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

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

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

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

 

 

Write Like It Never Happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to this summer.

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

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

(Hmmm. Physician, heal thyself?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Write like it never happened.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It. Will. Get. Better.”

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

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

Write like it never happened.

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

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

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Thanks for reading!

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

Image © Shira gal aka miss pupik, "Writer's block". Imaged modified only by cropping.
Going Indie 5

Going indie: Is self-publishing for you?

JamieLeeScottNote from Jenna: This guest post from one of my favorite writers and colleagues: Jamie Lee Scott

Jamie is an amazing author, screenwriter, and entrepreneur who has a real handle on the world of independent publishing. I asked her to share her insights about the differences and advantages of self-publishing versus traditional publishing, since I know many of us are considering the indie publishing route.

Enjoy it — I know I learned a ton just from reading her piece.

Jenna

 

 

The (not so) New World of Indie Publishing

by Jamie Lee Scott

It wasn’t long ago that self-publishing was deemed “vanity” publishing and was frowned upon by the traditional establishment.

Fast forward to 2011, and a new landscape.

Vanity is a word no longer in the vocabulary, and writers no longer need the traditional gatekeepers (agents, editors, publishers) to tell them what will sell and what won’t, what’s hot and what’s not. Writers can now write what they love and get it in front of readers in record time. Traditional publishers may take as long as two years to get a book from contract to readers, where an independently published author can do the same in a matter of weeks or months. 

My choice to go indie

My decision to publish independently was easy.

I had Let Us Prey finished and I’d been sending out query letters for months. It had been getting some interest when my friend, New York Times bestselling author Jennie Bentley, asked me if I was interested in self-publishing. At the time I wasn’t even sure what self-publishing was, so I did my research. Jennie explained that if I took a contract with a small publisher, with a tiny advance, I’d be lucky to see my book in print by 2013, and even luckier to earn out my advance.

My chances of earning money from my book, and making enough to want to write another would be better if I jumped the traditional ship and waded into the indie publishing waters. Jennie, who herself was wading in those waters with a series of her own, threw me a life vest, and together we swam like our lives depended on it.

If I’d gone the traditional route, I’d be languishing with the mid-list authors, making a few thousand dollars a year if I was lucky, instead I’ve published five novels, one novella, and closed my manufacturing business to concentrate exclusively on my writing.

And I’m not alone.

Two extremely successful, and very generous writers, Liliana Hart and Jana DeLeon, were pioneers in indie publishing, have paved the way for many of us and are part of a collaborative effort to help others in a book called The Naked Truth about Self-PublishingThey’ve been the faces and voices for the masses along with many others who have paid it forward. There are too many to name here, but rest assured you will find them at conferences and talking to authors, generous with their information.

The writer is responsible for all aspects of the publishing process

The biggest difference between traditional and indie publishing is that the writer is responsible for all aspects of the publishing process

So, if done well, the process is going to cost some money. How much depends on how professional you want your books to look.

Don’t skimp on editors, or cover design. Don’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t apply here, because the cover is the first glimpse and may sometimes be the only thing that makes the reader want to look further. If your cover looks as professional as the New York Times bestseller covers, you have a better chance the browser will look at the book description than if the book has an amateurish cover. Giving the book a fighting chance at the start is a must.

And then don’t turn them off by not having the book professionally edited. This book is going to sell your next book. If it isn’t well-written, and edited, you aren’t going to sell the next one, so why bother?

Spend the money now, and you’ll reap the rewards in the long run.

Whether you are traditionally published or indie, you are your marketing director.

Unless you signed a multi-million dollar traditional contract, no one is going to be running a PR campaign for you. The writing is the easy part.

So, now that the first book is written, great, now get your butt back in the seat and start writing the next one. In between, become a marketing guru, and help others along the way if you can.

Podcast in the making

I’ve been so lucky to have help from so many along the way, including the authors of Mirth, Murder and Mystery, that I decided to start a podcast to help others who are interested in becoming authors, either traditionally published or indie published. The podcast is called Indie Girl’s Guide to Self-Publishing and launches this December. It’s a weekly podcast for authors to help navigate the ins and outs of the crazy but interesting and possibly lucrative world of indie publishing.

