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!

Morning Writing Challenge Tips 7 & 8

Welcome back to the Morning Writing Challenge Tips series.
 
If you haven’t joined the challenge, it’s (really!) not too late to join us. You can still find benefit in participating for the next two days. Find all the details here. 
 
Either way, these tips are useful for building and sustaining a lasting writing practice. 
 
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips #7 & #8

Today I’m sharing two new tips, #7 & #8.
 
 

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

 
When the going gets tough, sometimes we need a back up plan for writing. A way to keep writing, keep moving forward, even when our minds and hearts are not quite in the game.
 
On days like these, I focus on “ebb writing.” (Hat tip to Naomi Dunford, formerly of IttyBiz, for this idea.) 
 
Ebb writing is about doing the easier writing. On days when I’m distracted, stressed, frustrated, extra resistant, or tired, I might do something like check my script’s scene headings for continuity, run spell or grammar checks, or make simple edits. I made a point yesterday to do heavier lifting on my script revisions (redlining the draft of my current section, which required more focused thinking) so I could make those changes in the draft today. Easy peasy lemon squeezy 🍋, as my niece would say. Then, because my brain got deeper into writing mode, I was able to begin a slightly harder revision of a scene I’d flagged yesterday. I’ll finish it up tomorrow.
 
As Steven Pressfield says, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” So if I can get myself to my computer, minimizing distractions and other inputs along the way (more on this in Tip #8, below), and start with something easy, I can get off and running. On the other hand, if I don’t find myself rising to the challenge for the day, I can stick with ebb work, and feel good about having moved my writing forward, no matter what, free to begin again anew the next day.
 
Ebb writing can also look like simply putting your focus on ANY writing for the day. Want to write a poem today? Go for it. Need to vent about the state of the world? Awesome, get it on the page. Write your way through it. 
 
Here are some examples of ebb writing you might consider, in no particular order:
  • Doing administrative writing tasks like organizing you writing project files on your computer (this is a great time to figure out which “New Final Final” is the real current draft).
  • Running spelling and grammar checks on work you’ve already written (assuming you have a work in progress).
  • Formatting chapter/section headings and checking their numbering.
  • Checking for continuity with your scenes, like time of day. 
  • Reviewing your outline or story development work. 
  • Reading over sections you’ve already written and making notes about what’s working well and what needs revision.
  • Writing intuitive dialogue exchanges with your characters to find out what they think.
  • Freewriting scenes “outside” your draft (like backstory scenes that won’t make it into the final draft but teach you about your characters or story).
  • Making simple edits.
  • Writing morning pages.
  • Bullet journaling.
  • Freewriting about anything.
A bonus tip: Sometimes you just need to START. When I’m feeling particularly resistant, I’ll often tell myself, “you only have to write for five minutes.” Then I’ll set my timer, and open my script files and start reading through where I left off. Next thing I know I’m tweaking a few words and lines and then I’m off writing the next scene in my outline, writing to meet my original goal (usually 50 minutes). Just starting works wonders.
 
Putting this into practice: Think about what kind of ebb writing you might be able to do on hard days. Just having a mental catalogue of possibilities really helps you be able to think about what you CAN do, instead of what you can’t. :) 
 
 

Tip #8: Block out the distractions.

 
On tough days and regular days alike, writers need to find ways to block out distractions. (Sometimes the distractions are good things too!)
 
Remember today’s quote from Austin Kleon? “The biggest task in the morning is to try to keep my headspace from being invaded by the outside world.”
 
Here are some my current favorite ways to block distractions and keep your headspace clear:
  1. Use app and website blockers to keep yourself from getting distracted. (My list of current favorite apps is below.)
  2. Put your phone in Airplane or Do Not Disturb mode to prevent interruptions and distracting messages from popping up while you’re working. (I’ve set my phone to allow emergency interruptions in DND mode if needed.) If you’re writing first thing in the morning, you might sleep with it in airplane or DND mode and just leave it that way until you’re done with your morning writing time.
  3. Turn off most (if not all) notifications on your devices. I have a few I leave on, but I periodically go through and turn off app notifications so they don’t steal my attention from my work.

