Ask the Coach: When Should I Give Up On a Script? – On Script Mag

Welcome to the next installment of my “Ask the Coach” column on Script Mag!
 
This month’s question is specifically about finishing, and when — or if — to give up on a project:
 
“How can I deal with the indecision that comes with looking at what I’m writing and reaching a point at which I say, “I never should have started this in the first place — no one will care about this, this is unoriginal, this has no chance of selling, what was I thinking?” I don’t see a point at continuing and then go on to the next potentially shiny object. Very frustrating and totally within my control. What do you recommend?”
 
Great question! In order to help you answer it, I have some questions for you.

 

“The first thing to consider is whether or not this inner voice speaking up is the voice of resistance, or the voice of intuition.”

 
For my four questions to consider and my full answer,
read the article on Script Mag here:
Ask the Coach: When Should I Give Up On a Script?
 

 

If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Ask the Coach: Not Three-Act Enough? – On Script Mag

Welcome to the first installment of my new “Ask the Coach” column on Script Mag!
 
This month’s question is specifically about the three-act structure in screenwriting:
 
“What I’m running into is the common criticism that my stories are not strongly three-act. They have a beginning setup, mounting problem, and ending resolution — good stories, I’m told — but tension doesn’t build in common cinematic form. Yet, I watch produced movies even less three-act structured. What am I missing?”
 
As your coach-of-the-moment, here’s how I’ll approach this question with you. Let’s look at the core components inherent in the question: how films get made (to address your comment about the produced movies), the source of the feedback, the value and strength of the three-act structure overall, and the impact of your own work.
 
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
— Neil Gaiman
For my full answer on three-act structure, how to look for a note beneath a note, and digging deeper into improving your next draft
read the article on Script Mag here:
Ask the Coach: Not Three-Act Enough?
 
 
Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay 

 

 

 

Ask the Coach: Your Writing Questions, Answered – On Script Mag

My new “Ask the Coach” column on Script Mag launched this week!

As a writing coach, I answer a lot of questions for writers about how to make the work of writing actually happen. As you may already know, I specialize in helping writers get out of their own way and back on track with what they were put here to do.

In this monthly column, I’ll be answering your questions, anonymously, about navigating the ups and downs of writing, being a writer, and living a writer’s life, specific to your unique circumstances.

This is a judgment-free, guilt-free zone. It doesn’t matter what you have or haven’t done, so far.

What matters is what comes next. Ask me your most pressing questions, and my goal will be to help find a solution that works for you.

For a sampling of topics writers often ask about and to submit your own question
read the article on Script Mag here: 
Ask the Coach: Your Writing Questions, Answered

 

 Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

Sensitive Writers, Keep Fulfilling Your Calling, Even In Difficult Times – in the 2021 Empowerment Guide for Sensitive People

 
“… it’s so very valuable to keep working to fulfill your calling.”

 
 
My article, “Sensitive Writers, Keep Fulfilling Your Calling, Even In Difficult Times,” was featured in the 2021 Empowerment Guide for Sensitive People. As you may know, a prior incarnation of my coaching career was coaching highly sensitive people (HSPs). Many writers fall into the category of sensitive and/or introverted people, though of course not all.
 
The article marries my understanding of HSPs and writers, and shares suggestions about ways to keep writing — and why — even when we’re living in a time of crises. You can find a link to the article below. 
 

“We can’t know for sure what the future holds. But we do have the power to make a choice to continue to write in spite of the challenges we face — or perhaps even because of them.”

 Read how (and why)
on the Sensitive Evolution website:
Sensitive Writers, Keep Fulfilling Your Calling, Even In Difficult Times
Image credit: Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

How to Write All Year Round, The Pandemic Edition (+ Tuesday’s the Last Day to Join!)

This is the third and final article in our “new year to write” series! This article is about some of the lessons we learned in 2020 about writing all year round even in the most difficult and unexpected circumstances. 

In our Called to Write community, it feels like we’ve been through it all together — it’s always an incredible place for learning and growing in a powerful way. 2020 really put our collective writing mettle to the test and I’m grateful for all we’ve learned. 

Here’s what we learned at Called to Write in 2020 about how to keep writing year-round, even in the middle of a pandemic, to bring forward with us into 2021.

Writing with others helps TREMENDOUSLY.

Isolation has been a terrible problem for so many people during the pandemic. And since writers struggle with feeling isolated too? Double whammy. What we’ve found at Called to Write is that having a tight-knit community of writers committed to the cause of writing — even on the days when it just, well, flat out sucks — really helps us see it through. And the thing is, the bad days are so much less important when they’re surrounded by better days. Writing regularly in the company of other writers ends that sense of isolation.

