Systems and Focus and Goals, Oh My! … Plus the 3 Necessary Ingredients to Finish a Book or Script

I recently read a blog post by James Clear that suggested we forget about setting goals and focus on systems instead. I appreciated his points about how goal-focused thinking can get us into trouble because it can: 1) keep us dissatisfied with the present moment, 2) cause trouble with long-term progress, and 3) create a sense of control we might not actually have. I agree with all of those points.

But I disliked the implication that therefore goals should be forgotten. Like anything else, they are one possible tool to help us create outcomes that we want, and like any other tool, they need to be used wisely. At the end of the article he even says, “None of this is to say that goals are useless. However, I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.”

So despite the fact that it seems that James and I are in agreement about the value of both goals and systems, since there’s usually a lot of debate around this time of year about whether or not goals or resolutions are “right,” I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned from working with hundreds of writers on goal-setting and creating systems to help them reach those goals (writing habits).

The truth is that goals and systems can work hand-in-hand quite beautifully. Here are eight thoughts about goals, systems, focus, and finishing:

  1. There’s no one right way to do anything. We each have to find what works for us individually. My way of setting goals might not work for you. Your way might not work for me. You don’t even have to set goals if you don’t want to. But what I’ve seen is that when we focus on something specific (a goal) and pursue it, we are much more likely to achieve the outcome we’re looking for than by hoping it will happen. 
  2. Systems, habits, and routines alone can get us somewhere, but we can get lost along the way when we use them without an intended outcome. I love, love, love systems. And systems in and of themselves are brilliant solutions for consistently problematic issues, like dishes stacking up in the sink and feeling overwhelmed by them (run the dishwasher every night without fail), or laundry taking up writing time or becoming a magnet for resistance (schedule a time for laundry outside your writing schedule and stick to it), or putting off paying your bills (create a routine for how and when you write checks).

    But if you’re attempting to use a system, routine, or habit to achieve a long-term outcome, like writing a book, you actually have to have an outcome in mind in order to reach it, aka a “goal.” You can’t just write every day and hope it will happen (though it may eventually, assuming you keep working on the same thing without fail, which perhaps sounds obvious but can be a big assumption in the world of project-hopping writerly types). I’ve seen too many writers get lost in the weeds of writing without writing toward an end, and lose track of what they set out to do in the first place. Even James actually had an outcome in mind for the system he was using (writing and publishing blog posts twice a week).

  3. Goals help us focus our efforts. Honestly, there is so much going on in our lives, that unless we are super clear about what we are trying to accomplish, it’s easy to get pulled off track. That writing habit can become a pat on the head (“See, I did my writing today!”) unless it is focused. Pick something to finish. Finish it. Pick something else. Finish that. Repeat. Setting a goal keeps your eye on the prize.
  4. Goals set in a vacuum won’t get us very far either. Having stated the importance of goals, I see many writers creating unrealistic goals (“A page a day!” … but what happens when you’re in revisions, are you still going to write a page a day in addition to revising?) or using magical thinking to neglect the reality of their daily lives and ending up frustrated at year’s end because they don’t achieve their goals. Or even worse, they set goals to match what other people are doing, whether or not that’s achievable in their lives (“My friends are all writing six scripts a year, so I should be able to do that too, right? Never mind that they don’t have kids or that their spouses are independently wealthy.”). We have to set goals that work within the context of our lives, even when we’re setting stretch goals for ourselves. 
  5. Goals without systems are likely to fail. Goals and systems work hand-in-hand. Want to finish a book, a good one? You can’t write it without a writing routine or practice. You have to put in the time, show up, and do the work. It won’t happen on its own, and it probably won’t happen well if you’re binge-writing it at the last possible minute. (And even if it does, the cost on your health, well-being, and future writing energy may be higher than you like.)
  6. Use systems and milestones to counteract flagging motivation on long-range goals. When we set very long-term goals (such as year-long goals), they can feel so far away that we have a hard time staying motivated and engaged with them. Having a writing system helps us manage that sense of disconnection from our distant goals, particularly when we combine it with milestone goals. A system helps us keep writing — it’s a practice we’re accustomed to engaging in every day — so we can’t help moving the project forward, as long as we don’t stray to another. We can also hugely benefit from setting shorter term goals (one to three-month goals) that are completion milestones along the way to the finish line. That ultimate finish line can feel really far away, so we can give ourselves something to work the system with in the meantime.
  7. Taking stock periodically helps maintain momentum. Post your goals where you can see them, check in with them on a regular basis, and take stock of what you’ve accomplished so far (add up ALL THE THINGS, even if they seem small) to help you see your progress and stay motivated to continue.
  8. Progress without a finished product isn’t particularly satisfying. Yes, as writers we have to be in love with the process and the practice of writing. Yes, we may never be published or produced. There are no guarantees. Yes, yes, yes. But we can still take our books and scripts to their completion points to the best of our abilities and ship them out into the world, and move on to the next project. We can use goals to focus our efforts so we get to the finish line. Working a system and being productive without focusing on an outcome or a finish line can become an endless loop that doesn’t feel satisfying otherwise. We have to have both.

The 3 Necessary Ingredients to Finish a Book or Script

From what I’ve seen, there are three necessary ingredients to finishing a book or a script:

  1. A specific writing project to work on. Preferably just one long-form project. I rarely see writers completing more than one project at a time successfully. Maybe the true pros can do it. Maybe. My recommendation: Pick one project at a time. And finish it. Then do the next one.
  2. A writing system. You can also call this a writing habit, practice, or routine. It means showing up daily or near daily to write. This is what we do in my Circle.
  3. A goal for completion. Yes, set a goal. I’m a fan of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resonant, Time-Bound) because they help us double-check to make sure we’re being specific enough about the who, what, where, why, and how. Set a goal for when you’ll complete your book or script, and while you’re at it, map out the timeline too. 

So put those systems and goals to work, and make your writing happen. I’ll be right there with you.

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In other news, Make 2017 Your Year To Write is available in the shop and on sale through January 31. Check it out here: http://programs.calledtowrite.com/2017-vision.

 

 

Get Clear on Your Characters with GMC (Plus a Free Character Profile Template!)

Something I tackled in my most recent screenwriting assignment was getting clear on who the characters are and what motivates them, especially since they weren’t my original characters. This project was a rewrite of a writer-producer’s script so the characters were his, though they now feel like “ours.”

Part of the process of getting there was working through the characters’ GMC (goals, motivation, and conflict) to understand them more deeply.

