Are You a Renaissance Soul? Use It to Your Advantage

Today’s guest post is from Michelle Ward, aka The When I Grow Up Coach, who has worked with over 100
creative types to help them with their career goals.

Are you a Renaissance soul? To find out, answer the following questions:

  • Do you find a lot of different things interesting/worthwhile?
  • Do you have a tough time choosing just one thing to work on?
  • After a few weeks working on one piece, do you get the itch to move on?

If you answered yes to at least 2 of these questions, it doesn’t mean that you’re flaky, unfocused, or are bound for failure. You’re, instead, a Renaissance Soul—like about 90% of the other creative types I talk with and coach!

It simply means that, as described here, you have too many passions/interests to pick just one—just like Michelangelo and DaVinci! Not bad guys to compare yourself to.

You may not believe me, but being a Renaissance Soul ain’t a curse. I know—you’ve been told that you need to Finish What You Start or Pick Your Niche in order to be a successful writer, but to that I say: Hooey!

It’s still possible to have a kick-ass career—and even be known as an expert—without feeling like you have to put yourself in a box. Here’s how:

Determine Ideal Conditions for Your Renaissance Soul
I have a client who discovered that her Renaissance Soul is happiest immersing herself in one project until completion, but only if that project has an end date no more than 3 months in the future—and she knows in advance the next project to switch to. Because of those quarterly goals, she knows she’ll complete 4 projects every year, which is a high (and motivating/exciting!) number for her.

Personally, I enjoy having my hands in 2 or 3 projects at a time, working on them each for about an hour a day or longer (when inspiration strikes). If I had to work on 1 project continuously until it’s done, I might go insane.

To figure out how you work best, ask yourself:

  • How long can I work on something until I get antsy?
  • How would I react if I was told that I had to work on 1 thing until it gets done?
  • What about 2 things? 3 things? 4 things? Find your optimal number.
  • Where do you feel the biggest sense of accomplishment/happiness/growth: starting a project, working on it, or finishing it? When you have the answer, do some brainstorming as to what type of structure will let you live in that place the longest.

I had a client who started projects to prove to herself that she could do it, but once she got to that place (“Knitting a scarf is so easy! I can so do this!”), she abandoned the project and made herself feel guilty in the process. Once I asked her to get her half-finished projects out of her sight, her Guilty Vampire left her alone. She even finished the next project she started by ensuring it was challenging at the start and that it had a purpose (to give the scarf to her sister as a birthday gift) until the end. She’s also able to start and abandon projects guilt-free, to scratch that I Can Do It itch anytime she wants.

Do a Brain Dump RIGHT NOW

Set the timer for 3 minutes right now, and do a big brain dump of everything that’s buzzing in your head that you wanna write about. Once they’re all there, prioritize them. If you don’t know where to start, then rate them by excitement from 1 (“meh”) to 10 (“THIS IS AMAZEBALLS!”). Then, rank them based on the excitement number. If there are any ties, then go by which project feels easiest. Yes, easiest.

How to Get Unstuck
Working from the optimal place you discovered above, you can ask yourself the following if you find yourself getting stuck:

  • Why do I want to change directions?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • Is this something I still want to explore? If so, how much time/energy do I want to give it?
  • Do I want to revisit this at another point in time? If so, mark a date in your calendar a month from now and switch gears. Then, on that date, reassess again how you’d work best and don’t feel guilty about taking that project entirely off your plate.
  • What’s the one consistent thing that comes up in your writing no matter what? Is it your infectious energy, your eternal optimism, your sarcastic streak, your descriptive prose? Dig deep (or go directly to the report cards, the feedback from teachers and classmates, and/or the blog comments) and see what’s consistent. Now, make sure you bring that strength into whatever you write.
  • What can you be counted on to provide? Instead of focusing on the actual genre or project, focus instead on the traits that come with it and make yourself known by your uniquity. Then, it won’t matter if you’re writing children’s books and short stories—the fact that you’re the writer will be apparent no matter the format.

So forget the stress of becoming boxing yourself in, or having to write one piece until it’s done or you’re torturing yourself (whatever comes first).

Instead, focus on learning how you’re most productive, enjoying what you do and using your specialness as a Renaissance Soul to share your awesome writing with the world!

Michelle Ward is a certified life coach by the International Coach Academy and a musical theater actress with her BFA from NYU/Tisch. She can be found coachin’, bloggin’ and givin’ away free stuff at, and encouraging everyone to claim their uniquity at The Declaration of You.