    This includes laptops and desktops too. On my Macs I have notifications disabled between 10 p.m. and 9:59 p.m. ⏰ (Yes, you read that right.🙂 I couldn’t find a way to disable them all quickly so I just turned on Do Not Disturb for essentially 24 hours.)

  4. Remove addictive apps from your devices. Just take ’em right off there. You’ll be surprised how quickly it calms down addictive behavior. Yes, you might miss them. But most of that same content you can access on a computer, and changing up how you access it breaks the addiction cycle. You may find that you can put them back on later, or you may find that you take them off/put them on periodically. In my case, I’ve taken off Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter, though I allow Twitter back on during fire season for up-to-date news. If I start addictively perusing anything though, off it comes.
  5. Write in writing sprints with a timer running, as I mentioned yesterday, preferably a timer that makes it hard to use your phone, like the Forest app I also told you about. (No one wants to be killing trees!)
  6. Limit yourself to news reading AFTER your morning writing sprints. If you cannot resist, ONLY allow yourself to read trusted, grounded news sources.
  7. Stay out of email (and texts if needed) too. Don’t let other people’s desires, demands, and needs hijack your attention. Keep your field of focus as small as you can until you’ve finished writing for the day (another good reason to write first in the day).
  8. Stay away from social media until after you’re done with your writing (I know I’m steering us to post on social media for this challenge; my method has been to quickly post from my phone, then get to work writing, then come back later to check on other writer’s posts. It’s worked well, so far, with only minor dalliances putting hearts on a few extra Instagram posts this morning 🙂).
 

Focus Apps & Tools

 
During the pandemic, I’ve found that I have had to increase my use of distraction blocking tools to help me stay on track. I keep an eye on myself, and if I find myself straying, I ramp up my blocking efforts until I’m on track. ;) 
 
Here’s a list of my current favorite apps and supports to help me focus.
  • App blockers like the Focus App (Mac) allow me to block social media websites and other rabbit holes like Quora during scheduled hours. I can also block apps on my computer from running as well, like Tweetdeck. Focus also makes it so I can’t access my email until my scheduled focus time is over (5 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. is my scheduled block ⏰).
  • (The Freedom App is an alternative to Focus for PCs and works across multiple devices as well. They seem to have a November special running right now too.)
  • Screen blockers like HazeOver (Mac) is another current favorite of mine, which I use to make everything disappear except the current window I’m working in. (Not sure about a PC alternative.
  • Full screen mode in writing apps. Most apps we write in have a full screen mode or composition mode to make everything else disappear, as an alternative to something like HazeOver.
  • Timers that block phone use. I use both the Forest App and Block & Flow App for my phone, which I know I mentioned yesterday too. These timers stay on the lock screen on my phone, which stops me from picking it up to “check” on things. See also Freedom, above, which apparently has a way to block apps on devices too. I use one exclusively for script work and the other for various other writing projects.
  • Group writing sprints with my Called to Write community. The more sprints I attend, the stronger my writing habit and focus, and the less likely I am to get distracted. I know it’s not an app, per se, but it’s a huge anti-distraction tool for me so I’m including it here. 
Putting this into practice: See if there’s something in Tip #8 you might use to shore up your writing boundaries and limit distractions. Even picking one thing could be huge!
 
 
 

Join the Morning Writing Challenge!

Sign up for details, tips, and prizes, here:
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips 5 & 6

Welcome back to the Morning Writing Challenge Tips series.
 
If you haven’t joined the challenge, it’s not too late to join us. Find all the details here. 
 
Either way, these tips are useful for building and sustaining a lasting writing practice. 
 
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips #5 & #6

Today I’m sharing two new tips, #5 & #6.
 
 

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

 
If you haven’t tried timed writing sprints, please give this a try.
 
A timed writing sprint is a short, focused period of writing time, tracked with a timer. In advance, you’ll decide on a length of time you’ll be writing for (and ideally a start time like we’re doing with the Morning Writing Challenge). Then, you write, doing nothing else, for your planned duration of time.
 
