6 Tips To Keep Writing When It Feels Like the World Is Falling Apart – on the Final Draft blog

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep writing when the world is both literally and figuratively on fire, which led to this week’s article on the Final Draft blog. It was in part inspired by a Twitter conversation I stumbled across where writers were sharing how unproductive they were feeling. Since I’m finding that the more I lean into writing and our Called to Write community, the more stable, grounded, and productive I feel, I was inspired to write this article about what I’m doing in the hopes of helping you keep writing too, even when things are in such a state of upheaval.

 

“…your desire to write comes from the urge to not just be “creative,” it’s a need (one every human being on earth has) to help others.” 
— Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid
.

Right now it feels like, one way or another, the world is falling apart. As a result, writers are more vulnerable to distraction, stress and anxiety than usual. I’m seeing threads, articles and discussions running the emotional gamut; from despair and rage, to hope and determination, while simultaneously making it clear how hard it is to write or do anything other than scroll the news and social media—at least for those of us willing to say so publicly.

Now more than ever, we need our writing community. In that spirit, here are six tips to help you keep writing, even when it feels like things are falling apart.

Read the article on the Final Draft blog here:
6 Tips To Keep Writing When It Feels Like the World Is Falling Apart

 

 

Image credit: Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Is It Time For a Writing Coach? – on the Final Draft blog

This week I’ve written a piece for the Final Draft blog about working with a writing coach. Sometimes you really need someone on your team to help navigate the challenges, decisions, and process. This week’s article talks about some of the times you might need that kind of assistance and what you can expect to get out of it.

“Coaching works because it’s all about you. When you connect with what you really want and why – and take action – magical things can happen.”
Emma-Louise Elsey

Sometimes you need help to make writing happen, solve a story problem, or sort out the next steps in your screenwriting career. One of the most powerful reasons to work with a writing coach is to have someone on your team — someone to turn to when the going gets tough, to support you to do the work, to help you make smart (and sometimes tough) choices, or even to celebrate the victories with.

When you’re in the market for a writing coach, you’ll want to think about what you most need. Do you need someone who will provide emotional support? Offer accountability? Help you solve story issues? Navigate career management with you? Help you hone your pitching skills? All of the above?

Think about what you’re hoping to accomplish and use those goals as criteria for interviewing possible coaches to work with. And keep in mind that not every coach will offer all things (and perhaps should not, in the interest of specializing), so you may find that you rely on different coaches for different aspects or stages of your writing and career.

For examples of some situations where working with a writing coach could be the difference between staying stuck and moving forward with confidence, read the article on the Final Draft blog here:
Is It Time For a Writing Coach?

 

Image credit: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

5 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome — on the Final Draft blog

 

“I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now.
I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ ”

—Maya Angelou

This week I’ve written a piece for the Final Draft blog about impostor syndrome. It can be paralyzing, and it stops us from stepping fully into actualizing our goals and visions for our lives, if we let it. I hope you find my thoughts on how to move forward with your writing even when you might be feeling like an impostor helpful.

5 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Do you ever feel like an impostor? Like you’re receiving credit or accolades or attention for something you haven’t earned or don’t deserve? That maybe luck or error has gotten you to where you are? Or that perhaps you’ve been cheating your way through life, and you’re on the verge of being found out or called out at any moment for being a fraud, a fake, undeserving, or under-qualified?

If so, you’re not alone.

Turns out, many (maybe even most of us) feel this way, and often. This is what we call “impostor syndrome.” It can be paralyzing, and it stops us from stepping fully into actualizing our goals and visions for our lives, if we let it. After all, if we don’t believe we deserve our dreams, it’s hard to take action on them.

For thoughts on how to move forward with your writing even when you might be feeling like an impostor, read the article on the Final Draft blog here:
5 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

 

“I don’t know whether other authors feel it, but I think quite a lot do – that I’m pretending to be something that I’m not, because even nowadays, I do not quite feel as though I am an author.” 
—Agatha Christie

 

Image credit: Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

How to Thrive While Receiving Feedback On Your Script — on the Final Draft Blog

This week I’ve written a piece for the Final Draft blog about thriving while receiving feedback, which can often be emotionally perilous. I hope you find it helpful.

“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”
― Ed Catmull

Receiving quality feedback on your screenplay is an invaluable step in the process of crafting a story that works. Youre only able to see so much about whats working and whats not working when youre deep inside a story. Getting a fresh look from an outsiders perspective can reveal the places where your script isnt measuring up to your vision of what you want it to be.