Between our online writing sprints and our weekly, organized Zoom meetings, we have a sense of being in it together. Thank goodness. 

Tip: Find, create, or join a community of writers to help you stay motivated to write. (Hint: Join us!)

Creating MORE structure around writing helps with the timelessness we’ve been experiencing.

Yes, some of us believed having tons of enforced time at home under lockdown would result in equally epic tons of writing time (King Lear, anyone?), but quickly found that was NOT the case.

If anything, we struggled with a disorientation of time and place that felt impossible to manage. Whether you were home alone on your own or in a house filled with unexpected constant companions, making a regular writing schedule happen was Just. Not. Working. 

Oddly enough, in our community, we quickly learned that adding MORE structure for our writing than we usually use was what solved this problem. We added extra writing sprints (we went from one per day to four per day). We shifted to weekly meetings instead of twice monthly, and switched over to Zoom so we could see each other’s faces. We added Progress Journals to track our work and create extra accountability. And what we found is that adding extra structure and support for our writing made it easier to rebuild and maintain our writing momentum.

Tip: Set up designated writing time and lots of extra structure, support, and accountability to help you see it through (as much as you need).

Your “lights out” and wake times really matter.

Getting enough sleep is so important. But so is getting up early to write. These pandemic days are blurry. They squidge together in the most unpleasant way. Grabbing each workday by the horns and showing up to write, usually early, makes it far less important if the rest of the day goes off the rails with distance learning, weird shopping challenges, or other issues.

This is one reason why we ran our Morning Writing Challenge even in the middle of election week. We knew it was likely to be stressful, incredibly distracting, and possibly upsetting, but at the same time, I was determined not to let the state of our republic stop me from writing. And the big way I’ve been doing that — election week and otherwise — is getting up earlier and earlier to write, and going to bed earlier and earlier as a result. 

Here’s the big reason why: Early in the morning, we’re far less likely to get sucked into news, drama, or Other People’s Stuff. Putting your focus on your own work (keeping your eyes on your own paper, so to speak), keeps your writing moving forward, regardless of what’s going on in the rest of the world. 

Tip: Figure out how much sleep you need, and design your schedule around it.

Bonus: Get up early to write and reap the rewards of quiet writing time. 

Small increments of writing (still) work.

Something we’ve always taught about at Called to Write is the power of working in small increments of writing time, as a way to build or reboot a regular writing practice. And, as Vizzini from The Princess Bride says, when something goes wrong, you go back to the beginning. Well, some things went wrong this year. So we go back to the beginning. 

If you got off track with your writing in 2020, use the tool of working in small increments of time — even 5 to 15 minutes — to rebuild your writing practice. You can also experiment with working with small sections of your book or project too, if you’re revising, for example, which doesn’t lend itself as well to small increments of time. I jump-started my script revision by focusing on 15 page chunks; far less overwhelming than imagining tackling the whole thing in one go. It’s just a Jedi mind trick but it works, so I’ll take it. :) 

Tip: Use small increments of writing as a tool to help get yourself going again. 

Remember why you’re writing.

This has been a rough year. I know I’m not the only writer who wondered whether it was even worth it to keep writing in the face of the massive challenges we’ve been dealing with globally. It’s impossible not to question our actions when faced with life-and-death circumstances, oppression, and political crisis. What’s important? How should we be spending our time? Will our writing even have a place to end up? What will readers, viewers, publishers, and producers even want, after all this?

My perspective is that all writing is needed and has a place (I’ll make an exception for hate speech). As creators, we entertain, heal, inform, and grow through writing, and we do the same for our readers and viewers. And it doesn’t matter what we’re writing. Fiction entertains, comedy lightens hearts, feel-good movies lift spirits. Serious pieces offer food for thought. Non-fiction teaches. Our writing has a place and a purpose, and if we’re called to write, we simply have to trust the muse and seek to fulfill that calling.

Tip: Remind yourself why you’re writing and what’s important to you about it.

 

It’s a New Year to Write!

Let’s design our 2021 writing vision and goals together.

Even if you haven’t had the successes you wanted in 2020, it’s the perfect time to think ahead to what comes next and how you’ll get there. 

When you join Called to Write, you’ll have access to the Make This Your Year to Write course materials and our live course events, including two Zoom gatherings and one live chat event to help you work through the steps and refine and share your writing vision and goals. You’ll have all the support, camaraderie, and accountability you need to help you work through the course materials and design an actionable vision and goal plan for your writing in 2021. 

Our events start on January 5th!

