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.

 

What you need to hear when you have writer’s block

naomidunfordNote from Jenna: This is a guest post from my friend, writer, and favorite business consultant, Naomi Dunford.

Naomi is an incredibly inspiring writer, and she also happens to be the only business consultant I ever recommend.

Her powerful piece had me in tears. I only wish I’d known what she was going through!

 

 

Write Like It Never Happened

There was a week in the summer of 2010 when I had two life-changing conversations. In both of these conversations, each had with different people, and for different reasons, and ostensibly on different topics, the people I was speaking with suggested that perhaps lil ol’ me would be more successful and make more money and be more awesome if I acted, well, more like them.

They didn’t say it like that, of course. People don’t. When well-meaning people want to give advice, they tend to simply paint a picture, and it’s only if you look at that picture from a certain angle that you realize they have painted a picture of themselves.

Up until that time, I was following the very specific content marketing strategy of write when you are possessed of the urge to say something and publish it soon after. That resulted in between four and five blog posts a week most weeks, and sometimes there would be a week or so in which I had nothing to say, during which I didn’t write anything.

The people I spoke with thought that I should be more strategic.

They thought I should write blog posts that were designed to link to other blog posts, or to products, or services. They thought I should custom create blog posts purpose built to give opportunities for search engine traffic, “link bait”, and virality on social media.

This is good advice, actually. It’s certainly the advice I give when people ask me how to be more strategic with their content marketing. It’s the advice I give when people come to me asking for help. It’s the advice I give when people are starting from nothing and want to create something “the right way” from the start.

Like I said, it’s good advice. It just wasn’t great advice for me.

See, I wasn’t looking to get more strategic with my blog posts. I wasn’t looking to “optimize” or “take it to the next level” or “play a bigger game”. I had always found blogging to be one of the most rewarding activities I could possibly imagine. It was fun, and it made me smarter, and it helped me think, and it helped me grow.

Doing it my way got me into the Technorati Top 1000, meaning that, for a time, this was among the 1000 highest traffic blogs on the internet. (That honor, in tandem with two crisp American dollar bills, will get you a tall Pike Place blend at Starbucks, but still. It was good to know that I was good at something.)

What was it Toby Keith said? “A sucker punch came flying in from somewhere in the back”?

These conversations came out of the blue. They came from colleagues I admire. They came while we were supposed to be talking about something else, something nice. And the shock of them, the surprise of them, the “yes, that little blog you have is nice and all, but perhaps you should be a tad, I don’t know, manlier? ” condescension of them, well, I folded. I figured these guys must be right. Anything I had attained must have been in spite of myself, and if I wanted to go anywhere in life, I’d better start acting like a grown-up.

Unsurprisingly, when I went to the keyboard, I didn’t know what to write. When the only dictate is “whatever you do, don’t act like yourself”, it’s tough to figure it out. And I stayed that way for four years.

In the meantime, I have written. I’ve written for work – the classes and the emails and the sales copy. Over two million words, actually. But nearly none of them have been mine, and nearly all of them have been a struggle.

Sure, sometimes I would catch a groove and forget to obsess. Sometimes I would be on a deadline and didn’t have time to dwell. Sometimes I would drink wine and get angry and write what I damn well felt like, mentally hating the two of them the whole time.

But most of the time, what I had once loved, I’d grown to hate.

Which brings us to this summer.

This summer, I had two more conversations, one with a student, and one with a colleague.

The student emailed me to ask if she could write a certain kind of content in her newsletter. In her PS she said she hoped I’d say it was okay, because “that kind of thing would be a blast to write.” And I wrote back and said, “Go ahead. If it would be a blast to write, it will be a blast to read.”

(Hmmm. Physician, heal thyself?)

And then I talked to a colleague. I said I didn’t know what to put on my blog, and I hadn’t for years. We talked for a long time. He asked questions. I explained the problem. He thought for a while, and then he likened the whole thing to cupcakes.

cupcake-atmHe said, “Remember that cupcake we got out of the ATM in Beverly Hills? Remember how it was perfect?”