At the same time, receiving feedback can feel fraught with emotional peril. Youve poured hours into crafting this story, and notes that take it apart feel like theyll take you apart too. The antidote is strengthening your feedback-receiving muscles. This is a skill you can grow into, and a critical one that will serve you for the entirety of your writing career. 

For ways to make receiving feedback less painful and more valuable,
read the article on the Final Draft blog here:
Don’t Take It Personally — How to Thrive While Receiving Feedback On Your Script

 

 
Image credit: Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

7 Creative Strategies to Survive Distance Learning and Keep Writing This Fall — on the Final Draft blog

Last week I wrote a piece for the Final Draft blog about 7 creative strategies to survive distance learning AND keep writing this fall.

Like many parents, school is majorly on my mind right now, so I’ve been thinking about how best to work with the situation as best I can. One thing I didn’t include in the article (and maybe should have) was how my husband and I are already dividing up the week into a split schedule so we each have solid chunks of protected work time. We’ll adapt that more as we move into the school season. 

“The goal is simply to move forward. The goal is to progress, however slowly, in a productive direction. It is the realization that this is, now more than ever, a game of inches and not of miles.”
Chuck Wendig

With many school districts here in the U.S. planning to open this fall with “full distance” or “hybrid” learning in short order, many writer-parents are anxiously wondering how to keep working their day jobs — let alone keep writing and preserve our well-being — on top of being full-time educators. (And even if you’re not in the U.S., let’s face it: writing and parenting always requires creative planning to pull off, so hopefully this is useful to you, too.)

As someone who has been working from home since 2002 (I’ve kept my business running through my two boys’ early childhoods; they’re now 6 and 12), I’ve come into this situation knowing firsthand how frustrating it can be to try to eke out time and space for work and writing in the midst of taking care of children. And managing distance learning only complicates the care.

Having said that, I also know it’s possible to continue to write, even when pressed for time, energy, and mental bandwidth.

Let me share with you a few things I’ve learned over the years.

Read the article on the Final Draft blog here —> 7 Creative Strategies to Survive “Distance Learning” and Keep Writing This Fall

Image credit: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels
woman gazing out window

Living and Writing In Uncertain Times

We’re living through an unprecedented event in our modern era. Life has changed, radically, in what felt like over night. The word “unprecedented” feels wholly inadequate, honestly. Surreal? Unholy? Disastrous? LIFE ALTERING. Nothing will be the same after this. At least I very much hope that will be true, in the sense of the many broken systems in our world improving for the better as a result of all this. 

I’ve been watching this virus since January, feeling like Cassandra, but hoping I was wrong (usually my fears DON’T become reality). And yet, here we are.

I (fortunately or unfortunately?) just read two books about pandemics right before all this started. So. There you go. Lots of swirly bits of fear, dread, terror, hope, and love all twirling around together in an angsty pile of … angst. It’s not like I didn’t already have a full soundtrack of existential dread playing in my mind, what with the state of our government and climate crisis already in play. 

So. Mostly, I’m working to stay as calm as I can (which is entirely variable from moment to moment), take care of myself and my family, look for ways to help, and write as I can. And “can” sometimes means “can’t.” Sometimes it means writing articles like these, just to keep putting words on the page. 

And speaking of writing, writers everywhere are suddenly facing new circumstances. Some of us have kids at home, for an unknown duration (my guess is the fall start of the school year). Some of us (like in California) have been under a “shelter-in-place”/”stay at home” order for some time already (thank goodness). Some of us have more time on our hands than we’re used to because we’re working from home or unable to work. Some of us have less time than usual to write because of all the other external impacts on our time, plus the internal stresses we’re managing. 

It’s easy to think we “should” be writing and writing and writing. But it’s not like this is just some kind of global vacation. There’s a lot going on, constantly, much of which we can’t see. 

In some ways this could be a writer’s dream. Lots of forced time at home, with potentially lots of time to write. But that’s only a percentage of us. If we’re homeschooling and working from home, things are actually more complicated, not less. 

So what do we really do about writing during times like these? 

