Ep. 34: Creativity Quest: Verifying and Testing

Welcome back, writers!

In this episode, we continue their exploration of the Creativity Quest, focusing on “Verifying and Testing.” As we delve into this stage of the creative journey, we discuss the challenges and opportunities it presents for creative individuals.

Verifying and Testing is a crucial phase where creators begin to test their skills and share their work more openly with the world. It’s a time when validation and feedback become essential, but it can also be a period filled with skepticism and criticism from others. We share our personal experiences handling criticism and discerning when (and from whom) to seek feedback.

We highlight the importance of self-awareness, emphasizing the need to understand one’s own reactions to feedback, whether positive or negative. Recognizing trustworthy sources and the right timing for feedback is a valuable skill during this stage.

Listeners are invited to join the conversation as we navigate the external challenges that come with sharing creative work. This episode offers insights and strategies for maintaining resilience and boundaries while embracing the creative journey’s external aspects. It’s an exploration that reveals much about the creative process and how individuals can thrive throughout it!

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Ep. 34: Creativity Quest: Verifying and Testing

Dave Hogan, Gina’s Pop
0:02
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.

Melody, A Scout
0:43
Welcome back, everyone to Around the Writer’s Table podcast. I’m your host today, Melody A Scout. I help my clients find their sense of home by restoring balance and harmony to their lives through plant spirit medicine, and my book Soul of the Seasons: Creating Balance, Resilience, and Connection by Tapping the Wisdom of the Natural World, which is available at most online bookstores. And you can check out my podcast at soul-of-the-seasons.com, but it’s hyphenated between each word. Don’t spell that out.

KimBoo York
1:21
It’s already been a morning, listeners. Just trust us on that one.

Melody
1:25
Yeah, the links are on our website. So you can go click on that. I’m also a landscape designer and lifelong gardener. I love all things plants including the natural world. I’m just cool. Anyway. With me—

Gina Hogan Edwards
1:46
We know that already. The listeners may not.

Melody
1:51
Joining me this morning is, of course, KimBoo. KimBoo, introduce yourself this morning.

KimBoo
1:58
I can do that. I’ve had enough coffee, so it’s possible. I am a novelist and productivity coach for authors. I love writing and talking about writing and helping other writers write. I also run the 1 Million Words Club membership community for productivity and accountability for writers that just launched in January of 2024. And that’s just to help people with their creative progress, and that’s who I am. So I’m gonna pass the baton on to Miss Gina. 

Gina Hogan Edwards
2:26
Hello, co-hosts, ladies, listeners. Glad to be here today. I’m Gina Hogan Edwards, and I am passionate about supporting women in finding their voices, leaning into their creativity, getting words on the page. And I’m also reminded to tell you that I am a writer, too. I write historical fiction.

KimBoo
2:47
Yes, you do. Just in case you forgot, Gina.

Gina
2:51
Yeah, thank you. 

Melody
2:53
Yeah, and both of these, my co-hosts, have…oh, the word escapes me, but you can subscribe to their services. And they offer lots of really cool things and freebies.

Gina
3:07
Oh, you must be talking about our SubStacks, our newsletters.

KimBoo
3:14
And Ream. You can get our fiction writing on Ream. So you’ve got a lot of ways to sign up and follow us. We should mention that more often.

Gina
3:19
That’s exactly right. All these links, there’s so many.

Melody
3:27
Yep. Wow.

Gina
3:29
They’ll be in the show notes, listeners. You don’t have to keep up with this. They’ll be in the show notes.

KimBoo
3:35
So anyway, Melody. Hey, what are we talking about today?

Melody
3:38
Oh, we’re continuing with The Creativity Quest. And the subject we’re working on this episode is the V in the creativity cycle, Verifying and Testing. And since this is Gina’s mastermind project, and brilliant, I’ll let her tell us more about Verifying and Testing and what that means in the creative writing process.

