five minutes on timer

How 5 minutes of daily writing can change your life

Writers who tend to join the Writer’s Circle — and get the most out of it — often have both a deep call to write (whether they’re doing it consistently or not) and a specific project they want to work on, perhaps one half-completed, languishing on a shelf for a couple of years. And when they find out about the Writer’s Circle, they’re eager to move past the dreaming or stuck stage into action.

This is the story of a man who has done just that.

Rikard-BergquistWhen he joined the Circle all the way from Sweden, Rikard Berguist had been working on his novel intermittently, struggling to find enough time to write and to move past the outlining and preparation stage into writing actual New Words. And he had a little two-year-old daughter at the time too! (She’s three now.)

After being in the Circle for a session or two, continuing to write intermittently, and listening to me (harp on about :) ) advocate for early morning writing and small writing sessions as a powerful way to jump-start a writing habit, one of our other members “threw down the gauntlet” and challenged him to try writing for 5 minutes every day and logging in every day on the site to report about how it went for him. He took her up on the challenge. It changed his life.

In less than four months, after building from 5 minutes a day to a solid writing habit of 60 minutes a day, he knocked out 75,000 words and completed his first draft. He’s still with us in the Circle now, working on revisions. He is one of our most dedicated and consistent members, showing up to write and log in on the site even while traveling — he even met me for coffee in Berkeley here the other day to talk shop while on a trip to the U.S. from Sweden. It was great fun. :)

I asked “Rick” (as we affectionately call him in the Circle) to talk to us today about his experience with finishing his novel, how he got there, and what’s he’s learned about his writing process along the way. You may be surprised to find some ideas and inspiration you can adopt for yourself.

1. Rick, first, welcome and thanks for being here. Let’s start off by having you tell about your recent major milestone — finishing the first draft of your first novel. What was that like for you?

It was one of the most empowering and surprising experiences I’ve had. Empowering because finally this dream of a novel I’ve had for a couple of years was becoming a reality. I escaped the terror of the first draft and actually produced 75,000 words. Instead of laboring and trying to make early parts of the story perfect, writing and rewriting, outlining and rearranging the order of scenes, as well as reading the latest book on craft and thinking I finally got it, I did the work and now have a substantial number of written pages to show for it.

It was surprising because I did it by writing for about an hour every morning during four months — I never thought an hour a day would amount to anything. I surprised myself weekly when I saw what I had accomplished with just an hour every morning. I surrendered to the process, allowing myself to write badly, knowing that it was only the first stage in a big adventure. Overcoming that editor inside of me, who kept telling me it was crap, was a big victory. And my first draft is the result. Now I know that first drafts aren’t supposed to be outstanding perfect novels, they’re just supposed to be written.

2. Can you give us a soundbite about what the story is about and about who you are?

The story is set in the 1570s of Stockholm, Sweden. In a power struggle for the crown our hero supports a new queen for the throne, who turns out to be a murderer, poisoning her competition. When his secret love interest is surprisingly accused and imprisoned for the murder, without any hope of pardon, our hero has to choose between his career or saving her. And what price will he pay for the choice he makes?

I work in the financial industry, for a private equity company, with business development. It’s hands-on management in selected individual companies in a wide range of industries. Writing is for me a creative outlet and a possibility to follow a totally different path.

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

Consistent daily work is key to my process. Being consistent means that I stay in touch with my writing, even though I might be working and doing other things during the day. The story evolves and develops in my subconscious, waiting to be served up during the next writing session. Setting goals and being accountable within the Circle, giving and receiving feedback on each others’ processes — in short, knowing that my efforts are noticed by others is a big motivator for me.

Focusing on the process rather than the craft, is a very important difference from other writing groups I’ve participated in. For me, this group is about focusing on getting the writing done, every day. What you write, how you write, and when you write is up to you. But do it every day. The accountability and support of the Writer’s Circle is key to making that happen.