On Writing

Here are some thoughts on writing for you in this current period of uncertainty:

  • Please don’t feel guilty if you’re not writing (yet). This is an entirely unusual situation and we’re all grappling with a massive reorientation of how life even works on this planet. Give yourself space and time to be, rest, think, and process. If the moment arises when you’re struck by the urge to write (anything), go for it. Some are pointing out that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague. That’s lovely. Did he have his kids and family home 24/7? Who was getting him food? You don’t have to be Shakespeare. Everyone’s circumstances are different. 
  • It’s okay if your pre-pandemic writing projects change or hold less interest for you mid- or post-pandemic. Your interest may return in a few weeks, months, or never. Your projects may change. (Stephen King tweeted about this recently.) Regardless, it’s okay to trust yourself and see what comes. Intense times result in massive shifts in culture, consciousness, and creation. We are likely to have epiphanies about what we want to write mid- and post-pandemic. I expect an entirely new wave of creativity to explode as a result of this period of time. 
  • It’s also okay to keep working on what you were working on before. If you’re able to keep writing, go for it! Writing is a sanctuary for writers. A place to escape, as well as our job as professionals. In many ways this can be an incredible opportunity to hunker down and focus. (I’ll be sharing an article on the Final Draft blog soon about some tech tools to help.)
  • It helps to hold writing as your important work in the world. Even if you’re not working professionally as a writer, thinking of writing as your calling, vocation, and/or profession can help you remember — even in the middle of a pandemic! — who you are and what you were put here to do. Of course, if the house is literally burning down or you’re sick, you won’t be thinking about writing. Of course not. But assuming you’re healthy, safe, and have your basic survival needs taken care of, writing becomes more possible, and sticking to your work is your job.
  • If you’re writing with kids at home, get really creative. I’m doing most of my writing while my husband takes care of the kids (a rare treat since he can’t go in to work and he can’t work from home) as well as getting up before the rest of the family to write when I’m alone. For other writers, we might have to write later in the evening, or at lunch time, or while the kids are having some screen time. (And yeah, we’re letting our screen time rules be looser, while also having them do their homeschooling work.)
  • On the hard days, write from bed, do “ebb” writing, or write morning pages. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with grief or fear, it’s hard to be creative. I’m finding that sitting in my bed with the covers drawn up, the cat on my feet, and my laptop on a bed table helps create a little cocoon of coziness that’s easier to write in. You can also focus on the easy stuff (that’s the “ebb” writing, hat tip to Naomi for that one) and work on formatting or continuity checks. And sometimes morning pages or love letters to yourself are the way to go. Writing is writing. 
  • Even if you suddenly have tons of time on your hands to write, you’ll be dealing with resistance, maybe even more than usual. Writers often fantasize about writing in isolation (cabin in the woods, anyone?). But the reality is that suddenly having lots of time can trigger more resistance. And especially when fear and uncertainty take hold, it’s super hard to focus on ANYTHING, let alone write. Remember that writing also involves a high level of decision making, also difficult in times like these. However, you CAN make small moves and take small actions to move forward, even now.
  • Reach out and connect. Writers are often used to working from home, but we’re not used to being limited in our interactions quite this much. There are lots of lovely ways to connect with other writers at this point, including on social media. In my Called to Write community, we’ve switched over to meeting on Zoom so we can see each other’s faces. We’re also meeting more frequently, and the turnout for our daily writing sprints is high. It’s SO nice to write together. (Please come join us if you’re looking for structure, support, and community for your writing.
  • Know that writing and art have a huge role to play in survival and recovery. Art, entertainment, fiction, and non-fiction are needed right now, and will continue to be needed as time goes on. How we deliver and receive writing and movies may change. It may not. We don’t know yet. But as writers and artists we have a role to play in the emotional well-being, mental health, and recovery of our global community. The world needs us.

On Self-Care and Grounding

And a few thoughts on self-care and grounding:

  • STAY HOME and take care of yourself and your loved ones. At some point or another, we’re all likely to confront this virus personally, somehow. Above all else, your health and well-being must come first. This means doing all the things we’re reading about online, like washing hands, wiping down surfaces, staying home (please stay home, no matter how low risk you might be, in order to help flatten the curve for everyone), using social distancing if you must go out (and making sure it’s a “must” not a “want”), touching faces only with clean hands, staying hydrated, eating healthy food, getting as much sleep as you can, exercising in creative ways, and resting.
  • Do things that feel good to youAt my house, with the kids home, in addition to homeschooling, we’re playing games, working on a garden project, baking, exercising, and watching movies together. 
  • Acknowledge the grief. This is a massive change and loss we’re all experiencing right now, together. We’re grappling with hardcore survival fears right now and seeing the world change in a way we’ve not experienced in our lifetimes. This means we’re grieving. Grieving the restrictions we’re facing, grieving the future, grieving personal losses. So much. And the sensitives and empaths among us will be particularly affected by the collective energy of grief, fear, anxiety, and sadness right now. IT’S OKAY to be having a hard time right now. Grief is heavy, and hard. It helps to acknowledge what we’re feeling. This is grief. 
  • Remember that things will change, eventually. Elaine Aron mentions this in a blog post written for highly sensitive people (many writers are HSPs). Things may change for the worse before they get better, but they will change. If or when you can, notice that we may see some positives ultimately coming out of this situation. I hope already that voting by mail could become the norm, which will help so many more people be able to participate in our democracy. Carbon emissions are dropping, and we may realize we can make more radical changes to protect the climate. We now have a much, much better understanding of what it means to share a planet and be in this together. There are dolphins in Venice. 

