Meet Your 2017 Writing Goals, Part IV: Set Yourself Up for Success

Welcome back for the fourth (and final) post of my series, (You Can Still!) Meet Your 2017 Writing Goals. 

In my prior posts I wrote about Clearing the Decks for your writing, Reverse-Engineering & Revising Your Writing Goals, and Boosting Your Writing Progress (Or, How to Design a Writing Intensive). Today I'm writing about setting yourself up for success.

Part IV: Setting Yourself Up for Success

When you're aiming to set yourself up for success with an intensive writing effort, there are a number of things to keep in mind. I discussed some of these in the free clear the decks teleclass (which you can still listen to, if you're interested), but they are worth reiterating in this context as well, along with some other keys to making your writing work.

  1. Have a Clear Writing Goal and Plan. We've already discussed this in prior posts in more detail, but having a crystal clear writing goal and a plan to meet it are a critical part of setting yourself up for success. You can't "succeed" if you don't know what you're trying to accomplish. This is one of those "so simple it seems obvious" things but you'd be amazed at how often we skip this step in our thinking and lives... and our writing.
  2. Manage Your Mindset & Expectations. You will also want manage your mindset when designing for success. This came up on our goal setting call yesterday for the Deep Dive. If we set goals, and don't meet them, we worry we will then feel disappointed or feel we have "failed." This can be a deterrent to setting goals in the first place. So you'll want to be mindful of striking a balance between an inspiring goal that stretches you just outside your comfort zone and is achievable, but doesn't scare the pants off you, make you want to stop before you even start, or fear feeling wretched if you don't make it.
  3. Do Your Best Dance. When you embark on an endeavor like this, you will want to give it your very best shot so you can feel proud of yourself at the end, no matter what happens. Play full out and have fun, celebrate the ups and downs as being part of the process, and make sure to get a high-five at the end.
  4. Get Enough Sleep. When you're a writer, sleep is not a luxury, it's a requirement. One of the biggest things I work on with writers in my 1:1 coaching sessions is helping them set up a realistic writing schedule that includes getting enough sleep.

    This often means going to bed early enough in order to be able to write early in the morning, or get through a work day and then have the reserves to write in the evening. Sleep has a big impact on your decision making abilities and your fortitude in sticking with your plans, so when you mess with sleep, your resistance is likely to be higher and your commitment to your writing is one of the first things to falter. So make sure you get enough sleep. :) It's one of the simplest things you can do to support your writing habit.
  5. Make Smart Choices and Eliminate Distractions. In order to free up time for writing (and getting enough sleep), you'll need to make some super smart choices. You'll probably have to stop staying up late, surfing the internet, playing Candy Crush, watching Netflix, reading your email, or whatever else you're doing that eats time.

    You don't have to stop doing these things, necessarily, but you can turn them into rewards for doing your writing. Just keep them corralled into an appropriate amount of time so you are putting your writing first and reserving the energy you need for writing. Oftentimes we do these things to "recharge" our energy, but it is worth checking in with yourself to see if they are actually recharging, especially past a certain amount of time spent.
  6. Take Care of Your Physical Body. When we write, we're sitting for long periods of time. We have to take care of our bodies with stretching and exercise. I'm a fan of Pilates and yoga, myself, as well as eating lower carb, especially at lunch time, so I don't zone out in the afternoons. I also make a point to drink plenty of water and other non-sugar beverages like tea and sparkling water. Think about what keeps you functioning optimally and be sure to put that in place alongside your writing time.
  7. Set Up a Support System and Create Accountability for Yourself. Embarking on a focused writing intensive is highly likely to trigger uncomfortable feelings. You're taking a big step closer to reaching your overall goal of being a published writer or produced screenwriter, after all. That can trigger a cascade of doubts, fears of success and failure, and resistance. So set up a support system in advance of people you can turn to and lean on for help, if you feel yourself faltering.

