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The Writing Process: Get Sh*t Done

You know what they say about excuses? They fucking suck. Yet we still use them.

Maybe we’re guilt-driven, time-exhausted dreamers who – as much as we don’t want to admit it – put everything outside of our writing careers first. Who has time to sit down and write when the house hasn’t been vacuumed in a week?

You. If you’re taking your craft seriously, that is.

Or maybe other issues prevent you from committing.

“I’m so emotionally drained I can’t tap into the feelings I need to write this.”

“I only write when the mood strikes. I haven’t felt it in a few days.”

“After working all day, I feel guilty taking time away from the kids.”

“I work 60 hours a week to pay the mortgage, fuck it all if you think I can handle anything else right now.”

Sound familiar?

Everyone has a reason to put down the pen. Trust me. I never imagined I would add ‘counselor’ to my workload, but I’m here and doing it.

Excuses don’t matter. You’re not the exception to the rule, so let’s cut the crap.

Schedules are required

If you want your writing to get better, you need to set aside writing time every day.

We don’t like saying ‘no’ to anyone, especially not our boss, kids or spouse. It’s a problem though, because overbooking yourself leaves zero time to write. If you schedule a regular time to write each day, you’re dedicating yourself to getting better, further – and getting the hell out of the bad habit of telling everyone yes all the time.

Plus, an hour during lunch or thirty minutes before bed for writing helps prevent writing burnout. Force yourself to quit after time’s up (ask me about the sweet spot), so you come back excited to begin again. If you’re outside of your allotted writing time, jot down lingering ideas in your journal or notebook. You’ll have plenty of ideas to come back to on days when writing a sentence feels impossible.

It isn’t easy

Every day is not a great writing day. In fact, I think every first draft is shit. So why are we especially hard on ourselves when words stick?

Lower your standards. Perfectionism is ugly and unattainable – it’s also divine self-sabotage. Stop it. It sets up a nasty combination of inadequacy and editing ourselves before we write a single word.

Instead, realize writing and editing are two different processes coming from two different parts of your brain. Tell your story like you’re talking to a friend. Once the entire piece is done, you’ll shine it up, but until then it doesn’t do you any good to over-analyze.

If your creativity is stupefied, play with words. Write about what’s stopping you in the moment. Write out the frustration, damn it. Your day’s writing might not be a part of a bigger project. So what? You’re still writing. Fight the urge to give up.

If you’re pissed a certain character is talking to you out of turn, follow him anyway.

The most important quality a writer can have is comfort in their own skin. This takes confidence. And confidence comes from practice. Writing regularly gives you both.

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Anxiety and fear have no place in writing

Anxiety and fear suck, but they’re also the great equalizers. We all suffer them in various forms. Confronting challenges isn’t a ‘you’ problem, it’s an ‘us’ problem. This shit constricts the chests of writers and editors – men and women – across the globe.

The difference between successful writers – the ones you admire – and you? Their coping mechanisms.

Let’s talk about fear.

It’s a natural response to a threat. My stomach turns when I think about skydiving. Our bodies, our fears, protect us from imminent danger. It’s pretty simple.

Tornado sirens. Fire alarms. Something scary is around you, something harmful, and your body knows.

Let’s say you’re leaving the mall on Black Friday and you remember the new outfit you need for an upcoming interview. People spill out of the entrance behind you, bags draped under their eyes and across each arm. Fighting your way back in there is going to suck. You rush back toward the sliding door, trip over the untied Chucks you’re wearing and hope to get out of that hellhole as soon as you can.

4688_smalAs you regain your balance, your knuckles buckle around your keys and you place them in your jean pocket. You look down, making sure money didn’t tumble out. And just then, your peripheral vision spots the moving brake lights of the Mazda six feet from you. You can’t slow down enough (a body in motion tends to stay in motion, after all) and you’re about to catapult into the back of a moving vehicle.

What do you do? Scream? Slap the trunk? Channel your inner Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy? Did you consciously make the decision to avoid danger or did your body do it for you?

Good fear takes over on its own when necessary.

Not so good fear – aka anxiety – is different. It keeps us from reaching our dreams. It helps us spin countless scenarios in our heads about future possibilities (usually none of them good), instead of living right now. And it’s useless. Learning to approach it will help you build the business, career and life you want. One that wakes up your frontal lobe and pelvic floor.

I haven’t coached a day without a client freaking-the-fuck-out. Someone, somewhere, is dealing with gut-bending anxiety right now.

That’s where I come in.

Anxiety consumes us when we allow fear to become about something that might happen later, not now. For example, right now, I’m writing this. No need to be anxious. But if I started to mull over all the people who might not like that I say fuck, or who don’t like my preference for incomplete sentences for effect, or who are just pains in the ass, well, I’d get anxious damn quick. Fortunately, I don’t care about any of that.

The restrictions we place on our lives to avoid potential discomfort are anxiety-driven.

  • The always-single forty-something who was burned once and locked her heart in her four-family flat.
  • The man in the mall parking lot who now refuses to go to ANY parking lot in an attempt to avoid getting hit.
  • The writer who never finished her manuscript because she’s afraid of rejection – from readers, editors, publishing houses, friends and family.

When anxiety changes the course of your life, when it stops you from reaching a dream, it’s a big fat problem.

So how do we breakthrough?

Ask for help.

Whatever way you’re able to bend your mind and shift anxious energy, do it. Pay someone to do your taxes. Try exercise and yoga. Hire a writing coach to walk you through the scary parts of telling your story. We don’t have to do anything alone.

The bottom line? Are you willing to give up on your dream because anxiety wrecked your T-shirt armpits last night?

Screw that.

And here’s an extra tip, because I can –> Arguably the single most valuable thing you can do about writer anxiety? Talk about it. Holding it up to the light invariably allows people to see it for what it is – a whole lot of nothing.

My clients have this gangster-I-love-you-no-I-love-you-more thing happening in our private writer community. They have each others’ backs. They all have the same struggles and feelings, and they talk about them openly. It’s kinda like free therapy, and the writers there are beating anxiety and getting shit done.

So what are you waiting for?

As long as you’re worried about things that might happen in the future, you’re not doing shit now – notably, writing. And you’re never better prepared for bad things because you spent all that time worrying.

No more excuses. Write now.

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Want to learn more about writing like YOU? I’m polishing a new product that will teach you exactly that. Join our subscriber list (upper right-hand corner) to hear more about it and get a discount when it’s released. I’ll also let you know when the *new* cell phone app is available.

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