Gina
4:12
Thank you, Melody, I appreciate that. So just to recap a couple of things, in case you happen to be a brand new listener. We started talking about The Creativity Quest back in episode 18. So if you haven’t listened to those previous episodes, we’ve talked so far about 1-2-3-4-5-6 previous stages, guideposts, milestones of the creative process. And these are basically a model that I’ve come up with from working with my clients as a creativity coach and as an editor, witnessing the processes that they have gone through in terms of living into their creative life. And also, a good bit of this has come from some of my own experience.

We’ve talked so far about– If you have listened, you might have recognized that there’s an acronym going on here. So we’re using the word CREATIVITY. Each one of the guideposts begins with each letter in the word: creativity. So we are up to V right now. 

The first five stages of The Creativity Quest are mostly inner work. The next five stages are mostly outer work. And there’s a lot of reflection going on here in terms of some of these stages or guideposts being reflective of one another, but having that unique characteristic of being either primarily inner or outer. 

So today, our topic is Verifying and Testing. And the mirror of that is what we talked about three episodes ago [sic] called Assessing and Acknowledging. And so Verifying and Testing and Assessing and Acknowledging include a lot of the same sorts of challenges. The Assessing and Acknowledging is the inner aspect of when our creative voice is really starting to show up. And we’re starting to do a little bit of review of what it is that we’ve learned so far. And recognizing the growth that we’ve done and the growth that we still have to do. That stage isn’t really a popular stage, because sometimes we do see that we have a little ways to go yet. And so getting through that stage really requires a lot of self-honesty and observation of yourself. There may be some fears of judgment if you have begun to share your work with others. Sometimes there can be some cocooning or not sharing because of fear. 

And so the reflection then of that Assessing and Acknowledging to bring us to where we are today in talking about Verifying and Testing. Once again, our boundaries are going to need to be checked. We have an episode specifically on boundaries, if that is an issue for you. But in Verifying and Testing, in this stage, we really are putting ourselves out into the world in a bigger way, looking at how others may be testing us, looking at how we can test ourselves in terms of our skills. So the alliances and the allegiances and the supporters that we have really get verified at this stage. And we begin to filter out those people who just don’t understand what it is that we’re doing or choose not to understand.

This stage, this guidepost could also be called “validating your strengths and your supporters.” So you’re really more openly living into your creative life and the values and beliefs that are the foundation of your being. You may, like I said, be sharing your work more. You may be involved in some critique groups, or may be getting peer feedback. And also, because you’re putting your work out into the world more at this stage, your family and friends may start seeing what you’re doing. And so there can be a lot of judgment at this stage. That can be really kind of uncomfortable for a lot of people. 

Just like that Assessing and Acknowledging stage that I mentioned, there could be some things that occur at this stage that sort of kick you back into some of the other stages. And the one that we tend to repeat most often is the one that we very first talked about at the beginning of the discussions that we’ve had about this cycle, called Carrying Inner Disquiet. Because fear of judgment is really relevant at this guidepost, that can really kick you back into that Carrying Inner Disquiet

So I’ve talked a lot, ladies. Tell me a little bit about what your impressions are about this stage thus far. And then I’m going to have a couple questions for you here in a minute. 

KimBoo
9:27
I was thinking, well, you know, one of the things that brought it to mind was a couple episodes ago, we were talking about how on this journey, you’re going from kind of an internal quest and internal process to an external one and when we’re dealing with external issues. And I think this really resonates with that because we are dealing with skepticism, criticism, and that can be internal. We’ve talked about that, you know, but in this particular case, it is about setting those boundaries. So those kind of like, just me thinking about boundaries and how we interact with other people in what we take in from the external. So I don’t really have any great insights. But those were just some of the thoughts I was thinking while you were talking, based on some of the stuff that we’ve talked about in the past.