    You can also create a system of accountability for yourself. This may be the same support system or it may be different. In my own case, I have outside supporters (friends and writing coaches) who are my support system, and my writing programs for accountability (the Deep Dive and the Circle). The primary distinction for me is that I tend to process challenging emotions with my supporters, while I rely the accountability for helping me stay on track and true to myself with my goals. The important consideration when setting up accountability is to have clearly named your goal and timeline so you feel that sense of internal responsibility to follow through.  
  8. Set Daily Goals to Support Your Overall Goals. While you're working on meeting your larger writing goals, you'll want to have broken them down into incremental daily goals too. Do this so you'll know when you're done for the day, and if you're staying on track with meeting your larger goal. During the Deep Dive, we'll be checking in every morning with our daily writing goals and our writing intentions for the day (see #9).
  9. Set an Intention for Your Writing. Setting yourself up for success includes being intentional about your writing practice, including thinking about the energy you want to bring to your writing each day. When I'm setting my daily writing goal, I like to think about the intention or energy I'll focus on that day. I usually write it in capital letters somewhere, like PURPOSEFUL or FOCUSED. It helps to bring my attention to my intention when I do it that way.
  10. Reflect on Your Day, Each Day. At the end of the day, notice how it all went. What went well? Where did things go astray? Is there anything you can tweak or adjust for tomorrow? In writing, self-reflection is huge. It's not about noticing "failures," it's about gathering information and learning and improving ... and having fun with piecing together a puzzle that works. 
  11. Reward Yourself. Plan in advance how you'll reward yourself at the end of your hard work, each day, each week, and at the end of your writing intensive. Is there a great treat you'll reward yourself with? Something you wouldn't normally give yourself? This might be just the right time to get it. :) 

Got questions?

Leave them in the comments and I'll be happy to answer. 

And check out Part I, here: Clearing the Decks, Part II, here: Reverse Engineer and Revise Your Goals, and Part III, here: Boost Your Writing Progress (Or, How to Design a Writing Intensive).

 

Make Massive Progress on Your Book (or Script!)

The upcoming two-week Deep Dive Writing Intensive starts on Wednesday, September 20th and the last day to join us is Tuesday, September 19th. Join us and get tons of support and accountability to make deep progress on your book or script. Find out more and register here

 

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.

 

 

Find Your Three Big Rocks

I mentioned in a recent post that I've written "in the past" about choosing your "three big rocks" for the year. Turns out "the past" was 2007 (!), so I thought it was worth sharing again. 

I believe this idea has tremendous validity in our overly busy world.

Turns out, when we focus our efforts on the important things we want to accomplish and create with our lives, we are more productive and we are happier.

The Three Big Rocks concept has been spread by Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

I've heard it told a number of different ways. Here's an abridged version:

A time management expert places a large wide-mouthed jar on the table, and then puts several large rocks carefully into the jar. When the jar is packed to the top, he asks, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone watching says, "Yes."

He says, "Really?" He adds pebbles into the jar and the group watches as they work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he asks again, "Is this jar full?"

By this time, the group is skeptical. "Maybe not," they say.

"Good!" he answers. He adds sand to the jar and it fills in the spaces left between the rocks and the pebbles.

Once more, he asks, "Is this jar full?"

"No!" they shout.

Once again, he says, "Good!"

Then he takes a pitcher of water and pours it in until the jar is full to the brim.

He then looks at the group and asks, "What do you think is the point of this Illustration?"

One eager beaver raises her hand and says, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit more things in."

"No," the speaker replies, "that’s not my point. The Truth is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all."

We have to pick out what our "Big Rocks", organize our priorities around those, and only then look at what else we want to add into the remaining interstitial spaces of our lives.

No more of this "I have to take care of [8 million small things] before I can put my attention on my writing." Trust me, it doesn't work. Where you put your attention is what you get more of. 

I've learned to put my focus on only three big rocks for any given day, and for the year as a whole as well. 

Writing, of course, is always one of my big rocks. I manage to get MOST of the little things done as well. And the rest of them? Well, they aren't usually that important.

For this year, my three big rocks are my kids, my writing, and my business.

For today, my three big rocks are working on this blog post, working on my script, and writing two testimonials for my beloved coaches.

What are yours?

Powerful questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the three most important things I want to accomplish today?
  • What are the three big things I want to create or accomplish this year?
  • What truly matters to me in terms of how I spend my time?
  • How well are my choices matching up with what matters most to me?

You might also like this article I wrote for ScriptMag on the subject of being too busy to write.

 

Happy writing!

 

 

Finish your novel at any age

It’s always thrilling for me to see someone finish a writing project, particularly when I’ve been on the journey with them, from within the trenches of the Writer’s Circle. We cheer each other on, during the hard days and the easier days, so it feels like a success for all of us when we see someone finish a project and reach their goal.

Of course, there are various milestones for “finishing” too — finishing the outline, finishing the first draft, revising the first draft, working on the second draft, submitting it for publication, etc. etc. In the Writer’s Circle, we make a point to celebrate all the milestones we can. It’s a must on a long-haul project like a book or screenplay.

In this case, we’re celebrating the success of one of our writers who has finished the first draft of her novel at age 74!