A timed writing sprint can be as short as one minute and as long as about 90 minutes (we need to get up and move our bodies periodically after all). You get to decide. If you’re not sure how long to sprint for, try 15 minutes as an experimental place to start.
 
Since the pandemic began (and writing seemed to get a whole lot harder), I started writing in 25 minute increments rather than in 60 minute sprints. Oddly enough, I usually do two 25-minute sprints back-to-back. It’s just a Jedi mind trick, but it works for me right now because my brain trusts that I can handle 25 minutes of writing without getting distracted. Then I’m usually in the flow enough that I just hit the timer button again for another 25 minutes, until I’ve put in a total of 50 minutes. I also find that when I participate in group writing sprints (more on this in Tip #6, below), which are often 60 minutes long, aiming for 50 minutes gives me a little wiggle room for getting an extra cup of tea, taking a bathroom break, or things like dealing with unexpected kid interruptions without feeling “behind.”
 
The VERY cool thing about using a timer is that there’s this sense of hitting a “Go” or “Start Now” button when starting it. And it makes it harder to stop when you know there’s a clock counting down your writing minutes!
 
Ready to give this a try? Next time you sit down to write, decide how long you’ll be writing (suggestion: 5 to 15 minutes for your first time out), set a timer, and write!
 
Pro tip: This gets even more powerful when you also TRACK your writing time, which means logging and paying attention to how much time you’re investing in your writing. I’m currently a fan of the Forest App for both tracking and timing. Another good one is the Block and Flow App
 
 

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

 
If you want to quintuple your writing sprint experience, try participating in group writing sprints. 
 
We run group writing sprints in our Called to Write community several times each day on weekdays and have weekend sprints too. You may also sometimes find on-the-fly group writing sprints happening on Twitter. (John August periodically leads them and I’ve seen others doing the same.)
 
With this Morning Writing Challenge, we’re experiencing a variation on this idea; a kind of asynchronous group sprint where we’re all writing based on our own local morning time, and cheering for each other by finding each other’s posts online.
 
Inside Called to Write, the way our group writing sprints work is that we gather in on online private chat room at the same time, tell each other what we’re going to do, kick off at our official start time, and all go write on our own. At the official end time, we come back into the chat room and celebrate what went well together (even if what went well is simply showing up). Note: We aren’t sharing our writing with each other but rather the camaraderie and support for each other’s writing.
 
Our members tell us that these sprints are grounding and have been simply life-saving during the pandemic. 
 
At Called to Write, we’re currently writing together at 6 a.m. PT, 7 a.m. PT, 9 a.m. PT, and 3 p.m. PT on weekdays, and 9 a.m. PT on weekends. 
 
Ways to try group writing sprints: Whether you join us, find group sprints on Twitter, or create your own writing sprints with your writing buddies via text or Zoom, I encourage you to try this! The shared group energy is incredibly motivating, fun, and inspiring. Plus when you do them consistently, you can create a regular writing habit almost without even trying. :) 
 
 
 

Join the Morning Writing Challenge!

Sign up for details, tips, and prizes, here:
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips 3 & 4

Welcome back to the Morning Writing Challenge Tips series.
 
If you haven’t joined the challenge, it’s not too late to join us. Find all the details here. 
 
Either way, these tips are useful for building and sustaining a lasting writing practice. 
 
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips #3 & #4

Today I’m sharing two new tips, #3 & #4.
 
 

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

 
In Jon Acuff’s book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done (affiliate link) he describes how the “day after perfect” is the make-or-break day. 
 
Acuff says this “day after perfect” issue often turns up as soon as day two of pursuing a goal. I see this happening with writers who put in a big burst of enthusiastic writing for their first day, then crash and burn the next day by going into massive writing aversion and avoidance… or flat out despair and giving up. Often this is because they’ve either written so much they’ve tired themselves out or exceeded their target writing time for the day, triggering fear and resistance as a result. 
 
Here’s what this means for us in the Morning Writing Challenge right now: If you succeeded in writing today for the challenge, don’t be surprised if you bump into EXTRA resistance tomorrow morning. Just don’t make it mean anything. It’s really just fear cropping up because you’re taking your call to write seriously. :) Just get up, and write anyway.
 
