I spend a lot of time with writers and authors. And one of the biggest differences I see between a pro author who has published books and an amateur or hobbyist writer who dreams of being published is what their writing lives look like.
A pro author’s writing life sets them up for success. They have habits and commitment and systems for getting shit done. And they do what it takes no matter what.
Whereas an amateur writer’s writing life is actually sabotaging them. Often they make excuses and let life chaos and other nonsense stop them from doing the work.
The truth is you can shift your writing life SO quickly if you just set yourself up for success. Here are 5 ways to do that:
1. Acknowledge and Accept Where You Are
Before you can make changes–real changes that stick–you need to accept where you are right now. And accept it without judgement or giving yourself a hard time.
The thing I often find is that writers get so caught up in NOT doing the writing and not being consistent. They’ll place blame and feel guilty and worry that they’ll never achieve their goals.
And all that does is bring on more of the same.
But when you accept where you are and don’t judge it or make a big deal about it, you’re in a much better position to make changes. Say it with me now…”up until now I haven’t taken my writing seriously but from this day forward that all changes.”
2. Figure Out What Matters to You
This is super important. You have to make sure you’re focusing on and doing the writing that you actually care about and that matters to you.
I know that may sound silly, but you have no idea how many writers I see “shoulding” themselves into writing novels when they don’t really want to or writing blog posts when they’re just not that into it. But someone along their writing journey once told them they should be doing that stuff, so they are.
Problem is they don’t really care about it. And so they procrastinate and make excuses and find ways to keep putting the writing off.
If you’re not fueled by the writing you’re doing, stop doing it and find the writing that really matters to you. I love writing fiction and always saw myself as a novelist but now that I’m two novels deep, I’m feeling much more pulled to write screenplays. I’m happy that I’ve learned and mastered craft all these years because it will make my novelist-to-screenwriter transition much easier.
I could’ve spent year shoulding myself into writing more novels. And I probably will still write novels too. But I’m finally allowing myself to try other types of writing that I’m feeling pulled to try.
When you actually care about the writing you’re doing, you’re much less likely to put it off for other things. And you’ll show up to the page excited and inspired and ready to get started.
3. Make Space for What Matters
Now that you’re clear on the writing that actually matters to you, you have to make space for it. Yes, that means you have to look at your life currently and where you’re spending your time each day.
If you’re not sure, grab a notebook and spend the next couple of days tracking how you spend your time (you don’t have to do this for long, a couple days should be enough).
I guarantee you’ll see a lot of stuff that you do on a daily basis that is far less of a priority than your writing. So why exactly are you putting that stuff ahead of your writing?
Answer: because you think you’re supposed to. But the truth is you’re not. You’re supposed to do what matters to you and do it daily.
When you ignore your writing or put it off for other stuff that doesn’t really matter or is less important to you, that’s when life loses its joy and purpose. Unhappiness, resentment, depression, anger… they’re often side effects of not doing your soul work. In this case, that would be your writing.
If you feel that way–that writing is your soul work–then you must make space for it in your day.
Notice I said MAKE space not FIND space. Find implies you don’t currently have enough space which isn’t true. You have space, you’re just not using it right.
Make implies that you’re intentionally turning something into a priority. And priorities always get done.
Imagine if brushing your teeth every day wasn’t a priority! Of course you can’t imagine that because you always make time for it. Otherwise you’d have no teeth left to eat with or smile with.
Make your writing as much of a priority as brushing your teeth and your entire life will change.
4. Ruthlessly Kill Shit that Doesn’t Matter
I used to watch TV while eating my breakfast. I used to spend two+ hours on Sundays cleaning and tidying up my apartment. And both of those things used to get in the way of doing my writing.
Now I won’t even turn the TV on if I haven’t done my writing. Now I wouldn’t even consider spending two hours cleaning if I haven’t worked on my novel or written my blog post.
Why? Because I made the decision to kill off anything that doesn’t really matter to me and that just gets in the way of my productivity.
Yes, it takes discipline to do this. But I believe that discipline creates freedom.
I do my writing every day first thing in the morning before I do anything else. Because I do this, I get it done for the day and it’s off my mind. And magically I still find time to watch TV and to clean my apartment.
Do what matters. Kill off anything that doesn’t.
5. Do Your Writing Daily
Yes, I’m telling you to write every single day. No matter what. Just do your writing.
You want to feel better and be happier and have a more freedom-filled life? Then stop putting off your writing. Period.
Write for 15 minutes. Make notes for your story while you drink your coffee in the morning. Jot down a new scene on your phone while the kids are playing soccer.