Gina
10:26
Yeah, so you really get to try out your skills in a very visible way at this stage. And like I said, that’s where the possibility for that judgment comes in, and as uncomfortable as this stage or this guideposts can be for folks, retreating back into the Carrying Inner Disquiet really comes up a lot. You know, we sort of talked about it as the beginning of the cycle, but it’s a really familiar stage and that we’ve got this longing, we’ve got this desire, but we are not in a place of actually creating. So it’s really easy to kind of carry that kind of pain if we’re familiar with it, that kind of, you know, you got this longing, but you’re not answering it. That can sometimes be easier for us to carry than this discomfort that’s coming from external sources. Does that make sense? 

Melody
11:34
Absolutely. And for myself, I know I’ve mentioned this in previous podcasts is one of my learning lessons is knowing myself well enough to know who and where and when to ask for external feedback. 

Gina
Yes, sister.

Melody
Because it’s easy—we call it in plant spirit medicine, we call it throwing the water on the fire. Too much water on the fire, as you know, puts it out. And when I come with my baby, my written project, to someone, it’s a vulnerable moment. And it requires a lot of courage for me to, not just put it out there. Sometimes I can put it out there, post it online, and just like okay, let it go. And people will comment if they will, whatever. But when I hand it over to some one person, or a small group for feedback, it can be a very vulnerable space to be in. 

So I’m not normally real thin-skinned. But I know that I also need to be in the space to receive whatever they have to give. I personally like direct feedback. I don’t care for someone who’s trying so hard to be kind that they’ve not given you clear and good feedback. Okay, you said a lot of things. I don’t know what that means or how it applies to my work. 

So I do appreciate that, but I had a couple of incidences this, in the last few weeks actually about, you know, one involved handing a story off that I was considering submitting it and the person–who is a writer. I want to say, in the early stages, I believe it’s really important to share your work with someone who understands the writing process. I did that with my book in the early stages, and one of the people didn’t understand the concept. So they criticized the concept, not understanding it was a work in process. Another person, even though I didn’t ask for proofreading, they got so bogged down in my—well, I’m grammatically challenged. Let’s just say that right out the bat—basically said: I had to stop reading because there were too many commas.

KimBoo
14:44
Okay, okay. Wow.

Melody
14:52
Know, know who you’re giving it to. And know yourself and what you need because as I spoke about earlier, at once I just needed a cheerleader. I really didn’t need anybody to critique it. This recently, I did need a critique, but what was offered was an opinion on what kind of writing or the target audience should be, which was not my aspiration. And that did not land well with me. However, I have enough faith in my work to know, you know, to get beyond that. I didn’t allow it to set me back. A lot of new writers, though, that could really set somebody like, okay, not picking up that pen again.

Gina
15:43
And I’ve seen that happen far, far, far too many times. You know, I think, Melody, you’ve got a level of a track record, if you will, of what I mentioned, sort of in passing earlier was observation of self, really paying attention to how you respond to things, knowing what you need, really, really knowing yourself. And that is so important through the entire creative process. 

One of the things that this guidepost, that this stage truly, truly reveals is who we can trust and who we… It reveals to us who we can go to for different things. You said that what you received recently wasn’t what you were wanting at the time, but now you know what that person can offer you, and when you do need what they had to offer this time, there may be another time when you need that. And so, really helping us to understand what the people who are in our lives, how they can show up for us and how they can support us or not. This is really a stage of just more openly living into your creative life and those values and beliefs that are going to be the foundation of that life, much more open living. 

So some of the questions that I have for you revolve around how you have navigated these intensified external challenges, like the criticism and the skepticism maybe, when you’ve gone through this Verifying and Testing stage, and maybe what kind of strategies that you could suggest to listeners for developing and, most importantly, maintaining some resilience and some boundary-holding skills, while they’re living into that creative life that they’re trying to create for themselves. So, KimBoo. 

KimBoo
18:01
Well, I mean, the standard advice is just to have an enormous ego and be very arrogant, because…

Melody
Some call it confidence. Confidence.

