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The #1 Question You Need to Ask Yourself If You Want to Be More Productive

I’m currently on the road–I drove with my husband and dog from NY where I live at the moment to Austin where I’ll be moving in a couple months. And it’s a 24-hour drive that we did straight through, no stopping to sleep.
 
Most people would find this situation to be inconvenient and wouldn’t worry too much about whether or not they’re being productive and getting stuff done.
 
But productivity is always on my mind. Mostly because I’m a productivity nerd, but also because I have BIG HUGE goals for my writing and my life and so I’m always thinking about how to get more stuff done.
 
I often hear writers say it’s impossible to get anything done when you’re traveling. And I used to agree with that. I used to buy into the belief that inconvenience is a huge problem and not worth pushing through on.
 
But that was the old me. The me I am now and the me I’m stepping into being knows that nothing is ever really convenient. And you’re either committed to getting the results… or you’re not.
 
So even though we were driving in the car for an entire day on Monday, I still got my blog post written and posted, and I still did my daily Live with Jen B. livestream on Facebook while we were stopped for gas.
 
Was it convenient to write a blog post on my phone? Hell no! Was it convenient to do a livestream late at night, at a gas station, when I’d been driving all day and was pretty exhausted? Hell no!
 
But I did it anyhow.
 
Why? Because that’s what it means to be UNSTOPPABLE. That’s what it means to not let anything get in the way of you and your goals.
 
Habits are only habits because you do them daily. If you don’t, then they’re not really habits. This year I’ve committed to building a habit around doing what matters and doing it daily. And what matters is my daily blog post, my daily livestream, my journaling and mindset work, and writing my books and screenplays.
 
When you know what matters and you’re committed to getting the results you’re after, inconveniece makes no difference. You just figure it out and do the best you can.

 

But there’s also a question you can ask yourself anytime you know you need to (or want to) do something, but you don’t think you have the time or the capacity to. And that question is… how can I make this work anyhow?

 
That’s the questions that’s been on my mind for the past three days as we’ve been on our trip and I’ve tried to continue my daily habits of doing what matters. (I even got up super early this morning so I could write this blog post before we have to get our day started!)
 
No, I haven’t been perfect with my daily habits since we’ve been on the road. But I have gotten all the most important stuff done each day. And it comes from asking that question… how can I make this work anyhow?
 
I asked myself that when I was riding in the car on Monday and thinking about how I’d do my livestream for the day. And the answer that came to me was, just do it at the next gas station you stop at.
 
No, it wasn’t the in-depth livestream I usually do, it was a two-and-a-half minute video where I shared this important question… how can I make this work anyhow? But the point is, I did it.
 
Even though it wasn’t at all convenient. Even though I was exhausted from driving and not sleeping much. Even though I could have easily not done it and no one would’ve given me a hard time about it because I was traveling.
 
But the definition of unstoppable is impossible to stop. No. Matter. What.
 
I see so many writers complaining about inconvenience and not having enough time. They’re too busy. Too stressed out. Too tired. They have too much other stuff to do. They have to work a day job. They’re gonna be on the road for a couple weeks. They’re [insert whatever excuse here].
 
Because that’s what those complaints are… EXCUSES. Yes, they might be true and valid, but they’re stil costing you the success you dream of.
 
So if you want to achieve more and really step into being the writer and author you see yourself as and that you dream of being, next time you feel a complaint or an excuse coming on that will stop you from doing your writing, choose to instead ask yourself, how can I make this work anyhow?
 
And then whatever answer comes up, act on it.
 
Sure, it takes discipline to not only ask the question but also to answer it and then act on it, but if you want to be a successful author who achieves everything you dream of and more, that’s what it’s gonna take.
 
You’re gonna have to push through and do the writing, even when it’s not convenient and you’re tired and you don’t have time. Otherwise you can hang your hat up right now, because you’ll never get where you want to go.
 
Harsh? Maybe. But it’s true. And that was a reality I had to face in my own writing life. I had to get really honest with myself and look at the facts… if I don’t step up and do what I have to do, I’ll never achieve my BIG writing goals.
 
And I don’t know about you, but I’m NOT OK with that!
 
I’m not OK with not letting my stories out. I’m not OK with allowing my dreams to die a slow death inside me. I’m not OK with not achieving what I came here for.
 
And to be totally honest, NOT living my purpose and NOT achieving my BIG writing dreams scares the shit out of me. The idea of dying with my stories and my ideas and messages and light still inside me scares me more than resistance and procrastination and excuses and inconvenience and being tired and not having enough time ever could.
 
Morbid? Maybe. But sometimes it takes looking at things from a morbid angle to finally wake you up to the fact that not only have you not been fully living your purpose, but you’re also not doing the work to achieve your goals, which means they’re never gonna happen.
 