Cathy Yardley first introduced me to GMC. I’ve done some plot work with her on other projects, and loved her book series where she describes the concept of GMC. The book series is offered collectively in print as Rock Your Writing, also available in a six-part Kindle series, including Rock Your Plot and Rock Your Revisions. She recommends another book called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, The Building Blocks of Good Fiction that I found helpful as well. (Amazon links for all of these books are in the References section, below.)

What I find most useful about GMC is that it gives me a way into my character’s head.

The jury is still out on whether or not I’m more of an intuitive writer (one who excels in character and dialogue but has a hard time with plot and structure) or a conceptual writer (one who does well with plot and structure but struggles with the character and dialogue). So far, my take is that I’m more of a conceptual writer.

In any case, it helps me to have a character profile for each character I’m working with, and adding GMC to my character profiles has been exceedingly helpful, so I’m sharing it with you. (This would be a useful tool for creative non-fiction writers too!)

Note: If you’re interested in seeing my entire character profile template, you can download a copy of it at the end of this post. 

How GMC Works

We break goals, motivation, and conflict down into both external and internal GMC. This helps us understand both what’s driving the character externally and internally. This syncs up nicely with Shawn Coyne’s External Content Genre and his Internal Content Genre, though they are different tools (I’ll write about this more in a future post — The Story Grid* methodology has completely rewired my brain for story in an incredibly useful way).

Here’s an explanation of External and Internal GMC.

External GMC

  • The character’s EXTERNAL GOAL is the WHAT they are trying to achieve or accomplish by the story’s end. This cannot be vague in any way. Cathy Yardley once told me that an external goal has to be something that you can easily check off in a box when it’s done. For example, disable the bomb, check. Or, catch the bad guy, check. It can’t be something like “get my mom to approve of me,” because it can be too unclear about whether or not that has actually occurred (although I suppose it could be verbally said, “I approve of you” but there’s still room for interpretation — does she actually mean it, etc.).
  • The character’s EXTERNAL MOTIVATION is WHY they are trying to achieve that goal. What reason do they have for trying to reach their goal? What’s at stake, what are the consequences if they don’t make whatever it is happen? That’s their why. For example, everyone in the building will die (if the protag doesn’t disable the bomb). Or, the bad guy may kill again. This can be considered the “Because” clause.
  • The character’s EXTERNAL CONFLICT is the OPPOSITION to achieving the goal. What or who gets in the way? Usually this is the antagonist but it could also be the establishment, the environment, etc., if it’s a human against the state or human against the world kind of story. This could also be considered the “But” clause if you think of these as a sentence.

For example: Carly wants to disable the bomb because otherwise hundreds of people will die, but the antagonist has hidden the bomb and is taunting Carly with killing people one by one as clues until she finds it. 

Internal GMC

  • The character’s INTERNAL GOAL is about HOW the character is trying to feel or hoping to feel. It may or may not be tied to the external goal. And it probably isn’t something that can be ticked off in a check box. It’s more of a feeling state, such as happiness or independence, or vengeance. It can also be a spiritual goal. The internal and external goals CAN be in alignment but they can also not match up — which can create excellent internal conflict for your character. (Don’t forget, we want them to suffer — our readers and viewers want to worry about our characters, that’s why they’re there!)
  • The character’s INTERNAL MOTIVATION is WHY they want to feel that way. Often this is tied to their backstory, or personal goals outside the story. The internal motivation is the emotion that drives the character. For example, a character may have been overly controlled for her entire life by her parents, so she’s trying to create an independent life for herself.
  • The character’s INTERNAL CONFLICT is WHAT might be stopping her from reaching that state of being. This could be caused by the character themselves, but it can also be tied to the external GMC and cause problems for in achieving it. With our example, our character might suffer from insecurity, and keep turning back to her parents for help.

I like to put these together in a chart, like the one below (spreadsheets are handy here), though I also just make bullet point lists when I’m writing in Scrivener since it doesn’t play that well with tables.

Here’s an example:

  External Internal
Goal Carly’s external goal is to disable the bomb… Carly’s internal goal is to forge out on her own…
Motivation Because otherwise hundreds of people will die… Because her psychologist parents have been holding her back for years with their oppressive personalities…
Conflict But the antagonist has hidden the bomb and is taunting Carly with killing people one by one as clues until she finds it.  But she struggles with insecurity so keeps turning to her parents for support and encouragement, and even worse, now needs their help her track down the bomber.

 

It’s useful to see how the internal and external can work together here. 

I often rework these multiple times until I feel that I’ve landed on something that works. And then I’ll often rework it again, once I’ve finished a script, because I tend to pick up more nuance and information as I interact with the character over the course of the story.

It’s an ever-evolving process.

Want to Check Out My Character Profile Template?

It includes the GMC points I outlined above along with a handful of other useful and streamlined items I assemble for each character. It comes in a PDF and RTF format, along with a Quick Start Guide. You can import the RTF into Word or Scrivener for easy customization and editing.

Click the image below to download it now.

Let me know what you think in the comments!  

 

References

* All book links are Amazon affiliate links:

 

Free teleclass: Setting Motivating Writing Goals & Intentions

The fourth and final class in my free Master Your Creative Productivity series was last night and the recording is now available! 

If you missed the series, you can still sign up to get the recordings, which will only be available for another week, through Friday, April 8. You’ll get instant access to the recording archives when you register.

Here’s what we’ve covered in the class series:

Part I: Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively

  • Defining what being productive means.
  • 3 writing productivity principles.
  • 5 time principles to help you be more effective with EVERYTHING you do.
  • 7 writing productivity power tools you can put to use right away.

Part II: The Anti-Creativity Cycle and How to Break It

  • Defining perfectionism and 5 thoughts about the role perfectionism plays in our writing lives.
  • The Anti-Creativity Cycle of perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis and a laundry list of ways it shows up.
  • Other creative blocks and obstacles like impostor syndrome, fear of success and fear of failure, and more.
  • 15 solutions and antidotes for the Anti-Creativity Cycle and other creative blocks.

Part III: Keeping Your Creative Energy Vibrant for Optimal Writing Productivity

  • The trick to managing the emotional ups and downs of a long-form writing project.
  • Simple but important ways to take care of your physical body AND your creative mind.
  • 3 energy boosting strategies.
  • 3 nifty techniques to balance and recharge your energy.
  • 5 creative recovery skills for whenever (or if ever!) you get off track.