Fredrica Parlett

I was particularly excited when Fredrica Parlett joined the Writer’s Circle. I know and have worked with her talented daughter, Isabel, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Fredrica on occasion here in Berkeley as a result. What excited me about Fredrica’s project was her passion and commitment to her novel — even when the self-doubts would creep in, Fredrica kept up a steady stream of writing with the support of the Writer’s Circle.

It’s been thrilling to see her return to and build on the first chapter she wrote of her novel four years ago in a class and had then set aside, first writing 20,000 words in her first three sessions in the Circle, and climbing steadily over time, bit by bit, day by day, to the milestone of completing her first draft this March after 18 months of work.

A self-described “writer, searcher, and hyperactive senior,” Fredrica has dreamed of writing a novel for a long time, and with the support of the Writer’s Circle, has made it a reality. We’ve applauded her and encourged her to keep going, even as she’s said in her dry, witty tone, “I just hope I can finish it before I die.” As someone with long-lived relatives (the women in her family tend to live into their hundreds), we never doubted she would manage it, but we’ve been so happy to see her get there nonetheless.

I thought you might enjoy reading a little bit more about her project and her journey up to this point — as well as what comes next — in her own words:

Fredrica, thanks for being here. Would you first tell us about your writing project — what’s it about?

I am writing a “literary” novel, which follows the lives of two protagonists in 1950’s America: a 16-year-old dyslexic boy, who is misdiagnosed as mentally retarded and psychotic, and the 36-year-old psychoanalyst who tries to save him from a lobotomy.

Tell us about yourself and your dream of writing — how long has this been a dream for you?

As a child I used to lie in bed and make up stories, mainly to do with the Lone Ranger as my father, who misunderstood me, but then I would vindicate myself by rescuing him from horrible bandits or some other dire situation. I wrote short stories from about the age of 9, mostly about talking animals, such as duckbill platypuses. I also wrote poems, also about animals. I’ve always been interested in language and writing clearly. Only after my second child left home for college, did I start thinking about writing a novel. I had one underway, which wasn’t going well, when my house and all its contents burned down in the Oakland Hills Fire in 1991. After the fire I abandoned hopes of writing a novel and devoted myself to studying classical piano.

In 2009, I saw an advertisement for an online writing course given through Stanford University (my alma mater) entitled “Beginning a Novel.” I took the course, the aim of which was to write the first chapter of a novel. That was the beginning of this story, but it lay fallow until I joined the Writers’ Circle at the suggestion of my daughter, who works with Jenna. I have always been drawn to novels rather than short stories.

How does it feel to have completed the first draft of your novel at age 74?

It feels wonderful. I have had to deal with all kinds of self-doubt and to learn to really prioritize my time, because I am easily pulled into duties and obligations. I had several medical issues last year also — amongst which were foot surgery and an appendicitis, as well as deaths in the family. It seems incredible that I actually wrote 170,000 words telling this story.

What have you learned about your writing process from participating in the Writer’s Circle?

I was surprised to find that the support of the Writer’s Circle made all the difference between writing and not writing. Reporting in to the site every evening has been, I think, the most important influence. If a day is slipping away with no writing, I get more determined to do some in order to be able to report progress.

But the other tools of the Circle have helped me as well — reading about others’ difficulties and successes, commenting on them (which is recognizing I have the same difficulties), attending the coaching calls where we have in-depth discussions about all our questions, and certainly participating in the group writing sprints — knowing the others are devoting that same hour to writing is a great boost. Sharing information about books and websites addressing the craft of writing and publishing is invaluable. The fact that the other members are much younger doesn’t seem to be a problem, even if I roll my eyes occasionally at their new age jargon. They are a serious and dedicated group. All these contacts keep me motivated and focused.

What were the biggest challenges you faced before joining the Circle?

I was always subject to the tyranny of the “urgent.” A large house, family, friends — and piano lessons — all of which were rewarding but did not fulfill the dream to write a novel.

You left the Circle for a time and came back to join us again. What did you notice about your writing habit while you were away and what have you noticed since you’ve come back? What difference has participating in the Circle made for you?

When I was not in the Circle, I noticed that the habit of putting everything else first began creeping back in. I missed the pressure of being accountable — stating my writing goal for the next day and trying to honor that. And I’m very prone to discouragement or negative self-statements such as, “I’m much too old to be undertaking this huge endeavor.”

Coming back, I immediately felt the power of the support. My total writing time increased dramatically, almost without my noticing it. (I have always set doable goals and then been surprised when I exceeded them — another trick learned in the Writer’s Circle.)

What would you say to others who dream of writing a novel in their later years, and what advice do you have for other writers?

