cry for help

What I really think when you’re not writing

When someone signs up for the Writer’s Circle, and doesn’t participate, I am always fascinated to know why. I don’t assume that the person is lazy or just not writing. And sometimes there are real reasons, like a sudden death in the family or an unexpected deadline at work.

But more often than not, when someone isn’t writing, it’s resistance. Resistance means avoiding the very thing you know you most want to do. In fact, the bigger the calling, the more resistance.

And if you’re the one in resistance, it can be tricky to spot. The stories we tell ourselves become so familiar, we take them as givens.

Garden variety resistance

Stories like “being too busy”, for instance, are common. It’s our best socially acceptable excuse, after all! These are the more obvious cases, where the writer says they want to write, but fails to do so, saying they are too busy.

It’s resistance, plain and simple.

Sure. It might ALSO be true that they are too busy. But WHY are they too busy? What self-created realities are they living in that make them too busy to write?

Resistance leads us to create overflowing lives with impossible tasks and deadlines, because if we CAN’T write, we don’t have to write. Saved!

We always have a choice

The thing is, though, we make the choices that create our lives.

Sure, we might have to hold down day jobs. But we don’t have to be perfectionists about Every Single Bit of work that we do, or work Every Single Available Hour to successfully accomplish our jobs. Perfectionism keeps us working on other projects far longer than necessary. Being busy in this way is the ultimate form of procrastination.

The reality is that it is almost always possible to write for just a few minutes a day, no matter how busy you are. Usually if you can’t find a few minutes, it’s because you’re allowing perfectionism and resistance to get in the way, one way or the other. Even taking on too much work is a form of perfectionism, because when we can’t write, we don’t have to, and we don’t have to see ourselves fail to reach our own impossibly high standards.

Insidious types of resistance

The more insidious types of resistance are new projects that suddenly demand our attention, like just when we’ve finally committed to writing a novel, we decide we have to start a thirty-day workout program, get another degree, start a new business, clear our clutter, move, or fix our finances.

Why do we do this?

On the surface, it might look like we’re mastering self-improvement in all areas of our lives, all at once. It feels so good to finally be committing to writing that we overcommit to trying to improve everything in our lives. Or it might look like we’ve gotten clear that these other projects are more important to do first.

It looks noble. Or smart, to get your priorities in order.

But underneath, it’s self-sabotage.

What we’re really doing is simply avoiding the writing. We might not be willing or able to admit it to ourselves at the time, but raw naked terror is running the show. Better to build one habit or make one major change at a time, ideally in small manageable pieces.

There’s nothing like signing up for something like the Writer’s Circle or committing to doing the work, and then seeing yourself run fleeing in the other direction (or just plain old losing interest) to clue you in to the fact that you are secretly TERRIFIED of facing the page.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being scared.

In fact, it’s ENTIRELY normal. If you aren’t scared, you might even be doing it wrong.

You might be surprised about what I really think when you aren’t writing

But here’s the thing. If you tell me you want to write and the instantly do the opposite, you might be surprised (or not, if you know me at all!) to know that I DON’T think:

  • He’s being lazy.
  • She isn’t serious about being a writer.
  • He doesn’t have what it takes.

Far from it.

In fact, what goes through my brain is:

  • Oh, poor thing, she must be terrified.
  • I wonder if he knows he’s running away.
  • I hope she will reach out for help instead of hiding.
  • I wonder if he knows how defended he is right now.
  • I wonder what she’s doing instead of writing and how I can help her troubleshoot it.

What I really see hidden in the way writers act out after they’ve committed to writing but don't do it – is a cry for help.

The bigger the badder

And the larger the way the resistance plays out, the more terror I see:

  • Taking on new responsibilities at work or for the kids' schools? Scared.
  • Going out drinking every night instead of writing? Panicky.
  • Suddenly deciding to start a new business venture or get a fine arts degree? Petrified.

All these kinds of choices – whether they are sudden new choices or chronic patterns – they are resistance, and show us how scared we truly are.

Is this grounds for self-flagellation?


Far from it.

It’s powerful information.

When you know you are not lazy or weak willed but scared, then you know how to deal with it.

The antidote for fear

The antidote for fear is courage.

But it’s also about having a super simple plan to bypass the fear and get into action with the smallest possible steps to get you writing. (I can help you with that here and here.)

So when I see you not writing, my first response is compassion, followed by tons of support and brainstorming to help you get going again. It’s as simple as that.



Make 2015 your year to write (Part four!)

Welcome back to the Make 2015 Your Year to Write series. 

If you're just joining us, here's what we've been up to: In our we began with part one, on reflecting on your writing life so far, then in part two looked at your patterns, challenges, and insights, and in part three began tapping in to what you want for your writing life.

Today in part four, we'll look at how to close the gap between where you are right now and where you want to end up so you can start making real plans for how to get there.

Remember, if you have questions, thoughts, challenges, comments, or problems, I'm your coach this week! Just post them in the comments section on the blog and I'll be sure to address or answer them for you. (And if you're joining us "late" in this process, not to worry, just jump in, the water's fine. :) )

On to part four!


Examine the gap in your writing life

Whenever we have a goal we want to meet or a place we want to end up, there is a certain amount of distance between now and then, or here and there. 

Since we spent some time looking at where you want to GO in our part three work, now we can take a clearer look at what's currently in the way of you getting there.

For instance, you might be bumping into a whole variety of obstacles like:

  • Being too busy or not having enough time to write
  • Having too many other obligations with work and family
  • Dealing with the kinds of creative or life challenges we talked about in part two
  • Trying to "find" time to write instead of making it happen
  • Getting caught up in other people's needs or drama

But you might also be need to make changes about the way you are approaching your writing life.