Use the little pockets of time that you have available to you. If you do this daily, it will add up.
Rehabbing your writing life is pretty simple. It just requires you to be honest with yourself about what you’ve been doing up to this point, get clear on what actually matters, and then committing to making time for what matters every day.
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
P.S. If you’re ready to dive in and make massive changes and shifts in your writing life, so you can be more productive, more fulfilled and make progress on your writing goals, be sure to check out my upcoming workshop–the Writing Life Rehab Masterclass. It’s happening this Saturday April 22 at 2 pm EST (and will be fully recorded).
And because I want you to step up and take massive action, I’ve included an INSANELY AWESOME fast-action bonus for the first 15 people who sign up… a FREE copy of my signature program, Write Your Damn Novel: a self-paced eCourse for emerging novelists who want to write better stories.
But hurry… those spots are going fast!! Less than 10 remain…
I don’t know about you, but a really bad habit I have is checking my email and Facebook notifications first thing when I get out of bed in the morning. As soon as I wake up, I do my journaling and intention setting for the day, but once I’ve stepped out of bed I grab my iPhone and immediately check my emails and Facebook stuff.
Maybe you can relate?
A lot of people do this. It’s just a habitual way of being for most. But it’s a really bad habit that writers (and creative people, in general) need to work on removing from their lives.
The reason is because instead of starting your day with intention and purpose, you’re being reactive to whatever is going on in the outside world (emails, Facebook messages, etc). And when you do this, it essentially sets the tone for your whole day.
I never even really thought of it that way until my mentor said it the other night on a call I was listening to. She said, “do you really want to set the tone of your day by being reactive to other people’s shit?”
And it really got me thinking, because I’ve had a lot of days where I thought I was in for a good day and then I ended up instead being reactive to a hate-mail that came in or to something that someone posted on Facebook, and then that set up the rest of my day.
I’d be brushing my teeth thinking about the hate-mail or walking the dog and worrying that everything was a disaster and I needed to be home working and not enjoying my morning walk.
All of that is reactive behavior and thinking that gets you nowhere and puts a stop to your productive thoughts and actions, because your mind will just be reeling all day from the jolt you had first thing in the morning.
I know it’s insanely hard not to be reactive. As a society, that’s how we are—we react to things that are happening, instead of setting intention and creating what we want. We’re taught to behave this way, so it’s totally normal for it to be a habit we have.
Except it’s a really shitty one that we, as writers, need to break ASAP.
As a creative thinker, you need to give yourself a boost of inspiration and motivation first thing in the morning, to get the juices flowing and keep you thinking creatively all day long. But when you get out of bed and first thing jump into the outside world stuff by reading emails and checking Facebook or watching the news, you’re instead doing the opposite: pushing your creative juices away.
It’s really hard to think creatively and to feel inspired all day when you’re thoughts are inundated with the outside world.
And the truth is, the world doesn’t need you to be there first thing in the morning. We sometimes think it does because everyone wants instant gratification, but the reality is, it can wait.
There’s no difference between checking your email at 7 a.m. when you first wake up, and checking it at 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., AFTER you’ve done your creative work for the day (or at the very least, done some journaling around creating your reality and setting intentions for your life), except then you’ll have been productive and intentional BEFORE you become reactive to the outside world.
And I don’t know about you, but I always feel better and can handle life chaos a whole lot more when I’ve actually accomplished something in my day.
For example, even if something crazy happens in my life and I get distracted from my work for the day, if I at least started my day with journaling and writing my blog post, then I don’t mind as much if I have to deal with life chaos. But when I let life chaos in first thing in the morning, then I feel grumpy and I probably won’t do my journaling or I’ll make excuses for why I don’t need to write a blog post that day.
Habits are intentional ways of being, so you need to create habits that support the writing life you want for yourself.
You know how much I love experiments (well, maybe you don’t if you’re new to me, but yes, I love experiments). Change is hard for me because I’m a habitual person and habits are hard to break, so the way I force myself into changing is to give myself a challenge. (Sometimes my challenges to myself are totally insane, but I live for that.)
I’ve challenged myself to not check my emails, Facebook or anything else until after I’ve done my morning journaling and written my blog post for the day. I’m doing this as an experiment for 30 days, after that I will decide whether to keep going (which is what happens after most of my challenges) or to change something up.
Share With Us
Do you check your emails or Facebook first thing in the morning? How can you step up and start moving away from that habit?