“Even if it wasn’t perfect, I still would have liked it. If it had been a little less moist, or it had been carrot cake instead of red velvet, or if it had less icing or, hell, no icing. When someone presents you with a cupcake, and it’s even a little bit good, your answer is not ‘Gee, I wish it was different.’ Your answer is ‘Sweet! A cupcake!’ You’ll even take a brownie, or a cookie, or a brownie with icing, or a cookie with brownie-flavored icing. You don’t care. You’re just happy you got a cupcake.”

“Maybe it’s the same with your blog. Maybe you don’t have to be a certain way. Maybe you can just make cupcakes.”

And so I tried. I tried to write even though I’d had writers’ block for four years. I tried to write myself up some cupcakes.

It was awkward. It was wooden. It was tentative and hesitant and SO not the same as it used to be. It felt like touching a lover after a four-year dry spell full of nasty silences and not very casual disregard. But I did it. And here we are.

Between four years ago and now, other well-meaning people have tried to give me advice on how to beat my writers’ block. It’s become a bit of a joke in the classes I teach. People come onto our Q&A calls and ask how my book is going, and we all laugh.

The advice people give about writers’ block can generally be paraphrased – or quoted verbatim – as “just write”.

I would ask what I should write, and they would say just write. I would ask how to start, and they would say just write. I would say I don’t know how, and they would say just write.

They were correct, of course. That’s exactly what I should have done. But their advice never held, it never stuck, because, well, I don’t know why. I wanted it to work. I just needed more, I guess.

You don’t understand, I would think. I can’t, because I’m stupid.

You don’t understand, I would think. I can’t, because I’m weird.

You don’t understand, I would think. I can’t because I’m loud and I’m brash and I swear too much. I can’t because those big, strong men I admire and respect told me I was doing it wrong.

And I suppose what I would have wanted was for somebody to take me by the shoulders and say this:

“Write like it never happened.”

“Don’t let them get you. Don’t let them break you. Don’t let them take the vitality and the fire and the sparkle that is you and sanitize it into a beiged-down version.

“Don’t change just because it makes other people feel safer. Don’t let them tell you that you would be perfect if you just weren’t so… you. Don’t let them take you away from everybody else who likes you just the way you are.

“I know it will be hard, and I know it won’t be the same, and I know you’ll doubt your every word for a while, but it will get better.

“Do you remember when you were little, and you swore you would never let anyone break you down, no matter how hard they tried? That small person inside of you is counting on you to make all her dreams come true. That small person said that one day, she would write and people would read, and that mess of a childhood would be transformed into something better. Nobody can make it okay for that small person but you.

“Write like it was ten years ago and nobody had told you that you couldn’t do it. Write like it was possible. Write like you had hope, and write like you had dreams, and write like there are millions of people out there waiting to hear what only you can say.

“Write like you did before it ever occurred to you that there might be anyone who wanted you to be different.

“Outrun it. Outrun the feeling that they might be right. Outrun it, outwrite it, and drown it with voices of love and support and admiration and high fives.

“Listen to your children who believe you can do everything and that Mummy is the wisest, strongest, prettiest person in the whole world. Put your trust in the ones who know you and love you and never want you to change. Write and write and write and write and write, no matter what, write.

“It. Will. Get. Better.”

I think that’s what I would have wanted to hear.

So just in case that’s what you want to hear, and you need somebody to say that to you, I’ll say it to you now:

Write like it never happened.

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Naomi Dunford‘s first piece of published writing was a review of Coneheads for the local paper. She was 12. Her greatest writing related achievement is getting 104% on an essay about “The Fatal Flaw In King Lear”, a play which she has heard is very moving. She writes Morning Pages about once a year.

She is a business consultant, writer, and blogger who started her company, IttyBiz, in 2006 and has been featured in numerous books you probably own but have not read. Read (not much) more here.

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Thanks for reading!

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

Image © Shira gal aka miss pupik, “Writer’s block“. Imaged modified only by cropping.

To NaNo or not to NaNo?