You might right now be:

  • Not setting strong boundaries to protect your writing time
  • Not making writing one of your topmost priorities (It really needs to be in the top 3 to 5 to become a reality.)
  • Thinking about your writing in a negative way
  • Creating fantasies about what you need to write instead of just writing
  • Constantly debating about "IF" you are going to write each day instead of being clear about "WHEN"

When we look closely at these we can see that some of these are things we need to remove from our writing lives, while others might be things that we can add. Both would have a positive result in our ability to write more, or consistently.

So think about what you've learned from the last few days of exploration and then answer these questions: 

1. What do you want to remove from your writing life?

When you think about things you might want to remove from your writing life to make it flow more easily, what comes to mind? 

For instance, you might notice that you feel ready to let go of:

  • Extra obligations that have outworn their welcome, like the volunteer job that's not fulfilling anymore, or social commitments you don't feel nurtured by
  • Limiting beliefs about your ability to write
  • Outdated relationships with people who don't hold your writing in high esteem
  • Excuses and stories about why you can't write
  • Unprofessional writing relationships and groups
  • Writing projects that have outworn their welcome
  • Bad writing habits like perfectionism or binge-writing

2. What do you want to add to your writing life?

On the other hand, sometimes the gap can be closed when you start adding things in to your writing life, like:

  • A regular, daily writing practice
  • Boundaries that teach people to respect your writing time
  • Urgency and deadlines so you feel motivated to write daily and to finish projects consistently
  • A writing schedule, as in, on an actual calendar with actual times where you will show up and write
  • Accountability and support from people who know how much writing means to you and help you show up and actually do it
  • A writing community of friends who believe in you and support you to make it happen, day in and day out
  • A special place to write in your home, your office, or elsewhere
  • Making a life decision to treat your writing professionally
  • The proper tools and training

Again, there are no right answers here, only what fits best for you. Take some time with the writing prompts today to see what no longer fits for you and what might be a welcome change.

Here are some responses from my Writer's Circle members:

From Helen, a Writer's Circle member:

"This year, I added what I wanted to add: A positive, loving, caring support group that positively encourages my progress. This is your Writer's Circle coaching group, Jenna. What I wish to remove is the negativity that comes from my current academic environment. Constant negative criticism and nagging do little to motivate me; on the contrary, they usually block my creativity and desire to write."

From Sonya, another Writer's Circle member:

"I’ve spent the last year in Jenna’s coaching and writing circle. I chose to do it after listening to her four-session course, 'Design Your Writing Life'. It inspired me to get my writing act together, so to speak. I had been writing sporadically for my own blog, without a real purpose other than to share information and practical advice. I wanted to get more consistent about writing and find a more sustainable writing habit.

"Over the year, I have written a lot more, and a lot more consistently but it has still been what I call sporadic. I’d like to remove this sporadic behavior from my life. I’d like to get into an even more consistent, regular writing habit. I’d like to add writing time that is sacred. I have not been holding writing time sacred. I have been running it over with a Mack truck on a regular basis. That needs to stop. I need to be more consistent and sit down and write, every day, no matter what. No matter for how long.

"I have this unrealistic picture in the back of my mind of having a tiny house in my back yard and having it totally devoted to my own creativity (really, a room of one’s own), for writing, music, quilting, sewing, scrapbooking, photography. It’s about a $10K investment to do this through a friend’s company who makes them. I don’t have an extra $10K lying around to use for this purpose so I currently tend to sit at the kitchen table or on the couch to write. I know I should find a writing space in my home and write in that spot consistently. But to date, I haven’t been able to get comfortable in any space to write consistently. 

"I also don’t like to write when others are around so I tend to do other things when I have my kids (every other week). All of these things feel like excuses, one after another. I need to stop making excuses and just do the writing.

"I guess what it comes down to is that I want to remove excuses from my (writing) life and add an attitude of 'write anyway' to my life."


pen coffeeWriting prompts for Part four: Close the gap

Now it's your turn. Here are your writing prompts for today. You can write about then in your journal, discuss them with your writing buddies, or just mull them over when you have a quiet moment. Then if you're inspired to do so, please share your responses and/or insights in the comments section on the blog. Free to leave questions for me too, if you have them.

  • What do you want to remove from your writing life?
  • What do you want to add to your writing life?

And don't miss tomorrow's installment, where we'll tune into the vision for your longer term writing career. It'll be fun and inspiring! See you then. :)






Make 2015 your year to write (Part two!)

Welcome back to the Make 2015 Your Year to Write series, where we're continuing with our writing prompts and process to help you set real, attainable writing goals and resolutions for 2015.

To catch up, in our first installment we began with reflecting on your writing life so far. Today we'll continue that work by looking at the patterns and challenges you've faced this year, including more writing prompts for you to explore.

Remember, if you have questions, thoughts, challenges, comments, or problems, I'm your coach this week! Just post them in the comments section on the blog and I'll be sure to address or answer them for you. (And if you start the process "late", not to worry, just come on in and join us.)

Let's dive in to part two of our process, starting with looking at patterns and challenges, then moving into what we've learned and what we might like to do differently in the future.


Notice the writing patterns and challenges you’ve faced this year -- and what you've learned as a result

As writers, we're likely to have a collection of patterns that we fall into. We're also likely -- because we are living, breathing human beings :) -- to face a number of challenges over the course of a year. When we take an objective, information-gathering look at the impacts our patterns and challenges have on our writing, we can learn a great deal about what's working and what's not -- and what we want to do differently next year. 

We'll look at each of these in turn, starting first with patterns.

1. What writing patterns have you noticed?

When you think back over the year as a whole, this is a great opportunity to observe the larger patterns of your writing habit and process. There may be both supportive and unsupportive patterns that you notice. 