Here are the steps we’ll be working through together:

  • Step One: Reflect On Your Writing Life & Career So Far (this lesson today, which we’ll review and discuss together on January 5th)
  • Step Two: Notice Your Writing Patterns, Challenges, & Lessons
  • Step Three: Tune Into Your Vision For Your Writing Career and Life
  • Step Four: Tap Into What You Want For Your Daily Writing Life
  • Step Five: Examine the Gap In Your Writing Life
  • Step Six: Set Goals for Your Writing Year
  • Step Seven: Design Your Writing Plan
  • Step Eight: Create Your Support System

Ready to join us? Find out more and register here: https://calledtowrite.mn.co/

Tuesday’s the last day to join in time for the kickoff Zoom event. 
 
 
First photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels
Second photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

 

7 Mistakes Writers Commonly Make With Goal Setting & Writing Resolutions

Since it’s the first day of the year, and like many writers you probably have goals and resolutions on your mind, I want to highlight a few common mistakes writers tend to make when setting goals for the year, to save you the trouble of possibly making them and stymying yourself or creating unnecessary frustration or disappointment. 

Know in advance that I *am* a fan of goal setting when it comes to writing (and that’s what we’ll be doing with our Make This Your Year to Write process), while at the same time I also know it benefits from forethought.

Here are some considerations to take into account as you plan your goals and resolutions.

7 Mistakes Writers Commonly Make With Goal Setting & Writing Resolutions

Mistake #1: Setting page count or word count goals in a vacuum.

It SOUNDS great to say you’ll write 250 or 1000 words or 3 script pages a day (I’ll write a book/3 scripts a year!), but is it really that great?

When you set a goal for the entire year’s worth of writing focused on a word or page count goal, you’ll most likely be neglecting the reality that writing projects typically also require all kinds of OTHER work that is critical for moving a writing project forward (and counts as writing), like research, development, editing, revising, plotting, structuring, character development, and more.

What happens when you set a word count goal but you’re at a place in your book where you need to edit and revise? Do you end up writing “new words” even when they aren’t relevant to your book… and end up feeling like you’re spinning your wheels? 

What happens when you set a page count goal but you need to restructure your script in order to move it forward? Do you work on two scripts at once… and thwart your forward progress as a result?

The issue I have with word and page count goals set in a vacuum is that they have the potential to create an inherent conflict with yourself; if you focus on meeting the goal, you’re not doing the work you actually need to be doing to move your book or script along. Or if you go ahead and ignore the goal and do the work you need to do, you create an uncomfortable tension within yourself and feel like you’ve let yourself down.

👉 Antidote #1: Design SMART goals that reflect what you’re currently working on and the stage you’re in.

Mistake #2: Focusing on don’t break the chain resolutions.

I gotta be honest, I’m not a fan of “don’t break the chain” resolutions and strategies. I’ve seen too many writers triggered into an obsessive, uncomfortable place trying to keep their streak going. These kinds of goals and resolutions don’t account for days when life goes sideways on us, like getting sick or even just needing to take a day off.

Plus I find that often writers using these streak maintaining methods can end up feeling rebellious and grouchy being locked into something, not to mention a horrible feeling of “losing” all their progress if they miss a day. If anything, breaking a streak, accidentally or otherwise, can quickly become a major deterrent to writing. Once the streak is broken, writers sometimes use it as an excuse to give up on themselves and their goals. 

👉 Antidote #2: Set goals that match your life, are flexible, and allow you to pick yourself up and get back to work if you miss a day here or there or get thrown off track for whatever reason.

(I focus my writing time on weekdays and take most holidays off, and take vacation time off as well.)

Mistake #3: Not setting realistic, achievable goals.

Another common mistake is not setting goals that are actually attainable. I love Jon Acuff’s advice in his book Finish, where he recommends either halving your goal or doubling the time you give yourself to accomplish it. 

All too often writers set “high” goals that don’t allow for real life to happen or put so much pressure on themselves that they more or less implode, giving up on their goals entirely and feeling discouraged and disappointed. 

Having said this, sometimes I see writers who only seem to be able to give themselves permission to write when they are under pressure or in special circumstances (think of binge writing to meet a deadline, only writing during a writing intensive, during NaNoWriMo, or on a writers’ retreat). If you’re wired this way, you might want to consider working with a coach to identify the underlying reasons you’re afraid to write the rest of the year. It’s extremely likely that some level of resistance is getting in your way and that designing a regular schedule with small increments of writing will be a bridge to a regular writing habit and a path to making writing happen more consistently and productively, without the associated burnout that binge writing usually produces. 

👉 Antidote #3: Make your goals so easy they’re pleasurable to fulfill. 

Mistake #4: Not studying your past lessons.

One of the greatest disservices we inflict on ourselves is not giving ourselves time and space to learn from what has worked for us and what hasn’t.