If you dream of writing a novel, don’t put it off any longer. The quality of my life has greatly improved from this undertaking, so I have profited, whether it ever is published or not. How has it improved? I look around and within myself for inspiration. I channel my tendency to worry about the world and the scratches on my hardwood floor into worrying about the fate of my dear protagonists, about whom I could talk to you for hours, without you realizing they aren’t alive right now. We all know how hard it is to establish a new habit, especially one that supports our inherent creativity. That is what the Writer’s Circle can do.

What’s next for the novel and for your writing?

I am now in the revision process, which demands an entirely new set of skills. Fortunately, many of the Circle’s writers are in the revision process also. One of them recommended a book, which is helping me raise the stakes, increase the tension, and make ruthless cuts. I do Julia Cameron’s morning pages every day so that the words keep flowing. I am attempting to rewrite certain scenes in a much more dramatic, intuitive tone. Very exciting. I have the “soft” goal of having the novel ready to send to a publisher or to self-publish on Amazon by the end of this year. I am planning a road trip to Southern California in the Fall to experience directly the places in my novel, even Highland Mental Hospital in San Bernadino, which is still operating. Beyond that, who knows?

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I want to stress that setting a realistic daily goal, even 15 minutes a day, and reporting in every day, so that one really begins to believe one is a writer, is really invaluable.

Thank you, Fredrica!

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writerscirclepostJoin The Writer’s Circle. One of the things we love about the Writer’s Circle is that it helps you put the focus on your writing first. If you need a nudge in that regard, the next session starts on soon, and we’d love to have you join us. You can find out more and register at http://JustDoTheWriting.com

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Your turn

If you’d like to celebrate with Fredrica, please leave a note for her in the comments on the blog. And if YOU’RE dreaming of writing a novel (or book or screenplay or ??), tell us about it too and we’ll cheer you on!

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

When to look for a mentor — or not

The other day I spoke to prospective client.

She said, “I just don’t know how you can help me. I mean, I already know what I have to do, I just have to do it, right?”

The answer, on some level, is “Yes, of course.”

On the other hand, the beauty of having a coach or a mentor is that you have someone with you to help you through the tricky rough spots, to hold your hand when you lose your way, and to offer a fresh perspective when you can’t see the forest for the trees.

There are many different kinds of support like this out in the world, and the key is knowing WHEN you don’t need help and when you do.

How to decide if you’re not ready for mentoring right now, or maybe it’s time to move on

You might not be ready for mentoring right now, if:

  • You are having trouble listening to your own voice. Sometimes, and this is true for many seekers, we take in so much information, training, and guidance from other people that we lose sight of our own knowing. This is a good time NOT to work with a mentor, but rather the time to take a break, turn inward for a while, and tune into your own voice. The exception to this would be working with a coach or mentor who specializes in helping you access your own inner wisdom, guidance, and intuition rather than directing you with their own.
  • Your mentor has only one right way of doing things and/or isn’t teaching you to “fish” for yourself. Ideally you’ll want to have a mentoring relationship where your mentor is truly imparting the knowledge that will help you fly on your own, someday soon. If you’re working with someone who is just doing the heavy-lifting for you, you won’t get as much out of the relationship as you deserve.
  • It’s not in your budget or it’s not the right program. It is important to invest wisely in mentoring. I’ve seen far too many people invest ridiculous amounts of money in high-end coaching programs that sound good on paper but aren’t specific to their concerns, only to end up in debt and none the wiser for their experience (with the exception of a lesson in more judicious spending). Choose your mentors wisely, and make sure you’re investing in training and support that gets you to the specific outcomes you’re looking for.

How to decide if you’re ready for mentoring right now

You may be ready for a mentoring relationship now, if:

