116: Martha Alderson – Overcoming Doubt and Creative Blocks

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A Journey Through Boundless Creativity

Hi Everybody I'm Azul Terronez here with authors who lead. I'm so glad you joined us every week today. Our guest is Martha Martha Alderson. Uh, she's a best selling author of the plot whisper, which I love. I love that idea. She writes novels for readers, plots books for writers and posts for anyone looking to enrich their lives with more creativity and inspiration. Her most recent books for writers are writing the blockbuster plots and writing deep scenes. Her other works include the plot whisper workbook. The plot Wurster whisper book of writing prompts for riders and the parallel lives they novel. But I'm excited to talk about her work as a novelist as well. Um, the Ave, which is another one and she currently resides in Santa Cruz, California, which is my hometown, which we talked about a little bit before we started recording. And, uh, you can learn more about her and we'll talk about at the end of the show where you can learn to connect with her, her most recent book, boundless creativity, a spiritual workbook for overcoming self-doubt emotional traps and other creative blocks is what we'll be discussing today. Martha, welcome to the show.

Speaker 3: Thank you so much for happening. Having me, I'm really excited about being able to talk about my passion.

Speaker 2: Yes, I love it. And you know, it's so interesting. I haven't ever interviewed somebody that actually was from Santa Cruz or living there. So that's pretty exciting for me. It's, there's some special bond when you know, someone who's walked the streets or remembers the things you remember, and it's really clear that you share that bond. So thank you so much for sharing that with me. That's really an awesome thing. So let's, before we dive into your, your book, boundless creativity, let's help people listening in to help them understand how you began your journey because in your book you talk about, uh, sort of your writing journey, but I'd love for them to hear a little about how you, how you found yourself into the space of writing.

Speaker 3: Sure. So years ago I was a speech language and learning disability therapist. I had a clinic for children and we provided services to all the private schools in the South Bay area, San Francisco Bay area. And um, so at a certain point in life, I sold my practice and decided I wanted to start writing fiction. And when I did, I just became immediately flummoxed by plot. And this was back in the day where there really weren't a lot of resources available that spoke directly about plot. Um, I, that there was a fear of, you know, structure and plot stifling, the creative process, and also, um, you know, screenwriters knew what plot was. So they've always known. Hollywood has always had a very plot driven, um, you know, industry, but women I've found a particular struggle with plot. And so once I understood it, you know, I started analyzing all these classics and bestselling novels and prize winning novels and screenplays and memoirs.

Speaker 3: I got it, I got it on a very concrete level and I was able to share it with others. And when I started doing that, it became known sort of a subplot whisper. And, um, but what I found when I was working with writers was the universality in their journey that really mirrored the journey that their protagonists in the, um, in their stories were undertaking. And this journey, you know, something that Joseph Campbell has written about in the past the hero's journey. But I thought more as a universal story because it transcends, it goes beyond the human experience. We're part of that experience, but it also shows up in nature in the seasons, the lunar cycles, you know, it's a much broader, more universal sort of pathway. And as creative people, we all travel along this energetic pathway and we hit certain what I call energetic markers, turning points in our lives and in our creativity that can really affect your path.

Speaker 3: You can either, you know, be enlivened by it and challenged and overcome some of these hurdles that you're demanded to face or you give up. And because so many really brilliant writers, um, and other creative people I was starting to work with were giving up. I then wrote boundless creativity because I wanted to show this universality, explain that it's not personal. It's really an invitation to go on a spiritual journey and learn more about yourself and free yourself from a lot of things that interfere with accessing, um, you know, the muse and your spirit and creativity at large.

Speaker 2: That's amazing. One of the things that really struck me as you already mentioned, this universal story is a way to frame this journey that the author is going on, as well as the journey that a character goes on. The reason it resonates so strongly is it's the cycle that we as humans experience. And I, I was thinking about that as you're writing and as I've coached authors as well, they often, when they let's say, if they get to that place where they finish the messy ugly draft, and they're thinking, this is no good. I don't know what I was doing. This is all wrong. And I tell them, you just don't know that this is what you're supposed to be feeling you're supposed to. You've made it over one big hurdle. And now you're in this deeper Valley and you feel an even bigger sense of dread. Like you have so much farther to go and I go, this is the author's dilemma. Welcome to being an author. This is exactly what it feels like. There's no camera,

Speaker 3: You hate it. You are now part of the inner circle. Yes, exactly.

