Words like structure and discipline and habits tend to scare writers. As creative people, we think that having habits or structure in our lives (or stories) will ruin the creativity and freedom that we love.
We’re afraid we’ll be stifled or that we’ll lose that creative spark we’re used to having.
I know because I used to feel the exact same way. I avoided being disciplined or creating habits for most of my life.
And so my habits and discipline was created by default. Because your habits are just the things you do on a daily basis.
For many years, without meaning to, I’d created habits like watching TV for hours at night, and ignoring my writing, and making everything else more important than creating. The funny thing is, I had discipline. It was just around stuff like watching TV at the same time every night.
And yet when I’d hear the words discipline or habits, I’d immediately feel like my creativity would be zapped. How ridiculous is that?!
Because when you use your creativity and do your writing on a consistent basis, you actually become MORE creative and you become a BETTER writer. Crazy, right?
The truth is habits and discipline actually create the freedom that us writers and creators so deeply desire to have in our lives. And they make you better at whatever it is you’re doing.
My writing has improved significantly over the past decade as I’ve been freelance writing and blogging and writing fiction and nonfiction books. But it wasn’t until the last couple years when I’ve realized how much easier and more in flow things can be in my creative life when I’m consistent and when I commit to creating discipline and habits that support me.
‘Cause here’s the thing—your habits can either support your success or they can be your demise.
For years my habits were actually causing me to be stuck in doubt, fear, procrastination, Resistance and excuses. I never really felt clear on anything and I constantly felt like I didn’t know enough (even though I knew plenty).
Not exactly the best motivation for my writing and creating.
But over the last couple years, I’ve discovered that clarity comes from taking action. It comes from doing the work and trying things out. (When you’re unclear, the worst thing you can do is sit there wallowing in it.)
If I’m feeling unclear on something, I know that if I just take some action, in a few days or a few weeks, I’ll start to see clarity.
So a really important question that I ask myself on a monthly basis now is: what habits do I need to install that will support my goals for 2017?
A lot of times I’m coming back to the same things: food, fitness, doing the writing first things first, etc. And since I come back to the same things, I find myself slowly but surely making progress on building the habits that I want to have.
The problem is that we’ve been programmed for so long with such bad habits and beliefs and thoughts that actually go against the things we want for ourselves, that it’s hard to make changes.
I tried to make a major diet change last month. It was pretty disastrous and after 17 days I totally fell off track.
But I had the opportunity to see and feel what my life and energy and body would be like if I did live that lifestyle on a consistent basis. And that changed everything for me.
Because now I know what I want and I’m very clear on what it’s gonna take to get there.
I’m still not back where I was last month food-wise and fitness-wise, but I’m slowly moving in that direction again, building up new habits and uninstalling the old ones. It’s a process, but it’s totally worth it.
And the thing that really helped me to make these changes and start creating these new habits is recognizing that habits are just the things you do every day.
If you do something every single day, that means you have consistency, and consistency is what creates a habit. Doesn’t matter what the thing is, if you do it every day, it’s a habit.
When I started to look at things from that angle, it gave me a whole new perspective on creating the habits that I wanted to have. I just needed to start doing those things I wanted to be doing—working on my fiction, blogging, eating healthy and moving my body—every single day. And if I did that consistently, eventually I’d have a habit around all of it.
So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months, creating new habits that support my goals and my dream life. It’s been an interesting experiment so far, but I’m enjoying it, even the hard parts. Because I know what’s on the other side if I just keep going.
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Now I turn that question to you: what habits do you need to install that will support your goals for 2017 (and beyond)?
Building a habit just means doing something every single day (or on most day). If you want to build a habit of writing, you just have to write every day.
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
P.S. If you want a really easy way to build—or continue building—that habit in your writing life, I’d love for you to join me for FINISH Your Damn Novel: 30 days of kick-ass motivation, inspiration and getting-writing-done for writers who’ve started a novel and want to finish.
I’ll be motivating, inspiring and empowering you to work on your novel draft (or revision) every single day for 30 days. Not only will I be working on and finishing my novel revisions along with you, but I’ll be sending you daily emails and doing livestreams throughout the week in the private workshop Facebook group that will help you stay motivated, create consistency and build a habit of getting words on the page.
Your creativity will soar. You’ll finally have ideas and inspiration flowing every day. And you’ll have finished your novel draft or revision.
How kick-ass would it be to have your novel draft or revision finished by May 1?!
That gives you plenty of time to hire an editor and Beta Readers, do a final polish and then get that sucker out into the world THIS YEAR so you can start on your next one.
We hit the ground running on April 1!!
Most people don’t believe this about me, but I used to be the biggest procrastinating writer in the world. In fact, I was Queen Procrastinating Writer. If I could find something to put ahead of my writing, I would. I once got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed my bathroom floor with a sponge to avoid doing my writing.
I used to have long stretches of time where I wouldn’t do any writing. My longest stretch was two years.
But in 2008, I had enough. I didn’t know what the hell my problem was, but it was time for me to get serious about creating the writing career I wanted for myself. And also writing that novel I’d been talking about writing since I was 13.
Because it was torturous to go to bed every night feeling like I let myself down and didn’t do the writing that was burning inside me. I couldn’t take it anymore.
So I decided I was going to write my first novel that year, by my birthday in September. And to help me stay accountable and get some consistency in my writing life, I’d also start a blog so I could write about my journey to writing my first novel, and motivate, inspire, educate and empower other procrastinating writers who struggled like I did.
My commitment was to write and publish one blog post a week for a year. It was the first time I’d ever been consistent with my writing. I missed a few weeks here and there, but by the end of the year, I’d written around 30-40 blog posts. Not too shabby for a writer who couldn’t stop procrastinating.