This is not a get rich quick scheme

Lest you mistakenly think this is a get rich quick scheme, let me assure you, it’s long hours, hard work, and lots of blood, sweat and tears. The market (and algorithms) change on a dime, and keeping up is part of the game. Not only do indie authors have to keep writing, they have to keep in touch with the markets, changes, and much, much more.

Is it worth it?

I think so.

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Jamie Lee Scott is the USA Today bestselling author of the Gotcha Detective Agency Mystery Series, and the founder of Indie Girl Self-Publishing Podcast.

She’s the co-founder of Script Chat #scriptchat and TV Writer Chat #tvwriterchat on Twitter, and writer of the award winning short film No One Knows.


You can find Jamie online on Facebook, Twitter, and at her websites, www.jamieleescott.com and www.indiegirlselfpub.com.


diamonds2Thanks for reading!

Note: Amazon links in this post are affiliate links and may generate a small amount of referral income for this blog.

 

 

3 ways to change conver

3 ways to change your inner conversation about writing

As I mentioned in a recent post, as writers --particularly undertaking big writing projects like a book, novel, screenplay, or even NaNoWriMo! -- we need to be mindful about our self-talk and keep it as encouraging and self-supportive as possible. 

This is because one of our main tasks (aside from doing the actual writing) is preventing the freaked out voices of fear, self-doubt, and even a little panic (!!!) at times, from stopping us. Those voices may be loud, scary, and intimidating, but it doesn't mean they are right. As writers, we have to learn not to take them seriously and how to kick them to the curb so we can keep doing what we were put here to do.

1. Use the power of yet

I read a powerful post the other day called, “The Power of Yet”.

The core idea is to add the word “yet” to a negative thought.

Like this:

  • You might catch yourself saying, “I don’t know how to solve this plot problem.”
  • You can quickly add “yet”, to make it, “I don’t know how to solve this plot problem yet.”

Isn’t that interesting?

It takes a defeated “fixed” perspective and cranks it sideways to make room for possibility. And I'm a firm believer in the power of our subconscious minds to help us solve unsolved problems. A "yet" sets the stage for room to solve, grow, learn, discover. You may not know how yet :), but you will!

I love the power of this simple mindset strategy to change how you’re approaching your writing life.

  • "I’m not good at plotting."
  • "I’m not good at plotting yet."

Or

  • "I don’t write characters very well."
  • "I don’t write characters very well yet."

It’s an “I’m still learning” stake in the ground against the forces of darkness and negativity.

I love it!

2. See fear and doubt as familiar visitors you know how to handle

We all have a particular conversation that comes up when we're feeling the doubt and facing the fear head on. It sounds different for each person, though there are common threads.

You might hear things like:

  • "You're not good enough."
  • "This is too hard."
  • "You're unoriginal."
  • "I'm bored with this."
  • "I'm not cut out to handle this."
  • "You're doing it wrong."

The thing is, most of these comments come whizzing through our brains at lightning speed and kick us in the gut before we even know what happened. 

And then we're feeling bad, not believing in ourselves and our work, and pretty soon we're not writing for the day or even blocked. It's like, BAM, day over.

How to change it up

The way to change this whole pattern is to NOTICE it.

Notice what your particular conversation is.

Write it down. 

That's right. Put it on paper in black and white so you can really see it.

You might notice that's not even true!

You might also notice that you've been hearing those same thoughts over and over and over again.

No surprise there. It's your familiar visitor, one you've seen before (and one you will see again).

Why this even happens at all

Here's why this happens: When we take on a big dream through the auspices of a Big Damn Writing Project, the fearful, amygdala-driven part of our brains FREAKS OUT. "What? She's going to put herself out there like that? Is she crazy? We'll be ridiculed and exposed again, just like that time in second grade!! Oh no!!" And then the inner critic kicks into high gear, damage-control mode. "WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP", go the sirens. "RED ALERT! ALL SYSTEMS ON LOCKDOWN!"

That's what's going on behind those mean, horrible things you're saying to yourself. 

They are cleverly, evilly, insidiously designed to SHUT YOU DOWN so you don't "get hurt".

But big surprise, inner critic, you actually WANT to do this project. :)

So your job is to say, "Oh, hold on, I see that you're equating this project with that painful experience in high school when you had to speak in front of the entire class and everyone laughed at you in a way that felt like you were going to melt into a giant puddle of liquid shame-goo, but this isn't the same thing. I'm a grown up now, and I actually want to do this project. So I'm going to take care of you, and me, and I promise we'll be okay. We can do this thing."