If you set writing goals, and didn’t achieve them, rather than chalking it up as failure and resolving to push through a second (or tenth) attempt, instead reflect on where things went awry.

It usually isn’t what you think it is.

You’re not lazy, or too busy, or don’t have enough time (common myths that stop people from writing).

Odds are you instead set goals that weren’t achievable or didn’t have a workable action plan to help you write all year round or didn’t know how to handle the natural and common resistance that emerges when you’re pursuing a big dream like writing. Or maybe you hadn’t actually picked a clear project to work on yet! There are many, many reasons why writers don’t follow through on their goals, and taking time to learn from those experiences helps you set goals that actually work this time around. 

👉 Antidote #4: Review what worked and what didn’t this year and see what you can learn from it (and yes, you get something of a pass because of the pandemic — and — I’m sure there’s still something to be learned.)

Mistake #5: Setting goals you can’t control. 

Another common mistake writers run into with goal setting is choosing goals they don’t have control over. “I’m going to sell my book (or script) this year!” isn’t an outcome you can control or predict. You can, however, set a goal to send out 50 query letters. Or to make a list of 100 possible publishers for your book. Or vow to submit your script to a specific contest deadline or make 50 pitches. These are goals you can set and control. 

👉 Antidote #5: Put your focus on goals and outcomes you can take action on by yourself. 

Mistake #6: Not reverse engineering your goals to create an action plan. 

Related to mistake #3, not setting realistic, achievable goals, many writers neglect to reverse engineer their goals and make sure they actually work. Often this involves a fair amount of fantasy thinking around how long it actually takes to fully develop a story, do a read through of a script while taking notes, design a full revision plan, or assess how much work there actually is to revise a draft.

So if a writer says, for example, “I’m going to revise my NaNoWriMo draft by the end of January!” when they haven’t read through their November draft yet and don’t really know what they have, or what it’s going to take to get through a revision, it can be pretty discouraging to realize that revising the draft chronologically isn’t going to get them very far, and almost certainly not by the end of January. 

Plus, if you don’t have a plan, you may find yourself procrastinating well into your completion timeline because you haven’t properly assessed all the steps required to get you from A to Z. 

Want to finish a book revision by September 1st? Or write two screenplays by December 1st? Work backward from your intended deadline and map each stage of work to a calendar and writing schedule to see what seems doable. Adjust the goal as needed. Then pad the heck out of that schedule so you’ve got some flexibility for real life to happen along the way. 

👉 Antidote #6: Map your goals to your calendar so you know what to do when, and are motivated to see them through. 

Mistake #7: Not setting goals that align with your bigger vision.

From my Make This Your Year to Write course: “It’s important to start with a long-term vision before setting goals, because [you] want to make sure that your shorter-term, year-long goals are in alignment with your long-term vision.

“Think about it. If you set goals for the coming year that have nothing to do with where you want to ultimately end up, you can end up in an entirely different place than you intended. That may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve worked with who set goals that take them to the wrong place, often because what they think they should be doing or what someone else wants for them isn’t necessarily a match with what they want for themselves.”

Antidote #7: Design your overarching career vision first, then create your goals. (Hint: we’ll be doing this in my Make This Your Year to Write course.)

 

It’s super important to me to help writers set goals that work so we can make regular, consistent progress toward finishing all our writing projects and getting them out into the world where they belong. 

 

It’s a New Year to Write!

Let’s design our 2021 writing vision and goals together.

Even if you haven’t had the successes you wanted in 2020, it’s the perfect time to think ahead to what comes next and how you’ll get there. 

When you join Called to Write, you’ll have access to the Make This Your Year to Write course materials and our live course events, including two Zoom gatherings and one live chat event to help you work through the steps and refine and share your writing vision and goals. You’ll have all the support, camaraderie, and accountability you need to help you work through the course materials and design an actionable vision and goal plan for your writing in 2021. 

Our events start on January 5th!

Here are the steps we’ll be working through together:

  • Step One: Reflect On Your Writing Life & Career So Far (this lesson today, which we’ll review and discuss together on January 5th)
  • Step Two: Notice Your Writing Patterns, Challenges, & Lessons
  • Step Three: Tune Into Your Vision For Your Writing Career and Life
  • Step Four: Tap Into What You Want For Your Daily Writing Life
  • Step Five: Examine the Gap In Your Writing Life
  • Step Six: Set Goals for Your Writing Year
  • Step Seven: Design Your Writing Plan
  • Step Eight: Create Your Support System

Ready to join us? Find out more and register here: https://calledtowrite.mn.co/

 

Stay tuned

for the next article in our New Year to Write series, coming on Sunday, January 3rd, about setting yourself up to write all year long (even in the middle of a pandemic!). 