But I still wasn’t making a ton of progress on my creative writing goals. I wrote a novel, but I still hadn’t published a novel.
It wasn’t until several years later (in 2015) when I finally had enough of my BS excuses around why I couldn’t finish my novel and put it out there. I set a publication date and that was that. I got it out into the world.
I rode that high for a few months, but I’d fallen right back into my usual patterns of procrastinating and not doing my writing. I justified it by saying that I’d published a novel already that year.
But so fucking what? If I want to be an author of hundreds of books, both fiction and nonfiction, I don’t have time to sit around twiddling my thumbs and not doing my writing. I had to do something major.
Then in 2016, everything shifted. I met a mentor who has written and published 47+ books (46 of which have been bestsellers). She inspired me to step it up BIG TIME in my writing life. That year, I wrote 9 new books and published 7 of them in different capacities (5 on Amazon, 2 as freebies on my blog).
And in 2017, I’m even more driven and focused and getting even more writing done than I ever have before. I’m currently writing anywhere from 3,000-5,000 words a day, and sometimes upwards of 7,000. All on my various writing projects (as a multi-passionate author I could never just work on one thing).
So, how did I get here? How did I go from avoiding my writing by doing ridiculous household chores to writing thousands of words a day, unleashing new books on the regular and publishing blog posts almost daily?
1. Have A Bigger Vision
When I first started my blog in 2008, I didn’t have a vision that went past that first year. I was just going to write and publish one post a week and blog about my journey to writing my first novel. But once I accomplished that, I needed to create a bigger vision for what I was doing. Otherwise I’d never stick with it.
That vision has shifted A LOT over the years and will continue to, as I learn and grow and change. But it started with one thing… teaching writers craft.
In 2009, I discovered Larry Brooks and his teachings on story structure. It changed everything for me. It upended my entire writing life and what I knew and had done up to that point. No one was teaching structure the way he was and I knew I needed to help spread this message and change writers lives the way it changed mine.
My novel, SoundCheck, and the one I’m working on right now (and all the ones that come after) wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for what I learned from Larry about craft. So sharing the message of craft was major for me. It kept me going, especially when things got tough and when I wanted to give up and quit.
And then that vision shifted again when I finally embraced the fact that I’m multi-passionate.
Instead of trying to run from it or trying to keep everything I was doing and wanted to do totally separate, I decided to create a personal brand and put everything under it. Because at the end of the day, I’m my brand, just like you are yours.
And now the vision for my company is bigger than it’s ever been. I’m no longer just on a mission to teach writers craft. I’m now on a mission to shake up the writing industry by changing the way writers think and challenging what they believe is possible.
That is the vision I’m living for right now.
But I never could’ve seen that in the beginning of my journey. I only came to this bigger vision by starting with a smaller vision and growing from there.
Journal Prompt: what’s the bigger vision for your writing life? What’s a smaller vision you can achieve right now that would be a stepping stone to that bigger vision?
2. A Why
Having a “why” is kindling that fuels the motivational fire. My why is freedom. It’s my core value in life and the biggest reason why I’m an entrepreneur.
Maintaining that freedom is a great motivator for me to show up every day and do the work. Especially considering the stakes of not showing up are so much higher now.
You can’t really procrastinate when your living depends on you showing up.
Journal Prompt: what fuels your motivation? What’s your why?
3. A Purpose
The purpose of what I do as an author is to inspire, motivate, educate and empower multi-passionate authors to go all in on their dreams, and create a life and writing business where they never have to choose just one thing. That is the purpose that drives everything I do now in my own writing business. Every book I write, every blog post I publish, every workshop I teach. Everything.
By having a purpose for what I’m doing, it makes it all the more critical that I show up and do the work. I have people counting on me to do my writing and get it out there, so they can get what they need from it to heal, transform and create.
Procrastination is no longer an option for me.
Journal Prompt: what’s the purpose behind your work as a writer?
Creating consistency in my writing life is the only way I’ve been able to overcome my procrastination. Because the things you do consistently become a habit. And habits make it almost impossible not to do the work.
I have a habit of getting up in the morning and taking my dog for a walk. We may miss a few days a year due to weather or things like that, but overall, we walk every single morning. This is a habit that I created for us because I wanted to make sure he was getting enough exercise. We only started this habit a few years ago, but now I wouldn’t even think about not walking him because it’s just a natural part of my morning to do so.
Well, same goes with my writing. I just created a daily habit of doing my writing, first things first, before I do anything else or let the world in. And that daily consistency is what helped me to overcome the procrastination that used to run rampant in my life.
Journal Prompt: where are you not being consistent in your writing life? How can you step it up to start to create habits around doing the things that matter?
5. Master Craft
Whether you’re blogging, writing novels, self-help books, poetry or memoir, you have to master the craft of the writing you’re doing. There are principles and guidelines for each type of writing, and it’s your job as a writer and author to figure out the craft you need to master.
There’s no excuse for not knowing your craft.
And when you know craft and you thoroughly inside and out understand the nuances of the type of writing you’re doing, procrastination becomes a thing of the past. Because when you know what you’re doing, it lessens your desire to procrastinate.
Journal Prompt: what pieces of craft do you still need clarity on? What do you need to practice more?
6. Planning and Development
Back when I used to be a major procrastinator, I not only didn’t know craft, but I didn’t know how to plan and develop my ideas into actual words on the page. So it was easier to avoid the page completely than it was to face a blinking cursor on a blank screen.
But once I started to learn craft and then created processes for planning and developing my ideas into stories and self-help books, I felt less need to procrastinate. I was actually excited to sit down and get to work on writing the draft of the story or nonfiction book.