Ready to kick your bad habits to the curb and instead create habits that support your writing life and align with the writer and author you want to be? Check out the Bestselling Author Mastermind, a kick-ass motivation, get-your-writing-done productivity and success mindset group for emerging authors who want the dream writing life. Learn more here.
Featured image courtesy of Pen Waggener
The other day one of my mentors posted a picture of her dinner on Facebook. She was at this nice restaurant and had ordered a meat and veggies dish–no carbs in sight–that had my mouthwatering (and I’m not a big meat eater).
Lately I’ve been working on eating healthier, and have actually been free of refined white sugar and even natural sweeteners, for almost two weeks now. But it’s been TOUGH. Like, really tough.
And yet my mentor seems to eat the way I want to eat almost effortlessly. She doesn’t even like carbs.
I commented on her pic and said, “I wish I had your discipline when it came to food.” (Because I love carbs, especially French fries, salt-and-vinegar chips and anything with sugar. )
As I’m sure you guessed it, her reply to my comment sent me into a tailspin that I’m still rolling around in my head. She commented back: “It’s not that I’m disciplined, it’s that I’m committed to having the result.”
Kinda smacks ya in the face, doesn’t it?
You don’t need discipline when you’re committed to the result you want to create, because the result automatically tells you what choices you need to make.
Easier said than done, sure. But is it really? When you’re that committed to seeing what you want show up in your life, seems like taking the actions would be a natural progression.
And I’ve been rolling this around in my head for days now. It’s really bugging me!
Because it’s made me re-think all the things I thought I was committed to. Made me question which results I’m really willing to do the work for, and which I’d be OK having something else in place of what I really want.
Who wants to look at the fact that they’re not as committed as they thought they were?
If you want to write your novel (or whatever you dream of doing), are you so committed to having the result (aka: a published novel) that you’re doing the work day in and day out? If you’re not, maybe you’re not as committed to the result as you thought you were.
And that’s what I’m contending with right now. Because I have big, HUGE dreams for my writing life and my life in general. But there are some things I don’t really feel like doing most of the time (i.e. going to the gym). So what that means is I won’t ever really have what I want in those areas of my life.
Because to have what you want, you have to be committed to the result.
This is a whole new level of accountability and commitment. It’s a whole new level of assessing what you really want and picking it all apart to determine what you really care about and what you can die never having accomplished and not be bothered by it.
That’s the way to get to the core of what you really want for your writing life.
It’s tough–this being a professional writer stuff. When you write as a hobby you don’t have to worry about how much writing you get done, but when you’re an authorpreneur, you can’t lose focus. You have to know what you want, be very clear on it and specific about it, and then take action.
But if you’ve got goals or dreams in your head that, underneath the surface you don’t really care about or if you didn’t ever make it happen you wouldn’t lose sleep, you can give yourself permission to drop them. To drop them and no longer pursue or even think about them.
Now you’ve just reigned your focus in even more.
That’s what alignment is all about. It’s about knowing what you want, truly, deep down, knowing, and being willing to let go of the other stuff (the stuff you’re holding onto because someone said you should do it or because that’s what everyone else is doing).
And alignment, much like success, is a daily practice. Life happens, it’s always going to. It’s always gonna come in and get in the way.
You’re going to lose your focus sometimes, you’re going to fall off the wagon and be unproductive for a bit. It happens to all of us. Checking in with yourself on a daily basis is a great way to stay aligned with what you want and where you’re going, and also to pick yourself back up faster when you do lose focus.
But please, stop forcing yourself into dreams and goals that have other people’s names on them.
Here’s an example… maybe you’ve been telling yourself you want to write a novel. You’ve tried a few times, but nothing seems to be working. When you look deep-down, you know it’s because you don’t really want to write a novel. Novels are hard work and take way too much time. You’d be happier writing a series of short stories. But every fiction writer has to write a novel, right? So you have to as well.
You don’t have to do anything. You should only do the things you truly care about, the things you’re passionate about and actually want to be doing.
Don’t be afraid to go deep and really question the goals and dreams that you have. If you’ve been after something for a while and you’re still coming up short, maybe deep-down you don’t really want to do it and it’s time to let it go. Or, maybe you’ll find you want it more than anything and now it’s time to step up your commitment to the result.
There is no right or wrong here. It’s all about what works for you and what you want.
And what it really comes down to, is if you know that you truly want something and wouldn’t be able to live with yourself if you didn’t get it, maybe it’s time to get clear on the result and then commit to having it. No discipline needed.
Share With Us
What’s one result you’re so committed to you don’t need discipline to take action?