4. What were the biggest challenges you faced before joining the Circle? Have they changed?

My biggest challenge was finding time to write. I kept telling myself I needed chunks of at least 3-4 hours of undisturbed concentrated time to get anything done. I used to laugh at friends telling me how someone they knew had finished a novel by coming in 15 minutes early to the office and using that time to write. “It just isn’t possible,” I used to say, but now I know better. I kept on trying to find my big chunks of time, getting them here and there. It was a constant struggle. Looking back, I feel like I wasted a lot of time thinking about how to find time to write, but never doing the actual writing, and instead ending up feeling frustrated and lost. I knew I wanted to write, but why didn’t I just do it? I wrestled a lot with that question. With the help of the Circle I established a habit of rising early and writing for an hour every morning. Consistently.

5. When you first joined the Circle in May 2012, what was your writing habit like and how did it evolve? Were there any key moments where you shifted your habit? Was there a particular trigger or did it build over time for you?

At first my writing consisted of sporadic big chunks of time, where I spent the first part of each writing session reconnecting with my story and the latter part coming up with some new tweaks to my outline, synopsis, and characters. I always felt happy and satisfied afterwards, but not continuing to work on it over time always made me question my earlier work when I got back to it. And I was never moving into writing actual words, paragraphs, and chapters of the book, just staying at the outline stage.

There were two key moments for me — One: I followed the advice from you, Jenna, and fellow members of the Circle to adjust my target amount of writing time downward until I found a suitable amount that I could do consistently every day. For me that was five minutes. How amazed and surprised I was of the power of those five minutes. It changed my world — I connected on a deep level with my story and gradually increased the five minutes to sixty minutes per day. At first outlining scenes and then actually writing the first draft.

And this is where my second key moment occurred — Two: I could not get myself writing. I stalled. I reworked. I was stuck. Again following advice from the Circle 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.

6. What advice do you have for other writers?

The only way to do it, is to do it. Complete the journey from the first page to the last page. If you can’t do this, it’s game over. Because without the first draft, you have nothing. You need a lot of faith to do it, faith in your unproven ability to write a novel. But give yourself permission to fail, to write crap, to make mistakes, to forget your outline and synopsis and before you know it, you will have your first draft.

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

Right now I am revising the draft. Aiming at having a first rewrite done in a couple of months. There are times when I feel like giving up, but I now know that that’s only part of the writing life. It’s a constant flow of ups and downs, you just have to trust the process and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Finishing this first draft, I will turn it into my second and then my third, or as many as I need to finally hold an amazing novel in my hands.

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

Have faith, never give up, and know that in the end you’ll succeed. Once you’re in the habit of writing, trust the process to bring you to the finish line. If you feel down and lost during the journey, just tread water and wait for the next creative wave to come. It always does, have faith.

Thanks, Rikard!

Your turn

Join me in congratulating Rick on his big accomplishment and help cheer him on for his revisions! Leave a note for him in the comments. Feel free to ask questions too. Tell us what you think about writing for 5 minutes a day.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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Independence Day Fireworks

Seeing it through to the end

On the Welcome Call for our Writer’s Circle session that started yesterday, it was fun to notice how many members were talking about finishing. So many of us were at that point of having just finished a major draft or putting the finishing touches on one.

After having run the Circle now for going on two years, it’s deeply gratifying to see so many writers reaching that milestone.

It got me to thinking about the ingredients that go into the mix to make that happen.

It strikes me that there are both internal and external aspects to these success stories. What I see on the internal side is:

  • Vision — having an idea or a calling to see something come to fruition.
  • Passion — having a love or interest or fierce desire for a specific project or idea.
  • Decision — making the decision to tackle the project.
  • Courage — having the courage to dive in to the unknown.
  • Perseverance — having the wherewithal to stick with something.
  • Intuition — knowing when something is right for you, or not.

Hopefully we have all these skills. If we don’t, we can strengthen them within ourselves. (And there are good coaches and therapists who can help us do just that.)