I got off the phone on Tuesday with some of our Writer’s Circle participants for our mid-session coaching call, and I was left with this question: to NaNo or not to NaNo?

Several writers in my sphere are wrestling with the question of whether to dive in and participate in National Novel Writing Month or not. And even just a few days from “GO!”, we’re asking things like:

  • Will it be too much in my already full life?
  • Will it give me the boost I need to get going?
  • Can it help me feel like I’m getting a jumpstart on my writing (again)?
  • What if I get burnt out doing it?
  • What if it’s a ton of fun and really inspiring?

Even I’m thinking about it, despite the reality of my current personal life circumstances (A 5 month old baby! A new script to write! A business to run!). I’m especially tempted because we’ve developed some extra supports on the Writer’s Circle site for those who will be participating in both the Circle and NaNo and want more personal, intimate support than what NaNo itself offers.

As I talked about last week, there are some real pros to participating in NaNo. And what strikes me is that so many of us in the Circle are thinking about doing both, which speaks to an underlying desire to see rapid progress and to get a jumpstart on a big writing project.

Making the decision

Mary Montanye, one of our Writer’s Circle coaches and author of the recently published memoir, Above Tree Line, and the coach that will be running our special Writer’s Circle NaNo support group, approaches NaNo with a delicious spirit of fun and exploration, primarily with the focus on creating a “discovery draft”. (More on discovery drafts here and here.)

About making the decision to NaNo or not to NaNo, Mary says:

MaryMontanye

“The writing we do in NaNoWriMo can really kick up a writing practice habit, something we are committed to helping writers do in the Writer’s Circle. And you don’t have to write a novel! If you’d rather write a longish piece of non-fiction, it can help you do that, too.

“I have written non-fiction, even journaled extensively during past Novembers. I love the challenge and the camaraderie that occurs when I participate. And through the years I’ve amassed a bundle of tricks that helped me survive and thrive during this world-wide write-a-thon and on into my writing life after the month of November is over.

“This is the way I look at it. I hold my commitment very loosely. I want it to be fun. And I want to be surprised by the words that make their way from my brain to the page. Fast writing, without thinking about it too much, is how I am surprised. If you look at it as creative play, it might be just what you need right now. And, when we are writing fast, it doesn’t take more than about an hour or two to chalk up the words. We can write more on freer days, and less on the others. You may never use much of what you write, but you may, or you may have a breakthrough that might not have come another way. And, if you begin, decide there is absolutely no way you can do this, you can stop. Most do, so there is nothing wrong at all with that.

“But, and this is a very big but, if this is just going to feel like one more draining commitment, don’t do it. Or, if you think it would be very hard for you to hold it lightly and have fun with it because that’s not your way, then don’t do it.”

Isn’t that useful?

Learning from the NaNo experience

On another front, one of our writers shared some thoughts about the value of participating in NaNo, which really spoke to me:

“I participated in NaNoWriMo last year and finished. It was great, taught me a lot about writing in general and about my own way of writing.

“It taught me the value of writing daily and of aiming high (2000 words a day). It taught me that most of the time the first 300 words were hard, and the first 500 even harder, but that after 700-800 it got easier as I kept going. It also taught me that if I switch off my judging brain I can still write and that how I feel about the writing, while I’m doing it, says nothing about how it turns our or whether I will be able to use it later. Sometimes ‘writing blind’ like that resulted in pieces of writing that were better than they would have ever been if I would have been consciously trying. I mainly joined to see if I could establish a habit and because I liked the challenge, but I was surprised at how much of what I wrote during that month actually ended up in the novel draft I am working on.

“Being part of the Writer’s Circle at the same time meant that I had a forum and a group where I could log my progress and reflect on the process, which helped me keep going and helped me notice what I was learning.”

What I find most fascinating about this is how she learned that the later words come easier. Isn’t that the truth? It’s usually the first that come painfully, unless we’re totally fired up to write (which by the way, is so much easier when we’re writing every day!).