For example, here are some supportive patterns you might have experienced:

  • Writing every day or near-daily throughout the year.
  • Easily getting back on track with your writing habit if you get thrown off by things like travel or illness.
  • Finding your way successfully (even if it's hard) through your own creative process without getting bogged down or stopped overly long at any point along the way.
  • Regularly and consistently finishing your writing projects and/or hitting your major writing milestones.
  • Treating your writing like a professional responsibility by prioritizing it and showing up for it and yourself.

Here are some examples less supportive patterns you might have noticed:

  • Tending to procrastinate or get sucked into meaningless distractions before writing every day (or not writing at all!).
  • Not writing regularly, or binge-writing only when there's a deadline looming.
  • Falling into perfectionism and refusing to move forward with a project until you know exactly what you're doing (a big one for me).
  • Changing your mind about which project you're going to work on so much so that you find yourself making little progress on anything. We call this "project hopping" in the Writer's Circle.
  • Falling out of the habit of writing and struggling to get back on track -- or avoiding it altogether.
  • Overthinking instead of turning to the page and just doing the writing.
  • Constantly looking for outside answers from experts, classes, and others rather than relying on yourself.

IMPORTANT: There's no judgement here. This is about observing what has worked for you and what has not, so that you can begin to make changes as you move forward into 2015.

From Sonya, a Writer's Circle member:

"I have noticed a couple of patterns related to my writing this year. First, I tend to procrastinate in a major way when writing involves disclosing anything that might make me the least little bit vulnerable or sharing something remotely emotional. I also procrastinate with work writing when I don’t feel like an expert in the subject or I might not come across as knowing what the heck I am talking about. Which is ironic because with most legal writing that I read these days, it is simplistic and not well thought out. I guess I don’t want to be lumped in with that type of writing and I want to be respected and thought well of professionally."


2. What challenges have you faced?

As writers, we face a wide range of challenges every day. We can call these the "usual suspects". But over the course of the year -- a lifetime even -- the challenges become broader and deeper, and have a life-scale impact. As we review what we've done this year and the things that have come up along the way, it's worth being cognizant of the challenges we've tackled along with our writing, so we can be more compassionate with our own self-assessment.

Let's look at some examples of the kinds of challenges you might have faced on this year.

The usual suspects.

First, the usual suspects. These are the "garden variety" challenges we face as writers, like resistance, procrastination, and perfectionism. I call them garden variety types not to diminish them but because of how commonplace they are -- we face them Every Single Day.

Here's a quick list of some of the "favorites":

  • resistance
  • procrastination
  • fear
  • doubt
  • insecurity
  • apathy
  • confusion
  • perfectionism

And this is what we have to overcome every day just to get to the page.

Creative challenges.

Beyond those usual suspects, then larger creative challenges come into play.

For example, receiving difficult feedback can be a huge challenge to work through. (And sometimes so can positive feedback!) Managing multiple projects with multiple deadlines can overwhelm us. Having trouble choosing projects can be another. Even dealing with our own standard playbook of personal bugaboos fits into this group of creative challenges.

Sometimes we're also recovering from creative wounds from our past -- or present -- that impact our writing. They tend to drive those usual suspects from a deeper place, as the underlying reasons for them.

Life challenges.

And then there's the big picture. Writing is part of life. It doesn't exist outside of life in some kind of vacuum. This is something that's eminently clear to me as someone who coaches writers over the long term through our Writer's Circle.

In our small coaching groups, our writers go through many major life events over the course of a year.

Family members die.

Babies are born.

Beloved animal companions and pets pass on.

People get cancer and go through treatment.

Weddings are held.

Major illnesses come up.

From my notebook:

"My biggest life challenge this year was having a baby. I knew it would be a huge change, and it was. I found myself feeling a bit lost in my own reality at times. But it was gratifying to see that I could find my way through such a major life upheaval and come back to my writing in a strong way."

From Sonya:

"I have transitioned jobs form a full time job, commuting to San Francisco to being a consultant with work and clients but not full time. It has thrown me off of any routine or time constraints and I haven’t fully adjusted to this change in schedule and priorities. I need to get into a better routine for writing. I did maintain a daily fitness routine and now I need to figure out a daily writing routine that I can sustain and stick to. I probably need to brainstorm ideas on this topic with someone or on a coaching call. I’m obviously not solving it on my own. That’s what coaches and support groups are for – to help us solve things that we can’t solve on our own."

All these things affect us. And they can take a real toll when it comes to our writing life. It's not always easy to just roll with these punches and come back up in full fighting form. Sometimes we need time to bounce back and recover. And sometimes we need lots of support.


3. What were the biggest things you learned about your writing this year?

Once you've given some thought to the patterns and challenges you've faced, think about what you can learn from them that will inform your writing life to come. You can also think about what you've learned from your own writing process. 

For instance, you may realize you need to build in more padding in your writing planning and scheduling to account for the ups and downs. Or have heart-to-heart talks with your loved ones about respecting your writing time. 

Or perhaps you may be noticing that you are capable of a lot more than you thought you were, but need to give thought to protecting yourself from creative burnout.

The answers will be different for each of us.

From Wendy, a Writer's Circle member:

"I've learned that consistently showing up and being a writer rather than trying to be a writer works."

From Jo, a Writer's Circle member:

"I realized and finally acknowledged how vital writing is to me and has been since from childhood. And realizing that the deep gnaw inside has been the result of ignoring and undervaluing writing. If I had continued to do that, I know it would be the great regret I would have while sitting on the rocking chair on the front porch of the old folks’ home drooling into my chin hairs.