 
First photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels
Second photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

 

Complete Your Writing Year (+ A New Year to Write Registration Opens Today!)

I’ve got a special exercise for you today. As we begin working through the Make This Your Year to Write process in my Called to Write community, we start by completing the current writing year. 

To give you a taste of what we’ll be working on (and give you a jump-start!) here’s the first step of the Make This Your Year to Write process:

Complete Your Writing Year

We start first with reflection to establish the foundation of where you are right now. 

This is important because most of us have a tendency to focus purely on the goals and resolutions we’re setting for the new year and what’s next, but skip over the realities of what’s happened for us over the last year and what our current writing life looks like. (And yes, this HAS been a highly unusual year, but there are still insights to be gained from what worked and what didn’t.)

Without learning from what is, we create a recipe for pie-in-the-sky goals we are less-than-likely to succeed with. And we want you to succeed, right?😉 

So first, to begin this process, we’ll look at where you are right now, and where you’ve been, before we move on to what’s next. 

I call this completing the year.

We’ll do this by answering a series of three simple questions:

1. What has your writing given you over the last year? And in your writing career so far?

First, we’ll start by having you look at what your writing has given you. What gifts has it brought to your life, and what opportunities?

While you consider this, think back over the preceding year, and also your writing career as a whole.

For example, when you think about the trajectory your writing career has taken, are you enjoying it? Are you happy with the track you’re on or feeling dissatisfied? What has being a writer brought to your life that you would not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience? 

2. What are you most proud of?

While you’re contemplating your relationship with your writing, also ask yourself, what are you most proud of? 

Here again, look at both this current year and your writing career so far.

And please don’t be hard on yourself. If you have a hard time coming up with something you feel proud of, see where you can stretch your awareness. There is always something to be proud of, even if it’s something like, “I always kept my goal to be writing at the forefront of my mind.” Or, “I am crystal clear that writing must be a high priority for me in the next year.”

3. What did you accomplish with your writing over the last year? Make an inventory of your writing accomplishments.

One of the biggest mistakes we tend to make as writers is to keep our eyes only on how much further there is to go, without remembering to take stock of what we have accomplished and completed.

We want you to examine what you accomplished, regardless of how big or small.

How many words, pages, books, scripts, blog posts, days of morning pages, queries, etc., did you write? What did you put out into the world with your writing? Are there intangible things you accomplished with your writing?

Take the time to look back over the last year and make notes about what you’ve accomplished. 

If you don’t have any tangible progress, make some notes for yourself about what you DID do this year you feel proud of.

Writing Prompts

Here are your writing prompts for Step One, assembled in one place for your writerly convenience. Remember, you can write out your answers privately in a notebook or journal, or on this page in the comments section below — whatever feels and works best for you. 

  1. What has your writing given you over the last year? And in your writing career so far?

  2. What are you most proud of? (This year and career, both.)

  3. What did you accomplish with your writing over the last year? Make an inventory of your writing accomplishments.

It’s a New Year to Write!

Let’s design our 2021 writing vision and goals together.

Even if you haven’t had the successes you wanted in 2020, it’s the perfect time to think ahead to what comes next and how you’ll get there. 

When you join Called to Write, you’ll have access to the Make This Your Year to Write course materials and our live course events, including two Zoom gatherings and one live chat event to help you work through the steps and refine and share your writing vision and goals. You’ll have all the support, camaraderie, and accountability you need to help you work through the course materials and design an actionable vision and goal plan for your writing in 2021. 

Our events start on January 5th!

Here are the steps we’ll be working through together:

  • Step One: Reflect On Your Writing Life & Career So Far (this lesson today, which we’ll review and discuss together on January 5th)
  • Step Two: Notice Your Writing Patterns, Challenges, & Lessons
  • Step Three: Tune Into Your Vision For Your Writing Career and Life
  • Step Four: Tap Into What You Want For Your Daily Writing Life
  • Step Five: Examine the Gap In Your Writing Life
  • Step Six: Set Goals for Your Writing Year
  • Step Seven: Design Your Writing Plan
  • Step Eight: Create Your Support System

Ready to join us? Find out more and register here: https://calledtowrite.mn.co/

 

Stay tuned

…for the next article in our New Year to Write series, coming on Friday, January 1st, about mistakes writers commonly make when setting goals for the new year. 

Join my mailing list to get the articles sent right to your inbox.

 

 

First photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels
Second photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
 
 
ice bubble

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

 

This week I’ve rounded up a collection of my favorite Called to Write articles for you, designed to inspire your writing life, offer guidance and support for times you might be feeling stuck or overwhelmed, and even help you stay on track with your writing during the coming holidays. 

