Janine Giovanni has been a coach for the last 13 years, working closely with writers, from beginners to Sunday Times bestsellers, on everything from imposter syndrome to procrastination and time management.

We were delighted to welcome Janine to the Women’s Prize LIVE line-up, where she shared her expert skills at a series of personalised 1:1 coaching sessions. We asked Janine to share some words of wisdom on overcoming the fear of the blank page and embracing creativity.

Janine Giovanni:

When I first ask the people I work with what is stopping them from writing, a huge variety of answers come back to me – I don’t have time, what if it’s rubbish, I should be doing something else, I’ll never be as good as x so what’s the point – the list goes on and on. Us human beings are very creative when it comes to reasons not to do something that we might find a little scary. So we might spend a few sessions working on these barriers, shining a light into the furthest corners of their beliefs about their current situation and coming up with strategies and tools to work on these so they can begin the work of creating. Sometimes these techniques are enough to get them going, but often there is something else stopping them that they just can’t put a name to.

As we dig a little deeper together this block begins to reveal itself through the language they might use – people like me don’t write, I should be doing something more useful with my time, what if I spend all this time on something and then fail – the challenge often lies in the gap between the sort of person they think they are and how far removed that is from the type of person they think is allowed to be creative.

We live in such an outcome-based society that many of us have forgotten how to create for the sheer pleasure it gives us and so never allow ourselves to feel the fulfilment and joy that being in creative flow can bring. We strive to achieve goals, likes, shares, promotions, pay rises. Even in our self-care we strive to reach the next level yoga position, a ‘true’ state of meditation or a soak in the bath has to be petal-filled and instagrammable.

Many of us never allow ourselves to create just because we feel the urge. In our busy, driven world it can feel frivolous, a waste of time, it’s not who I think I am, or how others think of me. But what if we could change that? What if we could say I’m going to do it anyway? Who do you need permission from to be able to start? A partner? A boss? A friend? A parent? Would that make the difference?

Or is the person you actually need permission from… you?

If you could give yourself permission to take time to create what would it say about the sort of person you are? Are those things true? Or are they assumptions?

If you could give yourself permission to create with no expectation, just for the sheer joy of trying it, what would you do?

Find out more about Janine over on her site Inkworks Coaching.