Planning and development ahead of time gives you a roadmap for doing the writing. And that makes everything easier.
Journal Prompt: how can you incorporate planning and developing your ideas into your current writing life, in a way that feels good to you, but still allows for ease and productivity?
7. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
One of the biggest reasons most writers procrastinate is fear. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of the unknown… insert whatever fear you have going on. And many writers allow this fear to stop them from doing the writing or from going all the way and finishing.
But the thing about success and about becoming a successful writer is you have to be able to feel the fear and then do the writing anyhow.
If you allow the fear to overcome you, you’ll continue procrastinating forever and never accomplish what you want. So you have to find ways to push past the fear. To allow it to be there and still do your writing anyhow.
I’m scared all the time with regard to the writing I’m doing and putting out there. But I don’t let it stop me. I just put it out there and move on to the next thing.
Journal Prompt: where do you need to be ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyways’ in your writing life?
8. Make Health A Priority
For a long time I didn’t think about or take care of my health. Back when I was procrastinating the worst I ever had, I was also feeling the worst I ever had.
I was suffering with back, neck and shoulder pain from an accident I had as a teenager, which made sitting for long periods of time painful. And I had all kinds of stomach pain and other issues from undetected food sensitivities.
So of course I procrastinated. It’s very hard to push through the “I don’t feel like it” excuse when you actually feel like shit all the time.
When I started taking control of my health, changing my food habits, eating differently, moving my body more often and getting under the care of an upper cervical chiropractor is when things shifted for me health-wise. Which, in turn, shifted my procrastination habits.
Journal Prompt: how can you make taking care of your health a nonnegotiable? What do you need to be doing that you’re not right now?
9. Reprogramming the Subconscious Mind
I’ve been reprogramming my old thoughts, beliefs and ways of being for years now. And it’s paying off big time.
By reprogramming my old thoughts and beliefs, I’ve been able to install new beliefs and thoughts that support my goals, rather than continuing to live by the thoughts and beliefs that are blocking me from achieving them.
Your subconscious mind is a powerful creative force, and it’s always running in the background, creating by default. And it will continue to give you more of the same until you finally take charge and change it.
Journal Prompt: how can you create a daily mindset practice that will support you in creating new beliefs and thoughts that are aligned with your goals? What can you include in your practice that would feel great for you?
And that is how I’ve been able to overcome procrastination to write and publish 10+ books and more than a thousand blog posts (and counting).
I believe that writers are messengers for the world. If you identify as a writer and you know with every ounce of your being that writing is in your blood, then you’re meant to be sharing your writing with the world. It’s a huge honor to be someone who writes words that transforms others.
But it’s also a huge responsibility to get over whatever excuses and bullshit I have going on, so that I can do the writing that I need to be doing day in and day out. Because it matters whether or not I show up every day.
And I get that now. Fully getting that and taking it to heart is the thing that has truly allowed me to step into the identity of the writer and author I dream of being. And procrastination isn’t a part of that identity.
You can do the same thing. It’s a choice, and the choice is yours.
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
P.S. If you’re ready to kick procrastination to the curb and finally finish what you started, the doors to my upcoming workshop, FINISH Your Damn Novel: 30 days of kick-ass motivation, inspiration and getting-writing-done for writers who have started a first draft or the revision of a novel and want to FINISH, are opening tomorrow. Get on my email list here so you’re the first to get in.
So on Wednesday, the city where I live had a horrific wind storm. It was almost tornado-like. They were warning people to stay off the roads and there was stuff blowing around everywhere.
And, of course, we lost power. About 100,000+ people currently have no power, including myself. It’s been more than 2 days at this point, and it could be a couple more before we see power again at my apartment.
Worst of all, we lost all the food in our fridge, and we don’t have any internet (that’s the worst of all for me… I need my internet!).
Not to mention it’s winter, and without power… it’s also FREEZING. (And the craziest part of all is that my apartment also lost power last Wednesday thanks to another wind storm… but last week we were the only ones who lost it, so they had it back up within 12 hours. This time… not so much.)
Suffice to say, life got in the way yesterday. So even though I tried my best to get my usual first things first stuff done, it just didn’t happen. I did manage to get my journaling and mindset work done, and I took care of my health stuff.
But my blog didn’t get written in the morning. And even if it did, I didn’t have internet access to be able to post it and share it around on social. And I also didn’t do the other daily activities that I need internet for (I even had to reschedule a training with my group because livestreaming requires a strong internet connection and my LTE couldn’t handle the load).
And here’s the thing… this is gonna happen.
Life will get in the way. Life chaos will happen. Some days you’ll wake up and feel totally out of control and nothing will go right.
But even still, there are no excuses. No reasons good enough to stop doing what matters every day.
So even if you have an off day where things just don’t work out or don’t go right, that doesn’t mean every day has to turn into that.
Get back to it. Immediately. As soon as you can.
Last night I wrote my post. It wasn’t as good as what I usually write, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is I did it. I got it done. I made it happen.
Success is built on the back of getting the things that matter done every single day.
And when you can’t get the things that matter done, you do the best you can with what you’ve got in the moment, and you get back to it as soon as you possibly can.
My brother’s house has power and internet, so me, my hubs and our poodle moved ourselves here for a couple days. Last night I forced myself to go to bed early so I could get up super early this morning and get back on track.
It’s not easy to be in someone else’s space and continue on with your usual routine. I’d still call this life getting in the way.
But I refuse to stop or be stopped. By anyone or anything.
And so on I continue.
Even though I’m not in my usual comfort zone. Even though my daily routine is a bit off thanks to not being at home. Even though I’ve had a seriously shitty week and just want to call it a wash and be lazy for the rest of the weekend.
But I push on.