A few things helping me right now…

Your turn

How are you? Are you able to write? What are you challenged by right now? What’s making it easier to write? 

Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you right now, and I’ll happily answer questions in the comments if you have them. 

Image credit: Photo by Trent Szmolnik on Unsplash

Why We’re Rereading Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”

Here at Called to Write, we’re rereading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art

I’ve read it at least five times already. And referred to it many times in between.

This month, as part of starting off the new year, I invited my Called to Write members to read (or reread) The War of Art with me. We’ll have an online book club discussion about it next week where I’m sure we’ll learn even more about this brilliant book as we discuss it together. 

Here’s why I made this pick. 

The War of Art is a Bible for Writing

The War of Art has been like a bible for me since I first read it. It was the first time I understood that I wasn’t struggling to write because I was lazy, or “a procrastinator” by nature, unoriginal, or lacking ideas. When I read it, a lightning bolt of understanding flashed through me. I was afraid. I was afraid I would fail, that I would succeed, that I wouldn’t do my ideas justice. Resistance was what was paralyzing me. 

It was then I began to understand what it meant to face the fear and work anyway, and to help other writers do the same. 

We Sometimes Need Help Finding Our Way

2018 was a hard year for many of us. It was rough personally, socially, politically, and more. 

In my own life, 2018 was borderline apocalyptic. Between losing my father early in the year, several temporary-but-limiting-and-impacting health issues, wretched tech problems with the (old) writing program I was running, the terrible air quality and fires on the west coast over the summer and deep into November, and the political and cultural climate we’re living in right now, not to mention the day-to-day regular stuff of taking care of a family and running a business… well, like I said, it was rough. And between dealing with grief and all the other ruckus, my writing took a bit of a hit. I was writing, but not the way I wanted to be and resistance was high as the year drew to a close.

When life gets rocky, I focus on getting back on track as quickly as possible.

The War of Art felt like the perfect way of clarifying and reorienting, for all of us.

We Do Better, Together

While I knew reading The War of Art alone would be fruitful, I also know there is power in reading and learning together.

I also know it can give us a common language to communicate about our writing challenges, much as we were able to do after reading Finish by Jon Acuff last year

I also sense, in the midst of this globally challenging time, that collectively strengthening our resolve, grit, resilience, sovereignty, and drive will help us better support each other to stay on track with what we were put here to do.

Your Turn

Have you read The War of Art?

How has it changed your perspective on your writing?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Do you have a copy of The War of Art?

If you’re in the U.S., join my mailing list and we’ll send you one! You’ll receive instructions about how to request your book when you sign up. We also have copies of Pressfield’s book The Knowledge to share, though we’re asking you to pick one, not both. :) Many thanks to Steven and Callie Oettinger at Black Irish Books for creating this opportunity for us to share these books with you. 

 

 

You May Also Like:

 

lighthouse

How to Craft a Writing Plan + a Downloadable Worksheet

While you might think you don’t need a writing plan, you’d be surprised how many writers I work with who get partway into their process and realize they don’t know what they’re doing and get lost. This tends to lead to a lot of painful self-berating and self-doubt. But why? Many of us come to writing without training, and even if we’re trained in the craft, we aren’t necessarily trained in the practice of writing.

This will help. 

Mapping out a step-by-step plan can eliminate a lot of headaches. Not all of them. There are always surprises. We also want to leave lots of room for the Muse to inspire and guide us — and there are unexpected challenges along the road.

So this isn’t about getting locked into a rigid framework and then getting frustrated when things don’t go according to plan. Instead it’s about getting clear on what we’re working on and how and when we’re doing it, so we can find the thread again when we get lost in Daedalus’ Labyrinth. 

One of the things we’ll be doing for my upcoming Deep Dive Writing Intensive is putting together a writing plan. Here’s how you can create one for yourself, whether you’re joining us or not (and make sure you pick up my free downloadable worksheet at the end of this post). 

Here’s how to develop a writing plan for your book or script: 

1. Assess what stage of writing you’re in.

Are you at the beginning? Doing story or character development? Drafting a first draft? Or revising your 7th draft? Being clear what stage of writing you’re in will allow you to craft a successful plan, because each stage requires a different kind of writing, mindset, and/or approach.