  • Even though you know what to do, you’re still not taking action. It’s one thing to know, it’s another thing to do. When all of your self-sabotaging gremlins rear their ugly heads and trip you up, do you know how to get around them? Do you persevere and get it done? Or do you call it a day? Having a mentor can make the difference between thinking and taking action. And THAT is where the rubber meets the road. In a recent post, I mentioned that I use multiple sources of accountability and mentoring in my life. Believe it or not, I’m not that good about following through on things unless I have significant motivation to do so. I use my mentors, like my screenwriting mentor and my business consultants, to keep me on track with much of my work.
  • You’re ready to stand in equal partnership with your mentor. You’ll want to work with someone who isn’t necessarily “above” you, though they may have more knowledge that you do in a particular area. I’ve learned the hard way to be exceedingly careful about putting anyone on a pedestal. Instead, I look for people to work with that I have the clarity of a peer-based relationship with. When I work with clients, I like to see us standing side-by-side, partnering to address the work at hand together, bringing all our expertise to bear.
  • You lose your way frequently. On the other hand, the beauty of having a mentor is that you have someone to hold the bigger picture for you, even when you lose your way. If you’re at all sensitive, as are many of my readers, you’ll be more likely to flounder when the boat gets rocked. Having a mentor who will remember of all your talents and abilities — especially when you can’t — is a powerful source of comfort and sustenance when the going gets rough.
  • You want to move faster than you can on your own. Having a mentor definitely has advantages when it comes to moving more quickly. In addition having accountability to keep you in swifter action, it’s incalculably faster and more effective to have someone to trouble-shoot, plan, and brainstorm with you than you can usually do on your own, particular if those aforementioned gremlins are throwing their unhelpful comments into the mix. 
  • You want the expertise and knowledge a mentor can offer. I choose to work with mentors who have a particular knowledge and expertise that I lack. Whether it’s writing a sales page or structuring my screenplay, I choose to hire folks I know I can both learn from and can help me do the work. I don’t want theory — I want practice. This is why I’ve always aimed to strike a balance between discussing the work and doing the work with my clients. I walk them through quieting their inner critics, writing proposals, working through detailed project timelines, and designing their writing schedules. Homework will only get you somewhere if you actually do it. Having someone to do the work with you? That’s where you know you’ll get the benefit for sure.
  • You want help applying that expertise to your specific circumstances. So often, we sign up for classes and programs but get lost in the anonymity of groups. When you want help with application of content specific to you, having someone that can focus with you on a precise project can make all the difference when it comes to translating from esoteric idea-land into practical get-it-done land. Which is where I love to live — in that bridge between worlds.

Your turn

I always love to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts.

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

~> Creative Productivity Next Steps. If you enjoyed my Creative Productivity TeleClass Series and you’re wondering about the next steps to put what you learned into practice, stay tuned for an announcement about a free information call with me coming soon. I’ll walk you through identifying your next steps and fill you in about details about how I can support you along the way through my 1:1 mentoring programs. Make sure you’re on my mailing list and watch your inbox for details coming soon.

~> Next Writer’s Circle Session. Register by February 21st for the next session of my Writer’s Circle (starts February 25th). Build a solid habit of daily writing and finish all your writing projects: http://JustDoTheWriting.com. We’re running four groups of fantastic writers right now and it’s a ton of fun. Come join us!

 

What I'm Up To

~> Daily. Working on rewriting my script, Progeny, with my mentor Chris Soth after finishing the ProSeries. Working now on Mini Movie Seven!

~> Reading The Rescue (Guardians of Ga’hoole, Book 3).* Watching Downton Abbey* (Season 3). Started up again on Michio Kaku’s The Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel.*

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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Why I love laser coaching

I was thinking yesterday about the laser coaching call-in hours I hold twice a month and why I love them so much. Even on days when no one calls in, I feel good about holding the space for people to get their questions answered. And the days when many people call in are tons of fun.

See, I love answering questions.

Whether it’s about how to get a blog set up, design a marketing campaign, get unstuck with your writing, develop your creative skills, or master your high sensitivity, I adore helping people solve problems. Giulietta once called me an “intuitive troubleshooter,” which is darned accurate. I seem to have a knack for solving problems and I love doing it.

What is laser coaching?

Laser coaching is particularly fun because we have a short time set aside for each person, about 10 minutes (hence the name “laser,” which implies highly focused). I hold call in hours — a bit like office hours on a college campus — where people call in and talk to me privately to get my take on the particular challenge.

How we accomplish so much

Although many people doubt what can be accomplished in 10 minutes, they are surprised by what we’re able to get done.

Here’s the reason.

When my clients know that we’ll be working efficiently, they (usually) come prepared with specific questions that we can answer rapid fire. Even if it’s something deeply personal, we’re able to crack the shell open to see what’s inside. And sometimes I think people feel safer knowing we’ll only have a short time to address something; they know they can come back to it when they’re ready.

On the other hand, I’ve had plenty of clients “show up” for laser coaching without a specific question. Those conversations are just as fruitful in most cases, because even if my client doesn’t have something specific on their mind, usually there is something lurking around beneath the surface that 1) they aren’t aware of, or 2) they are discounting as not being a “good enough” topic for laser coaching. (There’s no such thing, in my book.)

Your turn

What is something you just LOVE doing and have a knack for? How could you create more of that in your life experience? Let us know in the comments.

Right now, I’m brainstorming about more ways I can create opportunities for me to answer your questions because it really is a ton of fun.

Have a lovely day!