Because I have a vision. I have goals. I have a mission. And I will get there. No matter what.
So I allow myself to have an off day, because that’s gonna happen sometimes. There’s no way around it.
BUT I don’t allow myself to use an off day as a reason to have an off week or an off month. I deal with life as it comes, do the best I can, and get back to my usual do what matters first things first routine as soon as I possibly can.
Because that’s what it takes.
Success is daily practice. And what really matters isn’t what you do on occasion or every now and then. What really matters is what you do every day.
If you don’t have the success you desire, I’d take a good hard look at your daily habits and morning routine. That’s the starting point to getting yourself aligned with where you want to go.
You must set yourself up for success every day.
And on the days when that doesn’t happen, don’t place blame, don’t make excuses, don’t give up. Just deal with what’s happening and get back to it the next day.
Because anything worth doing is worth doing daily.
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How do you get back into your daily routine when life gets in the way? Share in the comments.
Doors to my Write and Publish Your Nonfiction eBook in 10 Days workshop are CLOSING soon!! This is an action-taking workshop that will get you motivated to write and publish your nonfiction eBook.
Not next year or next month, but right-freaking-now!!
Just imagine… 10 days from today you could be holding your Kindle and seeing your eBook on the screen. You could be selling your eBook and starting to many an income from your writing. You could be getting your eBook into the hands of readers who are desperately waiting for someone like you to come along and write the book they need.
Here’s what Sarrah October Young, author of Get Off My Feed! How To Navigate Slippery Social Media Situations, had to say about her experience in the workshop:
“Writing an eBook has never been easier. Jennifer’s tried-and-true system helps you build your book from the initial idea straight through to publishing without missing any steps. If you are ready to finally write that book, Jennifer will give you the kick in the ass you need to get that shit done. I wrote my first eBook using her system, and I’m already working on my next one. It works.”
Ready to get your eBook written and published??
I’m always thinking about how I got where I am in the moment. Looking at the journey I’ve taken so far and trying to figure out what, exactly, brought me to this point.
And I especially love to compare where I used to be to where I am now, not only to remember how far I’ve come, but also to remember how much I’ve overcome.
I’ve learned A LOT over my decade+ being an online entrepreneur, and while there are so many lessons and insights I could share, probably the BIGGEST one and the one that will get you where you want to go the fastest, is this…
Success is a discipline.
A lot of creative people avoid discipline because they see it as stifling and uncreative. I used to feel the same way. I used to procrastinate and avoid doing the work, all the while telling myself that one day I’d get my shit together and my dream life would start to unfold.
The problem was that I wasn’t doing it. Because I bought into the BS belief that success is something you stumble across, rather than create.
Maybe you’ve heard people say—“some day I’ll be…” or “one day I’ll do…” (insert whatever dream the person has). And the problem with some day and one day, is that IT MAY NEVER COME.
Because success is NOT guaranteed. Your dream life is not guaranteed.
You may have been born fully deserving and worthy of the life you dream, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to come to fruition.
I avoided creating habits around success for a really long time, because I believed that habits and discipline took my freedom away from me. And my core value in life, above all else, is freedom.
I wanted to live free and be free and control everything and have it all on my terms and I didn’t want to answer to anyone. From a young age, I dreamed of freedom. I dreamed of having everything I’ve ever wanted, exactly as I wanted it.
That’s all I remember thinking about as a kid… freedom. To do what I wanted, when I wanted to do it.
But for a lot of my adult life, I didn’t feel free. I felt totally under lock-and-key; first with my day jobs, and then after I quit my job, succumbing to the addictions that were holding me back—sugar, watching TV, procrastination.
When I thought about it… how much sugar I was eating, how much TV I was watching, how often I procrastinated on the things that actually mattered to me… I realized that I wasn’t free.
All I ever wanted was freedom. That’s why I quit my day job to be a full-time entrepreneur, so I could answer to no one but myself and do whatever I wanted to do, all day, every day.
But I didn’t have that. I wasn’t free. I was being controlled by a substance (sugar), and I was being controlled by bad habits (watching too much TV and procrastination). So while I had avoided creating good habits and being disciplined for years because I thought it would take my freedom away, I found myself totally stuck and being controlled by outside factors.
And that is NOT freedom.
It’s only when I rose to the occasion—when I started to consistently show up and to put first things first and to make sure I did what actually mattered every day—that things started to change.
Suddenly, I felt freer. I felt like I was in control. I felt like I was writing with a purpose and living with intention. Something I’d been so afraid to do previously because I thought it would take my freedom away.
But over the years I’ve discovered that freedom comes from being disciplined. It comes from doing what matters and doing it first thing before you do anything else.
I’ve even started getting up earlier every day (for me, anyhow!), because I’m starting to see that getting up early actually creates MORE freedom for me.
You have no idea how AMAZING it feels to have completed my journaling and mindset work, finished writing my blog post, worked on my books, and spent at least 15 minutes exercising… all before Noon. (Some days before 11 a.m.)
For a while I wasn’t even starting my get-shit-done time ’till after 1 p.m. when I finally got my ass out of bed and got moving for the day. And at first I thought that was freedom. I was intentionally choosing to stay up really late, to sleep in, and to avoid doing any real work ’till the afternoon time.
Until recently when I discovered that I wasn’t actually free doing things that way. I was giving my life to sleeping half the day away and then bumbling around for 2-3 hours after I got up, not really doing much of anything, and then getting caught up in life stuff during the afternoon, and not ending up working on anything of any importance until well after 7 p.m.
That’s not exactly freedom, even if I was intentionally choosing it.
Because I wasn’t fully creating the success I wanted to see. I was sleeping during what turned out to be my most creative and productive time of day… the mornings.
