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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?

Recommitment.

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.

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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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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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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 www.JustDoTheWriting.com

“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, www.aLifeInBalance.com

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

 

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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.

Takeaways

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: http://JustDoTheWriting.com.

“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, www.giuliettathemuse.com

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. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

Your Turn

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

 Jenna

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. :)

When the Going Gets Blocked, Can the Blocked Get Going?

I’m writing an e-book about busting yourself on your creative blocks so you can get your work into the world.

I’m writing it for you.

And I’m writing it for me.

Reasons We Get Creatively Blocked

There appear to be a number of reasons for being creatively blocked (aka writer’s block or artist’s block), including

  • external causes like a loss, death, or divorce,
  • internal causes like beliefs, perfectionism, or self-doubt,
  • other things like “second novel/album syndrome” and creative depletion.

It’s fascinating to study and to write about — and even to get blocked over. *grin*

Taking a Closer Look at Where Blocks Come Up

I found myself examining closely my own creative blocks today in my morning pages and noticed that I feel blocked when I start telling myself stories about things I think will be hard, or when I can’t “figure out” how to get “through” a certain part of a scene I’m working on in my screenplay or how to organize a certain section of my e-book.

It also happens when I get afraid that I won’t be able to do something I want to do in the style I want to do it in — for the screenplay I want it to be fast paced and action-filled, with the e-book I want it to be spunky and fun.

The dreaded inner critic rears his head and says, “What if you can’t pull that off?”

Stuff That’s Helping So Far

And what I’m noticing about this is:

1. Just taking the time to name exactly where I’m stuck is helpful because it tells me what I need to do next to get going again.

For example, with the screenplay, I want to get some help on getting through “the dreaded middle” and I also want to focus my efforts for the time being on the “battle scene,” which quite honestly sounds a lot more fun than figuring out how I’m going to GET to the battle scene.

With my e-book, I realized that I need to take a step back and do some of that organizational work in a brainstorming context — and that’s freeing me up to see it from a new perspective.

2. Busting my inner critic publicly (here) makes him settle down a little bit (though it’s also a bit embarrassing), but also writing about what I want to accomplish with the style and tone of what I do is also hugely helpful because it puts me back into the bigger picture perspective about what I’m doing.

3. Do the next thing. Zara reminded me today how important it is not to bite off more than you can chew; it’s easy to get overwhelmed and/or distracted thinking about how to market the e-book and whether or not people will like it before I’ve even crafted the darn thing.

But my real job is to do the next step, then the one after that.

And then the one after that.

Head Down, Eyes Up?

It’s funny, but so true, I have to remember to keep my eyes on the prize (my Big Vision) and keep my head down (doing the next thing) all at the same time. It’s that middle term thinking that gets me all gummed up.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear from you about:

  • What this sparks for you about your own work
  • How you get creatively blocked and how you get out of it

Let’s skip:

  • Feeling like you need to give me advice (thanks!)
  • Stories about how you never ever ever get creatively blocked

 

Coming Attractions

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

~> June 14th. Live recording session for my next broadcast of my Dreamification Radio show on Radio Lightworker. Join me to get your questions answered LIVE. Details TBA.

~> June 18th. Next broadcast of my Dreamification Radio show on Radio Lightworker. Details. Listen from anywhere in the world to this Internet radio show.

~> June 28th. Mark your calendar! And stay tuned for a special, affordable one-time class that’s perfect for anyone who wants to integrate a new behavior or new identity in their life.

 


~> June 10th. Celebrating my husband’s birthday!

~> MONDAYS. Working on my Right Brain Business Plan with my buddy Kris Carey.

~> FRIDAYS. Sacred writing days. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.

~> Celebrating the 4th of July with my family.

Douglas Eby on the Inner Dynamics of Creative Visionaries

Douglas Eby of Talent Development Resources at www.TalentDevelop.com and its associated sites, like www.TheInnerActor.com and www.TheInnerEntrepreneur.com, has been researching and writing about psychology and creativity for the last 10 years, and regularly publishes intriguing tidbits about creativity, personality, and more.

I connected with Douglas’s work originally through my interest in highly sensitive people and his site www.HighlySensitive.org.

In the past he was a film journalist and wrote film production articles for Cinefantastique magazine, interviewing numerous actors, writers, and other filmmakers, which helped further his interest in the inner dynamics of creative people, along with his graduate school education in psychology.