3. Reframe your negative messages

One of the most powerful things we do on a daily basis in the Writer's Circle is to use our online journaling system to reframe the negative messages that show up each day.

The first step is to note what the negative message is.

For example: "I'm not fast enough."

The second step is to take a look at that message in all its black and white glory and ask yourself, "How can I reframe that with a more positive perspective?" You might even want to pretend your best friend came to you saying that about herself. What would you say to her?

It might be something like, "I'm writing as fast as I'm capable of right now, and I'll only get faster over time."

Isn't that a bit kinder?

You might even try "yet" here, though I'd probably change it to something like, "I'm not as fast as I want to be yet."

What's your inner conversation like?

Here's an invitation for you. If you're feeling brave, tell us a self-directed negative thought you're holding about yourself as a writer by posting it in the comments. Then see how you might be able to reframe it or add the word "yet" to change it. If you need help, just say so and I'll be your coach for the day.

And don't miss our Writer's Circle special for new writers in honor of NaNoWriMo for our session that starts on Monday. (No, you don't have to participate in NaNo to use the coupon!)

NaNoWriMo Writer's Circle special

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To NaNo or Not 3

To NaNo or not to NaNo?

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

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

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

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

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

Making the decision

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

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

MaryMontanye

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

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

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

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

Isn't that useful?

Learning from the NaNo experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you in?

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

Let us know what you think in the comments.

 

NaNoWriMo Writer's Circle special

 

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12 Tips for NaNo v3

12 tips for making the most of NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again!

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

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

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

One of our writers, Michelle A., says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you take the NaNo plunge?

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

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

Advantages

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

Challenges

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

12 tips for making the most of NaNoWriMo

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

Before NaNo

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

During NaNo

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

After NaNo

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

What NaNoWriMo tips and suggestions would you add?

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

 

NaNoWriMo Writer's Circle special

 

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Finding happiness in the pursuit

The Happiness of PursuitThis week I'm reading Chris Guillebeau's freshly published book: The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest that Will Bring Purpose to Your Life.

I've been a longtime follower of Chris's blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, and he even did a Q&A post for our site about his last book, The $100 Startup.

What I love about Chris's approach to Life, the Universe, and Everything is his go-get-it attitude about the things that matter to him. He's designed a life and completed a quest that works for him and his personality. This new book is about his quest to visit all the countries in the world by the time he was 35, and about the many people he met along the way that were pursuing quests of their own.

In talking with others and looking at his own experience, Chris gleaned a number of useful lessons and insights about creating and pursuing quests.

And although the focus of the book is generally on more external pursuits, I can't help thinking there's are great lessons to be learned for our writing lives as well. There are certainly some useful parallels to draw between quests and writing, as you'll see below.

Let's talk about some of the lessons that have stood out to me so far in what I'm reading:

1. "When you sense discontent, pay attention." Discontent is a powerful informant about what's not working in your life . . . but it's not enough on its own to spark a quest or change. Chris says, "If you want to get the embers burning, you have to blend dissatisfaction with inspiration, and then you have to connect the dissatisfaction to a greater purpose."

This is his equation for transmuting dissatisfaction:

Dissatisfaction + Big Idea + Willingness to Take Action = New Adventure

I've definitely found discontent to be a great source of information in my own life about what's not working and what I'd like to change, but it was my willingness to do something about it that really made the difference, particularly in my major career shift from urban design to coaching and ultimately to writing.

2. "A true calling involves trade-offs." A dream that calls you -- whether it's creating something or traveling the world -- will require a deeper investment or even sacrifice -- but it will feel worth it to you because you're called to do it.

Making the time to write often involves a sacrifice or trade off for me, but almost always feels worth it. And I'm certainly willing to make hard choices about fulfilling other dreams of mine in order to make them happen (from staying home with the kids to traveling the world).

3. Refuse to give your fear decision-making authority. Making headway into new territory will trigger fear. As Chris says, "Embracing new things often requires us to embrace our fears, however trivial they may seem. You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn't exist, but by refusing to give it decision-making authority."

Any big dream will trigger fear -- and Chris is absolutely right that we cannot allow it to dictate our decisions. 

4. Have an emotional awareness of mortality. Chris differentiates between an intellectual awareness of mortality versus an emotional one.