Warmly,

Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

 

~> September 27th. Register by September 27th for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle (starts October 1st). For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

~> October 4th. My next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group. SOLD OUT. http://LifePurposeBreakthrough.com

 

What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Working on my script, Progeny, with screenwriter Chris Soth after finishing the ProSeries.* STILL!

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Reading: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows with my son. Just watched Veep, and eagerly awaiting more Weeds.

 

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Tricks I’ve learned but don’t always use

Last week I wrote about “how I do it all, or not” and promised to follow up with tricks I know that help (but don’t always use) in today’s post.

Tricks I know but don’t always use

#1 Put my own agenda first

Something I was reminded of recently is that if I start my day with email, I end up focused on other people’s needs and desires — not in the energy that will help me fulfill my bigger dreams.

It’s when I put my own work first — either my writing or other “big” tasks for the day — I’m much happier and get more accomplished.

#2 Pick out the big three

I’ve also learned that if I can start off by picking the 3 big tasks that need to be completed in a given day and focus there first, the day works out for the best.

The challenge is that usually one or all of those three things is hard and triggers resistance. It’s all too easy to want to procrastinate about them, which means other things tend to expand as a way off putting of those hard things, like when I suddenly feel that it’s critically important to organize my digital files or purge my inbox.

Facing the music and doing those tasks, whatever they are (e.g. writing a challenging section of my script or making an uncomfortable phone call) is something I work on every single day.

#3 Be clear about what you need to let go

To make all of what I do happen, I’ve given up a lot.

When I had my son, I stopped volunteering so much of my time. I hired more help for my business and gave up doing so much of it myself.

When I started writing, I gave up watching so many movies and episodic programs.

Now I still watch television, but it’s very focused (and often kid friendly). I watch one movie or show at a time, usually on some kind of streaming or DVD. I don’t have cable and we no longer get regular TV reception (can you even do that anymore?).

I also gave up a lot of late night internet browsing and started getting up early so I could focus on my writing.

Bottom line

I’m not always consistent — some day I’ll get around to talking about discipline and creativity and breaking rules — but I do find that when I use these tricks I’m much happier than when I don’t.

Your turn

What about you? Do you have tricks you don’t use but are happier when you do? You know I always love to hear from you.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

~> August 30th. Register by August 30 for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle (starts September 3rd). For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

~> September 6th. Last day to register for the next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group happening on October 4th. These groups always sell out (only 3 spots remaining) so if you want to discover your life purpose through the remarkably accurate tool of hand analysis, sign up here now: http://LifePurposeBreakthrough.com

 

What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Working on my script, Progeny, with screenwriter Chris Soth after finishing the ProSeries.*

~> 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.

~> Reading: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince.

 

* Affiliate link

 

 

Why we don’t do the work

Last week I wrote a post called, “Stop buying stuff and do the work.” It resonated for more than a few people — and I had promised to write more about WHY we don’t do the work.

So why don’t we do the work?

First, an example.

For years (literally) I said I wanted to write, but I managed instead to fill my plate with training after training after training, and volunteer job after volunteer job. I studied with Coach For Life and Sonia Choquette, pursuing certifications with them. I started and ran organizations like the Sensitive Professionals Network, Six Sensory San Francisco, and a Coach For Life graduates forum, not to mention working as a youth leader with a youth group.

I read (and bought) countless books on coaching, intuitive development, angels, high sensitivity and so much more. Some of them I hardly even opened.

Then I spent more time, energy, and money on learning business skills and developing my message with several high business coaches, and completing hand analysis training.

And while I don’t regret what I was doing — after all, I have tremendously deepened my self-knowledge, grown as a person, learned a ton, and met wonderful people along the way, I was keeping myself so busy that I wasn’t pursuing my true dream of writing.

Throughout that time (and for years before it), I had a nagging feeling that I was “waiting for my life to start” and yet I wasn’t taking action to change anything. Instead I was filling my time doing all those other wonderful things.

And they were wonderful — but in hindsight, it was still resistance.

What’s that about?

It’s all too easy to think we are too busy, that we don’t have enough time. Or that we just need to get better organized. Or just get this one more thing done first.

And the thing is, we feel good that we are contributing great things to the world and our community and that we are learning so much.

And we are. We do.

ALL of these things are true.

We are not bad people after all, we have good intentions and we are interested in so many things.

But why does the one true dream always fall to the bottom of the pile? Why do we make choices that keep us from our dreams?

This is not a new answer

In my case — and I suspect it is true for many people if not most — it’s fear.