In the future, just remember that first days of writing (and big bursts of writing) often have a backlash, and the next day is likely to be harder. 
 
Pro tip: If you wrote for longer than you’d planned today, you may also find that you’re feeling averse to performing at the same level. That’s okay! You don’t have to. Remember the goal here is to WRITE. Writing at all = winning. :) Go ahead and go back to a smaller amount of writing for tomorrow. 
 
 

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

 
If you didn’t write today, notice how you feel. Sometimes when we plan to write, but don’t, we walk around with a low level of guilt or anxiety ALL DAY which just… sucks.
 
👉 Here’s the good news: You can 100%, guilt-free start over tomorrow, jump in, and write. 
 
In fact, this is a skill I want you to take forward with you into the future too. In writing, as in life, STUFF HAPPENS. The only real problem is if we let it stop us indefinitely. I used to be someone who would set a New Year resolution and then “blow it” on Day 2 or 3 or 14 and then write it off for the rest of the whole year! When I look back on that I see how silly it is; so all or nothing, black or white, and perfectionistic. 
 
Instead, as Acuff says, we have to focus on “moving forward imperfectly,” and if that means “trying again… today, tomorrow, or next week,” we do it.
 
So, if you don’t write one day, don’t make it mean anything bad, just start over the next day. :)
 
 
 
 

Join the Morning Writing Challenge!

Sign up for details, tips, and prizes, here:
 

Why I Started Writing Early In the Morning + The Morning Writing Challenge Tips 1 & 2

 
Huzzah! The Morning Writing Challenge starts tomorrow, Monday, November 2. 
 
 
Today I’m sharing some tips to help you rock the challenge, but first…

…a few thoughts on WHY writing in the morning is so very awesome:

When our first son was 2 or 3 years old, I wanted to write, but I just … wasn’t. Despite all my plans and intentions, like planning blocks of writing time in the day, setting aside full days to write, once 9 a.m. or so rolled around, I was doing anything but writing. My levels of resistance were at an all time high. I was terrified but I didn’t know it. I’d make endless promises to myself about writing, but “somehow” it never seemed to happen. And then I’d just feel guilty. All day. Ugh.
 
Eventually I read enough articles about professional writers getting up early to write that I figured I’d better at least give it a go. And I will tell you, I did NOT consider myself a morning person. Not in the slightest. I would have much rather stayed up until 11 or 12 and sleep in. (My son “cured” me of that, so I did have that to help.) 
 
While it was initially painful to tear myself out of bed at 6 a.m. and get to my desk by 6:15 a.m. (I didn’t know the tricks I’m going to be sharing with you this week), after a week or two of writing first thing in the morning I was filled with a passion and energy for my writing I didn’t even know existed.
 
Plus, my inner critic seemed to still be too sleepy at that hour to give me much in the way of trouble.
 
A protective fierceness arose inside me, and I knew then that I would never stop writing.
 
I want that for you too.
 
During the Morning Writing Challenge, we’ll give you an experience of morning writing to build a morning writing practice, create a new block of writing time, connect you to your passion for writing, and maybe just maybe move you forward on your current writing project. Join us.
 
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips #1 & #2

 
Over the course of the week, I’ll be sending Morning Writing Challenge participants writing tips each day around 3 p.m. Pacific Time and a morning quote and reminder message around 2 a.m. Pacific Time (I’m aiming to time this for early risers on the East Coast too, while hopefully also catching some of our European writers by late morning at least).
 
I’ll also be posting the tips here on the Called to Write blog. 

 

Tip #1: Set your “lights out” time.

When you want to build a morning writing habit, one of the first things to do is set a “lights out” time. This is the time when you’re already in bed and all lights, devices, books, etc. are all turned off/put away, and you’re closing your eyes to go to sleep. It’s not “bedtime” because that suggests when it’s time to start getting ready for bed. Nope, this is for real, go to sleep time. 
 
The best way to determine your lights out time is by counting backward from your writing start time to make sure you’re getting enough sleep, enough time to fall asleep, and enough time to wake up in the morning before your slated writing time.
 