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13 thoughts on “Are You a Renaissance Soul? Use It to Your Advantage

  1. adisonadolf

    his is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the excellent work.
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  2. Mary W. Jensen

    Yes! Thank you for opening my eyes and allowing me to not feel guilty for my five novels in progress. I realize now that it would be more productive for me to switch projects when I get stuck than take weeks off because I’m frustrated with a story. I’d feel much better making progress on *something*.

  3. Michael Gettel-Gilmartin

    So that’s what I am! My critique group jokes that I’m AADD, the first "A" standing for "advanced." It’s not that I never finish anything (I finished two first drafts last year) but I am so frequently assailed by ideas that sometimes my head spins. Right now I’ve embarked on two new novels and a short story–and yesterday I heard a story about burn victims on NPR that made me both cry, "see" a character I could write about, and make me think I should go see my doc for some ritalin.

    So… thank you Michelle for everything you wrote. (And thank you, other commenters. It seems we are not alone!)

  4. Carolyn Patin

    It is amazing how your post relates to me in my life, but not as a writer. It relates to my many interest/hobbies. I never could narrowed it down to one. You made my evening.

  5. Susan Cushman

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this, Michelle. From this day forward, I will no longer tag myself as "ADD." My new tag: Renaissance Soul. I have two books-in-progress (one fiction, one non-fiction), ideas for at least two more books, I write for 3 blogs, organize writing workshops, have 8 published essays, and don’t want to quit doing any of these things to focus on just one of them. Now I feel like I’m not crazy, and I’ll continue to feed my Renaissance soul whatever it needs to get by!

  6. Steven M Moore

    Hi Michelle! Thanks for validating my work style. I wrote my first novel at 13 (it was terrible, but similar in fact to "City of Angels"). At the same time I was tutoring an elderly neighbor lady who needed symbolic logic to finish her psych degree. I always said that I was a jack of all trades and master of none, which, if I interpreted you correctly, is a more disparaging way of saying Renaissance man. Like you, I like to have several parallel projects going on, not necessarily all writing. With an active blog, short stories, and novels, I feel the pressure on for other projects and especially social networking. I lay out an agenda for each day, which today includes dealing with 19" of the white stuff. LOL. Thanks for an interesting and informative post. Take care. r/Steve

  7. dandellion Kimban

    Thanks so much for this post.
    As you can guess, I’m one of the souls that’d been tortured by their renaissance nature. Mine "course" doesn’t spread just across the writing but multiple arts. Most of the time, I need months to last 60 days with 36 hours each. 🙂

    It’s great to see how the other people are handling it.

  8. Janet Boyer

    Lobenstine’s book Renaissance Soul changed my life…especially my writing life. In fact, the title of my main blog is "Renaissance Soul Ablaze". However, some find it "weird" that I’m good at multiple things. "Wait…I thought you were a TAROT reviewer?" No, I’m a prolific reviewer who happens to review Tarot-related products. "But you ARE a Tarot authors, aren’t you?" Well, yes, but I’m also a blogger (have 3), Social Media Consultant, professional Tarot reader, freelance writer and Editor. *laughs* Only fellow Renaissance Souls understand each other, methinks!

  9. Perry

    Hmmm, lovely idea – who wouldn’t want to be a renaissance soul.

    Seriously thanks for this. I have wasted too much time trying to force myself to focus on one project rather than project hop to keep the excitement up.

  10. Ruth E. Day

    Thanks for this! I’m currently working on a novel that I HAVE to write for my senior thesis. I was perfectly happy working on it for about four months, but now I’m DYING to get back to editing the novel I wrote over the summer. I also have a new idea for an MG fantasy novel that also plagues my mind all the time. I was beginning to think I was flaky, unfocused, and bound for failure! 😉

  11. Laura M. Campbell

    I agree with Andrea. Browsing my folder of writing ideas and my bag of arts and crafts supplies, I notice an abundance of unfinished projects. They look at me eager to be finished without a deadline attached to them. With my blog, I have set up a weekly schedule designating what I will post on which day. I’ve been sticking to it so far this week. I’ve also set up a writing schedule to keep myself in check. Deadlines and a set routine help harness my Renaissance Soul and keep me from floating around, idea to unfinished idea.

    Thank you for the post. It’s comforting to know my flakiness is a result of my creative mind and not a lack of motivation.

  12. Andrea Di Salvo

    I’ve identified with many articles and blog posts over the years, but I’m not sure I’ve ever identified with any of them more than I do this one. I do tend to consider myself flighty, unfocused and more than a little ADD. I match many of the characteristics Michelle mentions, and I’ve always considered them negatives. It’s nice to know there’s an up side! This post was a great blend of reassurance and practicality. Thanks so much for sharing it.