Enjoy!

“Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things”

Feeling burned out?

While you might feel like you “should” be rested from staying at home so much this year, the truth is, this has been an exhausting, tumultuous, and difficult time, so giving yourself time to recover is important.

Here are two of my past favorite articles with suggestions about how to recover. 

7 Steps to Recovering From Creative Burnout

When you have nothing left

 

Wondering if you should be pushing to write when you’re sick, exhausted, or grieving?

Here’s one of my favorite articles about when to write, and when to take it easy:

When to Write and When to Call It a Day

 

What counts when it comes to writing?

On a lighter note, when it comes to writing regularly, sometimes writers twist themselves into knots thinking they have to be writing “new words” every single day of the year.

My opinion? Not so.

Hint: This article will help you adjust your mindset about what “counts” as “real writing,” and is critical when it comes to setting goals and resolutions for the coming year. 

What “Counts” as Writing?

 

Having trouble staying motivated to write in these uncertain times? 

Here are two articles designed to help you navigate these choppy waters and keep writing.

Living and Writing In Uncertain Times

7 Mindset Perspectives to Motivate Your Writing — On the Final Draft Blog

 

Want to keep writing through the holidays? 

Here are articles to bring holiday cheer and practical strategies to help you keep writing. 

What has writing given you that you’re grateful for?

10 Tips to Help You Keep Writing Through the Holidays

 

I hope you enjoyed this collection of articles and I’m wishing all the best to you and your writing in the coming days and weeks.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

Morning Writing Challenge Wrap-Up

We’ve reached the end of the Morning Writing Challenge! This week has not been an easy one to do this in, what with everything going on with the election and all, but we did it anyway. You have all my respect and admiration for sticking with your writing through thick and thin.
 
And, if you’ve been following along with the writing tips but haven’t participated in the challenge, two things: 1) well done for learning more about how to have a successful morning writing practice, and 2) I’m going to tell you today about a chance for a do-over if you’d like one. 
 
First, let’s review what we’ve accomplished and what we learned + one more bonus tip. Then I’ll tell you about how to keep this all going.
 

Celebrate Your Accomplishments

 
With writing, it’s SUPER important to celebrate any and all accomplishments or successes. It’s waaaaaaay too easy to focus on what we didn’t do, and discount what did do. 
 
Here are some accomplishments to consider celebrating this week:

  • Committing to the Morning Writing Challenge and saying “Yes” to your writing (whether you wrote or not)
  • Reading and learning from the writing tips I’ve been sharing.
  • Showing up for any number of attempts at morning writing.
  • Showing up to write at ANY time of day to write.
  • Writing successfully for any length of time. 
  • Writing more regularly than you’ve been writing.
  • Writing in the face of incredibly intense distractions. 
  • Cataloging the writing you DID do and tallying it up. 

 

What We Learned This Week ✓

 
In order to help us more fully integrate what we learned this week, let’s briefly review the writing tips we’ve studied together. 
 
I’ve shared them here in a clickable list so you can click through and read more about each one. (Note that there are two tips in each blog post so the links for #1 and #2 will take you to the same place, for example.)
 

Tip #1: Set your “lights out” time. 

We set a “lights out” time to guarantee we get enough sleep AND are able to get up more easily for our appointed morning writing time.

Tip #2: Have a single project to focus on. 

When we focus on a single project at a time, it reduces decision making paralysis and makes it easier to jump in and get to work each day.

 

Tip #3: Be ready for the “day after perfect.” 

When we have a “perfect” writing day, we may be more likely to self-sabotage the next day. Similarly, when we far exceed our day’s writing goals or push ourselves to keep writing, we may experience a resistance backlash the next day, making it harder to write.

Tip #4: If you didn’t write today, start over tomorrow. 

There’s always a new day, and we don’t have to wait around for a far off perfect time to restart. If we didn’t write today, we can start over at the earliest next available opportunity.

 

Tip #5: Boost your focus with timed writing sprints. 

We can use timed writing sprints to help us keep our focus on our writing — and track our writing time too, which helps us better appreciate all the hard work we’re doing and progress we’re making.

Tip #6: Supercharge your writing with group writing sprints. 

We can write with other writers in group writing sprints to heighten our determination, commitment, energy, and passion for writing. Writing with people who understand what we’re doing helps end writer’s isolation and helps us feel like part of a team.

 

Tip #7: On tougher days, try focusing on “ebb writing.” 

Even when the going gets tough, we can keep moving our writing forward by focusing on easier writing tasks like making minor revisions or checking for continuity, to keep our hands in our drafts and keep our momentum going. We can also write for super small chunks of time to jumpstart ourselves. 

Tip #8: Block out the distractions. 