"I am tired of trying to find the “right” way to write or express myself. That path leads to too much discomfort and anxiety to bring to something that is so vital to who I am and what I want to accomplish in the world. It is an exhausting way to approach a creative life. So I am learning to stop turning on myself. I am gradually getting better letting go of the “right” way and working on finding “my” way to write.

"I also learned to protect my writing from those in my life who refuse to respect it and how vital it is to me. My creativity is an inner event and I need to nurture it by keeping it safe from negative influences. When my writing is ready, I will trust in my abilities and in the process and let it go to find it’s way in the world and it’s meaning in the minds, eyes and hearts of readers. Until then I will only share with those who can respect the creative life."

From Helen, a Writer's Circle member:

"For me, writer's block is usually the case of not having an organized work environment and/or a calm/organized mind.  When my writing table is clear, and my mind is clear after meditation, then I feel ready to attack the task at hand."


4. Is there anything you regret or wished you might have done differently?

While I don't want to bog you down in regrets, it is worth taking time to notice and acknowledge anything you wish you had done differently.

The reason to do this is so that you can be more clear about what you might like to change or work on as you go forward.

Wendy says:

"My biggest regret is the self-doubts that have slowed my progress."

Jo notes:

"I regret not honouring my writing more myself. I did this by avoiding it often, by feeling that it was trivial or “airy-fairy” or self-indulgent."

Sonya says:

"I wish I had written more consistently this year. Even though I have the writing sprints on my calendar every day, I tend to ignore them if there is the slightest bit of interference. I need to keep to the sprints and use that hour to write. Or I need to set aside an hour a day to write – no matter what. I don’t think I’ll find one consistent time each day (like 8 am every day) but I do think I can plan my writing time on Sundays the way I plan my exercise time for the coming week."


5. What might you do differently in the coming year to address those things? Is there anything to forgive yourself for?

Having given thought to all these patterns, challenges, and insights, what might you like to do differently in the coming year? Is there anything you're holding on to a judgement about that you can let go of and forgive yourself for?

From my notebook:

"I need to remember everything I've been through this year when I look back and wish I had done more. I can forgive myself for being human and not just being a writing machine. I can remind myself that I'm here to live a rich life AND be a writer who produces regularly.

"In terms of next year, to combat my perfectionist's tendencies, I need to stay on top of noticing when I get stuck in overthinking or believing I need to look outward for solutions, and instead just keep turning back to the page, again, again, and again to write my way through my stuck places. I need to keep the focus on getting the words on the page and solving problems later."


Writing prompts for part two: Challenges & Insights

pen coffeeHere are your writing prompts for part two, assembled in one place for your writerly convenience.

Take them to your journal, talk them over with your writing colleagues, or just contemplate them when you can (or answer them in the comments if you feel inspired). 

Once you've answered the prompts, share your insights, thoughts, or questions in the comments section.

  • What writing patterns have you noticed?
  • What challenges have you faced?
  • What were the biggest things you learned about your writing this year?
  • Is there anything you regret or wished you might have done differently?
  • What might you do differently in the coming year to address those things? Is there anything to forgive yourself for?

And be sure to come back for tomorrow's exercise, where we'll start tapping into where you want your writing life to be headed.

"See" you tomorrow!







3 antidotes for an otherwise “perfect” process

I was raised in a family where there's a right way and a wrong way, and great woe to the one who chose the wrong way. It was my early training program in perfectionism.

I learned to figure out what the right way was, and always do that. It was safer that way. And easier.

But it wasn't very creative. And it certainly didn't foster much in the way of independent thinking.

Over the years I've gotten better and better about doing things -- including writing -- even when I can do them far less than perfectly. I've learned to be willing to make mistakes, to try things, to "ship" before I'm ready, to create tons of accountability for myself so I can push through where I used to get stuck in the past, and to live more on my own creative edge.

So imagine my surprise in discovering that my own perfectionism was alive and well -- raging even -- this year.

It's an evil thing, perfectionism. So sweet at times. We'll talk about "a perfect day" with a sigh -- and we mean it, it was lovely and delicious and wonderful, everything felt just right. But how do we go from that to the paralyzed inaction of perfectionism when we can't figure out the exact right thing to write?

The insidious nature of perfectionism

For the record, perfectionism is defined as a “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” It means having such impossibly high standards that nothing can ever measure up.


Including ourselves.

And it mucks up many aspects of our lives, including our relationships, finances, parenting, self-care, health habits, and especially our creativity. It rips holes in our self-esteem and our productivity if we let it.

Let's talk about how perfectionism works in a creative process:

  • Perfectionism triggers procrastination. If we don't know the answer in a creative project, we often stop and wait until we can figure it out (or bang our heads against the wall trying to solve it before proceeding). If it doesn't feel right it must therefore be wrong, but what could the right answer be? This can trigger a kind of obsessive procrastination that sometimes looks productive, but isn't -- researching, discussing, debating, thinking about -- instead of writing.
  • Perfectionism feels safer. If I can't get it done perfectly, then I won't do it at all. It's a very black and white, fixed mindset that doesn't allow for learning, growth, or much creativity. (Creativity is MESSY!)
  • Perfectionism leads to paralysis. If we procrastinate long enough, waiting for the right answers, we can stumble into a lasting paralysis. I don't know what to do, I can't do anything. I'm blocked! I can't figure out which way to go. I better stay right here.
  • Perfectionism keeps us from getting feedback. Perfectionists are often extremely reluctant to share our work with anyone or ask for feedback on it. We are terrified of finding out it's not good enough, not done yet, and will require more work. More work that we can hardly bear to do because it's so painstaking. What if they hate my writing? What if I'm not as good as I should be and they can tell? What if they find out that I am an impostor? Ironically, perfectionists often reject the feedback they receive as well, usually as "not good enough". 
  • Perfectionism keeps us from finishing. There's nothing like not finishing to guarantee that no one will notice that the work is less than perfect. It's much, much "safer" not to finish. It's not living up to what I imagined it would be. It just feels wrong. I'm stuck. I can't finish. I'll never finish. There's no point. But not finishing creates self-doubt and its own kind of paralysis: I must not love writing enough. I'm not a real writer. 
  • Perfectionism is an escape hatch. This is a tricky one that Corey Mandell talks about. We sometimes use perfectionism to let us off the hook. We create situations where we "don't have enough time" to get it done perfectly so we phone it in, require less of ourselves, or rush to do it all at the last minute. So when we turn in less-than-our-best work, we have an excuse for why we couldn't live up to our own impossibly high standards. 

