that does not exist.

Absolutely. I’m so guilty, when you’re, like myself, who is 10 prone to do a lot of inner reflection, I alluded to this earlier, I can really get stuck in continual critiquing, fine-tuning, making better, and then never be able to release anything out into the world because it needs a little work, it needs to be this, I can see that this is wrong. And that’s not the right tone. I had a wonderful teacher who said something I’ll never forget. She said, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to get done.” 

That’s right.

And we forget that as authors, because what is the whole process of writing is you write that first draft and then you edit to make it better, and then you let it go. That’s a cycle, my friends, and it’s, we get so trapped up in these ideas of it’s not perfect, it’s not living up to the expectations somebody else set for me. It’s not according to the rules of writing to market. It’s not this or that. And, and then we second-guess ourselves, instead of, I think what you’re talking about, Gina, is certainly my impression of it is, you know, assessing and acknowledging, which is the key point is understanding where we’re at, and then looking forward from there.

This is a particularly challenging stage for beginners, for novice writers, novice creatives who are still learning the craft. Because you look at your work and you go, Oh, my gosh, I can do that better. And of course, no matter how experienced we are, we can always do better. But when there is just this mountain of learning that we’re faced with, sometimes this can be a stage that really puts the brakes on creatives. And in the worst instances, if someone is not able to navigate through this stage with grace, they may end up looping back to some of the earlier stages that we’ve already talked about. One of those being Carrying Inner Disquiet, which if you will remember, inner disquiet is that discomfort that we feel when we want to be creating, but we are not–either self-imposed or externally imposed on us to not be able to create. In this case, when we’ve assessed and we’ve decided that we’re going to cocoon because we’re not happy with what we see and we can’t value what we’ve already done to this stage, we go back to that Carrying Inner Disquiet where we just shut down and don’t create at all. 

If we don’t go back to that stage, we might just settle back into the Emulating and Mirroring because that’s more, that’s a comfort zone. That’s a space of ease at this point. Just be being able to nestled back into looking toward our mentors, looking toward the people that we admire, and settling back into this sort of not copying, but emulating what they’re doing. And in some ways, if it’s done intentionally, then that can be a good thing, because that’s where our practice comes in. That’s where we can improve our skills and refine our skills. But if we’re settling back into emulating and mirroring as a way to avoid acknowledging that we still have learning to do, then it’s not a good thing. It’s not a good thing.

But it feels so productive. It feels so productive. Oh, I’m studying, oh, I’m doing research. Yeah, no.

It’s definitely more comfortable than going, Oh, I’ve got a lot to learn, or, you know, in the best instances go, Hey, I’ve really captured what I wanted to say here. And so let’s just keep moving forward. I’m ready to share this with a critique group or whoever and just keep on moving through the, through the journey.

So let me ask you, Gina, because assessing and acknowledging, there’s a certain level of empowerment there. It can be a very good thing. What is kind of the dark side of this? What does Assessing and Acknowledging look like when it goes wrong?

Well, similar to what I was just saying, is that we sort of revert back to those things that feel more comfortable and or are easier to do. And that might be not creating, just shutting down. That’s, to me, the absolute, darkest, worst thing to have happen, is that we just feel like it’s it maybe, we feel like it’s overwhelming. Maybe we feel like, you know, somebody else convinces us that what we’ve been doing is a waste of time, and that we still have too far to go. And so it’s an impossibility, and so we just shut down and stop creating. So that is the bleakest, darkest turn for me.

Yeah, absolutely. And we talked about this in previous episodes, that in Five Element, they call it throwing water on your fire. And so you critique yourself right out of any progress or taking value in what you’ve already created by listing all the things that’s wrong with it, or why it can’t work, or why it’ll never happen. And that feels very disheartening. The most disheartening things are the things we say to ourselves about ourselves. 

Oh, that’s so true. Yeah. 

And I have done this many times. Sadly, more times, I had a really good friend once say to me, she said this to me about my healing work, but it applies to anything we do. She said, “You need to own that you are good at this. You’re not better than everybody else. You’re not good at everything. You are good at this, and you need to own it.” And like, wow!

Oh, that’s a hard one for us to take in. And when we are able to do that, I think we have truly been able to master this phase. And it goes right back to that valuing ourselves and valuing our work and valuing our contribution to what we are doing in the creative world. And in the best of worlds to end this on a more positive note, in the best of worlds, we do recognize the value that we do bring into the world. We recognize our creative work. We recognize our value as a human being. We see what is possible. We acknowledge that we may still have a ways to go in some aspects of our creative work in our lives, but we are willing to move forward and to not let it hold us back.

The dream.

And I would offer that also by owning this in ourselves, we instill confidence in ourselves, and we invite others to have confidence in us as well.

When we can be that example, when we can live into the truth of who we are, it sets that example for others to be able to do the same.

Yes, the people I’ve learned from are the people who’ve done that. So It’s definitely contagious.

Yeah, it’s contagious. And it’s not by any sort of little mini lecture you give people. They just know, when you are grounded in yourself, your work, your belief, that radiates out, and it’s infectious with others.

Yeah. So we can all step into our self-coaching skills, right? You know, practice the self compassion, be kind to ourselves. There’s a book that Kristin Neff wrote on self-compassion that’s been sitting on my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read. So we’ll put that in the resources when we post this podcast and that’s going to be next on my list. So self-compassion, kindness, objectivity, with ourselves, honesty with ourselves. To me, the honesty is probably at the top of the list of of all of those things, honesty with ourselves about where we are and where we want to go, and how far we’ve come.

Yeah, yeah, that honesty with compassion is the critical thing, because it’s easy to beat yourself up, sometimes. But that is all wired together and it’s so and so important. 

So I think we’re wrapping up this particular episode. Ladies, it has been very deep. We’ve been getting  deep lately, huh? Next episode 26, we can continue on this, we will be continuing on this theme of Assessing and Acknowledging and The Creativity Quest cycle, but we’ll be looking at it through the lens of writing through the seasons using Melody’s framework of the five seasons in plant spirit medicine, as written about in her book Soul of the Seasons

And so what’s, you said Fall is that what I’m seeing on our cheat sheet here? Is that what we’re going to be talking about mostly next? 

I had listed Summer and Fall. There’s some aspects of this that fall into the season of Summer where we’re continually assessing our work as we go through the highly productive stages, but I would say the bulk of this lands right in the season of Fall, which is about our inner critic, critiquing, finding what’s of value within ourselves and our project. That all fits right in here. 

Yeah, so there it is. There it is y’all, the sneak peek for next season. She just gave it, for next episode. Episode. I’m done with summer. Let me tell you it’s too hot. We’re in North Florida, y’all. We’ve been under heat watch for like months at this point. It’s ridiculous. But that will be in our next episode. So we really appreciate you stopping by and joining us today and we’ll look for you in the next episode. Bye, y’all.

Thanks for joining us around the writer’s table. Please feel free to suggest a topic or a guest by emailing info@aroundthewriterstable.com. Music provided with gracious permission by Langtry. A link to their music is on our homepage at AroundTheWritersTable.com. Everyone here around the writer’s table wishes you joy in your writing and everyday grace in your living. Take care, until next time.

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