Part IV: Setting Motivating Writing Goals & Intentions

  • 5 ways to set yourself up for success with your goals in advance.
  • Smart goal setting that works.
  • Reverse engineering your writing timelines.
  • The power of a plan for revisions.
  • Using intentions to supercharge your writing sessions.
  • How to set motivating rewards and celebrations.
  • BONUS: Managing distractions.

I’ve been getting terrific feedback from the writers who have participated and I’d love to have you take advantage of this opportunity too. You’ll find that the series is packed with practical tools and strategies you can put into place right away to help you boost your productivity as a writer.

 

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Enjoy Your Writing, Enjoy Your Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness, enjoyment, appreciation, and gratitude lately.

As someone who tends to be prone to seeing “what’s wrong with this picture”, it isn’t particularly easy for me to remember to see the positives in my life and enjoy them. I habitually look for the next thing to fix and improve upon. Then throw in some sleep deprivation and a fussy toddler, and the trip down the rabbit hole into the darkness and negativity can be a short one. ;)

However, I’ve been making some subtle shifts in this department that are adding up to be rather huge.

I’ve never been a fan of gratitude lists or journals. I mean, they SOUND like a great idea, and I BELIEVE in the idea of being grateful, but when I’m stuck in feeling overwhelmed, negative, or down about my life, it feels impossible to get into that space of gratitude and appreciation.

But what’s oh-so-cool right now is that I’m noticing that by making these simple shifts in the way I’m approaching my life and what I’m doing, gratitude and appreciation have become by-products of my experience. I love that!

This all started when I decided to participate in Dr. Jessica Michaelson‘s online journaling program about minimizing online distractions. Just freeing myself from my small but pernicious online addictions has created a huge sense of relief and space in my life.

Then I went on and joined her Finding What You Didn’t Lose program, which I’m also loving. 

Here’s what we’re doing, on a very simple level, that I’m finding so very helpful.

  1. Setting an intention for how we want to approach the day ahead in a way that’s connected to what’s most important to us (like being present or being adventuresome).
  2. Getting clear on the three main things we’re aiming to do in a given day (I’ve written in the past about “three big rocks” for the year — this is about picking them for the day!).
  3. Noticing where we can build in connection, use our natural talents, and find sensory pleasure in our days.

This is all based in research about happiness,* which shows that we need to experience connection, meaning, pleasure, flow, and accomplishment in order to feel happy in our lives. 

How to translate this into enjoying your writing

One of the biggest challenges in long-form writing (a novel, book, screenplay, for instance) is that it can feel endless, like we’ll never reach the finish line of “done”. Living immersed in that context can be disheartening at times and downright discouraging at others.

To keep ourselves feeling fresh — and happy — we need to stay connected to several things, like:

  1. WHY we’re doing it. When we’re clear about how important writing is to us and believe it is our calling, we stay connected to its meaning in our lives. Some days writing is hard, some days it’s fun and easy. But in the big picture, we care deeply about it, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. We can even go a little more deeply into the Big Why behind our writing. Perhaps we have a message or vision to share, or we’re hoping to shape, change, and influence people’s lives. When we give thought to our Why, it’s easier to keep on writing.
  2. Small, short term goals. If a long-form writing project, with all its requisite rewrites, is a long-term deal, we need to make sure we create a short term feeling of accomplishment for ourselves right now in addition to our big picture aims. This is easy to do when you set attainable, daily goals. When you start the day with a plan, like “today I’m going to write (one new scene, 350 words, for 15 minutes, etc.)” then you KNOW when you have done it, or not. And when you keep the goal attainable, so you KNOW you can do it, it’s easier to push through any resistance and make it happen. Then you’ll get the satisfied feeling of accomplishment that’s so important for your sense of happiness. As a bonus for this, doing the writing early in the day will only make the rest of what you get done that day a bonus. :)
  3. Other writers and other people. Hang out with other writers who 1) get what it’s really like to write day in and day out, and 2) have generally positive and supportive attitudes about writing. (My Called to Write Coaching Circle is a positive, supportive place for writers, for example.) Be mindful about hanging out in groups of writers who will only tell you how hard it is to break in. Instead, look for people who are finding ways to write and ways into the business that work for them, their lifestyles, and their temperaments. ALSO spend time with non-writers too: Your loved ones, family, and friends. Life is rich, and our writing is richer when we are connected to it.
  4. The rest of life. Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As writers, we tend to be hunched over desks and computers more than average. We need to get out and enjoy the world and take care of our bodies too. Turns out that sensory pleasure happens mostly in the real world, so give yourself some gifts in this regard. I’ve been savoring the simple things, like walks in the beautiful weather, delicious tea, snuggling with my littlest one while he goes to sleep and with my eldest one while I read to him at night, taking Pilates classes, and blowing bubbles for the kids in the sunshine.
  5. Our writing itself. Writing, by nature, can produce the wonderful state of flow that’s part of the recipe for happiness. When we’re writing, we’re in the flow of using our innate talents. So if you’re having trouble getting past the natural resistance that comes up around doing the writing, get support to get into the flow. A working writer is a happy writer.

Here are some power questions to help you put what I’ve written about today into practice:

  • What’s important to you about your writing?
  • What short term writing goal can you set and achieve today?
  • How can you connect with other writers today?
  • What can you do to experience pleasure in the real world today in your life?
  • What support do you need, if any, to get into the flow of your writing today?

Use these questions to make simple shifts and enjoy your writing (more!), and your life. You deserve it.

 

Reverse Engineer Your 2016 Writing Goals

We’re closing in on the end of the first month of the year. I can’t quite believe it!

Most of us started off the year with solid intentions to write. How’s that going for you?

If you’re writing less than you’d like to be, this is the perfect time to make a course correction.

In fact, in some ways, it’s the BEST time to make a course correction, because we’re early enough in the year that small adjustments will go far.

So dig out your end of 2016 writing goals and take stock. (And if you haven’t created your 2016 writing goals yet, here’s a great tool to help you — and no, it’s definitely NOT too late!)

Do the Math

If you haven’t done this yet, reverse engineer your goals so you can see where you’re wanting to be by the end of the month (and at any point along your projected timeline).

Example 1: Finish an 80,000 word novel by December 31.

For example, if you’re aiming to complete an 80,000 word novel by the end of the year, you can figure out your approximate daily word counts. The math for this tells us that you’ll want to be writing about 320 words per day, 5 days per week, all year, excluding holidays (there are 251 working days in 2016).

