Armchair by Jez Timms

This Writer’s Life: A San Franciscan Middle Grade Novelist Breaks Down the Work Into Manageable Chunks

Today we're continuing my "This Writer's Life" series, in which you get to meet some of my Called to Write Coaching Circle members and take a look inside their writing lives. If you're just joining us, I encourage you to also check out the pieces about Rebecca, Frani, and Rick.

Today we're joined by Foenix Ryder, a writer who found her home in Middle Grade fiction.

Meet Foenix Ryder: A San Franciscan Film Freelancer and Middle Grade Novelist

I've known Foenix for almost two years now. It's been such treat to have her participating in the Circle. She's the kind of writer whose enthusiasm, energy, and positivity is always present, even when the challenges of writing rear up. I love her determination and passion for her writing, and I'm thrilled to be helping her get her words out into the world.

Not only do we work together in the Circle, but I also have the pleasure of coaching Foenix around building her writer's platform, something I'll be offering in 2017 to other writers as well. I asked Foenix to tell us more about her writing and what she's learned over the last several years -- including how to break down the overwhelming tasks of a major writing project.

foenix-ryderWhat kind of writing do you do, and where are you in your writing process?

I love Middle Grade and Young Adult stories whether they’re action, adventure, fantasy, coming of age or anything else in those genres. Naturally, that’s what I’m drawn to write: Stories where kids and teens can get immersed and relate -- and hopefully be inspired and encouraged when they read. 

Right now I'm on the verge of starting the third draft of my second novel. After struggling for a few weeks with a major element in my story, I realized I needed to pause to study the conventions and expectations of fantasy stories so I can further develop the world I've created and the rules within it.

In some ways it feels like I’m “taking a vacation” from my story and avoiding the work. But I’m reminding myself that I am and always will be developing as a writer. The stepping away to learn more about my genre and craft will only empower me to tell the best story I can. And that’s what we are all here to do.

How has your writing practice changed since you've been in the Circle?

Oh wow... it’s changed immensely! Before the Circle, over the course of six years, I wrote and revised my first novel. It actually still needs a major overhaul, but it was written in bits and pieces, from different places in the story, and most days it felt like I was struggling just to get words on the page.

Since joining the circle in March 2015, where I was instantly welcomed into a warm community of other writers, my practice has become almost daily. Writing my second novel while in the Circle, I feel like I finally have a rhythm. I create a daily goal, sit down and write, and then check in on the Circle site. I feel grounded and supported by my group every single day, which helped me write the first draft of my second novel in 7 months!

That’s not to say there haven’t been moments when I struggled, but now I have a space with other writers where I can voice my challenges and get encouragement. That helps keep the excitement going when things are great or get it going again when things are difficult.

I also love going to the daily writing sprints where I can jump online, say briefly what I’ll be working on, and completely focus on what I’m working on for one hour. The sprints have created a foundation for me to begin each day while also giving me a moment to think about what I would like to accomplish before diving into the writing.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer ?

I have learned so much over the past seven years I’ve been writing. For instance, I've learned that I do my best writing in the morning, and ideally write from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.

I've also learned to create a timeline/calendar for myself at the beginning of each draft, section, or when I’m starting something new to help me stay on track. It helps me see how much time I need to accomplish my goal and what I need to get done each day. I have also learned to let go of worrying if someone is going to like my stories or that I don’t write like other writers that I admire. I can only tell my stories as best as I can. And it is my duty to write these stories.

And something huge I am just starting to take in is that I have a tendency to see a project in its enormity and can get overwhelmed thinking I need to get it all done TODAY! But Jenna has helped me see the impossibility of that and instead break things down into much smaller chunks in order to achieve something in a realistic way. This has taken so much stress off of me while helping me accomplish small tasks that add up to a larger piece of the storytelling puzzle.

How much do you write, and where do you typically write?

I have a unique life as a freelancer in the film industry where I sometimes have 12-hour plus days for a few weeks and then I have a chunk of time off. When I’m off, I have time to dive into my writing and be fully present. So when I’m not immersed in “work work” I typically write four hours a day, Monday through Friday. I find it’s the perfect amount of time for me -- anything past 4 hours, I just start to fizzle out.

I write in an artist's studio in the Mission in San Francisco. It’s a private room I share with another artist inside a building where all types of artists have spaces. My half of the room is like a small apartment with a cozy couch, a soft blanket, some china lanterns, and a cool pirate ship kite I recently bought on the beach in Bali.

In order to get into my writing “dreamspace,” I must be curled up into a ball, legs pulled to my chest, body hunched over, blanket around me, with my headphones on playing the constant rumble and downpour of “Thunderstorms.” This allows me to tune everything out except the adventure movie I see inside my head while writing by hand as fast as I possibly can.

What does a successful writing day look like for you?

A successful writing day is one where I have either gotten through the section I wanted to get through, have worked out some kind of problem in my story, or where I wrote so fast, I felt energy flowing through me, writing while the story just poured from me. Those days, I walk away feeling vibrant and excited and truly feel like “I want to live that adventure!”

What's next for you with your writing?

I’m planning to finish my novel mid-2017 and submit my manuscript to agents. Between drafts, I’ve been writing a short story which I’ll revise a few more times and submit to magazines for publication. I feel writing short stories is valuable for me in two ways: First, I get new ideas often and want to get them out into the world so this gives me an outlet for writing something in a shorter timeframe, and second, getting a few short stories published will help me build a brand by getting my stories in front of people who would enjoy reading them.

Also! I’m working regularly with Jenna to create my website and writing platform, building my writing brand around my pen name, Foenix Ryder. Having a pen name helps me maintain the energy I feel when writing my stories.

Circle Profile

foenix-ryder

Name: Foenix Ryder
Roles: Novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, film industry freelancer
Location: San Francisco, California
Genre: Middle Grade & Young Adult Fantasy
Current writing goal: 1) Finish 3rd draft of my current novel by February 2017, 2) Build my writer platform including developing and launching my website by January 2017.
Biggest writing challenge: Working myself out of the stressful mind-numbing boxes of what I "don’t know" about my story.
Biggest writing ah-ha: When it was pointed out to me that I write Middle Grade fiction, it helped me understand my writing better and also see that there is a place for the stories I love to tell and that people of all ages can enjoy them.
Go-to writing platform: Writing by hand, Scrivener
Favorite writing spot: My super cozy writing studio that has a comfy couch and a warm softy blanket.