Three antidotes for perfectionism

I've recently experienced a perfect storm of three different antidotes for perfectionism that came together in a powerful way.

Antidote #1: Think of perfectionism as just one of many ways to write

One of my mentors, Hal Croasmun of ScreenwritingU, has been talking about perfectionism in the Master Screenwriting Certificate program I'm taking. I've been hearing him talk about it for months, but honestly? I kept telling myself that I knew better than to fall for my own perfectionism and that I wasn't falling for it, because I was still writing.

But I was also writing more slowly than I wanted to be writing, and I was finding that I was struggling to "figure out" a lot of my story. The answers weren't coming easily, and I kept finding myself in rabbit hole after rabbit hole of confusion and overthinking.

When Hal described perfectionism as "just one of many processes" we can use as writers, I started seeing it in a new way. 

He says we have many methods to choose from when we write, and perfectionism is an excellent tool for our final, polished draft. But it is not a good tool for getting our first drafts written.

He got me thinking about how I was going about my writing process: I was going along, completing the assignments he had given us, and any time I hit a place I was confused, I would stop, and try to figure it out. Sounds pretty normal, right? But what I wasn't noticing were all the arguments I was having with myself while I was doing that, like:

  • You have to get this right or people will think you don't know what you're doing.
  • You should have gotten a science degree if you were serious about writing sci-fi.
  • It won't be real sci-fi, it'll just be a crummy space opera. (For the record I love space operas.)
  • You need to do a ton more research.
  • You've got to know exactly how this world works or it'll never make sense and the whole script will fall apart.

But after listening to Hal on the subject of perfectionism, I realized that what I was doing was trying to protect myself from failure and rejection by trying to get it done perfectly. But by doing so, I was also stopping myself from moving ahead and was falling further and further behind in class, which is not in alignment with what I actually want.

And something fell into place for me. Finally landed.

Hal has been telling us from the start of the program to give ourselves permission to write crap (I tell people this too, for goodness sakes!) and that if we don't know the answer to something, to either leave it blank or put down a guess and just move on. I made a vow to myself to do exactly that. To work with my outline and my writing process in a more experimental, exploratory way -- a different way to write -- while I'm working through this first draft.

Antidote #2: "Anything other than writing must come after writing."

Around the same time I was listening to Hal, I was also reading Chuck Wendig's latest ebook, 30 Days In the Word Mines, and stumbled onto this little gem about productivity.

"It’s very easy to do a lot of things and feel productive but, at the end, not be productive. This includes:

  • editing as you go
  • research
  • world building
  • networking/social media
  • marketing (before the book is done)
  • talking about writing
  • reading about writing

That’s not to say these are universally unproductive or unnecessary -- but really, when you’re working on a first draft, your best and strongest foot forward is: Write. Nothing else. Produce words. Jam words into sentences. Cram sentences into paragraphs. Paragraphs into chapters. Chapters into stories. Anything other than writing must come after writing." 

What if my "solutions" for my perfectionism-driven fears were manifesting as these kinds of sidetracks? What if instead I just focused on getting it down, rather than figuring it out, as Julia Cameron says?

I made another vow. No more editing. No more researching. No more looking up words in the dictionary. 

Just doing the writing.

Antidote #3: You're not allowed to hate it until it's done.

I also found myself having an illuminating inner conversation last Monday morning.

After my first two vows, I'd been happily outlining on Sunday night, moving along, Getting It Done. 

But then when I woke up on the next day, I found myself thinking, "I hate this script."

(I believe it is highly significant that I was having these thoughts while not working on the project. I find that I get into more trouble with my work when I'm not working on it than when I'm actually putting pen to page or fingers to keyboard.)

My negative thought-stream went on for a few minutes but then I caught myself, realizing that it was NOT helping me. 

So instead I decided, "I am not allowed to hate this script until it is finished. Then I can decide what I think of it. And only then."

After all, even the Pixar folks know you don't really know what you have until something is finished... and then you rewrite!

What if it's TRULY okay not to know the answers?

When this all connected, I realized that I could drastically pick up the pace of my writing if I really, truly, honestly just gave myself permission to NOT KNOW THE ANSWERS. To go with my best ideas, trust myself that I would fix it later if it didn't work, and to move on.

I found myself blazing through my outline as a result, leaving question marks, blank spots, and DKs where I was stuck. (DK = Don't Know, which is easily searchable in a draft since "DK" is an unlikely letter combination.) And I also -- to my surprise and delight -- started coming up with new ideas and solutions for issues I'd been trying to solve in my head rather than through the process of writing.

Since then I've wrapped up my outline and starting writing pages for the script, and it's going faster than I've written in a long time.

It's filled with notes and flaws and details to come.

And that's totally okay. 

Because the biggest win in this small segment of my writing journey is that I'm LOVING the process of writing again. And that's worth more to me than just about anything.


What's your perfectionism recovery story? Let us know in the comments!


writing wordle 3

7 ways to recommit to your writing

Writing consistently, regularly, and honestly is a challenge.