This means that by January 31, you’ll want to have completed approximately 6,080 words (19 working days in January). This assumes that you’re either writing by the seat of your pants (a “pantser”) or that you’ve already plotted the novel. It also assumes that you work on weekdays and take holidays and weekends off.

Example 2: Plot AND finish an 80,000 word novel by December 31.

Another example: If your goal is to complete an 80,000 word novel by the end of the year, but you haven’t plotted it yet, you can set a timeline for the plotting and the writing. You might allow two weeks or two months to plot; it’s up to you, your writing process, and your available time.

But once you know your timeline, you can break down the plotting into increments, such as chapters or plot points that you want to hit by a certain date. Then you can assess your progress.

Let’s say you’re aiming for two months for plotting, and we’re nearing the end of January right now. So you should be halfway through the plotting at this point, or ideally around the midpoint of your novel. Then, starting in March, you’ll have 212 working days left to write those 80,000 words, or about 377 words per day.

Tools and Adjustments

I love spreadsheets for this kind of calculating and planning. (In fact, I’m working on making a special one for you right now — stay tuned for that!)

Of course you can adjust these calculations for your project and schedule, such as if you prefer to write on weekends, for instance.

Or as in my case, if you’re writing screenplays, you might want to set a daily target page count rather than a word count.

Also, be aware that these calculations don’t include revision or editing time, which may not always lend themselves to a linear progression since deeper cuts and reworking tends to work better from a to do list method.

Assess Your Progress

Once you’ve reverse-engineered your goals, check in: Are you on track to meet your goals by the end of the year? Do you need to bump up your daily word counts or adjust your time table?

One of the smartest things I see writers do is get crystal clear on the math of their projects so they know exactly what to aim for and can pace themselves well. It’s all too easy to live in fantasy land, unclear on what you’re trying to accomplish, floundering in hope and optimism rather than grounded, practical reality. 

So check in on where you’re supposed to be, and make an assessment of what — if any — adjustments you need to make, and you’ll be good to go. 

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Need support to meet those goals? 

Coaching CircleMy Called to Write Coaching Circle will give you support, accountability, and more encouragement than you can shake a stick at to write on a regular basis and make sure you’re finishing all your writing projects.

If you’d like to join us in February, sign up no later than TOMORROW, Thursday, January 28th at Midnight Pacific Time here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com.

We can’t wait to write with you!

5 Tips for Building a Writing Habit that Lasts All Year Long … Like Clockwork

It’s that time of year. We’re all making resolutions and setting goals, thinking about our biggest, fondest dreams, and what we hope to accomplish with our lives in the year ahead and beyond. As writers, usually our resolutions, goals, and visions have a lot to do with our writing, along with the other big goals we’d like to accomplish.

And once you’re clear on the dream — you’ll want to have a way to put it all into action.

This is where building a lasting writing habit comes into play. Habit will get you through to the end, where willpower and determination might otherwise fail you.

5 Tips to Build a Lasting Writing Habit

When it comes to building a writing habit, habit itself is the key word. We want you to get your writing to a place in your life where you wouldn’t even consider NOT doing it, the way you wouldn’t even consider not brushing your teeth every day. That’s when you know you’ve got a solid writing habit.

Here are 5 tips for how you can build a habit that lasts:

Tip #1: Write daily or near daily.

When you’re trying to build a habit, aim to write DAILY. Writing on a regular basis is a hell of a lot easier than writing infrequently, it stirs up more frequent creative thoughts, and it eliminates the whole need so many writers have to “warm up”. It turns out that most “warming up” is procrastination and resistance in disguise, and you won’t need it once you’re writing regularly.

In fact, when you write on a regular basis, you’ll find that your subconscious mind is always working on your project, so it’s much easier to dip in and out of it on the fly.

So when you’re starting out building a writing habit, or even rebuilding one, aim to write every single day. There’s a kind of open window into our writing that closes more tightly the longer the span of time that passes between writing sessions. So keeping that window of time to 24 hours or less, when you’re building the habit, is key. Once you’ve got it down, you can start experimenting with taking days off here and there.

When I first started writing regularly, I had to write every day or my resistance levels would build up to code red proportions. Now I can take weekends off and step back into the writing come Mondays with less drama and angst.

Tip #2: Set small, attainable goals for your daily writing.

Lots of writers crash and burn by setting unrealistic goals for themselves. Many writers are surprised to discover how much they can accomplish in just 15 minutes of writing every day — it adds up over time into so much more than you would ever think. (Check out the story about Rick, who went from 5 minutes of writing a day, to now working on finishing a 6th major draft of his novel.)

Do yourself a favor and start out your habit building with a super small, easily attainable goal that you KNOW you can do, every day, even if it’s just 5 minutes day. When new members start in my Called to Write Coaching Circle program, we encourage them to focus on even just checking in every day as a way of building the habit muscle.

Tip #3: If you’re not writing, make the goal smaller.

Once you set your goal, if you don’t find yourself doing it, don’t despair or call yourself a failure!

Instead, take that as a useful piece of information (your resistance is higher than that goal) and set the goal smaller, even if it’s writing for one minute.

Truth be told, when you’re building the habit, it’s NOT the size of the goal that’s important, it’s the habit itself that is.

Once you’re meeting and succeeding with your initial goal, you can build up to more over time. I started out aiming to write for 15 minutes a day (and finished a script that way) and gradually built up to writing three to four hours a day at my peak before I had baby #2. 

Tip #4: Create triggers for your writing habit.

You always brush your teeth when you get ready in the morning and before you go to bed, right? Getting ready in the morning and going to bed are triggers. You don’t debate about whether or not you’ll brush your teeth, you just do it because you’re so used to it, it would feel weird NOT to do it. So if you can set up a trigger for your writing, it makes it easier to do.

Here are some examples of possible triggers: 

  • Write immediately upon awakening. A huge benefit of writing first in the day is that it clearly separates it from other life tasks and obligations so you don’t have to transition so much between other things to writing and back again.
  • Write with a timer or during a group writing sprint. When you use a timer or you’re writing alongside other people, the writing energy just kicks in and carries you along. 
  • Write after meditating or exercising. It’s nice to stack other resistance-provoking activities next to each other in the day and hit them with a one-two punch.
  • Write before exercising or before doing some other kind of regular activity. Then you have something to “bump up against” in your schedule. 
  • Write immediately after you get home, eat dinner, or put the kids to bed. Know that when you’re done, you’ll write before you do anything else. 
  • Write before going to bed. If you’re a die-hard night owl, consider making writing the last thing you do. 