I’m a night owl. Always have been. When I was kid, I used to do whatever I could to find ways to stay up as late as possible. I hated going to bed, even when I was tired. And being creative and getting stuff done at night was working OK for me… but it didn’t feel very free.
Because most nights I’d have to skip out on whatever was going on in my actual life—fun stuff like hanging out with my husband and our friends or making plans to actually leave the house and go do something—in order to do all the stuff I didn’t do during the day.
Because I procrastinated. Because I slept way too late. Because I was watching way too much TV.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been experimenting with getting up early (or at least, early for me!) and honestly it shifted something in me.
I’ve never been a morning person, because I prefer the nighttime. But what I didn’t realize is that I prefer the nighttime to do whatever the fuck I want to do—read, watch movies, go out and do something, just chill and relax. And I wasn’t getting to do that because I had to make up for my lack of daytime productivity by hustling my ass off at night. Sometimes until 2 or 3 a.m.
Not exactly freedom, is it?
But on the days when I get up early, I’m insanely productive and creative and inspired and motivated, and by 1 p.m. when I’d usually just be starting my work day, I’ve already got all the most important stuff I needed to do that day FINISHED.
Creating the success you want to see in your life comes down to discipline and habit.
If you don’t have the success you dream of currently, I’d look at your habits and the things you have discipline around. Oh—what’s that you say? You don’t have any discipline or productive habits?
Well, that’s why you don’t have the success you want.
I’m saying this to myself as much as I’m saying it to you. Discipline creates freedom. And success is a daily habit.
Success is a way of thinking, a way of being and a way of acting. Until I realized that, I was actually sabotaging my own success.
Now I’m creating the success I want to see, by becoming habitual and having discipline around the things that really matter.
I totally get it now, the whole success thing. So many people think success comes from being special or from knowing more than everyone else or from having better connections or rich parents or a bunch of money to invest or whatever. But it’s NONE of that.
The truth is, success is a habit. It’s a discipline.
Success requires consistency. It requires you to show up every single day and do what matters. Over and over again.
THAT’S what creates success. Nothing else.
Wrap your head around that and you will change your life in ways you can’t even begin to imagine right now.
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What habits can you create in your life to ensure that success is inevitable for you? Share in the comments.
P.S. Today is the FINAL DAY to join us in the Six Figure Author Society!! We’re kicking things off tomorrow (March 1) with building your marketing foundation. If you want to create discipline and habits around doing what matters for your marketing and book sales, you’ll definitely want to check this out and join us: www.jenniferblanchard.net/sixfigureauthor
NOTE: This is a guest post from my client, Zara Quentin, who just published her debut novel, Airwoman. Enjoy! –jen
How long does it take to write a novel? Years? Decades? You’ve probably been writing for some time–you may even have more than one ‘bottom-drawer’ novel (AKA: practice novel), right?
That’s how it was for me—years of writing drafts I couldn’t bring myself to revise, because I didn’t think it was worth the time or the energy.
In 2015, all that changed. I decided I was going to publish a book in 2016. I’d been fooling around with my writing dream for years, expecting a published novel to be many more years in the making—if it ever happened at all.
I remember making that decision—it changed the way I thought about writing.
Here is a timeline of how I wrote and published, Airwoman: Book 1:
The First Three Months: Idea to Planning (August to October 2015)
I distinctly remember getting the idea for Airwoman. My main character, Jade Gariq (though I didn’t know her name back then), came to me one dark and stormy night in mid-August 2015. She perched on my windowsill, wings and all. She was running from something, seeking refuge. She intrigued me.
Soon after that, in early September, Story Coach, Jennifer Blanchard, ran a free 7-day story planning challenge in the 1% Writers Facebook Group (which I’m a member of) and I started to flesh out my idea based on the character who had visited me that night. I really enjoyed the challenge and decided I’d try NaNoWriMo, which was a few months away. So when Jennifer opened up her NaNoWriMo 6-week story development course, I decided to get on board.
It was around this time that I made the decision to publish my novel in 2016. Call it a mid-life crisis moment, but I suddenly realized that, after having my third child, life wasn’t going to get any less busy. Not in the short term. If I wanted to pursue my writing, I just had to do it. I had to make time for it.
A few days after I’d made that decision, I got an email from Jennifer, revealing her Novel By Next Year course, which involved having her as a coach and guide through the planning, drafting and publishing stages.
It felt like fate. I was in.
So for the rest of September and October, I planned Airwoman: Book 1 until I had a scene roadmap of the entire novel. I had never planned to this extent before—but instead of being bored by the planning, it made me excited to get started writing.
At the end of October, I moved (somewhat unexpectedly) with my family from New Zealand (where we had been living for two years) back to Australia. With three young children, and a house full of stuff, it was full on. In consultation with Jennifer, I put the roadmap aside for a couple of weeks, let NaNoWriMo pass me by, and focused on the move.
Sometimes, life happens, right?
First Draft – Facing the Blank Page (November 2016 – January 2016)
It was about mid-November before I was able to focus on writing again. I took a week or so to look over my scene roadmap again and tweak it in a few places. Then I took a deep breath and dove into writing the first draft.
The first draft is a daunting time for a writer–facing the blank page. However, with a detailed roadmap, it was easier than ever. I didn’t wonder what to write in the next scene. Instead, I thought about the detail of it. I watched the movie of the scene inside my head, then transcribed it onto the page.
And so I wrote. Every day.
Every single day for about two months. I wrote every evening after the kids had gone to bed, during their nap-time (if they went down). I snatched whatever time I could for writing.
I had a goal of writing 500 words per day at least–a small goal, not too daunting. Usually once 500 words is written, I’ll write a lot more. But on an off-day, I gave myself permission to hit 500 words then stop.