KimBoo
So, so, anyway. But I think you’re right, Melody, it is confidence. And a lot of people, you know, the mythology that’s around writing in general, and writers and being editors, and editors, is so storied, and hard to fight against sometimes. You said something earlier, Melody: you have a thick skin. And so many times, I’ve heard over the years, If you’re going to be a writer, you need a thick skin. Well, why do you need a thick skin? Let’s kind of question the premise a little bit and go back: well, because editors are going to rip your stories apart. And I’m like, but do they need to? Like, is that, is that really? Is that necessary? 

Um, you know, maybe with some authors, it’s very necessary, especially if they’re new. But it’s such a challenge to come into that kind of environment and say, with confidence. And then other people turn around and say, Well, you’re just arrogant. And I think a lot of newer writers deal with that a lot. And by new writers, I of course mean me. 

I’ve talked before about how my mother was my most original and harshest editor, right? I think by the time I got to sharing my writing in public, I was very much confident in my abilities. Not that I didn’t know that I needed to learn a lot more, but I got to the point where I was entering that area and—I’ve got a point to make here that ties into to this whole topic of, you know, criticism and Verifying and Testing, and that is that I was prepared to fight for my writing, I was prepared to say, No, I’m a good writer

The reverse for me was that I put up too many walls, and I didn’t listen to good advice when I got it. And that was kind of I’m always throwing, turning things topsy turvy for you, Gina, when you’re asking these questions, because I come to it from such a different background. But I’ve had, when it came to Verifying and Testing, I had to like go all the way around, I had to go all the way around back to the beginning of beginner’s mind to accept that maybe not everything they’re saying is helpful or good for my vision, but they might really have something important to tell me, and that I should shut up and listen.

So, for me, it’s been coming back around to being more open about that. And one of the things I learned on that journey was that everybody has good advice. Everybody has good advice. It may not be the advice you need to hear right now. It may not be advice that particularly applies to a specific story or a specific work. It may be something that doesn’t apply to your writing at all. But every time I deal with an editor, I come away with something of value, even if I feel like they’ve completely missed the point in my writing, they don’t understand what I’m doing. They they don’t like my commas or whatever. There may be other things that they do have insight on, that can be a value. And I really had to come back, circle back around to that and learn that in the Verifying and Testing world of this is opening the borders a little bit, not just keeping strong borders, but putting a few gates in there so people can come and go. Put a little road signs, stall there something like, so that I could learn from the experience. So that was really what I was thinking of.

Gina
22:09
That’s really interesting, not having boundaries that are so rigid that you can’t see beyond them. 

KimBoo
22:18
Yep, that was me. Hi, my name is KimBoo, a woman of boundaries and big tall walls that are very thick. Yeah, that was, yeah, that was me in my 30s.

Melody
22:31
I might have to write up a blog post on that when your boundaries are barriers.

KimBoo
22:37
That’s exactly what happened.

Gina
22:40
That’s a really good one. I do have to, this is a little bit of an aside, but it relates to what you were saying. Honestly, I had a little bit of a cringe reaction there when you were talking about editors ripping the pages apart, because—and I think this is really important for our listeners to remember is that, and I’m coming to you from the perspective of both a writer and an editor—is that how important it is to find an editor that suits your needs, because your editor is your ally, not your enemy. Your editor is not there to rip apart what you have written, in terms of destroying it, which is kind of the connotation of that. They are there to help you make it better. 

KimBoo
23:31
But I will say this. I will say this, I think in—not that I disagree with you; I absolutely agree with you—but I think in the legends of great writers and great editors, especially in the mid 20th century, that the legend was the vicious mean editor who’s going to come in and rip everything apart. I think that gets people on the defensive when they think about that. And they don’t hear the stories of people working collaboratively with their editor towards a vision, which is ideally what should be happening and what I think most of the time does happen. I certainly know that’s how you work with your clients, Gina. And I’ve been fortunate enough to work with you and other editors where that was true as well. But man, that mythology hangs heavy over writers, I think.

