How I rebooted my blogging habit after baby #2

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

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

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

Then cue baby, stage right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And something just wasn’t feeling right

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

Which led me to some soul searching.

Did I still want to blog?

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

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

Creativity required

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

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

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

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

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

Finding new times to write

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love it. :)

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.

 

* Affiliate link

 

 

 

It’s All Been Said Before — Or Has It?

You Think You Have Nothing New to Say?

A big obstacle I hear my clients talk about is fearing that they’ll have nothing new to say on their subject.

“Julia Cameron already wrote The Artist’s Way, what could I possibly have to say about creative recovery that is new or different?” (Except that Steven Pressfield and so many others have too.)

“Anne McCaffrey already wrote the best books about dragons, I can’t possibly approach it from a fresh perspective.” (Except that Patrick Rothfuss, Christopher Paolini, and Naomi Novik have kicked some serious dragon ass lately.)

This is what I say to my clients:

“You have a specific audience that will only hear this message from you. They may have heard it 100 times before, but they will not hear it in exactly this way until YOU are the one that says it to them.

“Plus, you have your own unique perspective and take on what it is that you are sharing. Your work is a magical amalgamation of everything you have learned, with a twist that is just your own, pulled together in a way that only you can do. That makes your voice worth hearing.”

“And besides,” I add, “if you don’t say it (or write it or share it), your audience will never receive it. They are waiting to hear it from you.”

The Missing Piece

Today I found the perfect add-on antidote to this fear from French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix (noted in the sidebar of the Artist’s Way no less):

“What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”

My heart said, “YES! That’s it!”

There IS a missing piece here, and this touches it.

Somehow you know there is more to say on your subject, and that is why you are drawn to it. So rather than doubting that you have important words to add to the conversation, just do it.

Lend your voice to the conversation.

Speak your mind.

Share your thoughts.

Good grief, I’m writing an ebook about creative blocks. Aren’t there enough of those already?

Apparently not, or I would not be drawn to write one.

Choosing A Niche

We know that choosing a specific niche is a more powerful way to position yourself in a market and therefore attract more clients and be more successful.

And yet choosing a niche is often triggers this very obstacle: “So-and-so is already ‘The’ Coach/Consultant/Expert/Writer/? on this topic, how can I possibly add more?” etc. etc.

The solution?

Pants.

And trains.

Read on…

The Wonderful World of Pants

In my Artist’s Way Accountability and Support Group today Mary shared a funny perspective on pants:

Just because one person once-upon-a-time made pants, that didn’t deter the second person from coming along and having a go at making their own kind of pants. She added, “I’m just the second pants maker.”

There are so many different kinds of pants, why would we ever think we couldn’t make our own contribution to the marketplace? In the case of pants, we could aim to fit other body types, to try another style, to specialize in particular kind of pants (dress, maternity, casual, work, jeans, dress jeans), etc.

Taken a step farther, one could have thought that Levi’s had cornered the market on jeans back-when, and for a while they did. But then pretty soon someone thought they could take another crack at it.

It goes to show you that there is always room to innovate, to do better, and to ‘say’ more.

The Ultra Specific British Train Niche

Similarly, I’ve been recently exposed to a new perspective on niche in the ultra specific case of British train series for kids.

My 3-1/2 year old loves the trains, shows, and characters from Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. Through the course of exploring around, we somehow happened upon another British train series, Chuggington, that is also great fun.

How audacious for someone to take a stab at a new British train franchise with the huge success of Thomas already! Who knew the world would need (or want) two British train series for kids?

So Why Not You, Too?

So when you think about your specific expertise and lending your voice to the topic you’re most passionate about, can you find the courage to be innovative and step out with your fresh perspective and voice, trusting that you’ll have something new to say, no matter who else might “already” be doing it?

I’d love to hear from you about:

  • How this resonates for you?
  • Other examples you might have of innovations that inspire you to speak up or write about your topic.
  • Anything else this sparks for you.
  • Post your comments on my blog.

 

Coming Attractions

~> May 17th and 24th, 2011. My Artist’s Way Accountability & Support Group continues. Details.

~>May 26th to May 28th, 2011. Attending Andrea J. Lee’s Wealthy Thought Leader event via simulcast.

~>May 28th, 2011. Next broadcast of my Dreamification Radio show on Radio Lightworker. Details. Listen from anywhere in the world to this Internet radio show.

~>June 9th, 16th, and 23rd, 2011. My brand new Life Purpose Breakthrough Group event series. Details.