If you keep doing the same thing, over and over again, it will become a regular part of your routine, and much easier to sustain over the long term.

Tip #5. Create as much accountability as you need to keep writing.

There are many different kinds of accountability, including writer’s groups, mentors, deadlines, accountability parties, and writing buddies.

The trick is to figure out exactly how much YOU need to keep the fire lit under your writing motivation and put it into place. Look for the right combination that keeps you in action.

For example, you might want to have a writing buddy you exchange pages with every week, to keep you honest, whether you actually read each other’s work or not. You could combine that with a writer’s group, like my Called to Write program, which provides daily accountability. If that isn’t enough for you, you could also add in an in person writing group and/or a contest or submission deadline to keep you focused.

There’s no one size fits all answer here. You might be someone who is either great at staying accountable to yourself or someone who rebels against any kind of accountability. If that’s the case, you may you prefer to put your focus on community and connection, rather than accountability, so that what helps keep you motivated is that your identity is tied to your writing and the group you’re in.

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Put these five tips into action and see what you can do! It’s amazing what happens once you start. I wish you all the best in 2016 for a creative and productive year!

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Coaching CircleMake 2016 the year your writing takes off!

If you want help, support, accountability, and more writing encouragement than you can shake a stick at in 2016, join the Called to Write Coaching Circle.

When you join us by December 31 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, you’ll lock in our 2015 rates and have all the support you need to get your word counts soaring. Plus, when you enter coupon code NEWYEARWRITE you’ll save $30 on your first session or package. Join us!

Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com.

10 Tips to Help You Keep Writing Through the Holidays

It’s a busy time. There’s a lot going on and a lot expected of us with the next round of holidays looming on the horizon.

It’s also a time when we start looking ahead to the new year. Maybe more in the backs of our brains where we don’t have to pay too much attention to it, but most of us are starting to think ahead to our writing in the new year and what we want to accomplish.

Some of us are even putting off writing until the new year, thinking we don’t have enough time to do it now, with all the busyness.

Don’t fall for the big blocks of writing time myth

The truth is, though, that most of us are putting it off because we think we need a lot of time to write. That it isn’t worth writing unless we have a big block of time to write, where we can really dig in. And it’s true, those long blocks of time to write can be lovely (when they don’t scare the bejesus out of us and cause us to procrastinate even more!).

But we don’t really need big blocks of time to keep our writing in motion.

We just have to do some writing.

10 Tips to Keep You Writing Through the Holidays

Here’s what I suggest to my Writer’s Circle coaching program members to keep writing through the holidays:

  1. Write small. Even if you’re accustomed to longer stretches of writing time, it’s okay to scale it back to a more manageable amount while you’re balancing the busyness of the holidays too. Even just 15 minutes of writing a day (or 5!) is worth doing and will keep you connected to your project.
  2. Write first. Writing first in the day–even if you have to get up early–will help you bypass most of the challenges the holidays bring. This is because when you put your writing first, everything else comes afterward and fills in the remaining time. It will reduce your stress levels, you’ll feed your soul, and everything else will still miraculously get done.
  3. Set a rock bottom daily writing goal. If you know what your rock bottom minimum for writing is, it’s easier to know what to do on the really busy days. You might want to aim to write 250 words, or three sentences, or write for 15 minutes as your rock bottom. Then you know what you have to do when you’re in tough. (And it’s okay to set your “write small” amount from tip #1 at your rock bottom minimum!)
  4. Set a holiday season writing goal. Whether you’re targeting completion of a major project or simply determined to keep writing no matter what, knowing what your goal is makes it easier to know if you are on track. This year, for instance, with a young toddler in the house, my goal is super, super simple: just to keep writing. That’s it. For another writer, it might be, to finish the draft of a novel by the end of the year. Once you know your goal, you can reverse engineer what you need to do to accomplish it.
  5. Know what your specific challenges are and how you will address them. For example, my older son will be off school for two weeks, so I’m thinking about what he’s going to be doing when I want to be writing and making plans to write when my husband is home and/or the kids are otherwise occupied. Maybe you’ll be traveling, or having house guests. With some forethought, you can come up with a simple strategy to protect your writing time.
  6. Be clear about what days you are taking off. I know of writers who ONLY take off Christmas Day every year. I know others who write 365 days per year. I also know of successful writers who write only on weekdays and take weekends and holidays off. If you decide to take days off from writing, be clear with yourself about when, where, and how you will start writing again after the day or days off. You have to be ready to combat the inertia of not writing.
  7. Assume you will write. On the days you’ve planned to write, make the assumption that writing is happening, one way or the other. Ideally, you’ll have a plan and a schedule to help you stick to that plan, but if all else fails, just assume it’s a question of WHEN not IF. (Don’t waste your life energy deciding whether or not you’ll be writing. Just decide, and then do it.)
  8. Create support & accountability. Habit trumps inspiration, discipline, and motivation almost any day of the week, but habit can still get disrupted by changes in our routine, like the holidays, travel, vacations, extra social commitments, and just generally having more to do. You can use the power of accountability to help keep your habit in place even when it’s being disrupted by other things. Whether you’re checking in with your writing buddies, participating in a writer’s group like my online Writer’s Circle coaching program, or talking to your writing coach, having people around you who believe in the importance of your writing and support you to keep doing it helps you stay strong when you’re around people who don’t get it.
  9. Be creative. When the going gets tough, be creative about how and where you write. For example, you might want to arrive at your appointments early so you can sit in the car and write for a few minutes, write on your phone in bed at night (this is one of my favorite tricks), keep a notebook with you at all times for moments of inspiration, or find other clever ways to keep writing even when life is happening.
  10. Write last. Last but not least, if you can’t write first, write last. Even if you take just a few minutes at the end of every day, write. This is my saving grace these days with a busy life with a little toddler. 

I hope this list of ideas will get you thinking about what you can do to keep writing through the holidays so you can feel great about beginning into the new year with a strong start.

Happy writing!

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Join the Writer's CircleJoin the Writer’s Circle to get even more support and accountability to help you keep writing through the holidays. The next session starts soon.

 

Make 2015 your year to write (Part five!)

Welcome back to the Make 2015 Your Year to Write series! We’re closing in on the end — both of our seven-part series, and also of 2014. The end is near! … which makes this the perfect time to venture into the real reason we’re all here: setting goals and resolutions for 2015 that are real and attainable.