Here’s my standard schedule:
  • Lights out time: 10 p.m. (includes time to fall asleep)
  • Wake time: 6:30 a.m. (8ish hours of sleep, plus leaves time for getting up, making tea, etc before writing).
  • Writing start time: 7:00 a.m. 
With the end of Daylight Saving Time, here’s my new schedule:
  • Lights out time: 9 p.m. (my “old” 10 p.m.)
  • Wake time: 5:30 a.m. (my “old” 6:30 a.m.)
  • Writing start time: 6:00 a.m. (“old” 7 a.m.)
The fun thing about this new schedule is that it feels the same to my body, but I’m shifting an hour of time away from night (when, ahem, I often end up doomscrolling) into morning writing. I usually start getting ready for bed about an hour or so beforehand (yep, boring, I know :) ) so I’m truly ready to go to sleep at lights out time.
 
While I’m not suggesting you follow MY schedule (unless you want to, of course) I want to encourage you to design a simple schedule that lets you create a new block of writing time in the morning that’s actually sustainable.
 
If you’re not leaning on the end of Daylight Saving Time to set this up, you could alternatively gradually nudge your lights out / wake time schedule earlier in 10- to 15-minute increments over the course of the week until you have the amount of morning writing time you want. 
 

 

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

If at all possible, have a single writing project to focus on during your morning writing time. This means: one book or one script that you’ll work on each morning during the same window of time. Alternatively, use your morning writing time to write morning pages, freewriting, or use writing prompts or exercises. 
 
The big reason for this is so you’re NOT deciding each morning what you’re going to work on. Decision making in the moment is a weak point for resistance to creep in and paralyze you with indecision. So tonight, before tomorrow’s kick off (assuming you’re joining us!), decide what you’ll be working on this week. 
 
(Hint: for now, it’s far more important to show up and write consistently than it is for you to make substantive content progress, though that’s an excellent bonus to strive for!) 
 
 
 

Join the Morning Writing Challenge!

Sign up for details, tips, and prizes, here:
 
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

5 Tips for Making the Most of Summer Writing

It’s that time of year again… summer!

The days are getting longer, the weather is warmer, kids and teachers are out for the summer, and vacation season is here. There are so many reasons to put down your pen and turn off your computer and go outside… which I highly recommend.

All work and no play isn’t good for a writer’s soul, after all. 

And, at the same time, you’ll want to keep writing so you don’t lose your writing momentum or end up finishing summer feeling disappointed about where you are in your draft.

Here are five tips for making the most of your summer writing, while still enjoying the play time you need and deserve.

#1. Remember Why You Love Writing

While it’s highly useful to treat your writing with as much care and attention as you would a professional job… when we’re in the middle of this expansive summer energy, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that we’re also doing this because we LOVE it.

This helps create a more natural fit between the part of us that wants to have delicious summer adventures and the romantic side of our writing dreams. To that end, even while you’re putting your head down to write, play with matching your summer energy to your writing energy. You might light candles while you work, write in a café, or take your notebook to the beach. This is a great time of year to indulge your most vivid writing life dreams and make it fun.

#2. Be Aware of Magical Thinking

Over the last couple of weeks as I’ve developed our summer plans, I’ve found myself imagining doing a big chunk of writing on one of our vacations… And doing a big chunk of studying on one of our vacations… And maybe writing some promotional copy on one of our vacations…. and all of these on the SAME vacation. Talk about magical thinking! Even if I actually wanted to write and/or work during a trip (I don’t), I certainly can’t accomplish all of those things and have the time I want to have with my family. Sure, I could probably finagle an early morning writing session before they awaken, but I want my vacation for vacationing. 

Similarly, it’s easy to imagine that you’ll have so much extra time during the summer that you’ll be able to make wild progress on your work. I think this might be a holdover from when we were all in elementary school and summers seem to last forever and we have nothing to do… just the way we imagine that a new year will suddenly have so much more free time than we had in the last one. But we don’t. Even if you’re a teacher with the summer “off,” your days will quickly fill with all the things you’ve put off doing during the school year unless you’re mindful about it.

Instead, be realistic about what you can actually accomplish over the course of a summer. See how many days you have to write, and schedule them accordingly with your summer writing goals.

