What’s Your Drug of Choice?

Writing is my heroin. I am unquestionably a happier more productive human being when I write regularly.

I didn’t know this about myself for a long time. I remember distinctly, having a series of very bad days. I was constantly grumpy, everything seemed to be going wrong, the world was falling apart around me, and I didn’t know why. It dawned on me that I hadn’t written in a few days. Up until then, I’d been writing daily as I was working on an epic novel. I had pitched it to an agent who had asked for the first three chapters. I figured I’d better get the thing done in case she asked for more. (She didn’t, but she did give wonderful feedback. It was a terrible novel).

Once the draft was done, I stopped writing. I hadn’t realized how much the writing, the satisfaction of achieving my daily word-count, had affected my mood.

I needed to make writing a habit the way it had been. But once you stop something, it’s hard to start up again. (Look at me talking physics!)

There are ways we can make writing a habit. Scheduling regular time is the most obvious step. But just because we have the time scheduled, doesn’t mean we will spend it writing.

I’m going to recomend a great book on habits and how we form them, called “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business” by Charles Duhigg. It is a fascinating read on how we form habits and the studies that have been done.

One of the things Charles Duhigg talks about is the cue – action – reward cycle that is the basis for forming habits. We have some kind of cue that inspires action and when we perform that action, we get a reward. So, in our case, as writers, the cue might be sitting down at the computer, using our favorite pen, having our cup of coffee in our favorite coffee mug. We associate that cue with writing. Favorite pen in hand? Must write. Favorite coffee mug? Time to write. The reward for our writing comes from the satisfaction of achieving your writing goal, achieving a word-count, having written an exciting scene, whatever it is that makes you feel satisfied at the end of your writing session.

The reward is great, but it isn’t enough to make this cycle a true habit. The habit forms when we see the cue and anticipate the reward, we want the reward, we crave it and we will do whatever we need to do to satisfy that craving.

If you’ve ever had an addiction, on a diet, pregnant (or live with someone who is), you understand cravings. The example Duhigg gives is the box of donuts. Until you’ve had your first donut, you don’t know that that box contains oh so sweet and sugary carbs. But once you’ve had that first donut, you know. And every time you see that box, your brain anticipates that sugary goodness. If you deny yourself that reward, your brain releases a chemical that makes you sad, almost depressed, until you satisfy that craving.

If the key to making writing a habit is a reward you will crave, how do we come up with a suitable reward?

These kinds of rewards are very individualized. I’m going to recomend another book here, which covers this far more than I ever could, and has been a great help to me. “Motivate Your Writing!: Using Motivational Psychology to Energize Your Writing Life” by Stephen P. Kelner Jr.  It is an indepth look at what drives us emotionally, what rewards suit certain personality types, and how we can use those to get us sitting down to write.

For example, one motivation type is Influence. This means that when readers and fans respond positively to your work, you have incentive to keep writing. Those fan letters or tweets or comments that you made a positive impact on them remind you that you are succeeding in your writing.

If you find your motivation, you will find the reward you crave. Satisfy that craving often and make writing a habit. Make it your addiction, your drug of choice!

What will your motivation, your reward, be?

Ending the Overwhelm

The instantaneous consumerism of the internet  is overloading authors with pressure to be more and more prolific. It is no longer considered prolific to be publishing a book a year.

The rapidly changing publishing industry is creating havoc. Traditionally published authors aren’t certain they’ll have a future in it, and indie authors are scrambling to produce enough to find and sustain an audience. One of the buzzwords that authors talk about is “diversification.” This means not only writing novels and short stories, but writing for video games, other new media projects, television, movies, the stage, finding speaking engagements, and writing news articles.

I think diversification is great, if you can do it. But what happens if you try to do it all? I’m reminded of a saying, that someone trying to do it all is a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” My interpretation of that saying is that in trying to do it all, you are spreading yourself too thin, and not mastering the one or two areas where you can truly polish your skills and excel at it.

Become a master.

  1. Think about what kind of writing career you truly want. Do you want a long-lasting career? Or do you want to make a bucket-load of money right now? Where do you want to be in 20 years from now?
  2. What is the fundamental value behind that career choice?  Is it pride in self and your work? Is it acceptance? Is it leaving a financial legacy for your family?
  3. Look at all the potential projects on your desk that you think you need to do to diversify and make some money. Which of those projects speak to what you value about your writing career? Which ones show off your greatest skills and talent as a writer?
  4. Pick the one or two other projects that will advance your career and your legacy.

Once you set these projects as your writing priorities, you will have more energy, motivation, and focus on what you need to do. And when you have that energy and focus, you will become a master of your writing career.

What do you want your writing career to be? What projects are getting in the way?

Guest Blogging and Workshops and Books, oh my!

This morning I am blogging over at Savvy Authors 

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on Identity and the writer. In the article I talk about why we so often question ourselves being “real” writers, what we can do about it, and the positive results we experience when we embrace our identity.