So yes, completing any project requires a tremendous amount of drive, determination, and courage. But even the strongest of strong-hearted among us get tripped up by a laundry list of obstacles, like:

  • Doubt — what if I can’t do it?
  • Fears  — of success, failure, rejection, disapproval, shame
  • Resistance — the force that repels us from our dreams
  • Procrastination — our tendency to put off anything that moves us toward completion of our dreams
  • Perfectionism — the belief that perfection is attainable and that if we’re not hitting it, we’re failing.
  • Bad habits — putting vices before taking action on our dreams.
  • Poor self- management — struggles with discipline, decision-making, commitment, time choices.
  • Poor self-care — not taking care of our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits.
  • Comparison with others — thinking other people are doing better than we are.
  • Obsessing about our chances of success — focusing on the big questions rather than doing our work.
  • Approval-seeking — looking outside ourselves for validation of our talent or ability.
  • Life challenges — stopping when life gets hard.

Many of these things can be solved with self-awareness and determination, and yet what I see time and again is that we can draw on resources outside ourselves to help us make it through the rough patches. Things like:

  • Support — there’s nothing quite like having other people believe in you, especially when you’ve temporarily forgotten your own skill and ability.
  • Daily accountability — having support to see it through, to keep showing up and do the daily work is deeply motivating.
  • Community — being a part of a community where you are with other people who truly “get” what you’re experiencing helps end the sense of isolation we can all experience at times.
  • Energy — the shared energy of working together, whether side by side or as a team, can move us into action when we’re otherwise flagging.
  • Inspiration — a shared spirit of energy and enthusiasm can reignite us when the going gets tough.

The question that strikes me is this: Do you have the support you need to weather the challenges of creating your dreams? If not, how can you create that for yourself? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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keyboard2

The awkwardness of building a new writing habit

When you first start a new habit, it’s awkward.

I’ve made the mistake more than a few times in my life of throwing in the towel if I “blow it” early in the process of building a habit.

Over time, I’ve come to see a misstep like that as a little “Oops!” and either go for a do-over or a promise myself to start again tomorrow.

This is part of why we make sure to hold our Writer’s Circle as a guilt-free zone. Yes, we’re encouraging people to write every day (and when I say we, I mean me and the other coaches for the Circle). And we also keep in mind that we are doing deep, hard work, and there will be missteps and challenges along the way. We’ve ALL struggled to create habits, and it’s no good punishing ourselves when we get off course.

I’ve seen some terrific examples of people who started out just focusing on writing 5 to 15 minutes a day and now have completed novels and scripts they can call their own. It’s very exciting!

As you embark on a new habit, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Remember that building a new habit can be awkward — be gentle with yourself about it.

Give yourself lots of space to make mistakes and get back on track. Don’t throw in the towel too early like I did. Instead, see anything that doesn’t work as information about what you might want to adjust as you go forward.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with increasing my daily writing time and shifting my schedule so that my writing takes an even more central role in my life. As I’ve been doing so, I’ve found myself fumbling my pretty-well established gym habit and getting caught in some awkward procrastination moments. Instead of deciding, “This isn’t working,” I’m tweaking my approach and studying my results every day to see what I can learn about what might work better for me tomorrow.

2. Approach habit building with an experimental mindset.

Along these same lines, if you approach your writing — or ANY habit — with the spirit of experimentation, you can give yourself some freedom to keep exploring until you find something that DOES work, instead of feeling like a failure for what doesn’t.

For instance, let’s say you’re trying to build a habit of writing daily and you start by committing to 5 minutes a day. But every day you find yourself not getting around to it at the end of the day and feeling too exhausted to do it. That’s good information, right? Waiting until the end of the day isn’t working. What else could you try? Morning writing? Lunchtime writing? Committing to write for 5 minutes at a specific time of day with a friend who will also write for 5 minutes at the same time?

3. If you have a rebellious nature, factor that into your plan.

If you tend to rebel against schedules and structures, try to factor that in as you plan for your new habit.