Speaker 2: Which I thought was so beautiful because you talk, you talk about the way this in your book, this, this connection, or the way it taps into this, this boundless creativity, could you said, it's it better directs the flow of your life and connects you to your creative promise? What, what is your creative promise? I thought that was an interesting way to talk about this sort of future notion of where you're headed.

Speaker 3: Well, I believe that we're all here for a purpose and that that purpose is beyond, you know, making money or, you know, putting a shelter over our heads or, you know, a lot of the material mundane sort of expectations that we grow up with. Um, you know, and all these markers of going to college, having a family, you know, these different things. I think that beneath all of that, there is this purpose of being able to, um, find yourself again, you know, cause we usually lose ourselves as we move through these expectations and find this promise that we came, you know, we sort of incarnated with of what we can provide, what we can create in order to bring, you know, more beauty to the world, more meaning to the world, to advance, um, you know, civilization to change the world, so to speak. Because I think every time we take a creative project from beginning all the way to the end, we have the potential to change the world.

Speaker 3: Even if it's one person by empowering them or having them see their lives in a different way and overcome their hurdles or their, um, limitations, their limited beliefs. And so, um, I just really want to encourage people to delve into creativity beyond the traditional, you know, means of lots of people are creative because they want to make a lot of money or they want to become famous or they want to, you know, leave a legacy or whatever, but to do it in order to learn more about yourself too, because once you start a creative project, you start to meet yourself and the things you say to yourself, the limiting beliefs that you have about your worthiness or your unworthiness and, um, you know, and if you can start to strip away some of those layers and really access the deeper part of you that I call spirit, um, life just lifts. You know, everything just becomes brighter and easier and you're in communion with this greater energy that's out there. And, um, yeah, life just becomes much more exciting.

Speaker 2: Yeah, no, that's great. I always tell people, especially when I'm helping leaders write books, that all leaders are reluctant and anybody who claims not to be is probably a narcissist. We usually get called to lead. You don't feel like you're ready. You don't feel like you have the tools. You're not even sure where you might be going to, you just get pushed in that realm or you feel triggered. And, and, and I try to help leaders understand. They're like, well, I gotta get more established, get more credibility. Like, and I was like, no, no, no, that's what leadership is serves. You best not after you've done those things. That's not how it works. You have to lead through those things. And that's true. I think for writing, you have to lead yourself through the, the act of writing. What's really interesting is another thing we share in common besides the fact that you live in Santa Cruz. I lived in live Oak and that's where you're at, which is incredible. Um, my grandfather was the elementary, uh, school custodian and bus driver at live Oak elementary school.

Speaker 3: What a small world.

Speaker 2: We, we spent a lot of time in that world. And the other thing I spent a lot of time in was this early loaf because I too I'm dyslexic. So early school was not easy, but I ended up getting a master's degree from UCLA. I did, I did well. Not because it was easy, but because I was determined and the, the gift that came from me from those years of not being able to decode words like other people were able to was that I could, um, I could see people's true messages within them. I could hear the message I could participate in these events, English classes, even though I struggled with reading because I was looking for something just beneath the surface sometimes.

Speaker 3: Gosh, that gives me goosebumps. That's beautiful.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So how do you think this, this gift I always think of dyslexia is such a gift. Um, how did it help you kind of grow as a writer? You know, like, cause it could be the last thing that anybody's, this Oleksyk wants to do is return to something that was really hard her whole life. Um, how does it help you?