Bio: Foenix Ryder is a Middle Grade and Young Adult storyteller based in San Francisco, California who tells fantastical stories and lives brave adventures. Foenix’s stories explore diversity, confidence, and self-discovery while taking readers on an action-packed ride. 

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Join the Circle: Get Your Words Into the World

Join the Writer's CircleJoin us in the Circle and get daily accountability and support to make your writing happen. With our special end of the year savings, you can get a whole year in the Circle for less than $100 per session.

It's the perfect time to join us -- our next session begins on Monday, January 2nd so you can start off the new year "write"!

Registration closes on Thursday, December 29th. Find out more and join the Circle here.

 

Mountain Sunrise

This Writer’s Life: A Swedish CIO Writes His Historical Thriller at Dawn

For your Christmas reading pleasure, today we're continuing my "This Writer's Life" series, in which you get to meet some of my Called to Write Coaching Circle members and take a look inside their writing lives.

Hopefully the holiday fervor has died down for you now, if you celebrate Christmas, and you'll have a few quiet minutes to read about this inspiring writer, Rick, a Swedish businessman and historical thriller writer who recently completed a major novel revision ... in the dawn hours. 

Meet Rikard Bergquist: A Swedish CIO and Historical Thriller Writer

Rikard, whom we fondly call "Rick," has been with the Circle since 2012. Rick is a constant with our group -- always writing, never giving up, even through the ups and downs of a major novel revision. He's just finished his 8th revision and is getting ready to submit his novel to agents after getting some final feedback from his story coach.

You may remember Rick from an earlier guest post when he finished the first draft of his novel after jump-starting his writing habit with five minutes of daily writing. When he joined us he lived in Sweden, but has now moved to Reno, Nevada, where he is working as the CIO of a Swedish startup, raising his family, and writing.

To say that I am gratified by and proud of his achievement is an understatement. Having written alongside Rick for these last four years has been a true gift. It's so easy when we see people reaching major milestones like this and to compare ourselves to them. But when we are right there with them in the trenches, seeing all the challenges, the highs, and the lows, it's just a giant celebration for all of us to see him being ready to start submitting his completed manuscript to agents.

Rikard-BergquistWhat kind of writing do you do, and where are you in your process?

When I write it’s mainly fiction but I also do business plans, research grants and business presentations. However, when I refer to writing it is my creative endeavors that I think of. Right now I’m putting the final touches to an historical thriller set in Sweden in the 16th century I’ve been working on for the last five years. I used Storyfix, The Story Grid, and the services of a professional reader in my revision process.

How has your writing practice changed since you joined the Circle?

The Circle taught me about the importance of process and how you can trust that process even when you don’t know where you are or where you’re going with your writing. Keep on writing and roll with resistance. Nearing the finishing of my manuscript I’ve been close to calling it quits a couple of times, but the Circle has gently nudged me forward and pulled me back in. This last year it’s been my happy place when I’ve struggled with the writing. I also feel that Jenna has a set of very hands-on tools to enable me to see through the despair for what it is, handle my resistance, and keep me on track.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer?

Writing is a lonely business and I need my efforts to be seen. Even if not one single person reads my novel, I need someone to share the ups and downs of getting it done with. The Circle provides just that perfect environment of learning about yourself in likeminded company. I’ve learned that writing for just five minutes in a day, isn’t so much about the progress that day, as it is about overcoming the resistance. That is the real achievement and that positive feeling feeds on itself until you’re suddenly writing two hours a day. That’s magic.

Where do you typically write?

I have several places I write in. I feel most comfortable in the places where I can feel undisturbed. I need to be able to shut the world out and go inside of myself. That can be in a café, at my desk a couple of hours before everyone arrives at work, or in the study at home when it’s empty. For some reason I tend to go to busy cafés, where I can look up now and then, and remember that there’s another world waiting for me out there when I’m done.

What does a successful writing day look like for you?

I like to start early, early -- preferably in the dark -- and write through dawn. Get my hours in before the rest of the world wakes up. Spending the first hours of the day on writing, gives my a sense of accomplishment and I can hit the rest of the day with a smile on my face. I feel like I’ve put what’s most important to me first.

What's next for you with your writing?

I’m currently outlining part two in my historical trilogy and I hope to have a first draft ready in six months. The big challenge will be going back to first draft mode, after being in the finishing touches phase for the last year. It won’t be long before I miss having a full chapter to revise instead of a empty page to fill. I hope the Circle is ready to roll with my ups and downs once again. (We are, Rick!)

Circle Profile

Rikard-BergquistName: Rikard Bergquist
Roles: Writer, CIO in the healthcare industry, father of two girls, skier, hiker.
Location: Reno, Nevada
Genre: Historical thrillers
Current writing goal: Finish first draft of second book in a trilogy before July 2017
Biggest writing challenge: Not falling into a chasm of despair by looking at how far I am from my goal
Biggest writing ah-ha: Stay connected every day with your writing, even for five minutes, this will keep your subconscious in gear to write your story for you.
Go-to writing platform: Scrivener, Word
Favorite writing spot: Early morning, with a coffee, at a back table in a café

Bio: Rikard Bergquist is a historical fiction novelist from Sweden living in Reno, Nevada, who writes in the mornings and works as CIO for a healthcare start-up in the day. He loves the outdoor life and snow of the Sierra, where he fills his creative well skiing and hiking together with his wife and two girls.

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Join the Circle: Get Your Words Into the World

Join the Writer's CircleJoin us in the Circle and get daily accountability and support to make your writing happen. With our special end of the year savings, you can get a whole year in the Circle for less than $100 per session.

It's the perfect time to join us -- our next session begins on Monday, January 2nd so you can start off the new year "write"!

Registration closes on Thursday, December 29th. Find out more and join the Circle here.