2. Establish your next milestone goal.

While you can attempt to make a writing plan for the entirety of the writing process for a book or script, it’s more effective to plan and work in smaller increments. For example, you might be aiming to complete an intuitive/lightning draft, or your story development work or outlining. Pick a target you can break down into smaller chunks. This step flows naturally from first identifying what stage you’re in, because you’ll usually be aiming to complete that stage or the next one.

3. Identify the steps you’ll take or tasks you’ll need to complete to hit your milestone.

If you’re writing a first draft, for example, you can estimate the number of scenes you’ll be writing, and approximately how many words or pages you think each scene will be, to generate an estimated word or page count.

(Useful approximate rules of thumb are 2,000 words for a chapter, with 250 words per page, double-spaced, and you can look up the general word counts for your genre to get a sense of where you’re heading, e.g. approximately 80,000 words for an adult novel. The number of scenes per chapter can vary. Screenwriting is different, with about 15 pages until each major turning point in the story, and usually between 90 and 115 pages for a spec script.)

Other examples:

  • For story development, you might make a list of the issues you want to have solved and other meta story items you want to have pinned down. (Here’s My “Must Have” List Before I Start Writing Pages.)
  • For character development, you might use a character profile template and a list of characters you want to flesh out. (Here’s my Character Profile Template.)
  • For a revision, you might first reverse-outline what you have, then assess what needs to change, and then develop a new scene outline. 

4. Set a completion target date or deadline.

If you’re not working toward an external deadline (e.g. a publisher’s or producer’s deadline), you’ll want to set either a deadline or target for hitting your milestone goal. If I don’t have a hard deadline, I still like to have a target I’m aiming for to give myself something to work toward, even if I’m also allowing myself some wiggle room. 

Give thought to why and how you’re establishing your deadline to help with staying motivated. For example, I want to revise my sci-fi script (again) during the next Deep Dive Writing Intensive, so my current goal is to finalize my list of revision changes before we start writing on September 20th. 

Another way to do it is to look ahead in your calendar for “natural” deadlines. For example, you might have a big life event coming up that you’d like to have this stage of work completed by, or a big work project on the horizon coming up that you’d like to be free to focus on. The idea is to give yourself a reason to stay in action.

5. Be clear on what “done” or “completed” actually means.

I’ve made the mistake of targeting “finishing” my current draft but I wasn’t 100% clear on what that meant, in my own mind. Did done mean, I’d written all the way through the end of the draft? Did it mean I’d done that plus a read-through and a polish and was ready to submit to beta-readers for feedback? Did it mean that I was ready to submit to my producer? Being clear helps you know what you’re actually trying to accomplish.

6. Estimate your writing pace.

If you’re a newer writer, this is a little harder to do. And even if you’re an established writer, sometimes certain sections just take longer. But taking a stab at estimating how long something will take you helps you craft your writing plan. How many words or pages do you usually write in an hour? How long does it typically take you to revise pages? How long to develop a character?

In my experience the heavy lifting usually comes in the story development stage, whether I’m writing a new draft or revising, so I allow a lot of time for either story development or assessing what I have and how I’m going to take it to the next level. 

7. Gauge your available time.

Look at at your calendar, and then your completion timeline.

How much time do you realistically have between now and then? How many actual writing hours can you set aside, allowing for life, sleep, eating, other work, family, exercise, and anything else you’re doing or committed to doing? (And is there anything you can eliminate or reschedule, while you’re at it?

8. Check the math.

Now check, does the math work? Do your pace, your deadline, your available time, and your writing plan actually work

For example, if you want to write 10,000 words, you have 60 minutes a day available every day for 2 weeks, and you write 500 words in an hour, you won’t quite make it. You’ll only get to 7,000 words in that amount of time, so you’ll need to adjust. 

Or if you’re targeting 5,000 words in 60 minutes a day, every day for two weeks, and you typically crank out 800 words per hour, you’ll have left an overly generous allowance. Also a place to adjust.

9. Adjust as needed.

Once you do the math, you can tweak the variables as needed until you have something that works.

Extend or retract your deadline, increase or reduce the time in your schedule, or adjust your goal to make it work.

10. Write down your plan and schedule it.

Once you have a workable plan, write it down. Writing really can become a labyrinth, and it’s surprising how easy it is to get off track or lose your way. Having your plan in writing will help you stay the course. 

Make sure you schedule your writing time on your calendar too. 