#3. Give Yourself Time to Play

We’re way more likely to do our work when we’re also giving ourselves time to play, rest, indulge, and enjoy. And since summer naturally lends itself to those things, it helps to set up a nicely balanced bargain between the two.

I find that writing as early as possible during the day allows me to have guilt-free down time and playtime in the afternoons, just as I find that when I’m writing when I’m home, I feel good about enjoying my vacations fully while I’m away instead of feeling guilty that I “should” be doing more.

Work hard, play hard, is an adage that fits the bill here… but you have to actually deliver on the play time to make this work.

#4. Plan for Reentry 

Taking time off from writing — generally anything more than 1 to 2 days off — tends to create a bumpy “reentry” back into it. So if you go away for a long weekend or a vacation, think about how you’ll reboot yourself with your writing when you get back.

In my Circle, we advise our writers to “go back to the beginning” of working in small increments of writing time if resistance kicks in when it’s time to pick the writing back up. A little accountability goes a long way here too (we offer this in the Circle if you need help).

So if you return from time away and find yourself struggling to get back into your book (or script), try writing for just 5 to 15 minutes to jump start yourself again. You can increase the time over the coming days as rapidly as feels doable to you until you’re back to your normal routine.

Use this guideline: The more resistance, the smaller the amount of writing time. 

#5. Have Fun, and Be Ready for Anything

Summer can be an “all bets are off” season. Between kids at home, weather variations, vacations, out of town guests, extra summer projects, and our own impulses to celebrate the summer, a lot can get in the way of writing.

The more you can be ready to roll with it — to have fun with it even, like you’re playing a “I wonder how much writing I can pull off this summer” game — the easier it is.

I find that a lot of this is about your mental attitude — if you’re expecting your summer to be just like the rest of the year, you’re more likely to get thrown off track. On the other hand, if you take an attitude that things are going to be more up in the air,  you’ll be more ready to take the writing time when it comes and just run with it. You’ll also be more likely to have contingency plans ready to go if something comes up, like having a portable writing kit, a flexible schedule, or a backup writing time slot later in the day if your morning writing gets interrupted. 

Have fun, writers, and happy summer!

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Upcoming Programs

When to Write and When to Call It a Day

I’ve been sick too much this year, and thought it worth revisiting one of my favorite articles from 2013 on “when to write and when to call it a day.” Here’s an updated version for you:

During a live coaching call for my Called to Write community, a writer once asked about how to know when to push through and write if you’re not feeling well versus how to know when to focus on regaining your well-being.

In my opinion, the answer depends a bit on the circumstances, so let’s look at some specific scenarios.

1. You’ve just come down with a wicked cold or flu.

Assuming you have a solid, regular habit in place, when you get really sick or you’re just those early stages of wretchedness, it’s okay to take a few days off from writing, knowing that you’ll get back to it as quickly as you can.

When I’m feverish, wiped out, or worse, I know the most important thing I can do for my body is to rest and heal.

I have found myself writing even while sick at times — because I felt truly drawn to work on my piece — but in this case my focus is very much about listening to my body.

This is very much like being an athlete, and knowing whether or if to train when you’re sick or injured, and when to take a day off.

I also trust myself enough deep down, after months of regular writing, to know that I’ll re-establish my habit as soon as I am able, usually within 2 to 3 days. The longer you’re away from your habit, the harder it is to get going again, so it will behoove you to pay attention to starting again quickly, even if you start small, such as in 15 minutes a day.

2. You’re going through a rough patch in your life, you’re generally tired or run down, maybe you’re not sleeping very well, or maybe you’re mildly sick.

On the other hand, if the chips are down and you’re having a rough time in your life, maybe you aren’t sleeping well, or maybe you’re getting better from that wicked cold or flu, I’m inclined to recommend that you simply ease up on your writing time a bit, but still keep writing. When I’ve gone through particularly difficult phases in my personal life, I’ve made a point NOT to stop writing, but to carry on at my “rock bottom minimum” level of writing.