This is why we buy stuff we don’t need, keep ourselves too busy to think or connect inward to our deeper selves, procrastinate, spin in circles, get apathetic, and all those other things that add up to resistance.

Because it is scary.

Pursuing your truest, deepest dream is the most frightening thing imaginable — you might not even consciously recognize that you are afraid.

It’s your own hero’s journey

Pursuing your true dream — your art, writing, business, or passion — requires massive amounts of courage. It’s your own personal hero’s journey. Every single day you have to be willing to face down your personal demons, fight the resistance, and forge ahead.

It’s no wonder we want to avoid it, right? And we are so clever that we don’t even know that’s what we’re doing.

Time to clear the decks and answer the call to adventure. It’s waiting for you.

Your turn

I love to hear what you think. Post your note on my blog. Can’t wait to hear from you.

And if your dream is writing — registration closes tomorrow for the next session of my Writer’s Circle. Join us.

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

~> September 6th. Last day to register for the next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group happening on October 4th. These groups always sell out (only 4 spots) so if you want to discover your life purpose through the remarkably accurate tool of hand analysis, sign up here now: http://LifePurposeBreakthrough.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. (This is getting way too close!)

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Finished Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix! We’ve started reading the next one: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. I loved (500) Days of Summer, and finally saw The Day the Earth Stood Still (liked it) and Crazy, Stupid, Love (fabulous).

 

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Going pro

Over the last week, I’ve seen a lot of conversation about being professional. In part this was from a writer’s perspective, but it also came up in the broader context of reading Steven Pressfield’s new book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, which is a book for “artists, entrepreneurs, and athletes whose ambition is … to pursue their heart’s calling and make it work.”

If I had to pick one role model to follow, I’d be hard pressed not to choose Steven Pressfield. He’s inspiring, practical, and amazing, and a man after my own heart. If I stand for anything, it’s about helping you get out of your own way and do what you were put here to do.

Do the work

What I love about Steven’s work is that he doesn’t say that it will be easy, that you should do what you love and the money will follow, or any of that.

What he says, instead, is that doing the work is hard. That we have to face our fears everyday and get our butts in our seats no matter what to do the work — whatever it is.

Passion is a misnomer

I also read yesterday that passion is a misnomer (I’ve written about this subject before myself). In this guest essay, Joshua Fields Millburn points out:

“Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy every aspect of it.

“In fact, I’ve found the opposite to to be true. While writing my first masterpiece, Falling While Sitting Down, it was a miserable experience 80% of the time. Seriously, much of the time I wanted to put my head through a wall. But the other 20% was magical and exciting and made all the suffering and drudgery well worth it.

“The key is pushing through the tedium of the 80%, so you can find the beauty beneath the banality; it’s there, plentiful in that remaining 20%. You have to tolerate the pain, if you want to pursue your dream.”

Turning pro means being a grown up

When I talked with Elaine yesterday about writing, we agreed with Joshua. Pursuing anything meaningful is hard, a lot of the time. It takes being a grown up and facing the hard sucky parts to get to the other side of completion. It means surfing the waves of pain and self-doubt, sitting on the throne of agony, and doing the work.

It’s time we started telling the truth about that.

Remember, even Ray Kinsella went through his own kind of hell before people came to his field of dreams.

What if we loved even the crummy parts?

And while it’s tempting to pursue one’s calling with the focus on the magical 20% — the epiphanies, sudden insights, and flashy Elvis moments — I can’t help wondering, isn’t it worth it to enjoy ALL of it?

In my post yesterday, I asked you to share your questions for me (which I’m having fun answering — come post one if you haven’t already), and Mary asked, “What’s your story of ‘turning pro?'”

Here’s my answer: The day I turned pro with my writing was the day that I realized that if someone offered me $10,000,000 with the condition that I could never write again, I would turn them down. I knew with incredible conviction that I want to write — I must write — and I will allow nothing to stop me. Not even the bad days where I think I can’t write myself out of a shoebox let alone put a whole script together.

Now the only questions about my writing are: What to write, what to write next, and how to make my writing better and hone my craft. And then what to write after that.

That was the day I turned pro.

When you just can’t do anything else

Steven Pressfield tells a similar story. He talks about how despite his doubts and failures, he knew that he simply couldn’t do anything else but write, and when he tried anything else, he couldn’t stand it. So he had no choice but to keep writing. And he did.

I’m with him.

Bottom line

Dr. Phil talks about making “life decisions.” These are unalterable, no-turning-back decisions where you are all in. To me, that’s what it means to turn pro. What about you?

Your turn

Share your thoughts. I always love to hear from you.