If you like what you read in that blog, or here, consider taking my course “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” which I will be teaching online through Savvy Authors, running June 9 – 29. See what others have said about the workshop on my workshops page here.

Still not sure? Why not download the first four chapters of my book “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” for FREE, just sign up for my mailing list on my home page here, which will, in the near future, news about upcoming releases, special offers, and more.

And finally, if you are interested in exploring the idea of having a coach to help you reach your writing goals, to push through the writer’s block, to be more productive, I offer a no-obligation complimentary session. It’s a great opportunity to see if coaching is right for you, and if we’d make a good partnership in your journey. Just fill out the form below and I will contact you within 24 hours. I’d love to have a chat with you!

 

It Makes a Difference

Why does it feel like such a chore to sit down and actually write?  It’s that sense of dread that often leads to procrastination.

What if you actually enjoyed the writing process? Yes, it is possible!

It starts with the love of the story you’re writing, and a love of the characters. A curiosity  and willingness to explore the world and the adventure. And a great sense of mischief, to put our charachers in all kinds of trouble.

But to actually love the process of writing takes something else too. It isn’t complicated. I think the fabulous author David Morrell, author of Rambo among many other New York Times’ Bestsellers said it best. I attended a workshop of his back in 2008. He reminded us that not everything we write is going to sell. So to keep that love of the book or story, and the process of writing we need to make a list of the following:

  • Why the project is important to us.
  • What is the theme? What are we trying to say with it?
  • What do you, personally, want to get out of writing it? Maybe you want to work on your description, or character arc, or prove to yourself that you can write a certain amount in a given time-frame.
  • What do you want to professionally, get out of writing it? Maybe this is the one that you will send to Asimov’s or Analog, or submit to agents.
  • I’m also going to add in here, add to this list the reasons you write. Why you chose to become a writer, what or who inspired you to become a writer, and what you enjoy about it.

Keep this list handy, because there are going to be times, many times, when writing just isn’t fun, especially when you’re waiting for a response from a publisher or agent, or those rejections start piling up.

 

What’s Stopping You. . . Part 2

We are now well into September, and our routines are, if not settled, then nearly so. Do you still find you’re unable to take those small steps towards achieving your goals? Maybe you just don’t feel like you have the energy to get started after a long day, and need to use your weekends to recuperate. What if you’ve already taken the time to look at and re-evaluate the problem and what you need to fix to keep moving forward and you still can’t see your way forward?

Take a closer look at the situation, the project, and the overall outcome you are hoping for. What is it about the projject that keeps needing to be fixed? Are you tired of it? Is this the project that is going to give you the outcome you desire? Is it worth your time to continue on it? What is it you are really protesting? Is it a wrong step, or would a different project be better for you and get you to your desired outcome?

I encountered this situation this past week. I’ve been working on a project for the last year. Several times I’ve thought I was well on my way to completion and then I’d get stuck. I’d look back at it, figure out where I went wrong, go back to that point and start fresh, only to get stuck again. This happened several times. It got to the point where I dreaded going back to it. and yet I felt the pressure to continue, to finish, because I don’t believe in abandonning projects just becasue it isn’t working out once or twice. But after a year of struggling, I started paying attention to what my mind and body were protesting. The real protest was that this was not the right project for me. I finally decided to set that project aside for now or indefinitely and to work on a new project. I don’t quite know what that will be, but I’m looking forward to it.

Once I made that decision, I felt relief and joy. I knew I’d listened to myself and know what is right for me. And now, for the first time in a few years, I am excited to be working on a new project. It is in the same field and with the goal of the same end result, it is just a different way of getting there.

What is really stopping you from moving forward?

What’s stopping you from moving forward?

It’s that time of year again: The beginning of the school year. Even if you don’t have kids in school or are not a University student yourself, or work in the academic field, September is always the mark of a new year. Fall is in the air and day trips to the beach are numbered.

How does this time of the year make you feel? Is it tough to get back into a routine? Do you find yourself disorganized and maybe a little harried? Are you putting your goals and dreams aside because you don’t have the time to focus?

The beginning of September is a lot busier than the summer, and often requires a lot of our energy that needs to be focused in areas where we haven’t focused it on in a while. Does this mean you need to put your goals and dreams on hold? The longer we spend away from our goals and dreams, the more difficult it becomes to get back to them.

What’s stopping you from moving forward on your goals and dreams? Is it the feeling that you don’t have energy? Do you feel like you don’t have the time? Did you take the summer off from it thinking you would get back to it in September and now you think that because you’ve taken so much time away from it, there is no point in going back to it?

All of these thoughts are from what I like to call our Inner Saboteur., that voice of self-doubt that doees whatever it can to keep you from moving forward on your dreams and goals.

What if you were to take a few minutes a day for yourself and your dreams? What if you work on something related to your goals, maybe a side project that will help you achieve the end product?