Speaker 3: Well, it really, um, hindered me for a long time because I think when you're different and you're, you know, grow up in a family of high achievers and you're not quite there, don't meet the Mark. Um, and everyone around you seems to grasp things that you don't and, you know, I was nonverbal and I suffered some other hardships when I was young. And um, so it really made me feel less than and unworthy and I had to work through that. And I think that's where I come from with the work that I do with people is, you know, because a lot of people that are drawn to me because of that, because they too are going through that feeling of I'm not smart enough, I'm not good enough. I don't, you know, I'm not committed enough, whatever those messages are that we tell ourselves over and over and over again until we really believe them to be true. Um, so, but I do, I always, because I was nonverbal, I lived in a fantasy world, you know, I was in this imaginary place and I think that I never lost that. I never lost the miracle of life of being able to see, um, you know, nature and things all around me, um, were still very clear and meaning, um, you know, that was coming beyond the human experience, stayed with me, um, to this day. And that's where I think a lot of enthusiasm and passion comes from is to keep that alive in the world.

Speaker 2: Right. And that's great. Thank you so much. It, it didn't start obviously being, I was, I used to get the really bad grades on my writing and it's still an atrocious speller, but what, what, what I found out is though it wasn't really difficult and I was a very quiet kid. People wouldn't even call, it said, do you speak? Cause I haven't heard you say a word. It's funny. Now I have a podcast. Um, and now a writer and coach writers, not because, you know, I flunked freshmen, English at UCLA, but ended up becoming an English teacher, um, ironically teaching university. But in your, in your, um, workbook, you talk a lot about this visual, visual visualization of the plot plot of a story. Tell us how that came about and how, how does that help you explain to people that maybe are more visual, who, who want to see the plot work to unfold as they're thinking of a story or even in this idea of being creative in their own journey?

Speaker 3: Yes, I, so for me, I grew up with a mother that was an artist. And so she often would doodle, you know, when she was speaking to me. And so even though the words had little meaning, I could understand what she was conveying to me through her doodles. You know, I could see what she was saying through the pictures that she was creating for me. And so I'm much stronger visually than I am auditorily or, you know, kinesthetically or whatever. And, um, so if I can see something, you know, it becomes much more concrete and it's easier for me to grasp. And because of my background was in special education and working with kids that were dyslexic and had a lot of speech and language problems, I found that, you know, a multisensory approach is much easier because you're hitting all different modalities. Um, and so if someone isn't very strong in one modality, they could perhaps pick it up in another.

Speaker 3: And so by able, by being able to show this energetic pathway, you know, for when I worked with writers, I called it a plot planner and now I call it the universal story. But if you can see how the energy rises and falls in a story or in your own life, it's, you can start to feel it. You can start to really understand what it is beyond the words, because I think even though I'm a writer and I do teach, um, I think words are very limiting because we grasp them depending on our background and what, you know, how we, what we associate with the words that we're hearing. So I think if people can see the template, they can better understand, Oh, I get it. Okay. You know, the energy at the beginning of a story is vastly different than the energy that's going to come in the middle and at the end. And you know, if you can see how that rises and falls, you can start to create the dramatic action and your stories to be able to mirror that.

Speaker 2: Right. And I, this, this question came up for me when I was applying these sort of four phases or the four energy markers you talked about in this universal story was okay. So I get to the end. Does that mean you have to start again? I started feeling a little anxiety. I'm like, Oh, that's exactly how it is. Every time I start something new, I go through these phases. I don't, there is no way to opt out of them unless you want to stay at the beginning of the story that never goes on. Tell us little bit.

Speaker 3: I think we cycle higher. I think each time more is revealed to us so that, you know, you're only able to pick up what you're developmentally ready to grasp. And so as you cycle through one time, you have a different sensibility of the process and what you've learned and you know, the insights and what's opened up within you. So that the next time you go through it, you're, you're learning more. Yes. You still go through these energetic markers, you still get faced with doubt and things like that. But the more times you go through it, the lesser, the impact of the turning points. In other words, the dark night, when you start to just despair and think, Oh my gosh, you know, this is just a mess. I don't know what I'm doing. You understand? Okay. At this turning point, this is where the energy is supposed to rise.