But first, two things:

One: In case you’re just joining us, let’s review what we’ve been exploring this week together. We started by reflecting on our writing lives so far, then looked at challenges and insights, then began tapping in to what we want for our writing lives, and then explored how to close the gap between where we are right now and where we want to end up.

Two: Before we get into specifics for 2015, we’re going to first look at the big picture of your writing career (and writing life!) as a whole. Tomorrow will be the big day for 2015 goal setting and resolutions. More about why we do it this way in a few minutes.

In the meantime, 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’re wondering, it’s perfectly okay to join in on this process at any time. We’re glad to have you.

Now for part five!

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Tune into your vision for your writing career and life

Although we did some initial exploring in part three for what you want your writing life to be like, feel like, and look like, and looked at how we can start to close the gap between then and now in part four, today we’re going to consider the trajectory you want for your big picture writing career and life. 

The importance of having a long-term vision

Before we go into it, though, let’s talk about WHY we want to do this visioning thang. It’s important to start with a long-term vision BEFORE setting goals for 2015, because we want to make sure that your short-term goals are in alignment with those long-term goals.

In other words, if you’re setting goals for 2015 that have nothing to do with where you want to end up, you can end up in an entirely different place than you intended to go. That may sound entirely obvious, but I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve worked with who set goals that take them to the wrong place, often because of what they think they should be doing or because someone else wants something for them that isn’t necessarily a match with what the writer wants for themselves. 

So it’s worth it to be clear about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it before you start identifying specific goals. 

First we’ll discuss the common places writers get stuck with visioning and how to use a vision.

Then we’ll explore our two writing prompts for today.

Common places writers get stuck with visioning

Sometimes visioning can get sticky. It sounds like a big fancy thing to do, and in a way it is, but it’s also a lot simpler than we tend to make it. And we’re all wired a little differently, so the kind of visioning that works well for Josephine Writer down the street may not work so well for you.

Here are the typical ways I see writers getting stuck with visioning. If you see yourself in any of these, try my suggested tweaks to course correct.

For instance:

  • Some writers get hung up on trying to be too specific, e.g. “I’ll have written 27 books by 2019!” Being specific can be clarifying and useful, but it can also feel like all the creative juice gets sucked out of it when it’s just about fulfilling a numbers game. If this is an issue for you, just be a little more broad with how you approach it, e.g. “I’ll have books lining my shelves with my name on the byline.” 
  • Sometimes going into visioning work can feel discouraging because it feels so far off in the distance and so big that we’ll never get there. If you find yourself having trouble with this, invite yourself to hold it lightly, like a game or one possible future. And if it feels too heavy, give yourself permission to tweak and change it until it feels fun and inspiring. That’s really the point, after all! We’re going for fun, inspiring, and directing.
  • Another important pitfall to be aware of is that it can be easy to fall into fulfilling other people’s visions for you if you’re not careful. Sometimes our mentors, agents, managers, parents, families, friends, colleagues, spouses, and kids can have ideas about what we should be doing that may or may not ring true for us as individuals. And if you start forcing yourself to follow someone else’s goals, you’ll be likely to find yourself feeling lost instead. This isn’t to say that our trusted experts and colleagues should always be ignored, but rather to make sure that we are checking in with our own internal guidance about what we truly want. A good way to check for this is to keep an ear tuned in to the word “should”. If you catch yourself saying that, chances are your vision needs some adjusting to be more in line with YOU and your reality.
  • Along the same lines, we can get equally hooked by what outside measures of success are supposed to look like. In other words, you might think you “have to” self-publish, or traditionally publish, or break in by a certain date, or make a certain amount of money. It’s important to both remember that we each have our own paths to take, and also that we can define success on our own terms. So as you vision, think not about what you are supposed to have, be, or do, but rather what feels most exciting and meaningful to you. Don’t just focus on making lots of money if you don’t know what you want to do with it, for instance. This isn’t a race. It’s about creating meaningful, quality lives for ourselves, and that can span a wide range.
  • Don’t worry overly if you can’t get super clear and have great detail about your vision. Some writers say, “I just don’t see anything specific.” If you find that to be an issue, you can go for flashes of a vision like we did in part three, or even try to tune in to a felt-sense that tells you a bit about where you’d like to be. There’s no right and wrong with visioning. Just go with what comes to you, and feel free to make it a combo-deal of your mental ideas and thoughts plus the images you see. As long as it’s coming from you, it’s all good.

How to use a vision

It’s also important to know HOW to use a vision. It’s not a hard and fast tool, nor does it have to adhere to a specific timeline.

Instead, hold a vision lightly, as a guiding tool, and know and trust that you can evolve and change it as you go — because after all, things change, and LIFE changes.

That said, we can still use a vision as a powerful step in moving toward what we want.

The key is to get clear on the vision and then focus on taking the first steps.

As you take your first steps, your next “first” steps will become clearer.

It’s worth checking on a regular basis about where you are on the path — Are you moving in your intended direction? Falling off course? Is there anything that you want to change or adjust?

Then you can make adjustments — or not! — depending on what’s emerging for you in terms of your own clarity about it.

To summarize:

  • Hold it lightly.
  • Take the first step.
  • Check to make sure that the next “first” steps are in alignment with the big picture vision.
  • Refine and adjust the big picture vision as needed.
  • Take the next “first” steps.
  • And so on.

So now let’s look at our inquiries for today’s exercise: 

1. What’s your overall vision for your writing career?

We’ll begin with thinking — your ideas and thoughts about what you want.

While you’re working with this inquiry, you want to consider things like:

  • What kind of writing career and life do you want to have? Are you picturing writing in a quiet, remote place with lots of independence and freedom? Or working in the hustle-bustle of a big city? Or collaborating for long full days in a writer’s room in Hollywood, staffing a TV show? Do you feel excited by the idea of high-intensity, fast-paced work, late nights, and deadlines? Are you more in the “I just want to write in a quiet place by myself” camp?
  • And along those lines, is what you’re currently headed toward or holding in mind a good match for your temperament? Sometimes writers are focused on a specific kind of writing career that doesn’t fit well with their temperament, like someone who might prefer the collaborative environment of screenwriting but is instead currently focused on novel writing, or vice versa. 
  • Is writing the core of your career, or is it part of your platform? Some writers are also speakers, teachers, bloggers, or coaches. Writing can be a PART of the big picture but it doesn’t have to be all of it.
  • Are you envisioning your writing as your sole source of income or does your income come from a mix of sources? Think about what that might look like and feel like. Sure, it may be something you transition to over time, but making a living from your writing as your only source of income is a very different thing than having multiple streams of income. And it might also be interesting to think about the types of writing you’re considering as well.
  • By when do you hope to have “arrived”? Do you have a timeline in mind? Is there anything you know will be in place when you have the career you want to have?
  • How will you know you have “arrived”? Are there any outside measurable or observable criteria? Any inner guidelines that will help you “know”?