I finished the first draft just after New Year, in early January 2016. The first draft came out to about 80,000 words.
My Manuscript Rested – I Did Not (January – February 216)
Although I already had some ideas about how I could improve my first draft, I was determined to give the manuscript a proper rest so that I could come back to it with fresh eyes. I had a six week break before I read through it again.
But I was not idle during this time.
Instead, I set up my author website, a blog and my social media accounts. I developed my brand and the focus for my blog. I worked on, not just creating the platforms, but being active on those forums regularly.
I announced to the world I was a writer and that I was publishing a book. This took a lot of courage–finally confessing to being a writer and giving myself a public deadline.
Suddenly, my decision back in September 2015 seemed to loom. October wasn’t all that far away and I had to finish a book. A whole book! What was I thinking?
Taking A Deep Breath. And Plunging Into Revisions (March to June 2016)
In March, I dared to read through my first draft. Happily, it wasn’t as bad as I feared, though it definitely needed work.
During the first draft phase, Jennifer had been reading through my draft week by week and sending feedback, which I’d held over for the revision phase as I’d wanted to just get the first draft down on the page. She then read through the whole draft again and provided me with copious notes, which I put together with my own to make my revision schedule.
After a first read through, I read it again and made more notes about what needed to change. Then I made a revision roadmap—listing each scene, the changes that needed to be made and a timeline of events. I also drew up some maps of my story world, which helped me to keep track of the action throughout the story.
I learned a lot from the revision process. Firstly, though I would consider world-building to be one of my strengths, more often than not, it didn’t make its way onto the page. I often had my characters moving through a blank canvas and, though I saw the backdrop in my head, readers wouldn’t have that advantage. During my revisions, I needed to set the scene.
I also had to flesh out characterization and character motivations in some cases. A few events needed to be switched around or fleshed out for greater impact.
I also learned that revision wasn’t a chore of a task, as I had always imagined it would be. I actually enjoyed the opportunity to improve the story. That became my goal—working out how to make the story better.
Once I had completed the revision roadmap, I dove into the redraft (the second draft). During this phase, I went through my manuscript scene by scene, taking what I could from the first draft and altering, rewriting or scrapping things depending on what needed to be done. This took most of March and April.
Once that was finished, I read it through again and fixed some consistency errors, made a few more tweaks.
Then, as luck would have it, at the end of June, my family and I had to move interstate (again, somewhat unexpectedly). That took another couple of weeks out of the writing process as I managed yet another move. Luckily, I was in a position to send what I considered the third draft to a developmental editor and some Beta Readers.
An Outside Opinion: Biting My Fingernails and More Revision (July to September 2016)
It was a nerve-wracking time, sending out my manuscript to people I didn’t know and who hadn’t been with me on this journey so far. When they didn’t immediately get back to me, I feared the worst. What if they hated it and were trying to find a way to phrase it nicely? I had to remind myself that they also had busy schedules.
In the meantime, I started to liaise with to my cover designer. It was an interesting process because-–despite wanting something amazing–I really had no idea of what I wanted on the cover. My cover was in his hands! Thankfully, he came back with a number of ideas, which we then discussed so that he understood what I liked and didn’t like, and where we would go with it.
One-by-one, at the end of July and early August, the editor and Beta Readers came back to me with their comments. Despite my fears, their feedback was encouraging. They’d liked the story, but showed me ways to improve it. I really grew as a writer through this feedback. In pointing out where the manuscript needed improvement, I learned both what I’m good at, and what I need to work on. Their advice helped me to improve Airwoman, but I believe it will also help me to improve my future writing too.
At this point, I set down to revise my manuscript again, and also set a date for publication: October 25th! The date loomed on my calendar as I realized how little time there was left.
I revised through August until I felt the manuscript didn’t need any more tweaking. In early September, I got to proofreading. In September, I also worked with the cover designer to finalize the cover. At the end of September the final manuscript went to the formatter to format it for print and Kindle.
When I picked October 25 for the publication date, I had hoped to have a month to promote the book before it came out. In the end, I had about three weeks as I waited until the final cover, the pre-order was set up on Amazon (along with relevant links) and a free preview was available on my site.
During this time, I went back and forth with the formatter, making sure the interior was as I wanted it, and correcting those last typos (always some!). I set up my author profile on Amazon and Goodreads. I also started blogging about the inspiration behind my book, sharing photos and contacting book bloggers and reviewers to garner interest in reviewing it.
I set up a Virtual Launch Party on Facebook and did some guest posting, trying to get word out about my novel. The marketing was new for me, but I found I enjoyed it—it was a challenge to think about ways to promote my book.
Finally, the big day came. I held my book in my hands. It went out into the world where other people could read it. It was the height of vulnerability—allowing complete strangers to read and comment on my book which, as every writer would know, is like baring their very soul for others to comment o.
But I did it. In a little over a year, I published my debut novel, Airwoman: Book 1. It felt so good.
That’s Just the Beginning
It was one hell of a year! I’ve grown more in the last year as a writer, than I had in the many years of writing before that. By finally giving myself permission to invest in my dream, I took a big leap in learning—about story craft, about myself as a writer and about the publication process. I’m very lucky that I had Jennifer Blanchard to hold my hand throughout the process. Without her, I doubt I would have come so far so soon. Having someone to bounce ideas off, read my work, encourage and guide me has been invaluable.
I’m pleased to have achieved my goal, but this is not the end. I’m not a one-book writer. Obviously Airwoman: Book 1 is the first in a series. I’ve got a series overview fleshed out and have planned the second book. I’m itching to get started on it.
The writer’s journey is an exciting ride, and I’m only at the beginning.