Speaker 3: Now I need time to go inward, figure out what's happening, what I'm supposed to learn, because I believe that every hardship we suffer is a gift. There are lessons to be learned. And if we don't become victimized by the hardships, but we're open to learn from them. We are rewarded with gifts of knowledge, of skills, of insight, of growth and transformation. And, um, and the more often we persevere, the more often we are rewarded with more inspiration, more ideas, we want to manifest more creativity flows into our lives because we've shown ourselves as a worthy participant in this dance, you know, of, of life,

Speaker 2: Right? Maybe you can help those listening, understanding what these four phases are and, uh, of this journey, because it really helps to know what, what you're talking about. So I know know yourself as the first step, and then you move into this sort of sea of creativity to help us understand what that is and why it's an important part of the process of you're going through this creative journey.

Speaker 3: Okay. So I'm sure you've heard the same thing. You know, there are lots of people who talk a lot, a great story, Oh, I'm going to invent this or I'm going to do this, or I've got this great idea for a story, but until we actually begin, you know, step into it, commit to it, set up a schedule around it, you know, open our hearts to I'm living this creative dream. We're still in the beginning. Nothing has really changed. We haven't changed. We're not necessarily challenged. We're just in that space of excitement and you know, the possibilities. But once you move into the second phase, which is the middle, you know, and it's also can be known as the territory of the antagonists, because this is where you're going to start to meet. I laugh because it's easier than crying. It's it's, uh, this is when you're going to start to meet obstacles, you're going to start meeting the obstacles of your own limitations of, you know, I don't know, plot, Oh gosh.

Speaker 3: You know, my, my dialogue is so stilted and my characters are so wooden. You know, if we're talking about writing fiction and, um, or whatever else you're doing, you know, you're painting and you realize you have no concept of how to mix colors in a way to create the shadows that you're trying to put on the canvas. And so it's a time of learning. This is where, you know, rather than say, Oh, I'm just not gifted. You know, you must to be born of artists to be able to do art, but if you approach it as, okay, this is where I'm supposed to be learning the skills I need in order to, um, embrace my passion, you know, the skills and abilities. And then about the halfway Mark through the project, you, um, you know, things become harder. You realize, Oh my gosh, this is going to take me forever.

Speaker 3: Do I really want to do this? And you're asked to recommit, you're asked to sort of marshal your forces and your energy and decide, okay, I'm willing to go the distance. And then you think, okay, now that I've done that things are going to get easier, but in fact, they start to get harder because the third part of the universal story is really where you start to meet yourself. And you start to really understand these messages that we feed ourselves that, you know, we would never say to someone else, especially someone we loved. And if we honestly are trying to practice self love, you know, why are we saying them to ourselves? But you start to become conscious of these, um, internal obstacles and how burdened your inner spirit is to the point that it can't really guide you and support you with the help that's available to you because it's buried under all of this gunk of, you know, other people's expectations, trying to keep up, trying to be like other people, you know, whatever it is that you're, that you struggle with because we all have these struggles.

Speaker 3: And then, you know, you have a dark night where you start to where you really sort of fall apart. This can be a very dangerous time in a life cycle. It can be a time when people can hurt themselves. Um, you know, in a desperate way, um, depending on how wounded or broken they are inside. And then you, if you come out the other end, which, you know, I want to guide people and encourage people to come out. The other end, you're in the last phase. And again, it's not necessarily easier. In fact, it can be harder because the ascent to your triumph or to the end is still fraught with challenges. You know, you still have to show up, you still have to practice your craft. You still have to support yourself with affirmations and belief in yourself. And then you rise up and you hold this art that you've created in your hands and you, and you're transformed. I mean, on assemble level, you ha you are changed by having brought a creative project from the beginning to the end.

Speaker 1: Right? I really love, I love this journey, sea of creativity,

Speaker 2: Uh, another great author who was on the show. She's a fiction writer, but she wrote a book. Um, her name's Heather Lee Dyer, and she was in episode 26. She wrote a book called creativity or perfection and how she used creativity to basically heal her body. When she was diagnosed with a very terminal case of lupus and given only a few years to live, she's now seven years into this writing journey where she's written and the writing has basically sustained her life. It's all odds. And she wants to inspire young people to write, because it's important to write in that creativity has very little to do with perfection. So it really resonates. And you mentioned this when you're talking about the, of creativity, how, when you're nearly halfway to your goal, that that enthusiasm kind of drains out of you, that there's so much resistance you face. Why do you think that, how do you describe that resistance to people who maybe not experienced it because maybe they have not pushed through that, that moment? What does it look like and feel like if you had to describe it?