No one can bring your dream life to reality except you. No one. Yes, others can support you and help you along the way and the Universe has your back, but you are ultimately responsible for taking control of your writing life.
 
So next time you find yourself ready to make an excuse for not doing your writing, I highly recommend you instead ask yourself, “how can I make this work anyhow? And then immediately act on whatever answer comes up.
 
Pockets of time. Doing what you can when you can. Prioritizing what matters and committing to getting it done daily.
 
That’s what it takes to make progress and achieve your dreams.
 
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
 
 
#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust
 

P.S. The Writing Life Rehab workshop is happening this Saturday, April 22 at 2 p.m. EST. If you’re ready to STOP making excuses and STEP INTO the writing life you’ve been dreaming of, you do not want to miss this!!

 
And there’s still five spots left to get in for the KILLER Top 15 Bonus… a FREE copy of my signature program, Write Your Damn Novel (a $297 value).
 

How To Rehab Your Writing Life in 5 Steps

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,

 

 

 

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust 

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…

>> Details and sign up here

Know What Matters. Do It Daily. Repeat.

Do you know what really matters in your writing life? What those key activities are that will actually move the needle in the direction of your dreams?

Or are you just doing random stuff here and there, hoping you’ll eventually get where you want to go?

I totally feel you if you’re still not sure what actually matters. For a long time, I didn’t know either. So I spent my day focused on stuff like interacting with people on Facebook and writing blog posts without a call to action and working on client stories, but rarely my own.

And I’d make excuses, like, client stuff is what really matters, my stuff will have to wait, or I’d avoid doing the writing by getting buried in Facebook posts.

Operating from that place every day—that place of being busy but not actually getting anything that matters done—is a recipe for staying stuck and stagnant.

Someone once said that some people live 90 years, and other people live one year 90 times. Think about that one.

That quote really woke me up and made me see that I’d been living the same year over and over again where my writing was concerned. Yes, I was working on stuff and even making some progress, but for years I was in pretty much the same place every December that I’d been in January.

I felt stuck and stagnant. I couldn’t understand how I’d been at this for so long and yet had made so little progress (or so it seemed to me, others would likely disagree). But then I finally figured it out.

I hadn’t been doing what really mattered. 

Now what really matters is subjective and based on the person in question. So what matters for you may not matter for me, and vice versa.

When you’re figuring out what matters, don’t base it on what you think should matter or what others tell you matters, base it on what actually does matter, to you.

Example, if you’re fine with your body and exercise doesn’t matter to you, then don’t do it. Just because others say exercise matters or you think it should matter to you (even though it doesn’t), doesn’t meant it actually matters. It’s about what matters to you.

If writing matters to you, then that’s (one of) the things you should be focusing on daily. Anything worth doing—anything that matters—is worth doing daily. 

Once I actually figured out what mattered to me and what moves the needle in my writing life and business, that’s the stuff I committed to doing daily, first things first. That includes things like, mindset work and journaling, writing a blog post, working on my fiction (and other writing projects), tracking my book sales numbers and income, and doing visibility and promotional activities.

That is the stuff that moves the needle for me. When I’m not doing that stuff every day—and especially when I’m not doing my fiction and writing projects daily—everything else falls apart in my life. Nothing goes right. I’m resentful of everything.

But when I do what matters and do it daily, that’s when everything in my life flows and happens with ease. I feel great and I’m happy. Best of all, I’m making consistent progress and actually finishing what I start.

And that’s why you have to do what matters and do it daily.

How do you know what matters? Journal on it. Ask yourself, “what activities, if I did them daily, would totally transform my life a year from now?” Commit to doing those activities every day. Report back. 

Write with a purpose, live with intention,

 

 

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

P.S. The Bestselling Author Mastermind is opening its doors to new members soon. BAM is a high-level community and mentorship for writers who want to develop the habits, consistency, follow-through and mindset of a bestselling author. Get on the waitlist here to be the first to know when the doors are open AND to get access to a waitlist-only bonus. 

How To Finish Writing Your Novel in 30 Days

Thirty days doesn’t seem like a lot of time when you’re thinking about finishing a project you started and then put off. But 30 days is actually a lot of time! And the thing is, the time’s gonna pass anyhow. So you may as well be doing something you actually care about with that time.
 
Which is why I’ve put together this quick-start guide for how to finish writing your novel in 30 days.
 
Now I will add that this list is for writers who have already started the draft of a novel. If you’re still in the planning and development stages, you need a whole different list. And if you’re revising, you’ll need a different (although similar) list as well (the revise-in-30-days list is coming Friday!).
 

First—why 30 days?

 
Because I have a theory that when you cut down your timeline, you actually motivate yourself and light a fire under your ass that gets you out of your head (see ya later doubt!) and into action. Anytime I’ve cut my timeline down, whether that be 30 days, 10 days or something else, it always gets me moving in the direction I want to go.
 