I find myself “getting all tragic” if I try to force myself to write seven days a week. (My Writer’s Circle members got a real laugh out of me saying that on one of our live coaching calls once.) Instead, I’ve committed to writing six days per week, always giving myself one day off from writing. It feeds my inner rebel and helps me feel refreshed for jumping back into writing the next day.

4. Know your procrastination tipping point and adjust accordingly.

On the other hand, you’ll also want to pay attention to when it starts to get hard to restart if and when you take days off. I’ve found that if I don’t write for a stretch of time, it’s HARD getting back on track. Up until now I’ve found that taking two days off is the point at which it gets hard for me to restart the next day, but I’m going to experiment with it further now that I’m increasing my weekday writing time.

So notice the point at which it becomes hard to restart and consider not exceeding that point whenever possible.

5. Know that it’s better to start small and start now — something is more than nothing.

Most of us who work with building regular writing habits are here for a reason — we struggle with procrastination and perfectionism more often than not (they feed each other in an endless cycle of perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis).

An important mindset shift you’ll want to make is recognizing the value of SOME progress versus NO progress. If I had written for 15 minutes every day for the last 10 years, I’d have at least 8 to 10 scripts under my belt at the same rate I’ve been developing my current one. No guilt or blame though, just a fact.

Also, know that when you’re habit building, you’ll want to go for doing ANYTHING first, then work up to more. We like to have our writers in the Circle write even for just five minutes a day or just focus on logging in to our online site every day for the first week — simply to put the focus and attention on the writing on a daily, regular basis. After that, it gets easier to bump it up to more over time.

So remember, frequency and consistency, not quantity, at least to start. Later you can go for consistency AND quantity. :)

Join the Writer’s Circle

Join the Writer's CircleThe next session of the Writer’s Circle starts soon. Yep, we DO keep writing during the summer and year-round. If you’re struggling to write consistently or feeling alone with your writing, you’ll want to join us for inspiration, support, accountability, and camaraderie. Register and find out more here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com.

Your turn

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

Warmly,

 Jenna

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Hand Reaching

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

 

 

 

dreaming eye

Only you can kill your dream

This post was inspired by a livejournal.com post I read by Jim Butcher, author of “The Dresden Files,” called “The Most Important Thing an Aspiring Author Needs To Know.” When I read it the other day, it brought tears to my eyes.

Don’t kill your own dream.

In his post, Butcher reminds us that any dream worth achieving requires the hard work of showing up regularly and making it happen. And it IS hard work.

When it comes to writing, he says:

“There probably aren’t going to be very many people who are actively supporting your efforts. You’ll probably have more than one person say or do something that crushes your heart like an empty Coke can. You’ll probably, at some point, want to quit rather than keep facing that uncertainty. In fact, the vast majority of aspiring authors (somewhere over 99 percent) self-terminate their dream. They quit. Think about this for a minute, because it’s important: THEY KILL THEIR OWN DREAM.”

In the face of all that adversity, it’s pretty easy to lose faith, give up hope, and want to quit before you ever really get started.

Don’t.

You signed up for this dream for a reason.

You want to write.

You are called to write.

Don’t kill your dream.

Being a writer means showing up regularly, putting your butt in your seat, and writing consistently. And seeing it through to completion, one word at a time.

I love Julia Cameron’s line, “Suit up, shut up, and show up.”

Being a writer means having the courage to face the fears that stop you cold.

Butcher says,”When it’s all done and you’re holding your first novel in your hand, you’re going to look back at your breaking-in period and wonder what all the drama was about. All the things that wrenched you inside out during the torment will suddenly seem small and unimportant.”

Don’t stop now.

Remember:

  • Don’t give up. Keep writing. You’re the only one that can make this happen.
  • Show up regularly. Write frequently and consistently. It’s much easier to dive back in when you write regularly.
  • Build a solid pattern of writing into your life. Organize your life around your writing vision.
  • Deal with your inner doubts.
  • Protect your dream like the precious seedling it is — plant it in fertile soil and tend it like your life depends upon it. 