Speaker 3: Well, I think it's the moment of, of owning your power. You know, that moment of releasing yourself from what you've been told you should do, or what life should look like, or this should be easier than it is. You know, if you're struggling so much, maybe you're not really cut out for this. You know, why are you spending so much of your time with this, where you could be spending it with your family or your friends, or, you know, there's no guarantee you're going to be a success. You know, why bother, you know, whatever, all those things are. It's a moment when you really stand in your own power and say to yourself, I'm doing this, whatever comes, I am going to finish this. I am going to commit and do what has to be done. And whether it works out the way that I thought it would or differently, at least I won't ever look back on my life and think, wow, what would have happened if I hadn't given up?

Speaker 2: Hmm. That's right. It's such an amazing testimony. When you, you talked about that because what, what struck me was an author, Jennifer Louden, who wrote a book called why bother has a lot to do with this idea of, um, pushing through what's next, that feeling of heaviness or dread. And sometimes we just get into a space where we're feeling stuck. Um, well, what's interesting, again, you talked a little about these sort of the way personality, our personality profile perhaps starts to shape how we behave when those moments come. Can you talk a little about that and what you found can either hurt or help us when we use that sort of personality trait to, to encounter this sort of dip in the road?

Speaker 3: Well, again, I just believe that pursuing, um, any creative task, we are given an opportunity to get to know ourselves better, to get to know, are we a procrastinator or are we a, you know, a perfectionist, are we judgmental? Are we, um, you know, positive or negative, or are we in introvert or extrovert, you know, all these different aspects of ourselves and by being able to, or by being forced to look at ourselves in the mirror, so to speak and really face what it is that we embody both the positive and the negatives. You know, if it's a habit that we've assumed over time, because of whatever our circumstances are, that can be changed. Our personality, doesn't always, isn't always open to change. So we need to embrace, you know, those elements of ourselves that are positive or negative in order to, um, to fully embrace who we are as individuals and as creative people.

Speaker 2: Right? And I like the way you talk about it as a habit. Um, Ben Hardy, who was another guest talks about that personality types are just not true, uh, in episode 94, which I thought was really fascinating. Um, but part of it is because you allow yourself to be fixed on this belief that this is who you always are. And it sounds like what you're saying is that you can use utilize habits despite the personality tendency, you might have to help kind of overcome that. Let let's use me as an example. I tend to be a starter. I love creating things and not always the greatest finisher. Wha what are some of the habits, someone like me who made, there's a lot of listeners who start writing and don't finish or start a creative project and don't move forward that I could apply some habits that would help me like use that as a tool, as opposed to see it as a deficit.

Speaker 3: Well, I think it's interesting to understand when you get to that point of S block or stoppage or whatever, or you've lost your enthusiasm. And all of a sudden the energy around what you're doing is just has dimmed, um, is to spend some time there and to try to assess what's going on. Is it that I'm, um, reluctant to move into the next phase because of what will be expected of me? Because the beginning, I mean, the first step she takes can be the hardest sometimes because it's like, you know, you can think about it, but actually doing it can be difficult, but it's easier to be in the beginning because, you know, everything is new, everything is fresh and you don't have to, um, impose any sort of structure or, um, you know, uh, feeling to this thing. You can just, just go by the seat of your pants.