 

Laguna Madre by eutrophication&hypoxia

This Writer’s Life: A Texas Psychotherapist Revamps Her Life to Write

Today we're continuing my "This Writer's Life" series, in which you get to meet some of my Called to Write Coaching Circle members and take a look inside their writing lives. Next up is Frani, an action-adventure novelist who joined the Circle in June of 2015.

Meet Frani Bradley: Psychotherapist and Action-Adventure Novelist

Frani is a psychotherapist who lives in Texas, and has impressed me with her dedication to her writing in the time I've known her. She leaves no stone unturned when it comes to her writing, getting out of her own way, and honing her craft, and she recently undertook a massive life redesign in order to make more time for her writing.

I invited Frani to tell us more about her writing project and how she has created more space by overhauling her life, work, and even her living situation (including a Great Dane!).

frani-bradleyWhat kind of writing do you do, and where are you in your process?

I am working on the second in an action-adventure novel series.

Right now I'm waiting for beta readers to finish reading my first novel and entering it into writing contests.

Soon I'll be studying the feedback they give me, and begin the work of incorporating what I want to use.

How has your writing practice changed since you joined the Circle?

I never had a consistent writing habit before I joined the Circle. Before joining the Circle, I had a consistent daily habit of guilt and regret about not writing. Now, most days I feel very good about keeping my daily habit of writing.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer?

I often wondered if I just liked the idea of writing and would never really finish anything, but in the Circle I learned that I am a writer, someone capable of finishing a novel. I owe this to the support of the Circle. Completing my first novel is the manifestation of a dream I've held since I was five years old. I told my grandmother a story, and she wrote it down. It was about a witch who rode a hula hoop rather than a broom. My grandmother said, "Francie, you are a wonderful story teller. Someday you will write a book." She was right.

There are so many levels of happiness and contentment that I have now, seeing my novel in hard copy ready for beta readers. I'm convinced this would never have happened without our group and you, Jenna. So you have literally allowed a life long dream come true. Thank you!

Where do you typically write?

I usually write at my desk at home. Now and then, at a coffee shop with a friend. I also work with my editor online. We collaborate across the internet in real time and over the phone when we're working together on the novel.

What does a successful writing day look like for you?

A successful writing day for me looks like putting in at least two hours of writing time on the suggestions beta readers have made on my first novel, working on my second novel, and studying a book on the craft of writing or doing research. I feel good when I spend at least two hours involved in something writing related.

How have you shifted your life to make more space for writing?

I'm right in the messy middle of changing my life. Over the last three months, working toward the goal of creating more time and mental energy for writing, I have made an effort to streamline my life. In doing so, temporarily I hope, I've created more chaos and extra time and energy drains. Things are winding down now, so I'm beginning to get my sense of humor back about all that has happened. Also, a glimmer of hope has returned, that it's not been madness to try this. I am beginning to see that my writing life could be as I envisioned it in the New Year. 

I started by closing my office, where I have had a psychotherapy private practice for nearly twenty years. I opened a home office on October 1st. Moving the furniture, changing my address with managed care companies, deciding suddenly I needed to go paperless, adjusting clients to a new meeting space, and all the many boring details of change have snowballed to create extra work. Meanwhile, my home office needed a new driveway and several other changes to create a good space at home for seeing clients.

I also rented the larger home on my two-acre property to new renters and found myself embroiled in figuring out how to successfully house their large Great Dane in a way that worked for all of us (especially me, at night!).

So needless to say, it's been a bigger project than I'd envisioned. :)

It is December, and seems like much longer than three months since I began the journey of making my life simpler. That sentence really did make me laugh. I am feeling excited right now about how I see things shaping up. My doubts and regrets about starting this are disappearing, and I'm seeing a new writing life forming in 2017. Maybe it's true that "change is messy." It's sure been true for me. In the same moment, I hear the saying, "no guts, no glory" and get happy butterflies.

I'm feeling something wonderful out there with my writing waiting for me to step into it. I can't wait!

What's next for you with your writing?

I plan to continue working on suggestions from beta readers for my first novel, entering it in writing contests, and working on my second novel.

Circle Profile

frani-bradley

Name: Frani Bradley
Roles: Psychotherapist, Novelist
Location: Corpus Christi, Texas
Genre: Action Adventure
Current writing goal: 1) Incorporate the suggestions of five beta readers into my 1st novel by April 15th and submit to contests, 2) Complete Outline of 2nd novel by January 31st, 3) Complete first draft of 2nd novel by June 1st.
Biggest writing challenge: Keeping boundaries and commitments in regards to writing time
Biggest writing ah-ha: Two people I trust to give honest feedback have read my novel and enjoyed it as a good read. My ah-ha is that I have a novel that two people have enjoyed. It's enough to keep me going a long, long time.
Go-to writing platform: The cloud version of Pages for collaborating with my editor.
Favorite writing spot: In my living room, looking out over an inlet of the Laguna Madre, in the company of my dog and the large water birds in the distance.

Bio: Frani Bradley is an action-adventure novelist based in Texas who writes alongside running her home-based psychotherapy practice. She's a passionate animal lover and has dedicated herself to bringing the spirit of adventure, respect for animals, and spiritual inspiration to her stories. 

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Join the Circle: Get Your Words Into the World

Join the Writer's CircleJoin us in the Circle and get daily accountability and support to make your writing happen. With our special end of the year savings, you can get a whole year in the Circle for less than $100 per session.

It's the perfect time to join us -- our next session begins on Monday, January 2nd so you can start off the new year "write"!

Registration closes on Thursday, December 29th. Find out more and join the Circle here.

 

Laguna Madre featured image by eutrophication&hypoxia and used under a creative commons license.

 

 

Upcoming Writing Classes

Need help getting going with your writing and/or a big rewrite? Want to get a sense of working with me? Check out these upcoming writing classes I'll be leading in October and beyond.

Note:  The links I'm providing are referral links so the company involved will a pay me a small commission for referring you to them if you sign up after clicking on the link.

 

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With The Writer's Store:

Navigating the Inner Journey of a Rewrite

navigatingrewrite-500_smallWHEN: Thursday, October 1, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

HOW: Webinar

WHAT: The Navigating the Inner Journey of a Rewrite webinar is focused on rewriting for screenwriters but also has relevant tools for all writers because it addresses the inner aspects of dealing with a major rewrite. This is a one-time, 1.5 hour webinar and will be recorded if you cannot attend the live class.