I also noticed that the experience seemed to raise her level of what’s “normal” for her in terms of daily writing. So not only could NaNo be a way to crank out one project in particular, it can also be a way to take your writing habit up a notch.

Are you in?

So what do you think? Will you go for it? What’s factoring into the decision for you? Will you NaNo or not, this year?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

 

NaNoWriMo Writer's Circle special

 

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12 tips for making the most of NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again!

National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, starts on November 1, and writers all over the globe are already flexing their digits in anticipation of writing 50,000 words by November 30.

As an advocate for and supporter of writers writing daily and year-round, I’ve had mixed feelings about the drawbacks of what could be considered a 30-day writing binge, while simultaneously feeling excited by the challenge of it (here you see my ambitious side!). But after a few years now of seeing the writers in our online Writer’s Circle participate in NaNoWriMo and thrive, I’m seeing real merit to the program.

In fact, if anything, our Writer’s Circle and NaNoWriMo seem to be an excellent blend. Our writers like the challenge of NaNo but relish the extra support and “home base” the Writer’s Circle provides.

One of our writers, Michelle A., says:

“I have participated in NaNoWriMo twice. In my second round, which I completed while in the Writer’s Circle, I found that in doing NaNoWriMo there was a similar camaraderie to it, but more so. It was helpful to have the daily encouragement and accountability of the Circle. It was still hard, but I wasn’t alone. By answering the daily progress questions we answer, the Circle helped me to keep things in perspective too.”

Another one of our Circle writers, Jo Anne W., says:

I am glad that I participated in NaNoWriMo and that I ‘won’ (completed the 50,000). I wanted to see if I could do it and I did. But I don’t feel a great affection for what I wrote and, curiously, I have rarely dipped back into what I did write. I do know that I wouldn’t have completed the month if I were not also part of the Writers’ Circle. NaNoWriMo is really a structured competition, and although there are ways to set up a support system during the month, it is really about word count and ‘winning’.

“And the word count is daunting – on average 1667 words per day, every day. Some days, the best I could do was 750 (and that is still a lot of words) so I had to do marathon sessions to make sure I got to the 50,000 count by the end of the month. There were many days when I wished I were doing something different. But that feeling was offset by making my daily entry in the Circle, acknowledging what I was happy about and finding a way to celebrate what I had accomplished. The daily progress report for the Circle made me less resentful of the NaNoWriMo pace.”

Even more of our writers are planning to participate for the first time this year, including Harmony, who says:

“I feel the Writer’s Circle accountability log will help me stay on track. Since I like timing my writing as opposed to counting words, I may need to get creative with how I participate.”

And Wendy B., for whom this will be the first round doing both, says:

“I completed NaNoWriMo about three years ago and finished a novel that still needs editing, but it was a great and encouraging experience. I have signed up for this year and look forward to it along with Circle — seeing how the two run together will be interesting. Comparing the two, the Circle is more personal and a great incentive to keep going. NaNoWriMo is great, but fast and furious and most people accomplish a daily word tally. Whilst completing the book, 50,000 words in 30 days, is an achievement, it doesn’t lead to follow up connections. NaNo did get me into believing I could write rather than just thinking, ‘one day, I’ll write a book.’

Will you take the NaNo plunge?

In many ways the purpose of NaNo is the same as the Writer’s Circle’s purpose — it’s about making the writing happen. The main difference I see is that in the Circle we focus on writing year round, in a sustainable way. With NaNo, the focus is on writing intensely for a shorter duration of time. Both approaches have pros and cons.

If you’re on the fence about doing NaNo, here are some things to consider: 

Advantages

  • It’s inspiring to write alongside other writers, especially with the same goal.
  • … and there’s a very clear focused goal: 50,000 words in 30 days.
  • It helps keep you focused on one specific project instead of hopping from project to project and losing your way.
  • Meeting a big goal in short amount of time can feel amazing and inspiring.
  • It’s a great way to make a concerted push on a big project.
  • When you write fast, you bypass your logical left brain and your inner critic. The results can be magical.
  • It IS possible to write fast and write well

Challenges

  • Writing 1,667 words every day can be a lot for some writers.
  • Not meeting the daily goal increases the number of unwritten words as each day ticks past, which then creates pressure to catch up.
  • Writing every day at an intense pace can lead to creative burnout and writing aversion after the big push. Some writers report writing hard during NaNoWriMo and not writing for the rest of the year.
  • Not meeting the goal might feel discouraging.
  • Writers sometimes report generating a ton of words, but that the quality feels lacking.