Speaker 3: You can just, you know, write what comes to you. Um, go off on all these tangents, you know, be able to do what you want to do, but then at some point you have to, if you're writing fiction, you have to bring the story together. You have to bring, you have to impose a plot. There has to be a beginning, middle and end in order to be, uh, satisfying to your reader. And so if that part of it is what's stopping you, then there has to be a feeling or, you know, a sense of, okay, this is where I need to walk. I need to walk into this fear or this resistance, because this is where the gift is. You know, I keep dancing away from it, but until I actually face it, walk through it and keep going, I'm never going to get to my promise. I'm never going to, to manifest the things that I really care about in life, because starting things, you know, you have to finish in order to hold it to in order to share it in order for it to change the world or to impact other people. So, um, I think, again, it's an opportunity to learn more about yourself and, you know, in the workbook, I talk a lot about affirmations or mantras of what we say to ourselves to encourage ourselves, to, to embrace the challenges, to, you know, overcome the obstacles and to prevail.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's right. I have to tell myself and I, in my meditation remind myself that I constantly am full of abundance success and love that it's part of me that it doesn't drift away, that it only comes in more and more stronger doses so that I, I help myself remember that if a challenge arises or a perceived weakness seems to take over that I've survived every hard moment since I've started this journey. And I will survive every hard moment that comes until I don't. And that's just how it goes. That's the way life feels when people are writing a book, let's think about writing a book. Let's talk about your, your work as a novelist, where do your stories come from for you? Where do they get born? Where do they start to take shape? And how do you know which one to hang on to often tell my authors books always come in pairs and multiple pairs sometimes. And they quickly start making book babies as soon as they get together, as soon as they pop out of your head. So it's hard to know which one to grab onto because they're bouncing like rabbits, every which way. How do you find the story that you want to tell?

Speaker 3: Well, it's, um, you know, I think the first few novels that write, come from your own reality, you know, whatever you need to confront and heal. Oftentimes we'll focus on in our novels, the, whether we see it or not, our characters start to mirror us and have some elements of the, the journeys that we've been struggling with. And I think it's an opportunity again, to grow and to heal. And so, um, for me, the very first novel that I wrote, which I haven't yet published, but, um, it was, my dad was really interested in one of our ancestors and had done all this research. I mean, just volumes and volumes of research. And I still had my clinic for children and I hadn't started writing because like you, it was like, gosh, you know, I'm not a writer. I'm dyslexic. How can I write? This is ridiculous.

Speaker 3: But I wanted to organize all this paperwork from my father so that he could write, cause he wanted to write, um, a biography. And, but once I started doing the, the organization, which I'm really good at, you know, I love to have things structured. I love to have things in order. And, um, but a story just started coming out of the research and out of the historical documents. And it just took me on this journey, which made me want to, to pursue it. You know, I never thought of myself as wanting to be a novelist. I just wanted to live in this fantasy world again, which reminded me so much of when I was a child. And so I sold my practice and I just devoted myself to writing. Um, and so, yeah, so I don't know, just the more that you do it, I think the more that pops into your imagination, like you're saying, you can get a lot of, um, stimulation, um, that doesn't necessarily happen for me. It's one thing at a time, you know, I'm sort of very methodical that way and very concrete in that way of taking one thing from the beginning to the end before the next, um, hit of inspiration seems to happen. But I have worked with a lot of writers who their imaginations are like fireworks, you know, just all of this stuff is exploding. And for them to be able to settle down and commit to one project and really focus and take it to the end is their greatest challenge.

Speaker 2: Right? Let's, let's talk about what some of the advice you can give to writers who either are beginning their journey or trying to finish up our project. What advice would you give to those people listening who are like, I'm in the throws of this idea or in the middle of this, maybe the sea of creativity with this book, what advice would you give them? It's, don't stop,

Speaker 3: Don't give up. You know, that will be a regret. That's what I've heard from people that are, you know, aged or are, are, um, seniors or what is the word. But anyway, um, is that they wished that they had been braver. They wished that they had followed through. They wished that they had, um, you know, carved out time for themselves instead of giving away all their energy for others, which is what we're really encouraged, especially women are encouraged to do, you know, is it's selfish. If you spend too much time alone, or if you are devoting yourself to something that, you know, there's no chance or no guarantee that is going to be a success are going to pay off financially or whatever. And so, um, I think the greatest advice I can give is just, don't give up, just keep going, understand that every conflict that you meet up with is there for a purpose.