Warmly,

 Jenna

Coming Attractions

~> July 5th. Last day to register for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle. For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

~> July and August. It’s almost time for the next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group. Are you interested in grabbing a spot before we sell out? Email my team and we’ll put you on the advanced notification list. Find out more at http://LifePurposeBreakthrough.com

 

What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Mentoring with screenwriter Chris Soth through ScreenwritingU.

~> September 18 to 20th. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU event to meet with producers and agents.

~> September 21st to 22nd. Staying on in Hollywood for the InkTip Pitch Summit.

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Reading Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix with my little boy and Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey on my own. Still in the queue: (500) Days of Summer, Another Earth, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, while we’re finishing up watching Season 2 of Game of Thrones. Amazing! (Yep, I read all the books too.)

 

Failure, Zombies, Systems, and Steven Pressfield

I was emailing with a beloved client this week who was concerned about setting herself up for failure by taking on something she might not be ready for.

I said, "It's not about failing or not failing, it's about learning what works for you and what doesn't, and refining until it does."

She made a great choice to take a midway step toward the thing she was considering. 

In the meantime, our conversation got me thinking about failure and our relationship to it.

The Payoff of Incapacity

Then today I started reading Steven Pressfield's new book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work. (If you haven't read his stuff, don't wait. He's amazing.) He says:

"There's a difference between failing (which is a natural and normal part of life) and being addicted to failure. When we're addicted to failure, we enjoy it. Each time we fail, we are secretly relieved."

He argues that when you remain addicted to failure you allow yourself to indulge in the "payoff of incapacity." And what's the payoff there? Leaving your talents "unexplored, untried, and unrealized."

And doesn't that make sense?

Let's face it, fulfilling your dreams is wickedly terrifying. What if you do fail? What if you can't rise to the challenge?

It's safer not to try. Easier to stay addicted to failure.

But you don't really want to be a zombie, right?

To me, the risk of not trying is much more costly.

Our culture is filled with shadow people -- speaking of zombies, these are the real walking dead -- never pursuing their hopes and dreams, selling out for the American dream and not living their own.

We pay with our souls when we don't do our Work.

Edison Knew Better

In various online sources, the numbers differ about exactly how many times Thomas Edison failed when he attempted to make a light bulb, but there is agreement on one thing: He made so many attempts that most of us would have given up long before he did. LONG before.

His take on the situation was to say that he had not failed, but rather proven that all those other methods did not work.

Design Better Experiments

Which takes me back to my client and the principle I shared with her.

When we choose to see our "failures" as failed experiments, we can design new ones, and see what works better.

Create Better Systems

For example, I have been terrible about filing for years. On Monday it dawned on me that I simply need a better system and that I haven't completely finished designing that system. I've worked on it, it's better, but it isn't done. That's all. It's not that I'm a bad person or even bad at filing, it's that I don't have a workable system yet.

Look at What's Not Working

As another example, at one point I had a bad system for paying my team too. They would email me their invoices and I would procrastinate about paying them. It wasn't that I didn't want to, it was that it seemed overwhelming. Sometimes I'd even be worried the invoices would be too high. I'd have to force myself to download and open their invoices, figure out how much I owed them, write the checks, address the envelopes, get them in the mail, etc. I'd do it, but it felt like pulling teeth. I was often late.

Needless to say, no one was very happy about it, so we came up with a new system.

My team members now put their invoice numbers and amounts due in the subject lines of their email messages to me. At a glance, I know exactly how much I owe them. We also made an agreement that I'd pay them no later than 2 days after I receive their invoices. And they all send them on a specific day every other week. I also have sheet of pre-printed address labels for each of them ready to go.

Now, when the time comes, I just whip out my checkbook, write out the checks, drop them in the self-sealing envelopes, decorate them with the address labels and stamps and voilà. Done.

Something I used to dread has become simple and doable, just because I took the time to create a system for it.

This Works for the Big Stuff too

When it comes to the big stuff, your Work, this works too.

For example, if you want to build your business, but you're not taking steps each day to do that, look at what's getting in the way and what you're doing instead.

If you want to write but you think you don't have the time, look -- really, truly LOOK -- at what you're doing with with your time.

If you want to put yourself out there for speaking gigs, getting more clients, doing more art, or going on more auditions, look at what you're doing, or not doing, to make that happen.

Then create a system to help you overcome the roadblocks you're unwittingly putting in your own way.

Bottom Line

The beauty of taking time to really LOOK at where your systems are breaking down -- at where you are "failing" -- is that it can make a huge difference in your sense of accomplishment and belief in yourself. Which is so worth the investment.

Your turn

Share your thoughts. I always love to hear from you.