Here's how he breaks it down:

  • Intellectual awareness: "I know that no one lives forever."
  • Emotional awareness: "I know that I will someday die."

I've always been vaguely annoyed by the notion to "live each day as if it's your last", because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be emptying the dishwasher if it was my last day on Earth. But Chris's notion here, of having an emotional awareness, points to something more meaningful for me.

It's about having a sense of personal motivation to make the most of the time we are individually given, by adopting greater goals and pursuits that bring a sense of meaning and fulfillment into our lives. That version works for me.

5. Make your personal passions your quest. A quest, as Chris defines it, includes a clear goal, a real challenge, and set of milestones along the way, and something that involves some kind of investment or sacrifice. He doesn't include writing a book as a quest, though he defines that as a "general life improvement" along with other things like getting out of debt, getting in shape, quitting smoking. Those, he says, are not necessarily true quests.

The examples of quests given in the book range from his own (traveling to all the world's countries), a woman's goal of making a meal from every country for her family, a teen earning every Boy Scout merit badge, and a man using walking as an only means of transportation for 17 years (and not speaking either for that length of time as well).

More to come...

The rest of the book contains what looks like more delightful examples of other people's quests, along with some in depth chapters I'm particularly looking forward to reading.

There's one called "The Love of the Craft", which I think will be right up my alley, with some writing examples, including Seth Godin.

Can writing be a quest?

It occurs to me that writing could still be a quest by Chris's definition -- perhaps by setting a goal of some kind around it, like a certain number of books or screenplays written by a certain date, or like Seth Godin, writing 365 days per year. What do you think? Take a look below for an opportunity to submit your answer about how writing might look like a quest for you . . . and get a chance to win a copy of Chris's book!

About Chris

Chris GuillebeauDuring a lifetime of self-employment that included a four-year commitment as a volunteer executive in West Africa, Chris visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Since then he has modeled the proven definition of an entrepreneur: “Someone who will work 24 hours a day for themselves to avoid working one hour a day for someone else.”

Chris’s first book, The Art of Non-Conformity, was translated into more than twenty languages. His second book, The $100 Startup, was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, selling more than 300,000 copies worldwide. His latest book, The Happiness of Pursuit, will be published by Crown / Random House in September 2014.

Every summer in Portland, Oregon, Chris hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people with thousands in attendance. Chris is also the founder of Pioneer Nation, Unconventional Guides, the Travel Hacking Cartel, and numerous other projects.

Read Chris's favorite writing tips here: http://chrisguillebeau.com/good-writing-tips

Meet Chris

You can meet Chris on his tour of 40+ cities in North America. Find out more here: http://chrisguillebeau.com/events

Win a Copy of The Happiness of Pursuit

You can win your own copy of The Happiness of Pursuit by entering our contest to win one of two copies we have available for a giveaway on our brand spanking new Just Do The Writing Facebook page, here: https://www.facebook.com/justdothewriting/posts/677372385688130

Or, pick up your own copy of The Happiness of Pursuit, on Amazon *, Barnes & Noble, and indie bookstores in hardback, paperback, or ebook form.

Thanks for reading!

 

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If the goal is too big, make it smaller

7 ways to beat procrastination

Ugh. Procrastination.

We're all familiar with that simultaneous desire to write and the repulsion from writing that leads us into the nether realm of procrastination. We're doing something else -- ANYTHING else -- and it can range from feeling like we're doing something vitally important to just plain old digging our heels in and resisting.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we need to "warm up" first before we can write, with a little email, Facebook, or even a treat of some kind.

Or we decide we simply cannot tolerate the state of our physical space for a single minute longer -- how many offices, bathrooms, and kitchens have seen the plus side of procrastination on a day when writing feels oh-so-hard to do?

Other things come up too, right? All those urgent deadlines, other people's problems, our kids' needs, that bit of online research you just can't wait to do (you know, that one that snowballs into two hours of online nothingness -- and yes, I speak from experience), or even bigger things, like that college degree you suddenly have to have.

Understanding procrastination

There are a few of key things to understand about procrastination:

1. It's (usually) driven by fear. There's some kind of fear coming up that's stopping you from writing. You may not be clear on what it is, but trust me, it's there. Fears of success, failure, commitment, overwhelm, rejection, praise, inability to deliver, etc. are most likely to come up. (When it's not fear-driven, there's usually something significant going on, like healing from a traumatic creative wound or recovering from creative burnout, but I would call that a block, a subject for a future post.)