But it's a challenge worth meeting.

And when it comes to delivering on that task, it turns out that discipline is an over-rated solution when it comes to writing. Having a writing system and habit is what gets it done, day in and day out. But even when you have a writing habit in place, you still have to constantly refine it, improve it, and raise the bar when you get complacent. 

Because there are times in our writing lives when we can become complacent. We can hit rough patches and take breaks. We can lose momentum or get our writing disrupted by travel or work or kids or LIFE. We can lose confidence in our projects and our ability to write. We can get knocked on our asses by feedback that takes weeks to recover from. And we can also fall into writing without purpose or intention, particularly when we don't have specific deadlines or milestones we're trying to hit. 

The problem is that this kind of complacency will suck the vibrancy out of you, your writing, and your writing life. You might appear to be productive, as one of my Writer's Circle members said this week, but really, you're asleep with your eyes open and you know it. And it doesn't feel good. 

The solution?


When you find yourself in this place, it's time to recommit to yourself as a writer. To your writing. To your writing life.

It's about shifting back into a higher gear. Treating your writing like the life's calling it is. Making it a priority. Making it happen.

7 ways to recommit to your writing

When you find yourself phoning it in or going through the motions, here's what you can do to change it up and get back on track with what you were put here to do:

  1. Write like your life depends on it. You’re here to write, right? So do that. Take your writing seriously. Move mountains if necessary to make it happen, even if you’re hitting only your barest minimum “rock bottom goal” for the day. It counts, and it makes a big difference to your psyche when you honor your commitment to yourself this way.
  2. Up your game. Check in with yourself about how you’re feeling about your writing. You might be feeling lulled into a sense of complacency. You might be feeling good about your writing and what you’re accomplishing. But if you have a nagging sense that it’s time to require more of yourself, do that. Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals to help you make that happen. Look for deadlines or create them. Get accountability into place for yourself. Do what you're saying you're going to do. Create a sense of alertness, urgency, or briskness for yourself about your writing so you remember why you are here and make it happen.
  3. If today you can’t write, couldn’t bring yourself to write, don’t want to write, hate writing, or something else happened that stopped you from writing, TELL SOMEONE SAFE. This is a little bit like falling off the wagon if you are a recovering alcoholic. You've got to talk to your sponsor ASAP. Get to your people as fast as you can and get help getting back on track. Tell them/us your worst, darkest thoughts about writing. We can take it. We’ve probably had those same thoughts too. The thing is, we ALL have obstacles to writing. They run the gamut from perfectionism to distraction to limiting beliefs to creative confusion and apathy. Our collective work as writers is to systematically unearth and remove these obstacles one by one so they no longer stop us from doing what we were put here to do. (This is a big focus of what we do in the Writer's Circle, and what’s particularly brilliant about the system is that seeing other writers remove obstacles helps us do so too.)
  4. Stay out of comparison. Everyone is on their own path when it comes to writing. Someone else will be writing more than you, someone else will be writing less. Someone will be more successful than you are right now and someone will be less so. IT DOESN’T MATTER. We are all on our own writing journeys. What matters is that you are meeting your own goals and working on your writing habit and writing career based on where you are and where you want to go. So you if you see someone writing for 4 (even 8 or 10!) hours a day and someone else aiming to write for 5 minutes a day, don't worry about it. Just keep your eyes on your own paper and what you are doing for yourself. It’s all good. Just keep writing.
  5. Plan ahead. If you’re writing for 5 of 7 days per week or taking holidays off or whatever it is that you are doing — decide ahead of time. Don’t have the conversation about “IF” you are writing today. Know that you’re writing or not writing that day and act accordingly. Have the conversation about “WHEN” you will be writing. It’ll be much easier that way.
  6. Be as clear as possible about what you’re working on. This whole writing thing is a LOT easier if you have one specific project you’re working on and keep working on until it’s done. Particularly if you’re in writing habit building mode, you may find it easier to focus on simpler writing, like doing morning pages or responding to journal prompts to get started. But ultimately, being crystal clear about your project choice will give you direction, momentum, and purpose. Working on multiple projects at once (aka project stacking or layering) is an advanced skill, in my opinion. So save that for later if you’re working on strengthening your writing habit right now.
  7. Just do the writing. We called our group the "Just Do The Writing Accountability Circle" in the past. The reason we say “just do the writing” is that it really is the right solution in most cases. Thinking about writing, talking about writing, avoiding writing, and otherwise dithering about writing usually doesn’t fix whatever the problem is, whereas writing usually does. I say usually, because sometimes there are creative wounds that need healing, and sometimes we need to write about the writing to find out what’s going on with the work, but interestingly the way through both those things is still writing. So just do the writing and you’ll be in good shape. :) (And if you need help with a creative wound, I'm here to help.) 

Where are you with your writing right now? Is it getting to be time to step it up a notch? Are you phoning it in? What on this list inspires you most to make a change?

Tell us in the comments so we can celebrate with you and help you keep your word to yourself.

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.



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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:

Your turn

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



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10 tips to get unstuck and write more now

Note: This is a continuation of last week’s blog post: What to do when you want to write but you’re not writing: 6 steps to get back on track. If you want to receive my special Writer’s Series of articles in your inbox, make sure you sign up for my Free Writing Tips series (see the graphic in the sidebar).

Writing regularly is easier than it looks. Like I said recently, discipline isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My personal goal is to make NOT writing a whole lot harder than it is to write. It’s working! So far I’ve finished a feature length script, 3 shorts, a short story, and countless articles and blog posts. You can do it too.

Here are 10 tips for getting unstuck and making writing regularly a whole lot easier:

Tip #1: Brainstorm.