As a writer, it’s worth knowing what that minimal level of involvement is with your work for you — the amount of writing that will keep you engaged and connected to the work. For me, it’s a minimum of 15 minutes of writing a day, even if it’s morning pages just to keep writing flowing, though ideally it’s on my main project. For another writer, it might be 5 minutes or 60 minutes. It varies between individuals, but the point is, know what YOU need to do to sustain your connection to the work even during a challenging phase.

I gained tremendous confidence and strength from seeing myself commit to and show up for doing the work every day, no matter what.

In concert with easing back to your minimum, when you’re going through a phase like this, make a point to ramp up your self-care. Put sleep, healthy food, good hydration, fresh air, and exercise at the top of your list and get yourself back into balance. But do stay connected to the work.

3. You’re in a bad mood or someone said something terrible to you and your confidence is shaken.

A common refrain among writers — particularly those of us who are more sensitive and easily affected by other people and experiences — is “I’m just not in the right mood to write today.” This can particularly come up if you’ve lost confidence because of something someone said about your writing or if you’ve been hooked by the Comparison Monster (“Everyone else is doing so much better at this than I am!”), or even if you’re just in a crummy mood.

Hear this now: There’s a difference between self-care and mood.

Being in a bad mood is NOT a good reason not to write.

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t be here, right now reading this, if writing was easy to do.

As Steven Pressfield says, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.

Don’t let a bad mood or a rough day become an excuse not to write.

There are far too many reasons to resist and procrastinate about writing, and if anything, I think we need to err on the side of writing more regularly and consistently than not.

As Brian Johnson says (via Jack Canfield), “99% is a bitch. 100% is a breeze.” So hang in there, do the work, and make it easier on yourself. (A side note: A weekdays-only practice at 100% works.)

You’ll most likely be pleasantly surprised that your level of productivity and your ability to create are not at all related to your mood.

In fact, you may find — as many of our Called to Write members do — that your mood may well shift when you write anyway, and if even if it doesn’t, you’ll still have demonstrated your commitment to yourself, which is deeply affirming and happiness-building.

(See also my post called “You Can Change Your Life in a Split Second.”)

4. You’re going through a painful period of loss, grief, or personal anguish.

At another end of the spectrum is experiencing an extreme loss — like a death of a loved one. When my grandmother died in 2012, I felt as though I was in another world — approaching the veil of life and death on some level — and I found it very difficult to write fiction in yet an entirely different world. So I choose to take a few days off from “real” writing, though I did do a tiny bit of tinkering with my script one day.

On the other hand, Steven Pressfield recommends writing even during times of “personal anguish” in his excellent post of the same title.

He says, “I’m not saying pain is good. I’m not advocating screwing up our lives for the sake of art. I’m just making the observation that our genius is not us. It can’t be hurt like we can. Its heart can’t be broken. It’s going to send the next trolley down the track whether we like it or not.”

My experience is that those few brief days of being between worlds while in grief are the only spans of time in which I have felt truly unable to write, and then, just as I’ve said above, I still get back to writing as quickly as possible.

5. You need to refill your creative well.

All this said, I am a firm believer in taking big “put my feet up” days off. I love to pick out a day on my calendar when I can feel the need building up, that I block off “just for me.” I take my son to school, and then proceed to do whatever I feel like doing, which usually involves some combination of a fantastic herbal or decaf beverage, a movie in bed, a nap, maybe a meal at a favorite restaurant. It might also involve going shopping at a beloved and inspiring store, like an art store or museum shop. Whatever it is that feels inspiring and uplifting.

On these days, I fully, completely enjoy my Not Writing time, and I know I’m replenishing and rebuilding to dive back in the next day.

Your Turn

The bottom line, for me, is that each one of us needs to experiment, listen to our own bodies and inner selves, and find what works best for us. And, like I said, given the massive opportunities for resistance, fear, avoidance, procrastination, and self-doubt, my strong recommendation is to find a way to stick to your work as regularly and consistently as possible. What do you think? What works for you? Leave me a note in the comments.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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This article was originally published in January 2013 and has now been republished with revisions.