From my notebook:

“I’m most interested in a having mixed and varied writing career. I’d like to publish novels and write the screenplays based on them. I’d also like to write about writing, since I love the personal insights we can all gain around our writing processes (and tantrums, LOL). As much as I like collaboration, I know I’m going to want to have time alone to write as well. As far as income goes, I’d be delighted to have the majority of my income coming from my writing, but I’m hard-pressed to imagine giving up ALL of the coaching work I do too, since it’s so much fun. I’m willing to have that be something that gets determined in a supply/demand kind of way.”

 

2. What do you intend to accomplish as a writer? 

Do you have a specific idea in mind about the breadth or depth of your work?

Any ideas about how your work will manifest?

This might include things like:

  • Genre
  • Medium/format
  • Quantity
  • Distribution
  • Sales (or not!)
  • …and more!

From my notebook:

“I want to be known for a groundbreaking sci-fi series that gets adapted into movies for the big screen. I’ll happily write other books and screenplays along the way, and I know they’ll be primarily in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. In my heart of hearts, I’d also happily have more than one series. But I still imagine there being one core series that I am known for. My own Harry Potter or Hunger Games. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

 

3. What images flash into your mind that show your accomplishments?

A great tool for exploring the first two questions are to also see what images flash into your mind that show your accomplishments.

For instance, do you see a row of your published books lining the shelves in your favorite local bookstore? Posters of your movie plastered all over town? Your published articles in your favorite periodicals?

Perhaps you see yourself as the renowned expert in a specific field of study.

What comes to mind for you?

From Ginger, one of our Writer’s Circle members:

“For the longest time, I had an image in my head of shelves and shelves of books in the bookstore, like a Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele. Not necessarily romance, but tons and tons and tons of books. I never really put too much thought into it, it was just a picture that I had. I always wanted to write a LOT of books — like, a crazy lot.

“Then the other day I was in Chapters and I saw it — you know in the sections where it’s like, ‘Fiction A-D’ or ‘Spirituality’ or ‘War’? There was one of those huge signs, just like those ones, and it said ‘James Patterson.’

“He got a sign as big as ‘Lifestyle’ or ‘Magazines’.

“And I said, ‘That. That’s what I want.’

“Of course, it’s a different world now, and by the time I’m publishing, and considering what I’m publishing, there probably won’t be a bookstore, and there won’t be a sign. Digital world and all that. But I want it to be reasonable for there to be a sign, even if the whole world goes digital. I want to be worth a sign.

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pen coffeeWriting prompts for Part five: Vision

Now you get to play with the writing prompts for today.

If you’re inspired to do so, please share your responses in the comments section on the blog — or your insights after writing about them in your journal, talking them over with other writers or a trusted friend, or letting them swirl through your consciousness. Feel free to leave questions for me too, if you have them.

  • What do you intend to accomplish as a writer?
  • What’s your overall vision for your writing career?
  • What images flash into your mind that show your accomplishments?

And don’t miss tomorrow’s installment, where we’ll get specific about goal setting for 2015!

Hold on to yer keyboards, writers, here we go. :)

 

 

 

Make 2015 your year to write (Part one!)

Welcome to the Make 2015 Your Year to Write series! Now that the holidays are behind us, it’s that time of year where we are naturally drawn to look ahead to the coming year and dream about and plan for what we want to accomplish. As writers, of course, our focus is on our intentions, goals, and visions for our writing.

But not so fast! There are a few — and often overlooked — steps to help you to set your goals in such a way as to assure your success.

Over the next seven days, I’ll be sharing seven articles with you about the key steps you can take to make 2015 your writing year to remember.

Each article includes a set of simple writing prompts that you can complete on your own or here on the blog in the comments section.

Throughout the week, I’ll be your on-the-spot writing coach, so if you have questions, thoughts, challenges, comments, insights, or issues, just post them in the comments section on the blog and I’ll be sure to address or answer them for you.

Today we’ll get started by reflecting on your writing life.

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Reflect on your writing life so far

We start with reflection to first establish the foundation of where you are and where you’ve been. 

This is important because most of us have a tendency to focus purely on the goals and resolutions we’re setting for the new year and what’s next, but skip right over the realities of what’s happened for us this year and what our current writing life looks like. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for pie-in-the-sky goals that have a less-than-likely chance of succeeding. And we want you to succeed, right? ;)

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

You can call this “completion” work if you like.

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

1. What has your writing given you?

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

While you think about this, think back over 2014, and also your writing life as a whole.

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

I’ve reached out to my Writer’s Circle participants (and included notes from my own insights) to share their thoughts with us as we go through this process together:

From my notebook:

“In the last year of writing, my writing has given me a way to stay connected to myself. As a mom of now two children, one born this year, having this way to know who I am outside of motherhood has been a safety anchor for me. Sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, and the all-encompassing 24/7 nature of the job of “mother” can be entirely overwhelming, and though it has been hard at times, I’ve been grateful to have this special thing called “writing” that is entirely my own.

Writing has also strengthened me. I have a stronger ability to focus. My trust in my own creative process has grown. My understanding of myself through my writing has expanded exponentially. I’m continually learning, growing, improving and expanding my ability to write well, to write more clearly in my own voice, and to write in a such a way that feels both faster and freer.”

From Helen, a Writer’s Circle member: 

“My writing is mostly scholarly/academic. I noticed that while I am writing on a particular topic, then I usually feel more knowledgable about the topic after I have completed the paper. As this knowledge grows, I plan to become a Subject Matter Expert on my various topics of interest.”

 

2. What are you most proud of?

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

Here again, it’s worth looking at both this current year and your writing life so far.

And please, don’t be hard on yourself. If you have a hard time coming up with something you feel proud of, see where you can stretch your awareness. There is always something to be proud of, even if it’s something like, “I always kept my goal to be writing at the forefront of my mind.” Or, “I am crystal clear that writing must be a high priority for me 2015.”