What do I mean by a side project? As a writer, I might not have the energy or time to spend a few hours a day on writing, but I can do some research on the subject matter, or agents and editors. As a woodworker, maybe I don’t have the time it takes right now to make my masterpiece, but I can research material I might want to use and discover new techniques to the trade. If the goal is to take an exotic trip somewhere, maybe I could start with looking up locations, deciding what activities most interest me and which locations best suit those. Maybe I could set the budget for such a trip and start figuring out how I’m going to pay for it.

There are always small steps that can be taken even when your energy is at an all time low. If you take these small steps, you will feel your energy for that project grow and be ready to go in full when you do settle into your routine.

So what’s stopping you from moving forward on your goals? What step will you take to move forward?

The Joy of Adventure

I don’t know about you, but I love adventure. I love trying new things, and taking advantage of opportunities that come along once in a lifetime.

I’m an introvert. I’d rather stay home curled up on my couch with a good book, which on the surface totally contradicts that first paragraph. I used to have to force myself to go out with friends or even by myself. I still do, sometimes. Iwas asked recently if I ever regretted going out when I’d rather stay home.

My answer was this: Sometimes. And I can’t even say that if I hadn’t gone I’d have regretted not going. But most of the time, I surprise myself by having such a good time, with friends and experiencing something new, that I am glad I went.

I have now become the person who looks for opportunities and for new experiences. Not only do they make me happy, they enrich my life, my life experience, and expand my world-view. And in the end, it is that enrichment that makes me look forward to new adventures.

What is stopping you from having seeking out new adventures?

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Available now: “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur”. Don’t Let your inner saboteur stop you from achieving your dreams and goals.

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Setting Achievable and Exceedable Goals

What are achievable and exceedable goals?

Achievable and exceedable goals are the small steps you set yourself en route to completing your project. They fit into your daily routine. They are specific, focused on a single task. And they are measurable in that you will know when it has been achieved.

With our main end-goal in mind, we must break down the steps needed to get there. We all have a tendency to think we can do more than we can in less time than we have. With achievable and exceedable goals, we start with small goals that we know we can complete in the time allotted. Start small and add on if you discover you can do more. Make sure you can achieve your smaller goals first, and be satisfied that you have done your work for the day. And if there are days you can do a little more, that is a bonus.

Someone who has never run before is not going to suddenly be able to run a marathon. First they have to learn how to run properly. They build up their endurance and follow a rigorous training program. If you know you have a big block of time to work on or even complete your project, train yourself ahead of time to be disciplined in spending increasing amounts of time on that project.

Once you have your goals set: the big goals, the long term goals and your short term goals, ask yourself if they are reasonable? Do they fit with your life? Keep the daily goals smaller so that you know you will achieve it. Any extra work you do on your project, above and beyond what you had set out to do that day, is a bonus. Build your confidence, know that you can consistently achieve your goals, and exceed them, before pushing for more.

What is your final goal? Is it the completion of a novel? Finally putting those travel pictures into an album? Changing your career? What small steps can you do each day, each week, to get you to that final goal?

Good News Monday!

It’s Monday, and you know what that means! Time to celebrate the week that was and look forward to the week ahead. So many adventures and opportunities and surprises that may come your way!

I was going to say that my good news is that Spring seems to finally have arrived and with it the birds nesting in the trees outside my home. As much as I love listening to the birds, my real good news came from a coaching session I had. Yes, coaches get coached as well. I made a really important discovery and a huge breakthrough happened as a result.

What is your good news this Monday?

Surround yourself with Support

In my e-book and workshop “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” I discuss how common it is for family and friends to be the ones who stand in our way of making changes, completing our projects, following through on a diet, and even following our dreams.

It isn’t that our family and friends aren’t well intentioned. They are. They want to keep you safe, keep you from being hurt. The problem is that their idea of keeping you safe from rejection or the pain of failure creates a different pain inside you. They don’t realize that preventing you from growing, exploring, dreaming, and changing, can stifle your spirit and make you unhappy.

Often times, the sabotaging by family and friends can be subconscious. It can be as simple as pulling away from us when we begin to change, so to keep them close, we return to the way we were. It can also be as simple as miscommunication. We may be saying the same words but for each of us, they may have a different meaning.

It can be as painful as them telling us they know us better than we know ourselves and that we are only setting ourselves up for failure. Do they really know the passion inside of you for pursuing what you want?

What about our own perception of what our family expects of us? Do you believe it is expected of you to go into the family business? Are all your relatives doctors and lawyers and so you believe you are expected to do the same when you would rather be a teacher?

Does this mean you have to throw away your family and find new friends? Absolutely not. Start by sitting down and talking with them, explain your passion, reassure them you are aware there will be pot-holes along the way but you are working out a plan to deal with them.

Most importantly, tell them you love them. Tell them that your desire for change does not diminish your love for them or your need for their friendship. Tell them you need their love and support more than ever as you embark on this new path.

When you have the support of family and friends softens the pain of the potholes you may run into, and elevates the victories as you have people to share them with. And the journey becomes that much more enjoyable and manageable because you have people behind you, cheering you on, and helping you out when you need them.