DESCRIPTIONYou've finished your screenplay, right?

Or have you?

Whether you’ve just typed FADE OUT or you’ve been wrestling with a rewrite for ages, rewriting is a necessary part of the screenwriting process. After all, you want your script to shine before you take it out into the marketplace. And since rewriting is part of a screenwriter’s job description, whether you’re elevating a spec, doing a page one rewrite, reworking a script based on feedback or coverage, or overhauling to meet a producer’s needs, it’s worth making sure you have all the tools you need at your disposal to make it happen. (Read the full class description by clicking on the link below.)

In this class you'll:

  • Discover how to deal with the resistance and overwhelm that turn up when tackling a major rewrite
  • Develop both practical rewriting strategies and inner mindset tools to help you see your rewrite all the way through to completion
  • Gain the skills you need to successfully complete rewrite after rewrite — a must in the screenwriting industry

Click here to find out more and register: Navigating the Inner Journey of a Rewrite

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On Screenwriter's University:

Fitting Writing Into Your Life: Becoming a Productive Screenwriter

fittingwritingintoyourlifeWHEN: Starts on October 15 and runs for 7 days

HOW: A weeklong intensive with a three-part online recorded video presentation and discussions online (with lots of interaction and support from me).

WHAT: The Fitting Writing Into Your Life: Becoming a Productive Screenwriter course is about making your writing happen, one day at a time. (There's a later section of the same course in January you can register for now if the October class doesn't work for your schedule). Although this class is offered as a screenwriting program it is relevant and useful for other writers too. This is an online program with a prerecorded class (from me) and interactive writing prompts on the site with feedback from me also.

DESCRIPTION: If you aren't making progress on your screenplay, or you feel blocked every time you sit down to write, it's time to break the chains of unproductive writing. Adopting the techniques that will make you a consistently productive writer is imperative to seeing any of your writing projects from beginning to end. Get all of the tools to develop an effective strategy and a schedule that you can stick to.

In this week-long intensive, you'll first watch and discuss (via discussion boards) a three-part video lecture exploring 10 habits and techniques that will keep your writing schedule consistent and productive. Then, you'll use what you have learned to create a personalized writing plan that you will submit for feedback. At the end of just one week you will have a fail-proof strategy for the most productive writing of your life.

What You'll Learn:

  • Myths about writing that may actually be sabotaging your progress as a writer.
  • Simple, fresh strategies for handling writing resistance and creative blocks.
  • Ways to design your life and your writing time so it happens regularly.
  • Mindset shifts to help you write more consistently and productively.
  • Techniques to cut down on the time required to “gear up” into writing mode.

Click here to find out more and register: Fitting Writing Into Your Life: Becoming a Productive Screenwriter

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My Fall schedule got so busy with these classes that I decided to postpone my own Called to Write teleclass but I expect to offer it in November or December, so stay tuned!

 

How I rebooted my blogging habit after baby #2

Pre-baby #2 last May, I was blogging on a weekly basis. I had a precision system in place. Every week during one of the 60-minute writing sprints we run for my Writer’s Circle, I would knock out about 1000 words in 40 minutes, edit, proof, and polish it in the remaining 20, then grab an image and publish the whole shebang within maybe another 10 minutes or so. Then a few final tweaks to the copy in my mailing system and I was all set with my weekly post and newsletter (I have my blog set up to be pulled straight in to Aweber once it’s published on my site, then I broadcast it to my mailing list).

I had a SYSTEM. (And if you know me very well, you know how much I love a good system!)

It was fun, easy, and I was in a good rhythm with it for quite a few years. 

Then cue baby, stage right

But once baby #2 came, I knew all bets would be off. And they were.

In those early post-partum days, I was wandering around in a deep haze of physical exhaustion from the birth, breastfeeding and skin-to-skin induced oxytocin highs, and massive sleep deprivation and fragmentation – I was sleeping around the clock with the baby. In other words, all was as it should be. :)

But in the midst of it all, I still had (and have) a business to run. Since I knew it was going to be tough, I had planned to run a series of guest posts over the summer to keep the flow of content going. It was a great plan, and I had I realized what it would take I would have made it a higher priority to set up all the posts BEFORE the baby was born.

(Who am I kidding? The last 6 months of this pregnancy were tough and it was a minor miracle I did such a thorough job of prepping my team to keep things running in my absence! Still, in an ideal world, perhaps…)

In any case, it turns out that guest blog post editing and publishing takes me just as long if not longer than writing my own posts. Live and learn. Still, it was delightful to have a hiatus from being the solo content generator and it kept me in touch with writing and all of you. So once the baby shifted out of the long luxurious naps of The Early Days and into those short 40-minute jobs where there was no point in me trying to sleep anyway, I would get to work on guest posts and screenwriting assignments (and writing the occasional post myself, I think.)

But then the guest post series dried up and I found myself struggling to write the way I had before. Each post took me three times as long as it had in the past. I don’t know if it was the oxytocin/milk brain thing or the chronically tired mom thing or both, but blogging stopped coming so easily.

Then factor in the screenwriting I’m trying to keep up with for my master certificate program and blogging really started slipping through the cracks.

And something just wasn't feeling right

In the bigger picture somewhere along the way I also stopped feeling satisfied with the WAY I was blogging. I wanted to SAY SOMETHING DIFFERENT or at least say it differently, but I wasn’t sure how or even what I exactly wanted to change.

Which led me to some soul searching.

Did I still want to blog?

Was there a different way I could see out there that I might want to try?

What struck me, eventually, was wanting to have more of a mix of posts. Some personal stories interspersed with the writing habit insights. Maybe even an opinion piece or two. Some longer pieces. And even a few occasional guest posts. Once that clarity emerged things got better. But it still wasn't happening.

Creativity required

So my desire was clearer but my action plan was lacking.

One of the things about being an entrepreneur with a baby at home is that you have to be flexible, creative, and resourceful at all times.