Want help making your writing dream happen?

The “Just Do The Writing” online accountability circle is a powerful way to get support around maintaining a consistent presence with your writing. Registration closes tonight, March 15th at Midnight Eastern Time for the next session starting this Monday. Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com.

“Good if you want to write more and make fewer excuses not to write.”

“Loved leaving and getting comments on daily progress. it made me write almost every day! Now, I’m writing more consistently. I’m feeling good about all of it. I like getting to know the other participants. I’m feeling consistently creative. The course is good if you want to write more and make fewer excuses not to write. It’s so easy to talk oneself into not doing something creative and instead doing something mundane.” ~ Giulietta Nardone, Inspirational rebel, Writer and Karaoke singer, www.giuliettathemuse.com

writing2

Why do we write?

We write because we have stories to tell.

We write to entertain.

To explore.

To connect.

To teach.

We write because if we don’t, we can’t sleep.

We write to be paid.

We write for the joy of it.

We write because we said we would.

We write to document, explain, journal, create.

We write because we love it.

We write to expunge the terrible questions that captivate us.

To travel the neural pathways and find out where they go.

To see what happens.

Joss Whedon has said, “You either have to be writing or you shouldn’t be writing. That’s all.”

Why do you write?

Tell us in the comments.

 If you’re serious about writing, but find yourself blocked or procrastinating, join my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle to learn the skills you need to create a solid pattern of consistent writing and to get the support and accountability you need to show up every day.

Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com. Next session starts March 19th.

eclipse

Is there a dark side to accountability?

I’m a big fan of accountability.

Telling people you are going to do something is a great motivator for actually seeing it through.

It’s especially useful when it comes to doing something we care deeply about or holds great import in our lives but we have a lot of resistance around doing, like writing.

On some level, when we know we’re about to do something BIG, something that fulfills the calling or deeper purpose behind why we are here, we get scared.

We ask ourselves:

  • What if it works?
  • What if it doesn’t?
  • What if I can’t pull it off?

It’s like looking at the sun

These are the typical fears of someone staring their Big Dream in the face.

And usually, it’s too much to look at for long — it’s too bright, like staring into the sun.

And when we do look at our Big Dreams, they can feel overwhelming.

We feel like we have to do the whole thing NOW. Today. Tomorrow.

No wonder we put them off.

Take one bite at a time

That’s where the deliciousness of accountability for small daily action makes such a beautiful difference. It helps us break things down into the smallest incremental bites and take consistent action on them.

That’s how you eat an elephant — one bite at a time.

What happens when you don’t?

But what happens when you don’t take the small daily actions? I see people commit to their dreams but then fail to take action on them.

I feel so sad when this happens, not because they have failed to do their work, but because they have failed to ask for help.

True accountability can and should occur in a safe, supportive space where people feel comfortable coming forward and saying, “I’m not taking action on this and I don’t know why. Can you help me?”

Then, your accountability partners can help you find out why, and what might work better.

Safe space is co-created

One thing that many people fail to notice is that safe space is co-created.

When I welcome people into my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle, I make a point to talk about how we want participants to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. We want to know the whole person, the self that has an easy time and the self that has a hard time, so we can truly support and witness each other.

We co-create our safe space by being honest with each other. It doesn’t happen by accident or only on my end.

I hold the space, you come into it, and we perpetuate it by being present and truthful with each other.

Without honesty, we get shame

By being truthful together in that space, we can avoid falling into the dark side of accountability: Shame.

Shame can be a positive motivator when it comes to accountability — it’s part of what gets us into action. But if it persists, and we don’t take action and we don’t talk about it, it can consume us, overwhelm us, and keep us stuck.

Bottom line?

True accountability and support happens in partnership.

If you’re finding yourself hiding out, it’s time to get help. We ALL feel this way at times — I certainly do.

The key is to reach out and get support from the right people who can help you get back on track.

Your Turn

Does this inspire you to shift anything for yourself? We’d love to hear about it.