We can use distraction blockers and tools to help ourselves stay focused on our writing and protect our writing time.

 

Tip #9: Create “sacred writing time.” 

We adjust our mindset and our logistics and boundaries to create dedicated appointments with ourselves for writing, knowing and trusting in the value and importance of writing in our lives.

Tip #10: Set yourself up for success.

We design our writing lives for success by setting up our physical and digital environments to make it easier to write instead of doing other things.

 
 
And here’s a last bonus tip for you:

Tip #11. Writing begets more writing.

A long time ago I was taught about a study of academic writers by Robert Boice, where he found that writers who write regularly (5 to 7 days per week) are TWICE AS LIKELY to have frequent creative thoughts as writers who write intermittently.
 
Have you noticed this over the course of our 5 days together? It might be a little early to tell, but what I’m noticing myself is that words and writing and writing actions are coming even more quickly and easily to me this week than usual. It’s exciting to see and remember how when I up my own writing game, I really see and feel the rewards. How about you?
 
 

How to Keep This All Going

 
If you’ve benefitted from this experience this week, first, I’m truly thrilled. I could not have hoped for a more lovely group of writers to participate! 
 
If you’re interested in keeping your momentum going (and I hope you are!), here’s my recommended plan:

  1. Set a regular writing schedule for yourself and put it on your calendar.
  2. Find a way to create supportive group energy around your daily writing practice. (Pro tip: Join our Called to Write community and be part of our daily writing sprints!)
  3. Fine tune your writing practice as you go along. Any “failure” is not an actual failure, it’s information about what’s working and what’s NOT working, and gives you insight into what you need to adjust to make it easier to keep going, e.g. writing for shorter lengths of time, adjusting your start time, tweaking your distraction blockers, etc.
  4. Reach out to me for help if you need it. I offer short 15-minute laser coaching sessions at an affordable rate and we can do A LOT in that time span, especially because you’ll already have a shorthand understanding of the kinds of recommendations I make, so we can easily fine tune them for you together. My booking link is here. Note: If you haven’t had a free writing plan session with me yet this year, you’re welcome to start there. 
 

A Chance for a Do-Over… or a Do-Again!

 
If you didn’t write this week or participate in the challenge as thoroughly as you wanted to or just plain want to do it again, there WILL be a chance for a do-over or a do-again. We’re setting up a course based version of the writing challenge inside my Called to Write community, which means that if you join us, you’ll have a chance to do it all again, alongside other daily writers. 
 
Please note we do have financial aid available. 
 
Look what we shared, writers! 👇
 
Images of morning writing spaces

 

Thanks so much for following along with me!

Morning Writing Challenge Tips 9 & 10

Welcome back to the Morning Writing Challenge Tips series.
 
Regardless of whether or not you’ve participated in the challenge, these tips are useful for building and sustaining a lasting writing practice. 
 
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips #9 & #10

Today I’m sharing two new tips, #9 & #10.
 
 
And here are today’s tips:
 

Tip #9: Create “sacred writing time.”

 
Now that you’ve had some experience with writing in the morning, I want to encourage you to create ongoing “sacred writing time” for yourself. 
 
Sacred writing time is time you specifically set aside for writing each day, and nothing else. It’s an appointment you keep with yourself, and hold as highly important. You treat it the same way you would as if you had an appointment for a job interview or a meeting with an esteemed mentor. You wouldn’t dream of not showing up for those, right? The idea here is to mentally establish the value — the sanctity — of writing in your life. 
 
Creating sacred writing time involves making both mindset and logistical shifts.
 
Sacred Writing Time Mindset
 
In terms of your sacred writing time mindset, this is about deeply internalizing how important writing consistently is to you. Your reasons may vary from mine. I encourage to reflect on this or even make your own list.
 
Here are some examples of why writing regularly is so important:
  • It keeps us grounded in who we are as writers, even (especially) in difficult times.
  • It helps us move our writing careers forward (if we’re not writing, we can’t produce or advance).
  • It creates a sustainable path to developing and finishing work we can then put out into the world.
  • It makes us happier; when we’re writing, we are more fully actualized, happier human beings. Which makes it good for us, sure, but ALSO for the people around us and the greater world.
  • It fulfills our call to write. There’s nothing like writing regularly to help you know, in your bones, that you are a writer.
  • It’s a way to say YES to yourself and your hopes, dreams, and desires. 
 