Now he's older and is sleeping for longer naps again I have two small windows of time to work in each day, assuming all goes according to plan and there are no random dogs barking during nap time! (Ahem.) (His name is Colton, by the way, and he’s a cute as a kitten playing with a dust bunny.)

So that means I have approximately two to three baby-free hours each day to apportion between screenwriting, blogging, and keeping my Writer’s Circle in motion. Not a lot of time. Sure. I could hire a babysitter and I do have some temporary help right now, but I WANT to be with my son while he is little like this.

Which is exactly the point. As a writer, and a mom, I have to be super creative about when, where, and how I write. I also have to make sure I get enough down time and sleep or I cross the line into crazy mama land pretty quickly. And since the old pattern wasn't working, I had to come up with a new one.

Finding new times to write

My new favorite time of day to blog is that small window of time before I go to sleep and after the kids are in bed. I’ve learned that I can write in Markdown text on my iPhone in an app with a nice dark mode (Byword) while snuggled in bed. It’s the perfect time to empty my brain of the blog posts I’ve been mentally composing all day (turns out that part of my issue lately has been having too much to say – it gets overwhelming and gums up the works without an outlet for expression).

The key is just making sure I get into bed early enough to write without messing up my sleep. On the other hand, sometimes sleep is hard to come by and having the flexibility to read or write in the middle of the night can be a mental relief rather than lying in the dark working out sentences and trying to keep them in my head until I have time to write them down. Plus it leaves my daytime work slots free for screenwriting and running my business.

Then in the morning I can sync up my files with Scrivener or export them straight into my blog in perfectly formatted HTML.

And it led to finding a new voice and new creative expression

Somehow having a new system has unleashed my creativity again. (See? What did I tell you about me and systems?) I just needed a system that worked with my current lifestyle.

It’s such a good reminder that when your writing pattern stops working, it’s time to redesign your writing life to match.

And the most fascinating outcome for me has been a shift in my writing voice that feels even more like me. 

I love it. :)

Make 2015 your year to write, Part three (plus a quick announcement!)

Welcome back to part three of our Make 2015 Your Year to Write series. 

In case you're just joining us or need a refresher, in our first installment we began with reflecting on your writing life so far. Then we continued in part two by looking at the patterns and challenges you've faced this year, what you've learned, and what you might like to have done differently. 

Today in part three we'll carry on by delving into where you want your writing life to be headed -- and we'll be doing some visioning work for that, which ought to be fun. :)

Remember, if you have questions, thoughts, challenges, comments, or problems, I'm your coach this week! Just post them in the comments section on the blog and I'll be sure to address or answer them for you. (And if you've joined us a little late in the process so far, not to worry, just come on in and start following the prompts. If you want to go back to "catch up", I'd suggest just picking one or two prompts from each of those days to start with. In other words, you have my permission to skip a few to catch up. :) )

Now let's look at our part three work.

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Tap into what you want for your writing life

We want to look now at what you want for your writing life. What it will be like. And how it feels to be a writer in your ideal writing life.

We're going to put reality to the side for the moment (don't worry, we'll come back to it!) and explore what it is that you really want as a writer.

We'll do this by working with three simple writing prompts today.  

1. What do you want your writing life to BE like?

What comes to mind for you when you think about what you want your writing life to be like

For instance, you might think about things like:

  • Where you are writing -- what kind of space you're in
  • How much you write
  • Who you write with (if anyone)
  • Who you are writing for (yourself, a particular audience, etc.)
  • What you are writing (genre, length, medium)
  • How often and regularly you write
  • What tools you use to write
  • What skills you use to write
  • How the people around you treat your writing

Helen, a Writer's Circle member, shares:

"I would prefer to have more flexibility with my work schedule so that I can write first thing in the morning. After a long day at a non-writing job, I am typically too exhausted to immediately jump into a creative mode and start writing. I see a need to build more writing sessions into my hectic schedule."

From my notebook:

"When I put aside my current reality, what I'd like is to have more uninterrupted time to write and to work. I've gotten good at writing in shorter sprints, but with a little baby in the house, I can't quite call my time my own. It's a reality I'm gladly willing to accept for now, but I'm also aware that as he grows, my dream writing life will be self-directed so I can follow my own patterns and rhythms more easily again. I imagine focusing more and more on fiction as well, writing scripts and novels, predominantly sci-fi with a little fantasy thrown in. I also love the idea of self-publishing and building my own small empire of writing projects."

 

2. What do you want your writing life to FEEL like?

Now tune in a bit to how you would most like to feel about your writing life.

There can be a wide range here. As one of my colleagues says, "There are no rules governing your inner landscape."

Here are some possibilities to jump-start you:

  • calm
  • centered
  • excited
  • well-connected
  • free
  • independent
  • collaborative
  • creative
  • inspired
  • grounded
  • taken care of 

From my notebook:

"In my ideal world, I want my writing life to feel calm, unrushed, and self-directed. I'd feel a sense of quiet alertness, an excitement brewing under the surface that carries me forward each day."

 

3. What images flash into your mind when you picture yourself writing the way you’d most like it to be?

And now last, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and see if there are any images that flash into your mind when you picture yourself in your ideal writing life.

What do you see? 

Maybe you will envision yourself heading out to work in a special writing cabin at the edge of your property. Or writing at the beach in longhand. Or seeing yourself cashing checks from your writing sales! You might see yourself in meetings with producers in Hollywood. Or working in a room filled with other writers for a TV show. Or maybe just quietly writing a novel on your own in a café.

There are no rights or wrongs here.

One of our Writer's Circle members shares:

"I would like my life to look like I am making a living from my writing, not writing for a living, not writing for heart like I am now. I picture myself on a balcony during a sunset writing with my fountain pens in a beautiful wire-bound book. I can see myself with a wall of multicolored story, slivers of notes pasted on the wall in a way that makes sense to me as I wind them into the tapestry. I see myself going on readings for and with amazing, generous fans, who challenge me to be my best without violating my boundaries. I can feel myself growing lush with worlds, the ideas bumping around my skull sprouting into full experiences for readers."

From my notebook:

"In the long term, the image that flashes into my mind is seeing myself writing at a big, quiet desk in an old house with acres of land around it. Or by the beach, in a little cabin. QUIET and NATURE are obviously keys here for me. :)  In the short term, visions of writing in cafés pop into view, or writing in nature. I get the sense that more flexibility or portability with my writing is what I'm looking for."

Again, there no right or wrong answers here, just whatever comes up for you. 

Close your eyes, see what comes, and jot your answers down in your journal or in the comments.

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pen coffeeYour writing prompts for Part three: Writing life

Here are your writing prompts for part three, in one place so you can easily cut-and-paste.

Take them to your journal, chat about them with your writing pals, or just contemplate them when you can (or answer them in the comments if you feel inspired). 

Once you've answered the prompts, we'd love to have you share your insights, thoughts, or questions in the comments section.

  • What do you want your writing life to BE like?
  • What do you want your writing life to FEEL like?
  • What images flash into your mind when you picture yourself writing the way you’d most like it to be?

And be sure to come back for tomorrow's post, where we'll take a look at the gap between where you are right now and where you want to end up so you can start making real plans for how to get there.

 

A quick announcement

We're now accepting registrations for the next session of my Writer's Circle small group coaching program, which starts on Monday, January 5th. It's a powerful program that offers critique-free and guilt-free coaching, support, and accountability for writers who want to consistently finish all their writing projects -- all year long.

It's the perfect support to hit the ground running in 2015, and it's a great time to enroll and lock-in our current 2014 rates, which will be increasing after the coming session gets started. 

Registration closes on Friday, January 2nd at Midnight Pacific Time.

Find out more and register online at www.JustDoTheWriting.com.

 

 

 

 

How to finally make it as a writer, part four (plus, an announcement)

Today we’re finishing our four-part series designed to get you on track for the writing career and life you want.

If you haven’t seen the earlier parts of this series, you can read through exercises on how to write more easily, how to overcome resistance, and how to quickly build self-confidence as a writer.

In today’s exercise, we’re going to tie it all together and get you moving towards “going pro” – whatever that specifically means for you.

Whether you want writing to be your full time career or you just want to consistently finish your own personal projects, this exercise will move you forward.

A quick announcement before the exercise

If you like what you’ve been seeing in these exercises, there’s even more in store for you inside Design Your Writing Life – my complete guide to custom-creating the writing life and writing career you’ve always wanted.

For the next few days (through Tuesday, May 13th), the Design Your Writing Life home-study course will be available at a special launch discount of 40% off – and you can find all the details about what’s inside right here.

Now, on to the exercise!

Exercise #4 – Write down your “next steps” for making your writing life a reality

You already have a vision in your head about what your “writing life” looks like – what kinds of events, activities, and environments will be present in your life when you’re working on and completing your creative works.

However, as long as it’s just a vision, it can’t become real. And what can so often hold you back is when that picture in your mind is just blurry enough that you don’t have a sense of how to create it.

After all, you can only hit a target you can see.

So today we’re going to sharpen your focus so you can clearly identify some of the next steps that have to happen to take your writing life from vision to reality.

Here’s what we’ll have you do:

  • First, think of the next creative project you want to complete and define its closest concrete milestone. If you already have a project in the works, what’s the next checkpoint you have to get to? Is it a completed outline, or a list of major characters, or just getting to the end of the next chapter? Is it hitting a particularly meaningful word count? We’re looking for the closest, most easily attainable thing you can check off the proverbial checklist.
  • Next, write down what it will take to reach that milestone as quickly and efficiently as possible. Maybe it’s to guesstimate how long the task will take. Maybe it’s to make a list of the steps remaining to reach that completion point. Maybe it’s creating a folder on your computer with a blank document for each character in your book, or a folder for each chapter so you can keep them organized and separate. Maybe it’s getting a tool like Dropbox to allow you to do your writing from multiple devices.
  • Finally, carve out time to reach your milestone by putting it on your calendar. It’s so easy to get distracted from writing – whether it’s by doing “research” on the internet, clicking around on inspirational blogs, or thinking about all the decisions you might have to make for future milestones that you aren’t in a position to act on today. But your next step is the milestone closest to you now. So be 100% clear on what it will take to get there, and put it on your calendar, even if you’re “just” blocking out 15 minute increments of time every day for the next week. Bit by bit, you WILL get there.

Don’t overcomplicate this – just think of your next milestone, the very simple things you’ll need to do to get there, and set those as the “next steps” you put onto your calendar.

Here’s why this works so well at making your writing dreams become your daily reality

Writing gets done – and done consistently – when you put one foot in front of the other and you have a concrete goal to work towards.

If you don’t have that “next” concrete goal, you’ll be pulled in a hundred different directions and you won’t make the forward progress that builds your writing life from the ground up.

Remember what we said in the other exercises – every time you start with a small step, it lets you fly in under the radar of resistance, and that small step grows organically until it becomes a larger and larger force.

Just taking those first small steps is what gets you taking larger and larger ones, and soon you’ll be writing more each day, writing more easily, and getting more of your writing projects done.

If you’ve enjoyed these exercises so far, take a look at what else you’ll find in Design Your Writing Life!

From now until Tuesday, May 13th, you can get Design Your Writing Life at a 40% discount by clicking here.

What you’ve seen in this series are just a small sample of the steps, planning exercises, and activities that will help you make the shift from “trying to write” to “becoming a writer.” There’s so much more on the inside, and I’d love you to see all the details while it’s available at this special savings.

Everything you need to know is here – and I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned over the years (and what I’ve taught others over my career) with you today.

How to finally make it as a writer (Part three!)

Today we’re continuing our four-part series designed to help you get your writing career moving, even if you’ve been stalled out or had a few setbacks along the way.

We’ve already talked about expanding your options for writing and a very simple way to overcome resistance, and now we’re going to move into boosting your confidence as a writer.

Do today’s exercise, and you will begin to experience the growing confidence in yourself that comes from writing consistently and being connected to safe people who see you take your writing seriously each day.

Why I’m taking you through these exercises now

I’m releasing a new product tomorrow – Design Your Writing Life – that will walk you through a series of steps, planning exercises and activities that will help you make the shift from “trying to write” to “becoming a writer.”

It will be available with a special launch discount starting tomorrow, and I wanted to share a few select parts of what I teach inside it so that you can get a taste of what the course is all about.

Your next exercise is below!

Exercise #3 – Use “Safe Accountability” to create momentum and trust in yourself

Accountability can sometimes be a scary thing to step into – the idea of keeping to a deadline as well as showing your work to others can be just intimidating enough to keep you from doing it. (And even if you’ve successfully navigated that hurdle, you remember how it felt!)

We’re going to make accountability easier today by baby-stepping into the safest possible method of making it happen, so you can feel more comfortable getting started.

There are two parts of writing that are intertwined – the practice and the craft. You get better at the craft through practice, but often it’s difficult to practice because getting the craft “right” when other people are watching can activate resistance.

So we’re just going to sneak in like we did yesterday and take a small step designed to fly under the radar of resistance and get you feeling good about yourself as a writer.

Here’s what we’ll have you do:

  • Pick the simplest form of daily accountability you can imagine and choose that as your starting point. If you’re following along from yesterday, that could be writing for five minutes in the morning. If you already have a semi-regular writing habit (like you sporadically write on your lunch one or two times a week), then let’s step it up by making it every day – even if it’s only five minutes of writing.
  • Choose someone who is safe and cares about you to report your practice time to each day. This could be a writing buddy, your partner, or anyone else that you trust to hold you accountable and celebrate your successes. You don’t have to send them your writing for critique – you’re just telling them that you followed through each day.
  • Contact them today and say you’d like to have them help you keep accountable.

This seems like a pretty small step – but as you saw yesterday, a consistent small step almost inevitably grows into a larger habit.

Just choose one person to report your consistent progress to. That’s all you have to do to start.

Here’s why this works so well to make your writing career develop faster

If someone has been a professional writer for years, when another person asks them what they do for a living, they’ll say “I’m a writer.”

Before you get to that point, it can be hard to give the same response. Somewhere inside you’ll either be thinking “I’d like to be a writer,” or “I’m trying to be a writer,” or the dreaded “I should be writing more but oh, I just don’t know why I’m not.”

As you go through this first baby step, just the simple daily accountability for your morning writing, you’ll be telling someone “I wrote today” every single day.

The act of communicating that verbally (or via email, if that’s how you do it) does a few very important things to your brain:

  • First, it reinforces your identity as someone who writes because you’re saying it every day to another person.
  • Second, it builds self-trust because after a short while you’ll realize you’re getting very good at following through (which makes it much easier to see your writing career as a reality instead of a dream). You’ll know, both subconsciously and consciously, that you can trust yourself to keep your promises.
  • Third, it helps you internalize your growth as a writer, because over time you’ll be telling your accountability partner that you wrote more each day. It doesn’t take long for 5 minutes to become 10, then 20, and more … and you’ll begin to see just how much you’re growing, faster than you could have expected.

This one simple exercise can get you on the path to being able to tell other people “I’m a writer” without a moment’s hesitation. Even simple accountability can make a bigger difference than you might think.

We cover more advanced accountability strategies in the Design Your Writing Life program, but every journey starts with a first step.

This is your chance to take that first step today. :)

Take 5 minutes now and do this exercise, and let me know how it goes!

Now is as good a time as any to give this exercise a try – just take 5 minutes now and get in touch with someone you can be accountable to. Remember, we’re flying under the radar of resistance here. All you’re doing is agreeing to say “I did it” each day.

(In reality, you’ll probably be telling your accountability partner things like “Wow, I can’t believe I ended up writing for 20 minutes” or “It feels so good to finally be writing every day”, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it.)

Once you’re done, take a moment to tell me how you feel at the end of the exercise!

I look forward to cheering you on. :)

How to finally make it as a writer (Part two!)

Today we’re continuing our four-part series designed to help you get past the roadblocks and obstacles that hold you back from fully moving into the writing life you want.

(If you haven’t seen the first part, you can take a look at it here.)

My goal for you in this series is to help kick-start the process through a few proven exercises so that your professional writing career takes shape sooner rather than later.

Do these exercises, and you will experience positive results that will make becoming a professional writer more attainable for you.

Today’s exercise worked so well for one of the people in The Writer’s Circle, he was able to write 75,000 words in four months … after struggling with writing for years.

Why I’m taking you through these exercises now

I’m releasing a new product this week – Design Your Writing Life – that’s essentially a step-by-step blueprint for how to go from where you are now to the writing life you’ve always been looking forward to.

It will be available with a special launch discount on Thursday, May 8th, and I wanted to share a few select parts of what I teach inside it so that you can get a taste of what the course is all about.

Your next exercise is below!

Exercise #2 – Break resistance by tricking your brain

We cover a number of “writing myths” in Design Your Writing Life that are the common things that hold people back from developing a consistent writing habit, but one of the common threads in these myths is making the act of writing a bigger deal than it is – and giving your power away by thinking conditions must be ideal – either inside you or in the outside world – in order for you to be “able” to write.

Of course there are some circumstances in which writing is easier than in others – but by no means should they dictate your ability to write in the here and now. But the belief that now – any given now – isn’t the right time to get some writing done is a career killer.

In this exercise you’re going to have the chance to interrupt your normal patterns around writing and sneak in under the radar of any resistance to writing.

All you need to do is this:

  • Schedule 5 minutes in the morning to write, and don’t put any expectations on writing well. Then do it again each day.

That’s it. Just 5 minutes, preferably as close to first thing as you can, but if you need to integrate it with your first coffee of the day (or something similar), that can work, too. Just five minutes, at a time you won’t “forget.”

Scheduling it makes all the difference.

This is how Rikard Berguist managed to write 75,000 words in four months and changed his writing life forever. And you can do it, too.

Important Note: The more this idea seems like it won’t work for you, the more likely it is that it is exactly what will change things for you as a writer.

I’ll explain.

Here’s why this works so well to make writing easier for you

The act of taking just five minutes can help you side-step your resistance because your brain won’t quite take the exercise seriously. After all, it’s just five minutes, and it’s in the morning. As far as your brain is concerned, it will be over with soon enough.

It’s almost like it’s not a threat to any ingrained beliefs you have about writing being difficult. (It doesn’t hurt that you’re also not trying to do your “best” writing, so the pressure’s off.)

This does a few things for you:

  • One, it breaks your normal expectations around writing – instead of striving to “do it right”, you’re “just doing it.”
  • Two, it begins the process of normalization – your brain begins getting comfortable with the idea of writing being a planned part of your daily routine, like a coffee or a shower.
  • Three, it helps reinforce your identity as a writer, because it’s something you’re doing more often. Writing will start feeling more like something you “do” rather than something you “should be doing.”
  • Four, it can rapidly improve your creativity. David Boice, a well known researcher in the realm of academic writing, has found that writers who write on a daily basis are twice as likely to have frequent creative thoughts as writers who write when they “feel like it.”
  • Fifth, it can rapidly improve your skill as a writer. There is mounting evidence to show that “spaced practice” can lead to faster skill building than “massed practice” – meaning that the more little practice sessions you have, the more your brain can strengthen long-term memory associated with the writing process. So those 5 minute sessions each day will trigger and re-trigger the brain to get into “writing mode” more easily over time.  

The wonderful side effect of this exercise is that it doesn’t take long for those 5-minute writing bursts to get longer. Without resistance slowing you down, you’ll find yourself wanting to write for 10 minutes, then 15, and beyond. Rikard worked his way up to an hour a day “sneaking under the radar of resistance” and had this to say:

I gave myself permission to write badly. I told myself "I am writing crap," and suddenly I was writing about 750 words during that hour every morning. And surprise, it wasn't all crap.

Four months later, he was typing the last words on a completed first draft.

Take 5 minutes now and do this exercise, and let me know how it goes!

Now is as good a time as any to give this exercise a try – just take 5 minutes now to break the ice and see what you can get written – and then decide when you’re going to do your daily 5 minutes from now on. Remember, you’re not going for your “best” writing in this space – we’re simply getting the habit in place.

Writing for 5 minutes won’t feel normal yet. Soon it will, though, and you’ll begin to feel your identity as a writer strengthen and solidify.

Once you’re done, take a moment to tell me how you feel at the end of the exercise! I look forward to cheering you on. :)

So go set your timer, and write!

 

How to finally make it as a writer (Part one!)

Today we’re kicking off a four-part series designed to help you break through some of the obstacles that hold you back from writing consistently, finishing writing projects, and (finally!) getting them to market.

Over the next few days, I’ll take you through a few simple exercises that will make it easier for you to write, help you get more written every day, build your confidence as a writer and accelerate your professional growth.

Sounds like a tall order! But if you do these simple exercises you will be able to feel the difference in how you approach your writing, and crossing the “finish line” to becoming a professional writer will be easier to do than ever.

Why I’m taking you through these exercises now

Later this week I’m releasing a new home-study course – Design Your Writing Life – that’s essentially a step-by-step blueprint for how to go from where you are now to the writing life you’ve always been looking forward to.

It will be available with a special launch discount on Thursday, May 8th, and I wanted to share a few select parts of what I teach inside it so that you can get a taste of what the course is all about.

Your first exercise is below!

Exercise #1 – Expand your writing options
(So you can write more easily, more often)

One of the biggest roadblocks to getting your writing done is limiting yourself to just one or two spaces to write. If conditions aren’t ideal, you’ll lose a lot of steam and think writing will be harder than it has to be.

We don’t do this in the rest of our lives – that would be like saying you could only go to the grocery store when it’s sunny outside. But when it comes to creative tasks like writing, this is a very common and very human issue to grapple with.

The good news is that there’s not that much to grapple with. You can do so much for your writing career by taking 5 minutes to consciously create a list of writing spaces that you know you can write in, even if they’re not ideal.

You don’t want to get so precious about your writing that you can only write on Tuesdays in the north corner of the house when the wind is blowing from the east. :)

The more flexible you can be with your writing spaces, the more easily you can break the feeling of being too locked in to or beholden to any one particular space. You’ll become a more powerful and capable writer simply by making this one change.

Here’s an example of how this exercise works

What you can do right now is take 3 to 5 minutes to make a list of the different places that you currently write in, or could write in, and order them from “most likely to result in writing” to “least likely.”

As an example, here’s a list of all the places and ways that I write, in order of most frequent to least:

  • In my office on my main computer. The office has doors that I can close and lock.
  • In my bedroom in my bed on my laptop. I can also close and lock the door while I’m writing, though I do so only rarely.
  • In my bedroom at my grandmother’s old writing desk with my laptop.
  • On the couch in the living room with my laptop, or at the dining room table with my laptop. I usually only use this space to write if my son and husband are away and I want a change of scenery or if they are otherwise occupied in another room.
  • In a café or restaurant with my laptop, listening to soundtrack music without words on my ear buds.
  • In the car on my iPad with my logitech keyboard. Least likely!

(I’ve also been known to take my iPad or laptop with me to doctor’s appointments where I know I’ll be likely to be waiting a while.)

Here’s why this works so well to make writing easier for you

This exercise will get your brain noticing where you already write most often, which reinforces your identity as a writer and can help make you more likely to write. Instead of thinking about all the writing you’re not doing, you’ll be thinking about all of the writing you already do.

It also can help you notice patterns in what kinds of environments are most suited for your unique writing style.

And, it can help unlock options for what to do when the space you’re writing in isn’t working for you – as in my example above, I can see my dining room table as a good place when I need a change of scenery.

Finally, it helps you see that you can (and do!) write even when it feels hard. The last item above in the example – my least likely option of writing on my iPad in the car – still shows me that it can be done, even in the least ideal environment.

And when you know that, the “I can’t go to the grocery store unless it’s sunny” feeling starts to go away – and you will find yourself writing more often, more easily, every single day.

Take 3 minutes now and do this exercise in the comments!

I’d love to see what you come up with for this exercise and all of the different places that you find yourself writing (or that you know you could definitely write in if you thought about it).

Take a few moments to write down a few places right now – even four or five places is a fantastic start – and tell me how you feel at the end of the exercise.

I look forward to cheering you on. :)