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

~> March 1st, 2012. Last day to register for my next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group on March 29th. Only ONE SPOT is remaining, and registration closes TOMORROW, Thursday, March 1st. Register here.

~> March 15th, 2012. Last day to register for the next session of my Writer’s Circle session starting on March 19th. Get my Free Writing Tips series too, and receive a coupon for a savings on your first 4 week session. Sign up here.

 

What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Writing in the ProSeries class at ScreenwritingU, which was recently named the #1 screenwriting class by InkTip.

~> Daily and especially Fridays. Sacred writing time. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.

~> Still haven’t watched Super Eight! I got to re-watch The Game yesterday for one of my screenwriting assignments. Great fun.

Sustaining Your Energy & Creativity

As a highly driven and highly creative person, I work hard.

I push myself, and I put in long hours, even when I know better.

As a highly sensitive person, I have learned to set limits — I don’t work weekends and try to keep evenings to a minimum, though that has been a bit slippery lately.

Although I aim for balance, I still get more tired than I want to, especially considering all the ambitions I have (quality time with my family, traveling, finishing my script, writing a book, doing my personal spiritual work, reading more, having alone time, connecting with my husband, gardening, sewing, keeping up with the house, papers & chores, spending time with friends, cooking, learning to paint, etc.).

I’ve done some great work with organizer Miriam Ortiz y Pino on creating time blocks in my schedule and my coach Isabel Parlett has helped me focus on putting first things first and creating powerful sacred writing time in my schedule.

It’s been so helpful and amazing!

But still. I know I want to feel better about all the wonderful things I’m doing and enjoy them more.

Keeping the Creative Well Full

As I’ve gotten my brand spankin’ new Writer’s Circle going just this week, I’ve been reminded of the importance of keeping the creative channels flowing and open.

I’ve learned from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, to aim to fill my “creative well” to overflowing, but I’ve never fully embraced the concept of artist dates, which is a primary tool for doing so along with great self-care. Though I love the idea in theory, I still find myself in a high level of resistance to seeing them through (a project for another day, perhaps).

How to Be Excellent — & Productive — At Anything

What I’ve been delighted with lately is a series of new insights I’m gleaning from Todd Henry’s new book, The Accidental Creative.

He makes a series of brilliant points that my obligation-pitfall / Life School of Service brain really needs to hear.

He quotes Tony Schwartz from his book How to Be Excellent at Anything:

The real issue is not the number of hours we sit behind a desk but the energy we bring to the work we do and the value we generate as a result. A growing body of research suggests that we’re most productive when we move between periods of high focus and intermittent rest. Instead, we live in a gray zone, constantly juggling activities but rarely fully engaging in any of them — or fully disengaging from any of them. The consequence is that we settle for a pale version of the possible.”

It’s Really All About Effectiveness, Not Efficiency

Todd Henry goes on to say:

“What Schwartz articulates so well is that even if we effectively manage our time and resources, but neglect our energy level, our effectiveness will decrease over time. Today’s success begets tomorrow’s success, so for the creative worker, when you lack the energy to generate ideas today, it takes a toll on tomorrow’s creative effectiveness. The longer the energy drain continues, the more you dig yourself into a hole.”

Ah Ha!

For my beleaguered creative brain, this is like a giant light bulb and a big “Duh” going off in my head all at the same time.

For me, not only does it remind me to call into question the truly insane work ethics of most creative and design related professions (70 hour work-weeks anyone?), it also has me asking about the sustainability of our standard work habits in a whole new way (never taking breaks, cramming as much into the day as possible, staying at your desk for hours on end, etc.)

Antidotes

For my Writer’s Circle, we’re working with a method of “writing sprints” or writing sessions, where we work for no more than 45 minute sessions before taking a break to do something enjoyable and/or renewing, like stretching, sitting in the sunshine, having a treat of some kind, or goofing off (consciously and deliberately) on the internet. So far so good.

The idea is to be able to do sustainable creative work in the long term.

Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Your Turn

I’d love to hear from you about this subject:

  • What thoughts does this inspire for you?
  • How do you build sustainability into your life?
  • Have you ever felt creatively burnt out? How did you recover?

Jenna

 

Coming Attractions

~> September 6th. Beta-testing my Writer’s Circle accountability system with a select group. Stay tuned for how you can participate next month, starting October 6th.

~> November 10th. My next Life Purpose Breakthrough ‘Big Vision’ Group. Details. Only 3 spots remaining.

 


~> This weekend. Right Brain Business Planning with my buddy Kris Carey.

~> FRIDAYS & now morning times too. Sacred writing days. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.

 

 

Focus and Structure and Goals, Oh My!

I’ve had this post title in mind for about 6 or 7 years, inspired by a conversation then with a long-time favorite colleague. Now is apparently just the right time to share it. :)

At the time, we were wrestling with the concepts of being unscheduled and unstructured to stay in the intuitive flow and to follow the energy of what was coming up. We were also talking about not wanting to feel limited by “defining” a niche. My friend didn’t want to be tied down by “focus and structure and goals.” As she said it, an “Oh My!” popped involuntarily from my mouth, à la The Wizard of Oz. We both laughed.

Structure Can Feel Like Death

To an intuitive, right-brained, creative genius, setting up schedules and picking goals can feel like a death-knell.

And yet so can not being paid well for your creative work. Or not getting the clients you want or feeling the satisfaction of seeing the project through ALL THE WAY to completion.

As a Big Dreamer and also a Big Doer, I love to Get Stuff Done.

But isn’t it funny how our Big Dreams can take a back seat to managing the minutiae of life? It’s all too easy for me to get swept up into catch-up work and meeting other people’s needs (School of Service, watch out) before meeting my own.

That’s where focus, structure, and goals can be quite handy.

Tools to Go

Here are a few of concepts that help me tremendously:

  1. Recognize when you’re procrastinating on the big stuff by taking care of the little stuff, and nip that in the bud.
  2. Put the “hard thing” first in the day and the rest will be downhill from there.
  3. Get clear on what your Big Dream is, commit to it, and make it a priority (see number 2).
  4. Block out specific chunks of time in your calendar to DO the Big Dream. I just made space in my calendar for my Big Writing projects. So far, going okay — a few temper tantrums and some conscious choices, but all good.
  5. Avoid multitasking (I still struggle with this one — it’s so easy for me to try to do multiple things at once but I know it doesn’t really work).
  6. If you can’t do the BIG thing for as long as you had planned, just do a LITTLE bit of it to keep the energy moving forward (Thanks, Miriam!)
  7. Stay accountable. Get a partner or join a group or participate in my weekly accountability group (see below) to help keep the commitment to yourself.

~~~~~

Big Dream Actioneering

And speaking of weekly accountability:

Once I’m done with my traveling this week, I plan to get into a regular rhythm of posting about my own progress on my Big Dream — writing my screenplay. I’ll post on a weekly basis and I’ll invite you join in and celebrate your progress and challenges as well.

For now, I’m going to post this here:

Challenges: It was HARD getting myself to write in the midst of all the busyness. Last week I was getting ready for my Voice Your Vision retreat and this week I’m getting ready to leave for Los Angeles (in just a couple of hours!). Making my writing a priority has not been easy. Knowing you all were out there waiting for me to report in about it helped. :)

Progress: I DID write. I made one conscious choice not to write on one of the days I had blocked out for writing so I could breathe a little easier about my other projects. But the other days I did write, and it felt great! My story has already evolved significantly and I think the title will shift as well. Good thing to find out. :) My characters are shaping up nicely and I am full of visual ideas and story milestones. So I’m looking forward to being back in the saddle again next week when my schedule settles down a bit.

How about you? What did you accomplish with your Big Dream this week?