11. Leave space for life and divine intervention.

Even while you’re crafting this plan, make sure you’re mentally allowing for life to happen and divine intervention to occur. It’s far better to set yourself an easier set of tasks and succeed even if something goes wrong or is unexpectedly slower or harder, than it is to lock yourself in and be disappointed or be hard on yourself if something goes awry. This is about having (and learning) resilience as a writer.

Or you may be inspired by the Muse and something will end up being easier or different than you expected. Or you’ll discover that the Muse won’t allow you to write the “easy” version and you’ll be doing something harder. That’s all about trusting yourself, her, and the process.

Make room for yourself, life, and the Muse, and you’ll be good to go.

Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash

Download Your Writing Plan Worksheet Here

Click here to download your Writing Plan Worksheet to help you craft a plan for your writing or get a jump on prepping for the Deep Dive if you’re joining us. 

 

Interested in possibly joining us for the next Deep Dive?

Find out more and register here: 
https://calledtowrite.com/deep-dive

 

Clear the Decks for Your Writing + a Downloadable Checklist

Back-to-school time is upon us. Whether you have kids or not, the end-of-summer, beginning-of-fall, time-to-get-organized energy is running high right now! 

(It also means we’re at or near that moment where the end of the year is in sight. Can you feel it? I’m feeling it.)

This makes this time of year pretty much the ideal for thinking about how, when, where (and why!) you’ll meet your writing goals for the year. Maybe you didn’t get as much writing done this summer (or year so far) as you’d intended. Maybe you did. If you’re on track, more power to you! If not, this is a great time to adjust your course.

For me, after losing my father in February and some unexpected health issues, I’m in a much different place than I’d expected to be, but I’m ready to take a big leap forward now. 

The fall Deep Dive Writing Intensive is a big part of this plan for me. I’m targeting making a big burst of progress on the sci-fi script I’m working on. I’m also looking ahead, knowing the holidays are coming, we have a wedding to go to, my 50th birthday is coming up (holy smokes), and my older son’s birthday (11!), plus flu and cold season, so I’m aiming to take action while the energy is here. 

In the first prep workshop for the Deep Dive, we’ll start with “Clearing the Decks” for our writing. We’ll meet by phone on September 5th to make our Clear the Decks plans so we’re ready to rock and roll on September 20th when we start writing in earnest. I’m giving you a special preview of this process (and a downloadable checklist!), so whether or not you participate in the Deep Dive, this will help you make more time and space for your writing. 

How to Clear the Decks for Your Writing

Clearing the decks for your writing is a fascinating topic because it can be such a slippery slope — I don’t want you to decide you have to KonMari* your entire home before you can write — you have to be mindful about how you approach this. So many writers put off writing until “everything else” is taken care of first, and that’s just not the way it works — in general. 

However, if you’re setting out to do a focused burst of writing, you’ll want to make some extra space in your life to make it work. The core idea here is to look for opportunities to streamline, clean up, eliminate, delegate, and clear out to make more room for your writing.

This is also an excellent opportunity to review your schedule for any “creep” that’s occurred, like extra commitments that have snuck into your schedule and make it harder have time or energy to write, or any back-sliding that’s happened with scheduling your writing time or your resolve to meet it.

Here’s a list to get you started thinking about the different areas of your life you might want to triage. (Hint: the key word here is triage! Again, you don’t want to try to handle everything, but systematically evaluating what might get in the way and proactively handling it is quite effective.)

Remember, the core idea is to eliminate or quiet things that might otherwise get in the way of your writing. You can use these questions as prompts to freewrite or brainstorm to get yourself started, and then use the checklist (below) as you work your way through making any needed changes. 

  1. Logistical Realm: What adjustments do you need to make to your schedule to make space for your writing? What events, guests, responsibilities, and commitments do you have coming up that you’ll either want to reschedule, eliminate, or decide how to accommodate around your writing? 
  2. Physical Realm: What do you need to do to make your physical space more conducive to writing, if anything? Is there clutter? Are there distractions in your line of sight? How can you take great care of your physical needs with healthy food, snacks, beverages, sleep, and exercise? Are any physical IRL materials for your book organized and ready to use? 
  3. Mental Realm: How will you reward yourself for writing? Are there any open loops you need to close or resolve so you can focus? How will you handle new writing ideas that come up during your writing time? How will you handle negative self-thoughts if they come up?
  4. Emotional Realm: How will you handle emotional challenges that may arise around your writing? How will you handle non-writing emotional challenges? What support systems can you put in place?
  5. Digital Realm: How can you minimize or eliminate digital distractions so you can focus on your writing? Is there any organization of your writing files you need to do? 
  6. Financial Realm: What bill paying and other financial tasks can you handle now or automate so you can prioritize your writing? Are there other financial tasks (like taxes) you need to handle in advance or plan to address when you’re done? 
  7. Relational Realm: How can you guide your family, partners, friends, and colleagues to respect your writing time? How will you protect your writing time from interruptions? 
  8. Spiritual Realm: How can you spiritually prepare to make the most of your writing time? What intentions and positive visions are you holding for yourself as you write? Are there rituals you may want to plan in advance?
  9. Writing Prep Realm: Is there anything you want to have prepped or completed BEFORE you begin your intensive writing time? Do you have a timeline in place for completing it? 