Characteristics of Creative Visionaries
Eby describes creative visionaries as people who have a drive, passion, persistence, or consuming commitment to realize their creative ideas. As visionaries, they have a sense of their work being so important, meaningful, and emotionally powerful that they are willing to commit to it and persist with it.

For example, filmmaker James Cameron originally conceived his movie Avatar in the 1970s and finally released it after 4 years in production this year.

He notes that this kind of persistence can be seen as a form of obsession. :)

Common Challenges & Obstacles
Eby notes the following challenges and obstacles often come up for creative visionaries:

  1. Mental Health Issues often come up for creative types. Writers often struggle with mood disorders. Creative work doesn’t provide immunity to those feelings, and in fact they seem to be more prevalent with creatives.
  2. Perfectionism. Creatives often have a burning need to make everything “right.” On the other hand, as Eby notes, James Cameron says, “I’m not a perfectionist, I’m a ‘greatist.’ I just want to make it great.” (Personally, I love that!)
  3. Self Esteem. The dichotomy of feeling entitled and much more talented, creative, and visionary than most people, but simultaneously feeling less than or inadequate (so common for creative types) can wreck havoc with one’s self-esteem.
  4. Fraud & Impostor Feelings. Many creatives feel like frauds or impostors, as if they will be found out as not really being talented. Actors Kate Winslet and Nicole Kidman both talk about such feelings.

How to Overcome These Obstacles
You may be helped by these common ways creative visionaries overcome these obstacles:

  1. Receiving Therapy. Many actors and writers talk about therapy and how it has helped them. Actor Heather Graham feels that she creates better characters as a result of her personal work. Self awareness seems to increase creative quality for those who pursue it.
  2. Going Ahead with Your Creative Work Anyway. James Cameron admits to feeling depressed at times and yet going ahead with his work. This is so true for me — as an Enneagram Four who often bumps into feeling down at times, I can’t wait around to be “in the mood” to create.
  3. Seeing Your Work in Larger Terms. James Cameron again is an example of someone with a powerful vision who has a larger perspective on the work he brings to the world. This is one of the keys to making an impact with your creative project or vision.

How to Sustain & Fuel Your Creativity
Eby notes that many creatives are helped by collaboration, if that works for you and is appropriate to your creative process. James Cameron, for instance, hires the most creative people he can find, which helps him keep his ideas active and sharp, and emotions high. Solitary artists like painters and writers may have to fuel themselves in a different way.

Similarly, Eby recommends going with the flow of your creative work — not resisting it — as a way to sustain and fuel your creativity.

On Dealing with Naysayers, Fears, & Doubts
Eby suggests that creative visionaries become conscious of their doubts and fears and how they might get triggered by other people’s doubts and fears. He advises that we question and examine the underlying beliefs and ideas around the messages we receive from others.

Ask, “How true is that?” For example, a common admonishment to artists is that “you can’t make money doing art.” But how true is that really? Are there people out there making money with their creative efforts? (The answer is a resounding yes! in my opinion.) (If you’d like help with quieting these sorts fears and doubts, consider joining my Quiet Your Inner Critic course coming up June 22.)

What Supports Creative Visionaries to Succeed?
To help stay the course as a creative visionary, follow your gut. If you feel driven, called to, or have to take action on creating your creative dream, despite all the fears, doubts, and reasons not to, follow your gut to claim and step into your role as a creative visionary.

Also, pay attention to your emotional life and what holds you back from your creative spirit, expression, and interests. Therapy, coaching, or mentoring may be helpful. Deal with the fear and anxiety you have so you can get on with your creative work. Coaching in particular can provide a sense of responsibility for bringing your creative project to life.


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Want more details? You can listen to the full audio interview here:

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What’s Jenna Up To?

~> Tuesday, June 22, 2010, Jenna kicks off her workshop intensive series, “How to Quiet Your Inner Critic So You Can Stop Holding Back On Your Soul’s Mission.” Register *today* to receive 3 special bonus gifts.

~> Summer 2010. Jenna’s Embrace Your Inner Wisdom teleclass. Details to be announced. Learn to work with one of your greatest gifts as a sensitive soul — your intuition.

~> August 2010. Give Voice to Your Inner Vision Mastermind Retreat (in-person). Dates to be announced. Clarify your unique vision to implement your Life Purpose in a specific, step-by-step plan.