2. Not taking action on your writing will keep you in a low grade state of anxiety, guilt, and shame. I say "low" but it can skyrocket into a full-on painful squirming-in-shame. So even if you're pretending you are just watching your favorite TV show for a little treat before you get started and that it will help you relax into writing -- check in with yourself -- are you really, truly, in your heart-of-heart's feeling relaxed? Or are you twitching with unrest and discomfort inside?

3. It's a lot easier to fix than you think it is. There are some days when it simply isn't possible to sit down and power through tons of writing. That's okay. There are days when you can't face your draft. That's okay. But you CAN write, even if it's just for a few minutes.

And ultimately, making small moves will help you beat procrastination in the big picture.

Beating procrastination

Here are seven ways you can beat procrastination and get back in the writing saddle:

1. Have a short but honest talk with yourself about what's really going on. This doesn't have to be a big deal. But it's worth acknowledging in the privacy of your own mind, "Yes, I'm procrastinating, and it feels crummy. I'm going to do something about it."

2. Tell someone what you're doing. Find an accountability partner, a writing buddy, or a writing group (like my online Writer's Circle) that will help you commit to doing the writing and seeing it through. It helps tremendously to say to another person (even if it's your spouse or best friend!), "I'm going to write today no matter what."

3. Make a deal with yourself to write ANYTHING for 15 minutes. I don't care if you write morning pages, a list of all the reasons you hate writing, or actually work on your current writing project. Just get out a piece of paper or open your Scrivener file or Word document (I'm a Pages girl myself), and put words on the page, even if they are crap. (Using a timer for your 15 minutes is a special bonus tip - it's like pressing the "GO" button. Try it!)

4. If 15 minutes feels like too much, make it smaller. The goal should be small enough that you find yourself saying, "Well, heck, I can at least do THAT much." So if 15 minutes sounds daunting, do five. Or write ONE sentence (I'm not kidding). The key here is to get yourself into action WRITING. Period.

5. If you've racked up a lot of frequent procrastinator miles, STOP when you meet your goal. There are a LOT of writers I talk to who commit to write for 15 minutes, do it, and then find it so easy they keep on going. That's great, if you're just jump-starting yourself after a day or two away. But if you've been in the writing desert and the words have been few and far between, when you meet your writing goal for the day, stop and celebrate. Don't break trust with yourself and keep on writing -- you'll only set yourself up for a bigger challenge tomorrow when you feel like you have to "do better" and suddenly have too daunting a goal to face. 

6. Reward yourself for writing. One of my favorite writers, writer-director Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy, The Avengers), rewards himself just for having an idea. Don't be stingy here. Writing each day is the equivalent of beating back the forces of darkness. You deserve to whoop it up a little once you pull it off. Give yourself a piece of chocolate, a stretch in the sunshine, or even those things you'd normally be procrastinating with. Remember the email, Facebook, and favorite TV shows? Make those your cool downs instead of your warm ups and you'll be good to go.

7. Do it again tomorrow! You've beaten procrastination today, great work!! Now, when you wake up tomorrow, use these tools to make a shorter path to writing. It'll feel great. Then once you get on a roll, start building up to more over time.

Thanks for reading!

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

Warmly,

Jenna

 

  

There's no right time to write

Join the Writer's CircleWe often trick ourselves into thinking there's a "right" time to write. We plan special writing days. We dream of far-off futures where we'll have plenty of time to write. But there really isn't a "right" time -- there's only now. Join the Writer's Circle for the coming session that starts on Monday, September 15, and get help to beat procrastination and write every day.

FALL SPECIAL: And for this session only, you can save $25 for our Back-to-School season special. Just enter the coupon code BACKTOWRITING at checkout to receive your $25 savings.

Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com

Love of Writing

Overcoming perfectionism and finding the love of writing

Sonya SiglerNote from Jenna: This guest post from one of the fabulous writers in my online Writer’s Circle coaching program: Sonya Sigler. In this article Sonya talks how she’s set herself up for ongoing success with her writing, despite her “love-hate” relationship with it (which so many of us have!).