12 tips for making the most of NaNoWriMo

If you do decide to go for it — and I hold no judgment either way, in writing it’s all about what works for YOU — here are some ideas that might help you along the way.

Before NaNo

  1. Design your month around the effort. This could look like cutting back on extra activities, getting extra childcare, taking some time off work, etc. Really think about how you can make it EASY to meet this big goal.
  2. Be crystal clear about when you’re scheduling your writing time so there’s no doubt about when you’ll do it. Get out your calendar for the entire month and map out when you’ll be spending the 1.5 to 2 hours you’ll likely need each day.
  3. If you’re not a “panster”, work on your outline for your project NOW so you can start writing when the clock starts ticking. Even if you just map out the major story beats, you’ll have something to swim toward when you’re out there in the ocean of words you’re about to dive into.
  4. Up-level your self-care and creative well-filling. Healthy food, lots of water, time in the sunshine, exercise, and lots of great creative inputs will help keep you humming at an optimal level throughout the month. (And keep this up DURING NaNo too.)
  5. Get lots of non-writing support for the rest of your life like bill-paying, grocery delivery, etc., or work on getting things in order now so you don’t have to be distracted by them while you’re neck deep in writing.

During NaNo

  1. Use timed writing sprints to help you write briskly for your daily writing goals. It has the added benefit of teaching you how long it takes you to write a certain number of words as well, so you’ll know if you need to adjust how much time you’re setting aside for scheduled writing time in #2, above. Plus you can use the sprints to break up the longer chunks of writing so that you get up and stretch between sessions. In the Writer’s Circle we usually write in 60 minute sprints, but a good sprint can range in length from 15 to 90 minutes. Find what works best for you.
  2. Be mindful about your self-talk and keeping it as encouraging and self-supportive as possible. Notice any negative self-messages that come up and find a way to reframe them into a more positive perspective.
  3. Pay attention to how it’s feeling and working for you. There are no rights or wrongs here, no failures. You may want to experiment with challenging your own comfort zone or you may find that this is a method that doesn’t work for you. It’s ALL useful information that will only help you going forward.
  4. Have a support system outside NaNo like the Writer’s Circle or a writing buddy to cheer you on and help keep things in perspective. If you’re struggling, get help and support. You don’t have to do this alone.

After NaNo

  1. Celebrate! When the end of NaNo rolls around, one way or another, celebrate. If you met the goal, great! Celebrate it. If you didn’t meet the goal, make sure to celebrate the attempt.
  2. Rest! Once you’re done, take one to two days off after NaNo and really enjoy it.
  3. Write! Then, start writing again. Make a plan for how you’ll keep writing after NaNo. This could look like keeping up the same pace if it worked for you or adjusting it up or down to find your new happy medium of accomplishment, sustainability, and attainability. You may find that you want an extra easy writing goal for the first week after the big NaNo push, which you can then reassess and adjust as needed.

What NaNoWriMo tips and suggestions would you add?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

 

NaNoWriMo Writer's Circle special

 

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

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

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

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

Why I’m taking you through these exercises now

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

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

Your next exercise is below!

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what we’ll have you do:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to cheering you on. :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I’m taking you through these exercises now

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

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

Your next exercise is below!

Exercise #2 – Break resistance by tricking your brain

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

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

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

All you need to do is this:

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

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

Scheduling it makes all the difference.

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

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

I’ll explain.

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

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

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

This does a few things for you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So go set your timer, and write!

 

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

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

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

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

Why I’m taking you through these exercises now

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

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

Your first exercise is below!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s an example of how this exercise works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to cheering you on. :)