From Tracee, a screenwriter and Writer’s Circle coach:

“Somehow, despite life and Facebook, I managed to write four screenplays this year! In the past, I was lucky if I wrote one in a year. I am quite proud of that but I am even more proud of creating a writing life that allowed for such an accomplishment.” 

From Sonya, a Writer’s Circle member:

“I am most proud of having done the coaching and Writer’s Circle for a full year. Even with my divorce and money troubles, I made this a priority. I want to continue to do so for 2015.”

 

3. What did you accomplish with your writing this year?

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

For this question, we want you to examine what you accomplished, regardless of how big or small.

Take an inventory.

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

Take the time to look back over 2014 and make notes about what you’ve accomplished. 

From my notebook:

“This year, I’ve kept writing even in the midst of having a new baby. I’ve kept up my blog, with both my own posts and guest posts, rewritten, recorded, and released my Design Your Writing Life series, completed numerous assignments for the screenwriting classes I’ve been taking, completed a rewrite of my first script, generated over 165 concepts for new script ideas, developed an outline for a brand new script, and started writing pages for the new script. I’m thrilled about it too, considering I was wickedly sick at the beginning of the year, and navigated through both a rocky third trimester, a birth, and still allowed for lots of bonding time with our new little boy.”

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Your writing prompts for part one: Reflection

pen coffeeSo here they are, our questions for the day, assembled in one place for your writerly convenience. Take these writing prompts to your journal to consider them, copy-paste and write out your answers in the comments section on the blog, mull them over when you have a quiet moment, or chat about them with your writer friends. 

  • What has your writing given you this year?
  • What are you most proud of?

  • What did you accomplish with your writing this year?

And lest you feel unsatisfied with not looking at things left undone or that feel otherwise troublesome, don’t worry, we’ll tackle that question tomorrow when we focus on the writing patterns, challenges, and any regrets you’re facing.

“See” you then!

 

 

 

If the goal is too big, make it smaller

7 ways to beat procrastination

Ugh. Procrastination.

We’re all familiar with that simultaneous desire to write and the repulsion from writing that leads us into the nether realm of procrastination. We’re doing something else — ANYTHING else — and it can range from feeling like we’re doing something vitally important to just plain old digging our heels in and resisting.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we need to “warm up” first before we can write, with a little email, Facebook, or even a treat of some kind.

Or we decide we simply cannot tolerate the state of our physical space for a single minute longer — how many offices, bathrooms, and kitchens have seen the plus side of procrastination on a day when writing feels oh-so-hard to do?

Other things come up too, right? All those urgent deadlines, other people’s problems, our kids’ needs, that bit of online research you just can’t wait to do (you know, that one that snowballs into two hours of online nothingness — and yes, I speak from experience), or even bigger things, like that college degree you suddenly have to have.

Understanding procrastination

There are a few of key things to understand about procrastination:

1. It’s (usually) driven by fear. There’s some kind of fear coming up that’s stopping you from writing. You may not be clear on what it is, but trust me, it’s there. Fears of success, failure, commitment, overwhelm, rejection, praise, inability to deliver, etc. are most likely to come up. (When it’s not fear-driven, there’s usually something significant going on, like healing from a traumatic creative wound or recovering from creative burnout, but I would call that a block, a subject for a future post.)

2. Not taking action on your writing will keep you in a low grade state of anxiety, guilt, and shame. I say “low” but it can skyrocket into a full-on painful squirming-in-shame. So even if you’re pretending you are just watching your favorite TV show for a little treat before you get started and that it will help you relax into writing — check in with yourself — are you really, truly, in your heart-of-heart’s feeling relaxed? Or are you twitching with unrest and discomfort inside?

3. It’s a lot easier to fix than you think it is. There are some days when it simply isn’t possible to sit down and power through tons of writing. That’s okay. There are days when you can’t face your draft. That’s okay. But you CAN write, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

And ultimately, making small moves will help you beat procrastination in the big picture.

Beating procrastination

Here are seven ways you can beat procrastination and get back in the writing saddle:

1. Have a short but honest talk with yourself about what’s really going on. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. But it’s worth acknowledging in the privacy of your own mind, “Yes, I’m procrastinating, and it feels crummy. I’m going to do something about it.”

2. Tell someone what you’re doing. Find an accountability partner, a writing buddy, or a writing group (like my online Writer’s Circle) that will help you commit to doing the writing and seeing it through. It helps tremendously to say to another person (even if it’s your spouse or best friend!), “I’m going to write today no matter what.”

3. Make a deal with yourself to write ANYTHING for 15 minutes. I don’t care if you write morning pages, a list of all the reasons you hate writing, or actually work on your current writing project. Just get out a piece of paper or open your Scrivener file or Word document (I’m a Pages girl myself), and put words on the page, even if they are crap. (Using a timer for your 15 minutes is a special bonus tip – it’s like pressing the “GO” button. Try it!)

4. If 15 minutes feels like too much, make it smaller. The goal should be small enough that you find yourself saying, “Well, heck, I can at least do THAT much.” So if 15 minutes sounds daunting, do five. Or write ONE sentence (I’m not kidding). The key here is to get yourself into action WRITING. Period.

5. If you’ve racked up a lot of frequent procrastinator miles, STOP when you meet your goal. There are a LOT of writers I talk to who commit to write for 15 minutes, do it, and then find it so easy they keep on going. That’s great, if you’re just jump-starting yourself after a day or two away. But if you’ve been in the writing desert and the words have been few and far between, when you meet your writing goal for the day, stop and celebrate. Don’t break trust with yourself and keep on writing — you’ll only set yourself up for a bigger challenge tomorrow when you feel like you have to “do better” and suddenly have too daunting a goal to face. 

6. Reward yourself for writing. One of my favorite writers, writer-director Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy, The Avengers), rewards himself just for having an idea. Don’t be stingy here. Writing each day is the equivalent of beating back the forces of darkness. You deserve to whoop it up a little once you pull it off. Give yourself a piece of chocolate, a stretch in the sunshine, or even those things you’d normally be procrastinating with. Remember the email, Facebook, and favorite TV shows? Make those your cool downs instead of your warm ups and you’ll be good to go.

7. Do it again tomorrow! You’ve beaten procrastination today, great work!! Now, when you wake up tomorrow, use these tools to make a shorter path to writing. It’ll feel great. Then once you get on a roll, start building up to more over time.

Thanks for reading!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

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