If you’re good and truly stuck on a specific part of your project, first try brainstorming. It’ll let your mind relax and give you a chance to “try on” ideas rather than feeling like you have to come up with the “right” one.

Then, if you’re staying stuck, check to see if you need more information — research, a class, training, a mentor, etc. It’s OKAY to get help. Really!

Tip #2: Be in community.

Writing can be a dismally lonely business at times. Sure, when you’re on fire and things are rolling, you’re fine. But what about when you hit the skids and you feel that desperate sense of isolation or feel like you’re the only one facing the fear and self-doubt? Every single writer in my Writer’s Circle talks about the same challenges and issues. It’s heartening to know you are not alone.

Tip #3: Never look at a blank page.

If a blank page feels overwhelming to you, don’t use one. Start with questions, a structure, an outline, anything.

When I start a script I first outline the major story beats by numbering and listing them on the page, then I break them down into smaller beats. By the time I paste that into my screenwriting software, I’ve got a pretty good idea of where I’m headed. And I never stare at an empty page wondering what to put onto it.

Tip #4: Keep the “parts” on the table for as long as possible.

Perfectionists that we are, we are often too quick to make creative decisions and rule ideas out — often before we’ve really explored them. Give your ideas their due, and “keep the parts on the table,” as Accidental Genius author Todd Henry says, “for as long as possible.” This means that you don’t throw ANYTHING out too soon.

Tip #5: Give yourself permission to write crap.

Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Why would you EVER hold yourself to a higher standard than him?

I’ve been seeing a guy practicing his clarinet in a car in the parking lot lately. I love that he is doing whatever he has to do to give himself permission to be bad at something while he finds his footing.

You deserve that too.

Tip #6: Ratchet back the over-achieving.

Yes, I know it’ll take a long time to write a book in 15 minute increments (though it CAN be done — I wrote 25 pages of a script that way and Terri Fedonczak — below — finished the first draft of her parenting book that way).

I know you think  you need to write for at least (1 hour, 4 hours, 8 hours) a day. Trust me when I tell you that when you’re getting back on the writing horse, that’s the surest way to shoot yourself in the foot. You can write more once you’ve got the habit firmly in place.

Start small, and start now.

Tip #7: Keep your head down.

Stop thinking of the bigger project. Keep your head down and just take it one step at a time.

As you repeat these steps, you can work up to more writing as it feels appropriate. When I started writing my last script, all I could bring myself to do was 15 minutes per day. Now I’m writing more. You’ll work up to it. Just take it one word at a time for now.

Tip #8: Deal with the fear.

Underneath resistance to writing is fear. It’s okay. Of course it’s scary. Fear is common when we face things like failure, success, the unknown, and putting our abilities to the test. You can get help with it or work with it on your own, but at the end of the day, your biggest job is getting out of your own way.

Tip #9: Avoid burnout.

It’s much more important that you write regularly and consistently in small, short bursts than it is to write in long blocks of time. Give yourself a break and pace yourself. Being a serious writer means being in it for the long haul.

Tip #10: Write early in the morning.

All those writers who have been getting up at the crack of dawn have got it wired. Writing early, before your rational brain fully kicks in and wants to do all those “important things” that keep you from writing, is so much easier than trying to wrangle it into your day later on. I’m not even a morning person and I love it.

The next session of my Writer’s Circle starts on Monday, June 11th, and the last day to register is THIS Thursday, June 7th by Midnight Eastern Time. If you are a serious writer who isn’t writing — or a writer who wants to get more serious about your work — my Writer’s Circle system will help you finish your projects. Come join us! Your group and your coach are ready to welcome you.

Find out more at

“I tamed the book beast in 3 sessions, 15 minutes at a time.”

“I’ve had this book brewing in me for 15 years. I never thought I could finish it…it seemed too big. After joining the Writer’s Circle, I tamed the book beast in 3 sessions, 15 minutes at a time. The Writer’s Circle system is so effective, that I have used the basic principles in other areas of my life to great success. It is so satisfying to finally turn my dream into reality.”

~ Terri Fedonczak, Certified Martha Beck Life Coach,

Started her parenting book 10 years ago and finished it in 3 sessions of the Writer’s Circle, 15 minutes at a time.



How to spot the smokescreens that stop you from writing

To celebrate the start of the next session of my Writer’s Circle this coming Monday, I’m sharing a free four-part series on How to Find the Courage to Share the Stories You Are Longing To Tell.”

Our series continues with Part 2: “How to Spot the Stealthy Smokescreens that Stop You From Writing.”

To read yesterday’s post, “Why It Requires Courage to Write”, click here.

How to spot the stealthy smokescreens that stop you from writing

If you’re longing to write, but not doing it, you’re probably doing a number of other things instead. I think of these as “smokescreens”, because very often we don’t realize that we are fooling ourselves about why we are not writing — our fear. Our smokescreens mask that raw, naked fear and keep us busy thinking something else is going on.

Most people who say they want to write but aren’t doing it are usually instead:

  1. Retreating into fantasy.

    When you’re retreating into fantasy instead of writing, you’ll notice yourself dreaming about the day when you finally have enough time to write.

    You’ll usually have a story about needing to deal with something else first, like: Making more money, getting enough childcare, getting the house clean, finishing that other big project, just getting through this one rough patch in life, etc., but the truth is that there is nothing stopping you from writing right now.

  2. Procrastinating.

    If you’re graduated from fantasy land about writing someday, but still not writing, you’ve probably moved on to procrastination or one of the other tricky smokescreens below.

    Procrastination turns up when you’ve made the time to write, but when it comes time to do it, your bathroom suddenly looks really dirty or you realize you are massively behind on [your email, your laundry, your sex life, your book keeping, your fill-in-an-excuse-here].