Gina
24:20
Yes. And I think that that’s the root of the common belief that that’s what an editor is going to do. That they’re just going to tear it to pieces what it is that you have written. And so you’ve got to be on the defensive. And while it is necessary for us to be able to defend our work, it should not be necessary for you to be defensive about it. 

KimBoo
24:43
We’re coming away with some great bon mots in this episode. That’s good.

Melody
24:49
I also wanted to clarify one thing about the whole tough skin thing, because I didn’t mean to imply that I have a thick skin. I don’t. And I do not aspire to be emotionally the equivalent of a sun-dried turd, where everything bounces and affects me not whatsoever. Not true. I think the word that works for me is resilience

Gina
Yes. 

Melody
And so yeah. It did not feel good when people gave me feedback that wasn’t relative or that was harsh or just wasn’t what I needed. It did not feel good to me. However I do, I took a moment, and then I reflect again, to recenter on why I was writing. What’s my vision about for this project, why I was writing it. My passion about it, too. That helped me recenter and then knowing the truth of what I was writing, because as you were both saying, that way I know when to defend my work and when to become vulnerable to suggestions that can help improve it. 

Gina
26:25
Yeah, yeah. Being clear on that vision for what you have for your writing and really knowing why you started this writing project, reconnecting with that passion that started you on the project to begin with, I think those are all really good strategies, good reminders, and good tools for being resilient. And I do love that word resilient.

Melody
26:50
That’s why it’s in the title of my book. I mean, yes. That is one of the most important qualities of getting through anything challenging and worthwhile to you anything. Anything.

Gina
27:06
Indeed. So we’ve shared some really good, both experiences of what this stage can feel like and some tools for our readers. So I think that we can wrap this conversation up and let the listeners know that we’ve got a worksheet that goes with— 

KimBoo
That’s right. That’s right. 

Gina
—this discussion of the guidepost. We do that for each one. 

KimBoo
27:31
I just wanna ask you just a couple of, little aside, Gina. So what, why are you creating these worksheets? What is the project that all this is part of? Maybe perhaps talk about a little bit?

Gina
27:43
At some point in the near future…

KimBoo
She loves it when I pin her to the wall.

Gina
…The Creativity Quest—yes, indeed. Thank goodness you or I probably wouldn’t get anything done—The Creativity Quest will, at some point, be a book. And so I’m writing about that on my Substack publication, which is called Gina’s Quill. So you can get a sneak peek into further discussion of each one of these guideposts actually beginning this month and through the year of 2024. I’ll be talking about one guidepost each month, and then hopefully, ultimately, taking all of that, elaborating on it a little bit more, along with the discussions that we have had here, which have greatly informed my language around this whole concept, this model, and hopefully in 2025, be a book.

KimBoo
28:37
Yeah, awesome. So anyway, wrapping up the episode.

Gina
28:45
Yes. So in our next episode, we are going to continue to talk about Verifying and Testing but within the framework of what Melody writes about in her book, which is the seasons that we experience. And I believe that we originally had talked about Verifying and Testing being acquainted with the seasons of Spring and Fall. And I’m not gonna say anything more about that, so y’all will listen to them next time.

KimBoo
29:19
Sounds great.

Gina
29:22
So be sure to visit our website at AroundTheWritersTable.com, where you’ll find some additional resources, links to some of the things that we’ve talked about. You’ll find that worksheet that we’ve mentioned. Be sure and leave us a comment. Leave us a review. If you’re listening to this on Spotify or Apple podcasts or any of the other platforms, be sure to give us a thumbs up because that certainly helps us with helping other writers discover that we’re out there. And thank you for listening.

Melody
29:49
And we’re needy, we need your approval. Help us out.

Gina
29:54
We need you to verify that we exist.

KimBoo
29:59
Anyway, thank you so much and drop by our website. Definitely leave us a comment and we appreciate you. So talk to you next time.

Gina
30:06
Bye bye.

Melody
30:07
’Til next time.

Dave
30:10
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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