5 Lessons from the Shut Up and Writeathon

My mean wolf has a name. Maxine. She sits down right beside me when I decide to write. She has a lot to say. She tells me I must be brilliant and profound and spectacular. As if that weren’t enough, after a time looking at a blank page she starts asking questions. “Why aren’t you writing?” “Are you sure you have what it takes to be a writer?”

Maxine has a killer instinct.

During the past 2 weeks, I got close up and personal with Maxine. She was encouraged to show her face during an on-line event called the Shut Up and Writeathon, the brainchild of Stella Orange. Stella Orange is a copywriter who helps people with their business writing projects such as writing a website or creating promotional materials.

The writeathon was brilliant. Stella soothed the resistance in sitting down and writing; she encouraged us to play.

During the 10-day challenge, in her wonderful quirky way, Stella helped us unearth the distractions, hurdles and what we say to ourselves. Give that mean wolf a name, she said.

I recognized that mean wolf from other endeavours in my life. I recognized her from my own journey to work that is a good fit for me. And I recognized her from my work with others who want a work life that engages them in the right way. She is wily.

Our last assignment in the Shut Up and Writeathon was to create a blog highlighting 5 things we learned from the experience.

I learned a lot from the experience, a lot that can be directly applied to doing work that matters to you. 

Here they are:

Ideas come through doing.

When I was a young writer, I would pick up my pen when I was inspired by an event or an observation. At some point, I realized I had not written in a long time. It was in a conversation with Luanne Armstrong author of 14 books who told me it is a misconception that our ideas happen before we sit down to write.

She explained it is through the process of writing where our ideas emerge. This idea is life changing. My aha moment this week was it applies to all my writing, business included.


Work that matters is about looking inside yourself to see what makes you tick. It is the doing of the exploration that leads to the idea of where you use your strengths. To know your strengths means doing the work to figure it out.

How can I make this pleasurable?

Stella Orange shared her disciplines for writing. The idea of making writing pleasurable I adopted. There is nothing like fun to get me motivated and engaged.


Work that matters always has the element of fun in it. Remember though – we each have our own ideas of what fun is. We are also more receptive when we are having fun.

Confidence is cultivated.

What is intriguing about our culture is that babies are born with confidence. What happens along the way? We can re-learn confidence. Basically for writers, it means shut up and write. It means showing up, following through on your promises (especially the ones we make to ourselves), and know that we have to find our own way.

I realized in the Writeathon that I need to see my writing times as non-negotiable. The craft of writing happens through doing, paying attention to what works and what does not.


Work that matters requires us showing up in our life. It means taking our aspirations seriously. What it also means is also paying attention to how we keep ourselves small.

Being hard on ourselves is a pointless strategy.

As the days progressed in the Writeathon, Stella told us to celebrate whatever amount of writing we were doing, whether we had missed days or not. She encouraged us to post our “failures” on the Facebook group so we could all celebrate together.

What a novel idea.

In my own writing, I tend to focus more on what I have not done. But what about cutting myself some slack?


When a person is doing work that is not a good fit, I have seen them being quite self critical. It comes with the territory when we have a problem not easy to solve. How can we be kinder to ourselves, especially when we are being challenged?

Even a mean wolf has something to teach.

I had a dialogue with Maxine. She was created out of a need to protect myself. She wants to keep me safe and that means cozy and comfy on my couch. Safe doesn’t look like putting myself out there.


Moving towards work that matters means moving out of the comfort zone. If the answer was there, we would have found it already. What it doesn’t mean is turning everything upside down. It means taking one step at a time. The answer is much closer than we think.


Since the Shut Up and Writeathon, I am feeling a good deal less irritated by my mean wolf. Now when I sit down to write, I expect her to show up. What I realized as I truly listened to what Maxine had to say was she had a lazy trait. She pretty much said the same thing over and over again. No new thoughts. But there I was every day, letting her take up a lot of space. 

What do you think? What is the name of your mean wolf?