Sacred Writing Time Logistics
 
In terms of practical applications, creating sacred writing time also involves some logistical considerations. Here are some things to consider implementing to help create sacred writing time in your life. 
  • Create regular appointments on your calendar dedicated to writing time. Don’t schedule anything else in those hours. No appointments, no errands, nothing.
  • Let your household members know you’ll be writing within those hours and are not available for chatting, dealing with issues, etc. ALSO let them know when you WILL be available and make sure that’s true. If you tell them you’ll be available again after your writing time, be available then. Don’t keep writing, even if you’re in the flow. This lets them know they can trust you, and makes them less likely to interrupt you while you’re working.
  • Similarly, let your close friends and family members who might expect fast responses from you via phone, text, email, etc. also know you’re not available during certain hours. Ditto on being available afterward.
  • And, set limits with yourself, too. Using the tools I shared yesterday, block out distractions. You also have to keep yourself from interrupting your own writing time. No checking email, texts, etc. If you find yourself faltering, shore up your writing boundaries, and protect your sacred writing time like a mama lion protecting her cubs.
Having said this, don’t beat yourself up if you get off track. Learn from it, and start over the next day.
 
Putting this into practice: Consider writing out a list of reasons why writing regularly is important to you. :) When you write tomorrow morning, have a planned start time, and see how it feels to hold that time as sacred for just you and your writing.
 

Tip #10: Set yourself up for success.

 
Writing consistently in the long term is easier when you set yourself up for success. Something I’ve noticed as a fun side effect of the Morning Writing Challenge is that because I’m taking a picture of my writing spot each morning, I’m straightening up and getting all my tools ready before I begin. This makes it easier to get started.
 
I’ve also gotten in the habit of making sure whatever I’m going to be working on is the first thing I see when I come to my computer. For example, I’ll make sure I have my script file open on my laptop and the Forest App open on my phone even if I’m going to grab my cup of tea first. That way, when I come back and sit down to write, I’m far more likely to just dive into it than get distracted by anything else.
 
I’m reminded here about a story I came across about a man who wanted to stop watching so much TV and start reading more. He took the batteries out of his remote control and set them next to a stack of magazines. Every time he sat on the couch and reached for the remote control, he was forcing himself to make a choice: go to the trouble of putting the batteries in and succumbing to watching TV, or take the easier path to reading and fulfilling his true goal. (James Clear references this idea also in his book Atomic Habits, excerpted here.)
 
The idea here is to make it easier and easier to keep writing, and harder to do other things.
 
Here are some ways you might experiment with doing this:
  • Keep your current writing files open on your computer at all times. (I make sure to save frequently though, and close them over the weekend so I’m certain my backups are happening).
  • Strive to always know what you’re going to be working on tomorrow. If I’m in the middle of something when my writing sprint ends for the day, I’ll leave myself a note about where to pick up and what to do when I come back, right in the draft.
  • Leave a “ragged edge” in your writing. When you finish with your day’s writing, it’s almost preferable to leave something undone, even stopping in the middle of a sentence. That way, your subconscious mind knows what it’s going to be picking up the next day.
  • End on a high note. Rather than pushing to keep writing, even if you’re in the flow of writing, I recommend stopping when you planned to stop writing. Ending while you’re in place of flow and inspiration (rather than wrung out or exhausted) reinforces your energy for writing and makes it easier to come back to tomorrow.
  • Aim to know what you’re going to be working on next. I typically have both daily, short-range, and long-term plans for my writing. I tend to focus on increments of work for my short-range goals, like completing the next 15 pages of my screenplay. In the longer term, I have a mental queue of which project I’ve got lined up to work on next. While I can always adjust it, it helps me to be tracking ahead into my future so I don’t get lost when I finish something.
  • Strive to keep the gap between your writing sessions to no more than 20-24 hours, at least 5 to 7 days per week. The longer you go between writing sessions, the more resistance has time to build up, making it harder to write. Keep it shorter to make it easier to get right back to it. No warming up required. :)
  • Always know when you’re going to start writing again, if you take time off for a day, weekend, trip, vacation, illness, etc. I take weekends off, which means I have a longer gap of 70-72 hours from Friday writing to Monday morning writing, so I make sure I’m committed to a writing sprint first thing Monday morning to keep me on track.
  • Have a dedicated space (or spaces) for your writing. The more you regularly write in a specific spot, the more being there becomes a trigger for you to write.
  • Consider using short writing rituals to spark your writing time, like lighting a candle, making a cup of tea or coffee, or reading an invocation aloud. (Even setting your timer counts!) These co-habits reinforce your writing rhythm and routine. This is a bit like always brushing your teeth before you go to bed. They just go together.
  • Write in timed, group writing sprints, as we’ve discussed.
  • Write while using distraction blockers, ditto.
Putting this into practice: What might you experiment with tomorrow morning? Is there anything on this list that speaks to you? Something else?
 
Cheers!!
 
 
 

Thank you for following along with the Morning Writing Challenge!