Enjoy.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Writing

Putting good habits in place to find more of the love

by Sonya Sigler

I love, love, love the finished product from writing. I love hitting the publish button once I’ve written a blog post. I love submitting an article and hitting the send button before the deadline. I love seeing my work in print. I love to journal, for me and each of my kids (how else would I remember what they do on a daily basis?). Most of all, I love sharing knowledge and ideas with others through the written medium.

The big “but”

But, and this is a big but, I hate sitting down to write. Once I sit down to write, I apparently must send a big sign out to the universe to let the hemming and hawing begin, because once I sit down, the negative chorus in my head starts in, saying, “Why did you agree to do this?”

If I am at home, instead of writing, I’ll do the dishes and clean the kitchen. Or start a load of laundry. Or sweep and vacuum. If I’m at work, I clean my office, file things, or make phone calls. I check my email, I go on Facebook or LinkedIn to see what others are up to. I make a cup of tea, I look for food to eat (carbs, mostly, of course). I do ANYTHING but sit down and write!

In short, instead of sitting down to write, I procrastinate.

Why? Why do I procrastinate?

I procrastinate because I am letting perfect be the enemy of the good. I procrastinate because I want the entire article to be written in my head before I start. I procrastinate because I want my writing to convey the awesome ideas I have in my head – just as they appear in my head – elegant and articulate.

I procrastinate because I want my writing to be perfect.

Writing is a habit

What I’ve learned in the Writer’s Circle is that writing is a habit, and putting a good habit in place is the key to my writing success.

I’ve also learned that the writing habit is a constant and consistent process. I write a little every day. I have tons of ideas, so that isn’t the issue. For me, the issue is writing every day, consistently, for any amount of time. I now aim to write for five minutes a day.

I can hear you thinking now: “Five minutes, is that all?”

Yep, for me, that is the threshold of a set goal I can absolutely meet.

It’s also the amount time that motivates me to sit down and write. A target of 15 minutes of writing time was too high; I would blow it off, even though it was on my calendar. I would ignore it. I would say to myself, “Oh, you can write later this afternoon when you have more time.”

Really?

No.

That wasn’t working for me.

To achieve the success with my writing I wanted, I had to set a small goal that I could consistently meet, every day. For me, five minutes was it. Five minutes was a writing routine that I could do consistently, no matter what.

Other tricks for writing success

In order to make it as easy as possible to meet my five minute daily goal, I use other tricks to make writing happen, like:

  • Bringing my writing with me. I take a journal with me when I pick up the kids and find that I have to wait.
  • Sitting down first thing in the morning after exercising to write for five minutes. I jot down ideas. I write one word, one sentence, or one paragraph at a time.
  • Keeping drafts in Evernote I can access from any device. I bring my iPad or iPad Mini with me so that I can write when I have five minutes.

Letting go of preconceived notions

I also found that for this new habit to sink in and stick that I had to let go of a few preconceived notions about writing, like the idea of perfect writing conditions. I had in my mind the perfect writing condition being a long stretch of time (read, at least 8 hours), that is quiet with no distractions or interruptions.

Yeah, right. When has that ever happened?

Never.

I also had to let go of the notion of “proper” writing. I’m an attorney. I do a lot of legal writing, a lot of writing for lawyers. I’ve had to let go of the idea that I am writing a formal or “proper” law review-like article with extensive footnotes and case citations. To let go of the notion of proper writing I’ve learned to keep my audience in mind so I can write in the voice for that particular audience, whether it is lawyers, technologists, moms, or entrepreneurs.

Lessening perfection to find the love

Changing my writing habit required a mind-shift – letting go of the notion that perfect writing conditions exist and letting go of the notion of always having to do “proper” writing. Changing my writing habit also required me to put a few things in place to make writing easy to say “Yes” to each day.

Now, I believe I can write whether I sit down for five minutes at a time or for an hour, and whether I sit down to write one word at a time or one sentence at a time. Sometimes the words all flow out at once, sometimes the writing is painstakingly done one word at a time.

In any case, eventually, it gets done. This awareness and shift in thinking helped lessen the grip of “perfection” on me and allows me to spend more time on the “love” side of writing!

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Sonya Sigler is an executive coach, consulting in operations, legal, and business development with start-ups and other high-growth companies. She is a staunch advocate for women in technology and is focused on sharing practical advice. You can find her online at http://www.sonyasigler.com, view her LinkedIn profile, or follow her on Twitter @sonyasigler.

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Thanks for reading!