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How far along are you on your writer journey? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
About the Author: Zara Quentin is the author of Airwoman: Book 1. She inherited a love of travel from her parents, who took her and her sister on trips to the United States, Europe, and Asia as children. Zara now resides in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. She is currently working on the next instalment in the Airwoman series. You can read the first three chapters of Airwoman for free here.
If you want help taking your story from idea to published, just like Zara did, be sure to apply to work with me and my team of self-publishing pros. You can fill out the application here.
I noticed something last Sunday, when I was writing out my list of calls and must-do tasks for the week to come: I had a lot of “carry-over” tasks. Things I wrote down as needing to be done last week, but then here I was going into the next week and those tasks were still there.
And this happens with some of my goals as well. As I look back I see I had years of my life where the same goals were carrying over from December to January, over and over again. (Things like, writing and publishing a novel, for example.)
Maybe you can relate?
After months and/or weeks of carrying tasks and goals over, it kinda makes you stop and think… why am I doing this? If I’m so convinced these tasks or goals are important enough for me to keep carrying them over from the previous year or week, why haven’t I managed to complete any of them?
If you’re having the same experience, it’s time to get real with it. There are two things potentially causing this problem.
The Root Cause of Carry-Over Tasks
There are two main reasons you have carry-over goals (or tasks):
- Resistance–you know this is a super important task that could move you forward in a big way, so you avoid it by filling your day with meaningless tasks that keep you spinning on a hamster wheel
- You’re “Shoulding” Yourself–the tasks or goals are on your list because you think you should be doing them, not because you actually want to do them.
So, which is it for you?
For me, it’s always Resistance. I’ve come to a place in my life where I no longer “should” myself into goals or tasks I don’t want to do. I am clear, focused and have a vision for my life and writing business.
But I do have a ton of Resistance, especially to the tasks and goals I know will help me make major progress. And in case you’re not familiar with the term, Resistance was coined by Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art. He defines it as: the internal avoidance of your creative work. Because you’re trying to avoid a calling that you feel inside, you create chaos in your life or make excuses.
When I find myself watching too much Netflix, having too many days (or–gulp–weeks) where my tasks are carrying over, or am overindulging in sugary, processed foods….I know that I’m Resisting my creative work. It’s tough to look at, because then you have to admit how much the creative work really matters to you and how afraid you feel inside, and that’s why you’re avoiding it.
Or at least that’s how it goes for me.
The good thing with being in the creative game this long now is I can recognize my Resistance in-action and usually stop it and start moving in the opposite direction pretty quick. But there are those occasions where I’ll get totally caught up in it. Usually when I’m overthinking something instead of just taking action on it.
The other option, is that you’re not Resisting anything, you’re just shoulding yourself into tasks and goals that don’t really matter to you. So that’s why you’re avoiding them.
If you’ve been telling yourself that you “have” to do something and yet that something never seems to get done, it’s time to call that task (or goal) into question. You need to ask yourself:
- Do I really care about completing this task or goal?
- Why do I feel this task or goal needs to be on my to-do list?
- What is the purpose of this task or goal (as in, how will it move you forward)?
You’ll know from your responses whether or not you’re shoulding yourself. If you are, it’s time to stop that shit, pronto.
How To Overcome Carry-Over Tasks Syndrome
Alright, now that you’ve identified which category your carry-over tasks fall into, it’s time to remedy it. Luckily, the remedy is the same for both, so even if you could’t identify with one or the other, it will still work for you:
- Prioritize–it’s time to accept that you can’t do it all and by having so many carry-over tasks, more important stuff could be falling by the wayside. It’s time for you to prioritize your top 5 and top 10 (which is the top 5 plus 5 more) tasks that need to be done to move you forward, in your writing life and your life in general.The top 5 are the most important priorities, the things you must do every single day, no matter what. And then the additional 5 (rounding out the top 10), are things that it would be awesome to get done. You’re not allowed to work on the top 10 until the top 5 are done for the day. (I made a video explaining this way of prioritizing here.)
By knowing what your top priorities are and focusing on them, you’ll find yourself making progress each day, week, month, year, and not having carry-over tasks that do nothing to add value to your life or your writing.
- Go Pro In Your Mind–Steven Pressfield says the cure for Resistance is “turning pro,” which means showing up and acting like a pro would. I like to think about this as more of a mindset shift. You have to start thinking the way a pro would and when you do that, the actions will automatically follow.For example, a pro shows up every day and writes, even if she’s not inspired. A pro finishes and publishes, then repeats the process again. A pro accepts that life will always get in the way, and she finds a way to get her writing done anyhow.
An amateur lets the little things distract or get in the way. An amateur makes excuses for why the writing didn’t happen.
If you want to do this for real, you’ve gotta go pro in your mind. You’ve gotta have a Pro Writer Mindset that thinks–and then acts–from a place of already being the writer and author you want to be.
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Which of the two categories–Resistance or Shoulding yourself–is responsible for your carry-over tasks?
If you’re ready to go pro and step up into a Pro Writer Mindset and way of being, be sure to check out the Bestselling Author Mastermind, a high-level accountability and kick-ass motivation support group for emerging authors and authorpreneurs who want to make writing their life.
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.
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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
I’ve always known I was born to live a big life and to do great things. From a young age I took the world by storm, setting goals, creating stuff, being an entrepreneur (my first biz was a lemonade stand, my second was a craft business, I wrote a 120-page novella in three days when I was 13).
Back then it was easy. I didn’t know limitations or norms. I just did what I felt like doing and had fun with it.
But then it got hard. The people around me weren’t like me. They spent all their time playing outside and doing sports, while I spent a good portion of my time alone with a notebook and pen (or some other creative project).