Speaker 3: It's not to throw you into a tailspin or to make you stop or quit, but it is to stop you. It is to stop you to, you know, make an assessment of what do I need to learn here? What is the message? What am I doing that is taking me off track that I need to pull myself back and learn from this and then see it as not the end result in terms of some sort of, um, you know, external success, but that it's a journey, an inward journey, and that in the end you will have an internal success of being transformed stronger. You'll have a stronger belief in yourself because I think what the, what the task or what the message of creativity is, is to teach us to be fearless, to be able to create fearlessly and, um, and manifest our, our purpose, our dream, what only we can bring forward, because each of us is so unique. And if we don't take it to the end, you know, that promise is lost.

Speaker 2: That's great advice. Thank you so much balance creativity, a spiritual work group for overcoming self-doubt emotional traps and other creative blocks is available. We're going to link that here in the show notes as well. Martha, I know people are probably going to want to reach out to see you, what your work's all about. Tell us where we can find you and get to know more about you.

Speaker 3: Well, my website is Martha alderson.com and I'm on most social media, uh, you know, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, things like that. And, um, some of the social media is under the plot. So my Twitter account is plot whisper. And my, I have an Instagram account that's plot whisper, and a Facebook page. So I have both a personal and, um, more of sort of the creative, um, platform. So, and yeah, I love hearing from people. I love supporting people's journey. I love hearing about their successes and trying to support them through their struggles.

Speaker 1: Awesome. Thank you so much for being our guests. I really appreciate it.

Speaker 3: Thank you so much for letting me this has been really a joy.

Martha Alderson is the best-selling author of The Plot Whisperer. She writes novels for readers, plot books for writers, and posts for anyone looking to enrich their lives with more creativity and inspiration. 

Today, she talks about her book, Boundless Creativity, which takes readers on a spiritual journey where they learn to break down barriers that cause self-doubt and let their creativity flow.

After thirty years of experience working with writers, Alderson developed this spiritual course of action for anyone looking to achieve higher creativity. She offers readers easy-to-follow steps and exercises through a four-phase program called “The Universal Story”—a powerful technique that lies at the heart of every great transformational journey.

What We Discuss with Martha Alderson:

  • Martha’s writing journey
  • What is your creative promise?
  • Leading oneself through writing
  • Understanding the universal story in writing a plot
  • The 4 phases of the universal story
  • Owning your power and embracing elements of yourself
  • How Martha finds the stories she wants to tell
  • Her advice to aspiring authors

[01:49] Martha’s Writing Journey

Martha found that women struggle with plot. She was analyzing all these classics and best-selling novels and prize-winning novels, and screenplays and memoirs and she got it on a very concrete level. She then shared her knowledge with others that she soon became known as the plot whisperer. 

Working with writers, Martha discovered the universality in their journey. It mirrored the journey that their protagonists in their stories were undertaking. 

What’s known as the hero’s journey, Martha thought it was more of a universal story because it transcends beyond the human experience. We’re part of that experience. But it also shows up in nature, in the seasons, the lunar cycles. It’s a much broader, more universal pathway.

[04:00] The Energetic Markers

As creative people, we all travel along this energetic pathway. We hit certain energetic markers which are turning points in our lives and in our creativity that can really affect our path. 

Energy markers can either enliven you and challenge you to overcome the hurdles you face – or make you give up.

Seeing many brilliant writers and creative people giving up, Martha wrote Boundless Creativity to explain to them that universality is not personal. It’s an invitation to go on a spiritual journey, learn more about yourself, and free yourself from a lot of things that interfere with accessing your spirit and creativity at large.

[06:25] What is Your Creative Promise?

We usually lose ourselves as we move through different expectations. And beneath all of that is this purpose of being able to find yourself again. We need to find this promise that we incarnated with so we can bring more beauty and more meaning to the world. 

Every time we take a creative project from beginning all the way to the end, we have the potential to change the world.

Delve into creativity beyond the traditional means. A lot of people are creative because they want to make a lot of money or become famous or leave a legacy or whatever. Instead, do it in order to learn more about yourself. 

Once you start a creative project, you start to meet yourself as well as the things you say to yourself, the limiting beliefs, and the lack of self-worth. If you can start to strip away some of those layers and really access your spirit, which is the deeper part of you, life just lifts everything. It just becomes brighter and easier and you’re in communion with this greater energy that’s out there.