 

How to Access Your Own Deepest Writing Wisdom

As writers, we’re often either besieged by advice about our writing careers and writing projects or actively seeking out feedback on our writing or our career trajectories. Rare is the writer who never does so. And yet, when we give it the chance, our deepest writing wisdom comes from within. This isn’t to say that feedback, mentoring, and coaching isn’t also valuable, but at the end of every long writing day or hard writing decision, the person we have to answer to is ourselves. I’ve worked with mentors who don’t understand this, or care, and I’ve worked with mentors who do. The difference can be astonishing.

I began this year with an intention to focus on Deep Work. (I’ve since read the book by that name, which I’ll write about in the near future.) I’ve devoted the early part of this year to clearing the decks so I can go deeper and deeper into my writing over the course of 2017. In doing so, I had the opportunity to once again test the Writer’s Guided Visualization I developed for the Ultimate Writer’s Toolkit.

Our Most Profound Source of Guidance Comes From Within

The visualization is based on my early work as a coach, when I created my first Embrace Your Essential Self coaching program. I designed the processes and visualizations in that program to help people access their own deepest wisdom and get in touch with the essence of who they are. Last year I had the privilege of walking a client through that process again, something I don’t “regularly” do these days, but which I found bringing both of us to the point of tears again and again — the type of tears that spring into your eyes because you’re in the presence of that which is profound, wise, and greater than yourself. I was reminded why I loved that early work of mine so very much, and even why I was called to coaching in the first place: Helping people touch the power of who we truly are and how we are called to be in the world is an incredible honor.

I created the Writer’s Guided Visualization from that foundation.

When I used the visualization again myself last week, it brought home to me that my mind is often filled with chattering voices, ideas, opinions, fears, doubts, and self-sabotaging impulses that are hard to hear through or filter out. Before I listened to the 10 minute track, I scribbled down a few questions about my own writing trajectory, including:

  • What’s the next best writing project for me to tackle?
  • What will move me closest to the path I want to be on?

The answers I received, as I quieted my mind and listened to the wisdom my inner Writer Self had to share with me, were simple in some ways, and profound in others. Isn’t that often the truth with inner wisdom? It brings that sense of peaceful, quiet knowing to us. 

Because my Writer Self knew about my intention to go deep, she knew just what to say about where my deep work lies. I’ve been continuing the conversation with her since our last meeting, as I fall asleep each evening.

Two Powerful Methods to Access Your Inner Writing Wisdom

If you want to experiment with this yourself, here are two ways you access your own inner writing wisdom.

  1. Guided Visualization or Meditation. Visualization, or meditation, if you prefer the term, is my favorite method for helping myself and my clients access our inner wisdom. You can do this on your own, or I can walk you through it in the Writer’s Guided Visualization in the Toolkit. Start by jotting down your questions, then relax your mind and body with a simple progressive relaxation, and then have a brief conversation with your future Writer Self in a cozy place, with time and space to listen for the answers. When you’re done listening, open your eyes, and write down the insights you received. My experience with this technique is that it is a profound source of wisdom, reassurance, and calming. Our higher, wiser Writer Selves know what’s what, and they’re ready to share it with us.
  2. Journaling. Alternatively, you could use a similar technique with journaling. In this case, you would use your morning pages or journal to dialogue with your future Writer Self (much as you might do with a character in your novel) and converse with her/him about the questions you have. Ideally you’ll shift yourself into something of a relaxed state first, either by taking deep breaths, closing your eyes, meditating, or otherwise changing your mental state into a more open, receptive place. Some writers also find that writing the responses with their non-dominant hand helps access more of their subconscious mind and deeper insight. 

The key to either approach is to not censor anything that comes from your inner self and just letting the answers flow with as little mental interference from your conscious mind as possible. I know for myself, with my strong mind that likes to run the show, I have to consciously quiet it with the relaxation techniques of the visualization or another meditation method in order to cut through the chatter and opinions my conscious mind likes to toss into the ring.

The beauty of tuning to your inner voice is not only that you can gain valuable insight for your writing projects, process, career, and life, but also that by listening regularly to what your deeper self has to say, you strengthen your access to your inner wisdom and your sense of what’s right for you and your stories.

Your writing will only become stronger through this knowing of yourself.

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