And a part of me just wanted to fit in.
So I tried. I spent less time doing the stuff my soul wanted to be doing and I spent more time trying to be like my friends. It never worked, of course, because I kept evolving past all of the people I hung out with and then things would go south and we’d no longer be friends.
Growth can be really hard.
It followed me into young adulthood. I kicked serious ass in college, jumping on as many opportunities as possible. My senior year I became the first person in the history of my school to be the editor of the newspaper and the editor of the literary magazine at the same time (and I had totally amazing managing editors on both projects who helped keep things in check).
When I graduated, I went straight into a paid internship for what I thought was my dream job: magazine editor. I was hired on and worked as a magazine editor for several prestigious pet publications, and went from Assistant Editor to Managing Editor within two years of working for the company. I even helped launch a brand new magazine.
I was finding so much success in the work I was doing. Except I wasn’t doing very much writing. Real writing, the kind that I cared about and that had meaning to me.
Sure, I was writing on a daily basis for the magazine and it was fun, but I had stories inside me that wanted to come out. So when I left my magazine job and moved halfway across the country to Texas to work in online and social media marketing, I decided it was time to take on my novel writing dream. For real.
In 2008, I started my blog and committed to writing one blog post a week talking about my journey to writing my very first novel. I was fired up, but then I fell off and ended up doing more blogging than working on my novel.
It took a lot, but I got motivated to write my novel as my deadline came closer, and by my birthday, I had the completed first draft.
But I wasn’t committed to it. I wasn’t committed to being the writer I really wanted to be. So I wasn’t consistent with it.
I was scared, and worried that I’d never get any further than that. One draft.
As the next few years passed by, I saw that I wasn’t at all where I wanted to be. So I finally stepped up and finished a damn novel and then published it.
But I still wasn’t committed. I wasn’t all-in. I didn’t have any consistency with what I was doing.
Yes, I did have consistency with my blogging and my marketing stuff, but not with my soul writing, my books (and especially my novels).
And the thing that makes no sense is I’ve always known I was born to be a writer, a storyteller, a creator. I’ve always known I was born to inspire and motivate people to get off their asses and live their lives to the fullest. (I even have that phrase tattooed on my inner wrist; see pic.)
But I haven’t always acted like it.
I’ve played small and hided out. I’ve been inconsistent with my art because I’ve been afraid to be the full-out, insane, crazy version of me that I used to be (back when I got bullied for it). Afraid to say the things inside me that I know writers need to hear, but things it’s scary to say.
I’ve been afraid to be the hardcore version of me who holds myself to really high standards and smashes my goals and wants to have it all and believes that I can. And also who DOES THE FREAKING WORK.
That’s all over now. These last few months have been life-changing for me.
I’ve cleaned up my writing habits. I’ve aligned myself with the success I want to have as an authorpreneur. And I’m all-in, doing, as my mentor says, “what it takes, for as long as it takes, until it takes.”
I’m now fully living the writer’s life. Where before I was only dipping my toe into the water, I am now day in and day out living and breathing being a writer, a creator and an entrepreneur.
Because I know I was born for this. The more I’ve stepped into it the more I can feel how aligned it is with my soul. This is who I’m meant to be.
I am an authorpreneur.
Were you born to write? Born to put your words and your stories out into the world? Have you known for a very long time that you’re meant to do big things?
Then start acting like it.
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How are you going to step up and take your writing life on full-force?
If you’ve been procrastinating but you’re ready for MORE in your writing life, check out the Bestselling Author Mastermind, it’s the high-level accountability and ass-kicking motivation you need to reach your writing goals.
By Jennifer Blanchard
I have a confession to make: I can’t live without my BlackBerry.
My entire life is programmed into that thing–my doctor appointments, meetings I have at work, reminders I set for myself, etc. If I ever lost it, I’d go crazy and probably forget everything.
For me, setting appointments is a huge step toward getting something accomplished.
If I put it in my phone and set a reminder, there’s a much better chance it will get done than if I don’t write it down at all.
Making writing appointments can be an effective way to get your writing done.
However, most procrastinators–even if they made a writing “appointment”–still wouldn’t write when their schedule says they are supposed to. This usually boils down to a couple things:
- People are often afraid of committing to a specific time because then they feel pressured to write
- People don’t know how to keep an appointment with themselves
There is a simple method to help rid you of any fears you might have about making a writing appointment. I call it “Make an Appointment a Day.”
How it works is:
- For a two week period, you make one appointment every single day.The appointment can be anything you need to accomplish–walk the dog, exercise, get your nails done, play basketball–whatever.
- Then you keep whatever appointment you made, every single day.Doing so will help you get in a habit of committing to yourself and following through. Once you are able to do that for your everyday tasks, then you can transition to making a writing appointment every day.
Here is an example of how a week with one appointment a day would look:
- Monday: exercise 6 p.m.
- Tuesday: walk the dog 5:30 a.m.
- Wednesday: watch America’s Next Top Model 7 p.m.
- Thursday: exercise 8 p.m.
- Friday: drinks with friends 9 p.m.
- Saturday: mow the grass 11:30 a.m.
- Sunday: make lunch for the entire week 2 p.m.
So in this example, if these are the appointments you’ve made with yourself, you would need to make sure you complete each task when the time comes.
It’s difficult to be accountable to yourself (which is why a reliability buddy helps); that’s why scheduling writing appointments is so important. Sometimes that’s the only way you’ll ever really be accountable to yourself.
But since keeping self-set writing deadlines is difficult, especially for writers who procrastinate, learning to first keep any kind of self-set deadline (see example above) will help get you on the right track.
Give “Making an Appointment a Day” a try, and if you do, be sure to let us know how it went.