    I’ve seen some writers say that procrastination is a good thing — that we’re allowing our creative ideas to build up before they come bursting out of us — but I read procrastination as fear, often wrapped up with perfectionism.

  3. Feeling apathetic.

    Apathy rears it’s ugly head and tells us that we don’t care. It sounds like, “I mean, what’s the point? I don’t even FEEL like writing today. I’d much rather watch Castle or catch up on polishing my silver. Writing isn’t that important.”

    ANNNH. Wrong answer.

    What’s really going on here is again, you guessed it, fear. This is fear masquerading as apathy, only it’s so tricky it’s got you believing you aren’t even interested. Think again.

  4. Wandering in a fog of creative confusion.

    Creative confusion is the stealthy partner creative apathy. Creative confusion keeps us spinning in circles, telling us that we don’t know what to write. It keeps you vacillating between having too many ideas and not knowing where to start.

    The antidote for creative confusion is often brainstorming, putting ANY words on the page, asking yourself a great question (“What do I really want to say here?”) or simply picking a project to start with. Sometimes we just make it too complicated, again because we’re letting our fear get the better of us.


Here’s what I want you to take away from this: When you are fantasizing about writing, procrastinating about writing, or feeling apathetic or creatively confused about writing, you are operating out of fear. It might not LOOK like far, but the odds are high that it’s fear running the show.

But because you know this now, you have the chance to bust that fear wide open and move past it.

“Ah ha! You can’t fool me,” you will say to your fear and self-doubt. “I see you, and I know you are trying to stop me… but it won’t work.”

Then coax yourself to the page, and start writing. ANYTHING. Seriously. Because the antidote to any of these creative smokescreens is ACTION.

Your turn

What does this illuminate for you? Share your responses in the comments.

And stay tuned for the next post in this series coming your way tomorrow, “How to Find Your True Stories.” Watch for it on the blog or subscribe here.

About the Writer’s Circle

I inspire writers to find the courage to share the stories they are secretly longing to tell but are afraid won’t be heard or accepted. If you’d like company on your writer’s journey, I want to invite you to join the next session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle, which starts this coming Monday, February 20th. In the Writer’s Circle, you’ll find the peer support and accountability you need to bust yourself on the smokescreens and obstacles you’re creating around your writing and get your words on the page. Registration closes THIS THURSDAY, February 16th.

Find out more and register here:

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

“I loved leaving and getting comments on the daily progress. It made me write almost every day! Now, I’m writing more consistently and I’m feeling good about all of it. I like getting to know the other participants. I’m feeling consistently creative. This Writer’s Circle 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,

Finding The Way Through Perfectionism — A Success Story

One of “my” writers in the Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle, Molly Yarrington, has taken on a brave and courageous challenge to raise $300 for charity by writing 30 poems in 30 days in the month of November.

Molly is a sensitive soul, a dreamer, a writer, a crew coach, and a poet with a passionate spirit — and like many of us (including me), one with a strong perfectionist streak.

Molly is courageously using this challenge and the support of the Writer’s Circle to push herself to publish a daily poem on her blog to overcome her fears around sharing her work with others and to tame her perfectionism.

“I have been a hermit poet most of my life.”

Molly says, “I have been a hermit poet most of my life, hiding my poems away and only sharing them with a select few best friends. When I took on this challenge, I made a commitment to write and make my writing public, daily.

“All the poems are fresh, ‘first draft‘ format. It is a rare poem I write in one sitting, so this has been a double challenge for me to share not only my poems, but poems I consider to be ‘works in progress.'”

From the inside of the Writer’s Circle (I’m writing this with her permission), I’ve watched Molly persevere through an incredibly busy time in her life to write a poem each and every day, sometimes posting with only minutes to spare, while we cheer her on.

It’s been inspiring to see Molly struggle with the feelings that come up around sharing such raw, deeply personal writing in such a public way, and do it anyway.

You see, when it comes to writing — or creating anything for that matter — we have to be willing to give ourselves permission to do it no matter what, and even to start.

And one of our biggest obstacles to starting is perfectionism, which is really fear in disguise.

Molly says it beautifully:

“Along with, and much more importantly than helping me develop a daily habit of writing, the Writer’s Circle has brought me an awareness of the real issues that have held me back, and believe me, they are NOT lack of time (though I did believe that was the primary issue when I began).

“Through my interaction with this amazing group, I have been able to see that what holds me back is nothing special — I share the same fears and concerns as everyone out there — and somehow, knowing I am not alone in this creative process, makes all the difference.”

The trick is to find ways to bypass that urge to perfect before we create something, and take the risk to get it out there.

Let Molly be your inspiration.

Find Out More About Molly’s Project

Read Molly’s poems here.

If you’d like to, you can support Molly’s pledge for the Family Literacy program of the Center For New Americans here.

Join The Writer’s Circle

If you’d like to have the support to overcome your inner struggles with writing, come join my Just Do The Writing Accountability Circle. The last day to register is TODAY, Wednesday, November 23rd for the session that starts on Monday, November 28th.

Your Turn

How are you holding back? What are you ready to share? Tell us what you think.


Coming Attractions

~> November 28th. The next session of my Writer’s Circle starts. Sign up here. Get my Free Writing Tips series too, and get a coupon for a savings on your first session.

~> November 29th. It’s my birthday! I’ll be holding a birthday sale for the entire week. Details coming soon.


~> Ongoing. Writing for the ProSeries class at ScreenwritingU. Today I worked on eliminating clichés from my script. Super cool.

~> Daily and especially Fridays. Sacred writing time. The Do Not Disturb sign is up. Except this week sacred writing Friday became sacred writing Tuesday because of Thanksgiving. :)