[13:48] Understanding the Universal Story in Writing a Plot 

If you can see how the energy rises and falls in a story or in your own life, you start to feel it. You start to understand what is beyond words because words are very limiting. We grasp them depending on our background and how we associate with the words we’re hearing. 

If people can see the template, they can better understand the energy at the beginning of a story. It’s vastly different than the energy that’s going to come in the middle and at the end. If you can see how that rises and falls, you can start to create the dramatic action in your stories to be able to mirror that. The turning point is where the energy is supposed to rise. 

Every hardship we suffer is a gift. There are lessons to be learned. If we don’t become victimized by the hardships but we’re open to learning from them, we are rewarded with gifts of knowledge, skills, insights, growth, and transformation. 

The more we persevere, the more we are rewarded. The more inspiration and more ideas we want to manifest, more creativity flows into our lives because we’ve shown ourselves as a worthy participant in this dance of life.

[18:22] The 4 Phases of the Universal Story

  1. A space of excitement: We’re still in the beginning, nothing has really changed. We haven’t changed. We’re just in that space of excitement and possibilities. 
  2. The territory of the antagonists: This is where you’re going to start to meet the obstacles of your own limitations. It’s a time of learning rather saying you’re not gifted. Approach it as a way to be learning the skills you need in order to embrace your passion. As things get harder, you’re asked to recommit.  
  3. Meeting yourself: You start to understand we would never say to someone else the messages we feed ourselves. You start to become conscious of these internal obstacles and how burdened your inner spirit is to the point that it can’t really guide you and support you with the help that’s available to you.
  4. Ascent to your triumph: This is still fraught with challenges. But you still have to show up, practice your craft, and support yourself with affirmations and belief in yourself. Then you rise up and you hold this art you’ve created in your hands and you’re transformed. You are changed by having brought a creative project from the beginning to the end.

[24:11] Owning Your Power and Embracing Elements of Yourself

Owning your power is that moment of releasing yourself from what you’ve been told you should do or what life should look like. It’s a moment when you really stand in your own power and commit to doing what has to be done. 

Pursuing any creative task gives you the opportunity to explore different aspects of yourselves. 

Our personality isn’t always open to change. So we need to embrace those elements of ourselves that are positive or negative. By doing so, we are fully embracing who we are as individuals and as creative people.

[28:09] The Writing Process and Advice to Aspiring Authors

When you get to that point of block or stoppage or whatever, or you’ve lost your enthusiasm, all of a sudden, the energy around what you’re doing has dimmed. Spend some time there and try to assess what’s going on.

The first steps you take can be the hardest sometimes. You can think about it, but doing it can be difficult. It’s easier to be in the beginning because everything is new. You don’t have to impose any sort of structure or feeling.

At some point, you have to bring the story together and impose a plot. There has to be a beginning, middle, and end so it’s satisfying to the reader.

You have to finish the things you started so you can share it. It’s an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Tell yourself affirmations or mantras to encourage yourself to embrace the challenges, to overcome the obstacles, and to prevail.

Don’t give up. Understand that every conflict that you meet up with is there for a purpose. It’s not to throw you into a tailspin or to make you stop or quit. But it is to stop you to make an assessment of what you need to learn from that. In the end, you will have an internal success of being transformed – stronger. You’ll have a stronger belief in yourself. 

Creativity teaches us to be fearless. By creating fearlessly, we manifest our purpose, our dream, and what only we can bring forward because each of us is so unique. And if we don’t take it to the end, that promise is lost.

Episode Resources:

Know more about Martha Alderson on www.marthaalderson.com

Martha’s book: Boundless Creativity

Digital Copy of Boundless Creativity

Follow Martha on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Authors Who Lead Podcast Episode 26 with Heather Lee Dyer: Creativity Over Perfection

Authors Who Lead Podcast Episode 94 with Ben Hardy: Personality Types Aren’t True

Book Mentions:

Why Bother? by Jennifer Louden (Jennifer was also featured back on Episode 111)

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