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

The power of showing up to write

The power of showing up to write

View More: http://olimbphotography.pass.us/girl-power-for-goodNote from Jenna: This guest post is from Terri Fedonczak, a parenting coach, author, and Writer’s Circle coach.

I’ve loved working with Terri through the Circle over the last few years, first as a participant, then as a coach. She knocked our socks off by finishing the first draft of her parenting book in just three 28-day sessions of the Writer’s Circle in 15 minute increments of time – after having had the book “brewing” in her for over 15 years. Amazing!

Just show up

by Terri Fedonczak

When I joined the Writer’s Circle in 2012, I knew that I wanted to finally get my book out of my head and into my computer. I had been “writing” this parenting book for 15 years, as I knew that I needed to get one kid through adolescence before I could have any street cred with other parents. I put writing in quotations, because the book was mostly on tape. The little bit of writing that I did have was on sticky notes and spread across a dozen journals.

In my first session with the Circle, I thought I would just get organized. My goals were very small: only 15 minutes a day 6 to 7 days a week. Much to my surprise, I finished the rough draft in just three sessions. “Rough” is an understatement as a descriptor for that first draft. It was a 30-page booklet of disjointed ideas. I told myself that I wanted to keep it short, because parents were too busy to read a long book. That was a nice justification for keeping the real story to myself.

When I sent my booklet to my chosen editor, she immediately outed me. She said, “I will edit this book the way it is, but it wants to be so much more. There’s no heart and soul in it. YOU aren’t in your book. There’s nothing about your breast cancer, no struggle, no life coaching journey . . . there’s no mess here. Parenting is messy. You need to show other parents your mess.” She was right. And that started an 18 month journey of re-writes and edits.

Let go of expectations

One thing I’ve learned in the Writer’s Circle is that writing is both infinitely easier and more challenging than I ever expected. It’s more helpful if you flush your expectations of how long it will take or who will like it and just keep showing up to the page every day.

As a coach, I see brilliant writers spending lots of time and energy worrying about what other people will think of their writing, or fretting about how long it will take (or is taking). All this worry keeps us in ours heads. Good writing doesn’t come from the head – it comes from the heart. Meaningful writing grabs the reader with its simplicity and elegance and just won’t let go.

As readers, we don’t care about how long the writing took or how smart the author is, we want to care about what we’re reading. You can’t fake that or wordsmith your way around it. All you can do is show up to the page and show us your mess.

From dream to reality

Field Guide to Plugged In ParentingMy book went from a dream to a reality. It’s now on Amazon* and Barnes and Noble online, and it was endorsed by the Washington Post as a “must read” in their February Parenting Book Round Up.

But more importantly, I have parents tell me how much the book has changed their parenting for the better. That makes it all worthwhile. 

This is what success looks like

So, 15 years of vomiting ideas onto paper or tape, one month to a rough draft, and 18 months to re-write and publish. This is what success looks like; it’s not quick and it’s not easy. But with the support of other writers, a dogged determination to show up to the page every day, even just for 5 minutes, and the courage to show us your mess, you will arrive at your own version of success.

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terriTerri Fedonczak wants to live in a world where girls recognize their own power and choose to use it for good. On a trip to South Africa, Terri saw the power of the lioness and how they support their pride; it was a lightning bolt of realization that her mission is to bring the power of the pride to girls and their parents. Terri was a commercial real estate agent for 16 years until a bout with breast cancer transformed her life in 2010. She realized that trading money and status for time with her four girls and patient husband was not quite the deal she thought it once was. She left sales to become a certified life coach and embark upon a journey of spreading the message of girl power far and wide.

Terri is a featured speaker at the Costa Leadership Institute, helping adults balance their lives, and she takes the girl power message into high schools, talking to 9th grade girls about how to thrive in high school. Her first book, Field Guide to Plugged-in Parenting, Even If You Were Raised by Wolves, debuted in 2013. When she’s not speaking, coaching or blogging, you can find her paddle boarding on the sparkling waters of Boggy Bayou, knitting to the consternation of her children, who are buried in scarves and hats, or dancing in her kitchen to Motown.

You can discover your own inner lioness and feel the power of the pride at www.girlpowerforgood.com.

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Thanks for reading!