Download Your “Clear the Decks” Checklist Here

Click here to download your Clear the Decks” Checklist so you can make space for your own focused writing burst or get a jump on prepping for the Deep Dive. 

Join the next Deep Dive Writing Intensive.

Find out more and register here: 
https://calledtowrite.com/deep-dive

 

 

 

* From The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
Photo by Carlos Quintero on Unsplash

15 Steven Pressfield Quotes to Inspire Your Writing

Steven Pressfield has been among my greatest sources of inspiration since I committed myself to taking my call to write seriously.

Around that time, a friend suggested I read The War of Art.

It was life-changing.

Since then, I’ve continued to be deeply inspired and motivated by his other books including Do the Work, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, and his newest book, The Artist’s Journey (among others). 

Steven’s work, his ideas, and his message have become a part of me. They’ve become a cornerstone for how I approach my writing practice, and what I do as a writing coach.

In fact, the core of what we offer at Called to Write could not be more perfectly aligned with The Artist’s Journey, both of which span the practical nuts and bolts of writing all the way to the more spiritual aspects of calling, destiny, and purpose. 

Today I’m sharing 15 of my favorite quotes from his books, with the intention of inspiring you, as he has inspired me.

#1. “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.” ~ The War of Art

I have found this to be true, over and over. Every time I’m tempted to check something online or take care of something else first, it’s resistance. And this is what we do with my Called to Write Coaching Circle and my writing intensives — help writers overcome fear, doubt, and resistance, and sit down to write. Every day. For me, showing up to one of our daily writing sprints helps me press that inner “Go” button and get to work. Every time.

#2. “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” ~ The War of Art

I have very much found this to be true. Those who question their calling are the most likely to be truly called. I also find that a writer’s sense of identity is a byproduct of actually writing. In other words, once we’re writing, regularly, we feel like writers. And it’s surprising how little it takes to get to that place. 

#3. “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” ~ The War of Art

I also loved what I heard Steve say in an interview once, “Figure out what scares you the most and do that first.” Fear (and resistance) truly shows exactly where we need to grow. If there’s a place in your writing you’re experiencing resistance, look there first. That novel idea you’re avoiding, the story you’re longing to write but you’re scared you won’t be able to do justice? Go there. 

#4. “The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. . . [he] steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul.” ~ The War of Art

Writing is very much about the long haul. Every screenplay I’ve embarked on has taken far longer than I’ve ever anticipated. I’ve learned now to catch myself when I start saying things like, “this will practically write itself!” and to recognize it as one of the many voices of resistance playing tricks with my mind.

#5. “Creative panic is good. Here’s why: Our greatest fear is our fear of success. When we are succeeding — that is, when we have overcome our self-doubt and self-sabotage, when we are advancing in our craft and evolving to a higher level — that’s when panic strikes. . . When we experience panic, it means we’re about to cross a threshold. We’re poised on the doorstep of a higher plane.” ~ Do the Work 

“Threshold” is a perfect word here — there are transitions in each work where panic appears. When we’re closing in the on the end, when we’re pushing our envelope. It’s fascinating how that’s often the moment when things go awry and panic sets in. The most important thing is to not make it mean anything. 

#6. “Start (Again) Before You’re Ready: I was living in a little town in northern California when I finally, after seventeen years of trying, finished my first novel. I drove over to my friend and mentor Paul Rink’s house and told him what I had done. ‘Good for you,’ he said. ‘Now start the next one.'” ~ Do the Work 

I’ve always loved this concept, because it reminds me that this is a lifetime choice for me. I’m a writer. This means I will always be writing. So when I’m done with one, I celebrate it, but then I get going on the next.

#7. On writing “A Character Smarter Than I Am: I realized something I had already known: The part of our psyche that does the writing . . . is far deeper than our personal ego. That part is tapped into a course whose wisdom far exceeds our own. All we have to do is trust it.” ~ The Authentic Swing

Something I love about Steven Pressfield is his ability to bring in the reverence and awe of drawing on our greater, wiser selves with our writing. That even while we’re doing the “blue collar” work of writing, much like digging trenches and just showing up and putting in the time, we’re also resonating with the Muse on  a higher plane. The work comes through us, when we let it. 

#8. “Aspiring artists often kill their careers in the cradle by overworrying and overthinking. Don’t do it. … You discover who you are as you go along. What defines you is what you have done, but the weird part is you never know what that’ll be until you do it. The trick is: Do it.” ~ The Authentic Swing

Just do it. Just do the writing. And I don’t mean — “just write” — I still prefer to plot and plan my work. But writing is where the answers lie, pen to paper, fingers to keys, even if I’m dialoguing with myself, noodling to figure out what I’m doing. Thinking isn’t writing. I put words on the page to find out what I think, what I know, and who I am. 

#9. “How Writing Works . . . The trick to writing, or to any creative endeavor, is that once you start, good things begin to happen. You can’t explain it. You don’t know why. An energy field is created by your love, your will, your devotion, your sweat. . . Trust it. Be brave.” ~ The Authentic Swing

Writing takes on a life of its own. Writing regularly brings a kind of self-sustaining momentum to it, once we get it going. That’s where the magic happens.

#10. “Before we turn pro, our life is dominated by fear and Resistance. We live in a state of denial. We’re denying the voice in our heads. We’re denying our calling. We’re denying who we really are. . . What changes when we turn pro is we stop fleeing.” ~ Turning Pro

Turning Pro is one of my favorite books of Steve’s. When I read it, I straighten up and get serious about my work, no matter whether I’m loving or hating it. I take it seriously. 

#11. “When we turn pro, everything becomes simple. . . We now structure our hours not to flee from fear, but to confront it and overcome it. . . This changes our days completely. It changes what time we get up and it changes what time we go to bed. It changes what we do and what we don’t do.” ~ Turning Pro

Yes. Once we commit, we redesign and reconsider everything. We recognize the effort it takes to overcome the resistance, and design our writing lives to minimize that friction and get ourselves to the page as quickly and as easily as possible, each and every day.

#12. “The amateur believes that she must have all her ducks in a row before she can launch her start-up or compose her symphony or design her iPhone app. The professional knows better. . . Athletes play hurt. Warriors fight scared. The professional takes two aspirin and keeps on truckin’.” ~ Turning Pro

Although some might find the idea of writing hurt harsh, I’ve found that so many of the stories we tell ourselves about why we can’t write just aren’t true — and most especially those things we tell ourselves we have to have or have done first (like having more time, more money, better computers, or the bills paid, house clean, laundry done, kids off to college… you name it).  

#13. “The artist on her journey confronts no foes that are not of her own creation. Her fear is her own. . .  She has created them mentally. She can defeat them the same way.” ~ The Artist’s Journey

Most everything that stops us with our writing comes from within us. Our fears, our doubts, our excuses. Our addictions. (My experience is that grief may be an exception to this.) I love Steve’s point that we can defeat these the same way they are created. 

#14. “On the artist’s journey, all strengths are mental. . . [and] are self-generated . . . all may be acquired by effort and force of will.” ~ The Artist’s Journey

Our strengths, just like our fears and doubts, come from within as well. We can learn resilience, patience, courage, and more. 

#15. “An artist’s identity is revealed by the work she or he produces. Writers write to discover themselves… whether they realize it or not. But who is this self…? It is none other than the ‘second you’ — that wiser ‘you,’ that true, pure, waterproof, self-propelled, self-contained ‘you.'” ~ The Artist’s Journey

An underlying concept of the The Artist’s Journey is that our “second self,” the part of ourselves that is greater and wiser, is the one who writes. When we allow her to do so. I call this part our “essential self” — the part of us that remains when everything else (ego, personality, negative habits, limiting baggage) has been stripped away and we can step forward fully into ourselves and shine. Steve suggests that our role as artists is to move between our first and second selves, essentially “returning with the elixir” over and over again, as we write, even many times in day, and that the core of what we’ve been put here to do is to make that journey over and over again.

I love this.

If you’d like to check out these books for yourself, here are links to them on Amazon.com and Black Irish Books (Steve’s publishing company). The Amazon links are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you click on them and purchase the books that way.

In other news, registration for my next Deep Dive Writing Intensive opens today.

Check it out here: https://calledtowrite.com/deep-dive

 

 

 

Photos by Carlos Quintero on Unsplash and Ales Krivec on Unsplash