~~~~~

In the spirit of Havi Brooks’ “Comment Zen,” I have this request:

Since I am exploring how to be more transparent, raw, vulnerable, and in my full, messy delicious creative energy in my posts, here’s what I would love to hear:

  • How you personally are doing whatever I’m writing about for yourself.
  • How my writing sparks something for you.
  • About your own stories, ideas, musings, and wonderings.

And I would love to skip:

  • You feeling like you need to take care of me, give me useful suggestions, or other well-meaning but unsolicited advice.

Thank you!

~~~~~

What’s Jenna Up To?

~> January 27th & 28th, 2011. Powerful Strategies to Slay Your Inner Critic Demons So You Can Leap Into the Creative Spotlight.” Appearing as a guest expert at Baeth Davis’s “Claim Your Spotlight” program in Los Angeles, California.

~> NEW DATE: February 22, 2011. Virtual Workshop: Claim Your Calling: 5 Steps To Get You Back On Track With What You Were Put Here To Do. Details. Early registration ends February 11th.

 

Commit to Your Big Dream

Because Dreaming Big is the best place to start…

My Big Dream (in addition to making a Big Difference in the world for others) is to be a writer — a Sci Fi writer no less, though most likely also a self-help writer Revolutionary Philosopher as well.

About a week ago I wrote my very first sci fi screenplay, under the gun of a competition deadline no less (big yikes). It may not be my best work ever, and it may not win the round I was competing in, but I DID IT. That’s what counts to me.

Since then, as I’ve been crafting and clarifying my next Big Direction for my coaching business (seems like everything is getting Big around here all of a sudden; I like it!), I realized that I need to make a much Bigger :) commitment to my own Big Dream.

… And does even better with a commitment

So, I just cleared space in my calendar every workday (that’s Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday) for one hour of writing time. And during that time, I will NOT be writing ezines, or blog posts, or articles, or web copy. Oh no.

What I WILL be doing is writing my feature length screenplay, come hell or high water. I will allow other Big writing projects during that time, e.g. writing my book, “Hey Folks, We’re Doing It All Wrong,” if I’m overcome with a massive inspiration. But it has to be Big Writing to qualify for that time block.

… And follow through

I intend to let you know how it’s going on the blog as a weekly accountability deal.

I’m not quite sure how I’ll handle it when I’m away or facilitating retreats quite yet (probably I’ll have to do a little schedule rearranging), but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

(I’m also sure my organizing coach will have some suggestions, and she’s the only one allowed to comment on this matter (see my request below). :) )

Drum roll, please, for the Big Invitation

This is where you come in: I’d like to invite you to join me. What’s your Big Dream? How have you committed to making it happen? I want to help you get your art, your message, or your movement to your audience, too.

Take a moment to think about your Big Dream and share what it is in the comments section below. Then tell us, how are you committing to making that happen?


~~~~~

In the spirit of Havi Brooks’ “Comment Zen,” I have this request:

Since I am exploring how to be more transparent, raw, vulnerable, and in my full, messy delicious creative energy in my posts, here’s what I would love to hear:

  • How you personally are doing whatever I’m writing about for yourself.
  • How my writing sparks something for you.
  • About your own stories, ideas, musings, and wonderings.

And I would love to skip:

  • You feeling like you need to take care of me, give me useful suggestions, or other well-meaning but unsolicited advice.

Thank you!

~~~~~

What’s Jenna Up To?

~> January 21st & 22nd, 2011. Voice Your Vision Mastermind Retreat. In-Person Workshop in Berkeley, California. Clarify your unique vision to implement your Life Purpose in a specific, step-by-step plan. Details: www.VoiceYourVisionWithJenna.com

~> January 27th & 28th, 2011. Powerful Strategies to Slay Your Inner Critic Demons So You Can Leap Into the Creative Spotlight.” Appearing as a guest expert at Baeth Davis’s “Claim Your Spotlight” program in Los Angeles, California.

~> NEW DATE: February 22, 2011. Virtual Workshop: Claim Your Calling: 5 Steps To Get You Back On Track With What You Were Put Here To Do. Details. Early registration ends January 27th.

~~~~~