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

 

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Ramp up your writing speed

Ramp up your writing speed

Nicola PittamNote from Jenna: This guest post is from one of my screenwriting pals and a talented journalist, Nicola Pittam. I’ve come to know Nicola through my screenwriting training programs and love her clever wit and ability to churn out the writing at a moment’s notice (I’m pretty sure she wrote this post on the fly in under 20 minutes!).

Nicola’s piece addresses not only HOW to write, but how to write more quickly. Take a look and see what you might glean from her experience for yourself. (And enjoy her British spelling!)

Ramp up your writing speed

by Nicola Pittam

When asked:  “How do you write?” I invariably answer:  “One word at a time.”  (Stephen King)

That’s one of my favourite quotes about writing, from one of my favourite authors. You’d be surprised how many times a writer gets asked that same question over and over again. And while Mr. King’s answer might simply seem like common sense, it’s also completely true!

There is only one way to write – one word at a time, one word after another.

But sometimes it’s difficult to get that first word – or even 1000th word – down on the page, especially if you are on a deadline.

I’ve been a journalist for nearly 25 years and so I’m used to deadlines. In fact, I’ve become so used to it, I work better and quicker if I have a deadline looming in front of me.

But just like everyone else I procrastinate when it’s time to write. I’ll watch bad day time TV, make endless cups of tea, call family and friends to chat – anything but sit down in front of the computer. But if there’s a deadline and I know I have to deliver by a certain time, my brain kicks in and off I go.

I was working for Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper in the UK at the age of 21, so I had to learn fast. If a breaking news story came into the newsroom at 6pm, it had to be written, subbed and in the paper by 6.30pm as the presses started to roll at 7pm for the next day’s paper. And if you couldn’t do that, you were out the door. So I learnt very early on to write fast and be precise. To this day I can write a breaking news story in 15 minutes, or churn out a 4,000 word magazine feature in under two hours.

For me it’s all about discipline and I was lucky enough to learn that on a job that I loved but that required it.

But what do you do when you don’t have that discipline? Or you’re not used to writing that fast but have all these ideas that want to come tumbling out?

I admit there are times I still have problems writing a script because at the end of the day I’m the only one accountable for it – there’s no editor waiting on the end of the phone to yell at me (or even fire me), if it’s not delivered on time.

So here are some ways I get around this:

  • Set deadlines for yourself. They don’t have to big deadlines. Even little deadlines can help. Instead of thinking: “I HAVE to write 20 pages today”, set yourself smaller goals. You’re more likely to hit a deadline of 5 pages a day than 20. Then if you do more than 5 you’ll feel even more pleased with yourself.
  • Try to have daily deadlines. This way you get into a flow. If you’re writing daily, it will become second nature, you’ll get into a rhythm and your writing will get quicker. A great screenwriting teacher, Hal Croasmun of ScreenwritingU, recently had a class doing assignments which were not something we’d generally do every day. But he told us: “This is your new normal.” And that’s what you’ve got to learn to do – make writing faster your new normal!
  • Do as much pre-planning as possible before you even start writing. This will make it much easier (and quicker) to write if you have an idea what you are going to write. A lot of procrastination comes from not knowing what direction your story or script is going in. If you take the time to plot out your characters and story, the writing itself will flow much quicker.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your deadlines. Give yourself a little treat if you meet your own deadline. It can be anything from taking an hour out of writing to watch your favourite show, buying a new book or indulging in a piece of pie or cake. My favourite is to get a neck and shoulder massage at the end of each week for spending so many hours sitting at a computer!

But just remember, hitting any deadline is a major accomplishment. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes you to get there. We’d all love to write a script a week but don’t beat yourself up when that doesn’t happen. All that matters is that you do as the great Stephen King does, and that’s to write one word a time. And if you do that, before long you’ll have a completed script or novel that you’ll be proud of.

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Nicola Pittam is an award winning author and former Fleet Street journalist. She has won awards for her news and features that have appeared in UK newspaper, The Sun, where she worked for 4 years, as well as several women’s real life magazines. She is the co-author of Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman – a biography of the Oscar winning actor, which won four awards in 2013 including “Best Biography” at the Indie Book Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards. She has been living and working in Los Angeles for the past 17 years as a journalist but now spends most of her time writing screenplays as well as working on a new non-fiction book and documentary, a YA trilogy and a TV pilot called House of the Rising Sun.

You can check out the Bale bio at www.bale-biography.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ChristianBaleBook.
 
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Thanks for reading!

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna