I’d Love to Get Your Feedback On a New Writing Program

I’m planning to run a short-term Writing Intensive this fall (specific dates to be determined), and I’d love to get your input on it.

My vision is to create something along the lines of NaNoWriMo but with a smaller group, more support, and direct interaction with a writing coach. The purpose of the Writing Intensive would be to pick one specific project that you’ve been wanting to do a push on and focus on moving it forward significantly for the duration of the Intensive.

Unlike NaNoWriMo, we wouldn’t necessarily have a shared goal (in NaNo, everyone aims to write 50,000 words during the month of November), but rather start off at the beginning with a specific stretch goal that you personally want to meet, and have a structured timeline within which to meet it. We’ll have a collection of support tools to help you get there that may include things like: daily check-ins online, a special chat group for discussion and interaction, writing sprints, frequent teleconferences, and more (I’m refining the specifics about this on the basis of your feedback, hence this post).

I’m currently planning to use the platform I use to run my Called to Write Coaching Circle, but with a different focus (intensely focused on heightened productivity rather than daily writing habit building and ongoing productivity), additional tools, and even story coaching if warranted. 

If you’re interested in this and you’d like to give me your input on it, I’d really appreciate it! I’ve set up a survey here.

You’re also more than welcome to leave comments here on the blog.

Thank you so much! I appreciate it.

sleeping over laptop

Writing through exhaustion, sickness, and grief . . . or not?

It’s been a rough couple of months. My mother-in-law passed away at the end of January. I’ve managed to have two colds since then (yes, I know it’s only February 20th), and the second one has been a doozy. I wrote through the first cold. I wrote through her passing. It felt good to write. It became my solace, my place to turn to myself and remember who I am, even in the face of grief and exhaustion. I even finished the rough draft of a new spec script in the midst of all this. But by the second cold (all whilst taking care of a now 9 month old baby), I was pretty fried and quite simply too sick to do much more than a very low rock bottom minimum. 

As I’ve navigated the last 10 days in particular, I’ve found myself focusing on getting well and doing some minimal amounts of tinkering and research to stay in touch with various projects. And now that I’m emerging (finally!) from this Cold From Hell, I’m facing the need to reboot my own writing habit a bit. I’ll make a point to write about that next week. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy this article (revised and reprinted from 2013) about making the choice about whether or not to write when you’re sick, have hit a rough patch in your life, have shaken confidence, are experiencing a loss or grief, or perhaps are suffering from a depleted creative well.

Enjoy!

diamonds2

During a live coaching call for my online small group coaching program for writers, one of our participants asked about how to know when to push through and write if you’re not feeling well, and 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, I think 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 and it was nagging at me not to — but my focus is on 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 writing again as soon as possible, starting out small, even just 15 minutes a day, and building back up to your full pre-illness writing glory over a few days time.

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 scale back your writing time to get through it. I’ve been through many challenging personal experiences over the last several years as a writer, and I find that it’s much easier to keep writing at a rock bottom minimum level than it is to stop writing altogether (this is because it gets harder and harder to restart, the longer the not-writing goes on, as I mentioned above).

As a writer, it’s worth knowing what your minimal level of writing is — how much will keep you engaged and connected to the work? For me, it’s 15 minutes a day — that’s my rock bottom. For someone else, it might be 5 minutes or 60 minutes. The point is, know what YOU need to do to sustain your connection to the work even during a challenging phase.

Along with aiming for your minimum, when you’re going through a phase like this, make sure you increase your levels of self-care. Put sleep, healthy food, good hydration, fresh air, and exercise at the top of your list and get yourself back into balance. It’ll benefit your writing in the long term.

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

A common refrain among writers is, “I’m not in the right mood to write.” This can come up for all sorts of reasons, like having a bad night’s sleep or a bad day at work. It can also be a bit sneaky, and turn up when 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 better at this than I am!”).

And what happens is that we start feeling like we need to take time off to rest or to get ourselves feeling better before we write.

But hear this now: Being in a bad mood is NOT a good reason not to write. 

There are far too many reasons to resist and procrastinate about writing already, we simply cannot allow our moods to be added to that list.

You may even be surprised to find that when you write on a daily or near-daily basis, your level of productivity and your ability to create are not at all related to your mood. Oftentimes writers find that their best writing and most productive days occur when they did not want to write. And besides, writing will often change your mood for the better anyway.

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 — nearer to the veil between life and death — and I found it 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:

“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. I also believe it’s perfectly appropriate — important even — to allow ourselves time to grieve and be with whatever emotions are coming up. When my mother-in-law died recently, writing was my solace, as I mentioned. I also found great comfort in being involved with the writing of her obituary and the letter to our extended family. 

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.” In my pre-baby days, I would take my older son to school, and then do whatever I felt like doing, usually some combination of a buying a fantastic decaf beverage, watching a movie in bed, taking a nap, and maybe going out for a meal at a favorite restaurant. Now, with a little baby in the house, my days off are even a little more home-centric, but still involve similar indulgences (a movie while he naps, something yummy delivered for lunch, and a long bath.)

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? Let us know in the comments.

Experiment for yourself

Join the Writer's CircleIf you’re a writer looking for community and support on your writing journey, join our next session of the Writer’s Circle, which starts on March 2. It’s like a giant sandbox where you get to experiment with your writing habit, see what works, see what doesn’t, and enjoy working alongside other writers committed to showing up and doing the work. Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

The right kind of writing feedback — and when to get it

Much of what’s out there in terms of writing support revolves around getting feedback, whether it’s through private coaching, mentoring, consulting, editors, agents, or writing groups.

Good feedback can be a wonderful thing (though surprisingly, sometimes it isn’t).

Not-so-good feedback, on the other hand, can be spirit-damaging and procrastination-inducing for writers — and even more so for the sensitive, thoughtful writers among us (myself included).

Some people argue that without feedback, our writing will never improve, while others say we need to focus on developing and hearing our own voices in our writing, and that critiques simply make it hard to learn our own way.

But what is good feedback, really?

Is “good” feedback an ego stroke, where your friends and family tell you how great your work is?

My answer is no.

Is “good” feedback a ruthless, gloves-off, in your face slam of your work that leaves you reeling?

Um, no again.

Good feedback — in my opinion — is the kind of feedback that helps a writer do what he or she is trying to do. Good feedback is in line with the vision of the writer’s project and helps him or her make it better. It’s delivered in a thoughtful, caring tone, without the use of pejorative, labeling terms like “cliché, melodramatic, bad, good, boring, unoriginal”, etc, while still clearly and directly pointing to issues and questions that the reader notices. The reader also provides their feedback subjectively, which means that it’s conveyed in an “in my opinion” tone with his or her notes, as opposed to an authoritative, “this is the only way it can be” perspective.

Good feedback is also extremely honest, while still being compassionate. When I read for someone, I bring up everything that concerns me that is appropriate to where the writer is on that stage of their writing process. In other words, if I read a script where I can’t see the story through the language choices, that’s where my feedback starts. If the script is polished to a high sheen, I can give deeper structural, plot, and character motivation notes. (And that’s where it really gets fun.)

Bad feedback, on the other hand, is pejorative, rude, condescending, and often just downright snarky. It challenges the writer’s very attempts at writing. It is emotionally damaging. It is not kind or thoughtful or sensitive. It creates a creative wound in the writer that takes days, months, and sometimes even years to heal from. It’s beyond me why any “consultant” would take it upon themselves to treat another human being in such an inappropriate way.

When good feedback is not such a good thing

Interestingly, sometimes “good” feedback can be just as paralyzing as bad feedback. I’ve talked to more than a few writers who have received extremely encouraging feedback from potential agents or managers — usually something along the lines of “this first chapter is terrific, when you finish the rest, I definitely want to read it.” But if the writer isn’t done with the project, it can lead to a tremendous amounts of pressure to “live up” to the quality of the first (usually highly polished) chapter.

That pressure, in turn, leads to perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis. Ack!

On choosing feedback sources

My advice when it comes to getting feedback is:

  • IF you choose to get feedback, get your earliest feedback from only your most trusted sources, preferably a fellow writer (as opposed to unqualified family and friends) who knows how to deliver compassionate, productive feedback.
  • With any further feedback you get, ask for it from professionals that you pay, know, like and trust. Then listen to them.
  • Take ALL feedback with a grain of salt. Is it in alignment with your vision? Does it resonate for you internally? If so, listen. If not, take what works and move on.
  • Pay attention to notes that have an element of truth to them, even if the specifics don’t resonate for you. It’s worth delving deeper into the notes to try to understand the why behind what a reader is suggesting. Sometimes the detailed suggestions don’t work for you, but the underlying note is accurate and highly useful. I once had a note from a reader where he clearly didn’t “get” what my story was about. But rather than tossing the note out the window, I thought, “Hmm, if he’s not getting the core of the story I’m wanting to tell, how I can rewrite it in a way that would make what I’m trying to do come through more clearly?” It was a valuable lesson for me, and I’m so glad I stayed with it because it taught me a great deal about my own writing process.
  • Avoid getting feedback until you’re really ready for it. Many writers rush to get feedback, looking for validation and encouragement, or get it from so many different gurus and sources that their heads are spinning trying to integrate all of it. While I can’t give you a specific guideline, what I’m focusing on myself is taking things farther than I think I can go on my own before reaching out for feedback, and trying minimize the number of sources so I can deal with one set of notes at a time, a trick I learned from my mentor Hal.

The power of critique-free writing support

I’ve seen so many writers struggle with pain and paralysis after receiving feedback — even good feedback — that I’ve come to believe firmly in the value of ADDITIONAL support for writers in the form of critique-free writing support. This is the kind of support that focuses on the process, habit, and motivation behind writing, rather than on critiquing the content of it. (If you’re wanting this kind of support for yourself, my online Writer’s Circle is a resource you might like to check out.)

In my estimation, writers need both kinds of support to see their writing through — support for their craft and support for their practice or habit of writing:

  • Without compassionate feedback, mentoring, and content support, we can flounder when it comes to solving our story or writing problems.
  • Without writing practice support, we can have trouble showing up to the page on a regular basis to write.
  • And sometimes, after receiving challenging feedback, we need help getting back to the page to write. Finding support for yourself to do that is an incredible gift.

Thanks for reading!

I always love to hear what you think in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

 

 

Where do we go from here?

I don’t have so much of a question but more of a plan about where we’re going to go from here, but the title is from a song from my favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, “Once More With Feeling,” and it just popped into my head. I couldn’t resist.

But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because:

Thank you!

Today’s article is a simple follow up and a giant thank you for last week.

So many of you took the time to post your comments about my Big Question last week and it’s been tremendously useful. I am very grateful.

There was a lot of consensus and some fantastic ideas that came through that sparked new insights for me, and because you took the time to engage with me and help me brainstorm, I want to follow up with details about where we’re going to go from here.

What I’m going to do is work over the next few months to make clearly delineated categories on my website for writers, creatives, entrepreneurs, and sensitives, as well as topics, like visioning, life purpose, dream fulfillment, personal development, and creative development. The categories and topics will likely jell more as I begin to implement the work.

What I will not do is create separate websites — your support for staying integrated was valuable in that regard — thank you. On the other hand, I will continue to maintain my Sensitive Souls website, which is a huge repository of information for high sensitivity. I have some ideas about ways to make that content more accessible, so stay tuned for that.

I’m also moving toward developing at least two special mailing lists (which I essentially already have but could use a few tweaks) for writers and sensitives, so I’ll be letting you know about how that will all work very soon.

That way, when I release new information and articles appropriate for those specific audiences, the people most interested in those topics will be sure to hear about them.

And on the other hand, I’ll still aim to write broadly about fulfilling your calling and getting out of your own way, drawing lessons from my work with all my audiences so that we can all benefit from the integration.

How does that grab you?

It’s feeling pretty great to me, which makes me so happy.

On another note, one could argue that because I haven’t heard from everyone on my list I can’t use this as a representative sample — to that I say, the people who have responded are among the most important in my audience, so they get extra cred. Thanks again, everyone!

Your turn

Any thoughts? You know I always appreciate and value your input. Muchly. xx

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

~> August 2nd. Register by August 2 for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle (starts August 6th). For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

 

What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Mentoring with screenwriter Chris Soth and participating in ScreenwritingU’s Pro Rewrite class after finishing the ProSeries.* (They’re offering their free rewrite* class this month on August 4, which is great — though make sure you have plenty of water — it’s a looooong class.)

~> September 18 to 22nd. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU* event to meet with producers and agents then staying on for the InkTip Pitch Summit.

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Still reading Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix with my little boy. The next Sandman Slim book is awaiting me at the library. Gotta get it!  My husband and I saw The Amazing Spider-Man last week. I just keep not watching the others I have on DVD, lucky for Netflix. Hopefully soon.

 

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To segregate or not to segregate

Many entrepreneurs have multiple blogs and websites and businesses.

Just thinking about it makes me feel like my head will explode.

And yet, it seems to be time.

My big thing is helping you get out of your own way so you can get back on track with what you were put here to do — to put your calling into action.

But within that are specifics for writers, creatives, entrepreneurs, and sensitives, like my Writer’s Circle, creative destiny work, private mentoring, and energy skills classes.

So I’m working to make sense of all of it in such a way that we can all be happy and fulfilled.

That’s what I want. No exploding heads anywhere in the vicinity.

I’m contemplating how best to organize my offerings and mailings.

Different mailing lists for different groups? Separate sections on my website? Different websites with specific foci?

I think I’m headed toward different websites, but I’m toying with various options right now and wanted you to know that I’m thinking about all of it — and you.

Your turn

Click here to tell me what YOU want. Do you fall into so many of these categories that you like all the different things I talk about? Or would you rather come to one place and get just one thing?

Positive, creative comments and suggestions are requested — and extremely appreciated. xx

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

~> August 2nd. Register by August 2 for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle (starts August 6th). For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

 

What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Mentoring with screenwriter Chris Soth and participating in ScreenwritingU’s Pro Rewrite class after finishing the ProSeries.* (They’re offering their free rewrite* class this month on August 4, which is great — though make sure you have plenty of water — it’s a looooong class.)

~> September 18 to 22nd. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU* event to meet with producers and agents then staying on for the InkTip Pitch Summit.

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Still reading Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix with my little boy and just today finished Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey (not to sure about the resolution but I sure love the series). We saw Prometheus last week, now I get to watch the other movies I’ve been wanting to see.

 

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