But when I give myself unlimited time to get something done or I don’t set a specific deadline for finishing it, I end up not working on it consistently, making excuses for why it’s not done yet, and then half a year or more passes and it’s still not done.
 
It’s a vicious cycle.
 
I started the first draft of my second novel in November 2015. But I didn’t finish it until February 2016. And it’s not because it just took me that long. Not at all. I started it in November and then I stopped working on it for almost 2 months.
 
I was only a handful of scenes away from being finished with it when I met a mentor in February 2016 who inspired and motivated me to FINISH.
 
So I did. I wrote the rest of the first draft—as crappy as the writing may have been—and I called it done. (Don’t get me started on how long it’s been taking me for the revision, mostly because I haven’t been being consistent until the last month or so.)
 
And finishing that first draft didn’t take me very long, once I set my mind to the fact that it was DONE and it would be done that month. Yes, I still had to take the actions and do the writing, but by making the decision that it was done, the words flowed a lot easier and I got it done within the 30-day timeframe that I set for myself.
 
How did I do it? Here’s how…
 

1. Decide On A Daily Measurable

 
You don’t have to write based on word count or page count or even scene count. But you can. And you should write based on at least one of those things. Otherwise you’ll have no idea if you’re making progress or not.
 
The feeling of doing the writing is amazing and will definitely motivate you, but seeing actual progress in black-and-white will really, really motivate you.
 
Action Step: what daily measurable will you use to ensure you’re making progress on finishing your first draft?
 

2. Get Yourself Some Accountability

 
This is super important. I wouldn’t get half the stuff I get done every day if it weren’t for all of the accountability I have set up in my life.
 
I’ve got an accountability partner for the things I want to get done each week. I’ve got an accountability partner for things I want to get done each day. And I’ve also got an accountability partner for the things I want to get done each month.
 
And yes, I need this many. I need more! Because self-set deadlines and keeping yourself accountable only goes so far. At some point, you’ll need someone outside yourself to help you out. (Unless you’re someone who is super good at self-accountability. But let’s just be honest—most writers and creators are not.)
 
I see myself as a leader. And a leader doesn’t show up to an accountability session and say that they didn’t do what they said they would. Creating built-in accountability has quadrupled my productivity.
 
Action Step: who can you find in your life to hold you accountable to doing your writing? Choose someone who will actually hold you to doing what you said you would, otherwise it won’t be very useful.
 

3. Find A Writing Sprints Partner

 
Writing sprints are basically timed periods of writing where you try to get as many words written as you can. Usually you do a writing sprint with a partner or a group of people (you could do it alone with a timer if you really wanted to, but it’s not as fun).
 
All you have to do is set a time to meet up virtually (you can check in via Facebook message, email or text message), and then decide on how long you’re sprinting for. Then you’re off and writing until the time is up.
 
For example—you could decide to meet up online at Noon and then do a 15-minute writing sprint and check in. Or you could decide to sprint until 12:30 and then check in.
 
How you do the writing sprints doesn’t really matter. But doing them, and especially with a partner, is major motivation to get out of your head and into action.
 
Action Step: who can you do writing sprints with? Find someone and get some writing sprint sessions set up pronto.
 

4. Use A Timer

 
I don’t care what you’re doing—writing, reading, watching TV—almost everything works better when you have a set time for how long you’re gonna do the activity for. Using a timer for my writing and other projects has seriously changed my life and amped up my productivity in a major way.
 
I like to do things in 15- or 21-minute sessions (sometimes 31-minutes if I really feel like it), and then take a break for a few before starting the next thing. That may not seem like a lot of time to work on your writing or creating or whatever you’re doing, but think of it this way… add 21 minutes a day up over 7 days. Then add it up over 14 days. Then add it up over 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.
 
And 365 days of writing for 21 minutes a day equals 7,665 minutes, or around 128 hours of time. Now imagine if you actually worked on your novel or writing project for 128 hours over the course of a year.
 
What you’ll find is that it’s enough. It’s enough time to actually make progress and get somewhere.
 
I’ve been revising my second novel for 15- to 21-minutes a day for the last month and I’m already more than a quarter of the way through. And I’ll be speeding things up and finishing the rest next month (more details on that below).
 
Action Step: find yourself a timer if you don’t already have one (or use this timer here). Start writing and creating by the timer. Do it daily.
 

5. Give Yourself A Deadline

 
Pretty obvious, but deadlines are a way to motivate yourself to take action. If you know something is due by a certain date, you’ll get it done.
 
But just in case you’re not great at self-set deadlines (as so many writers are not), that’s where the other stuff on this list comes in.
 
Action Step: open your calendar right now and set a deadline for when you will finish your first draft. Then use the other action steps to get it done.
 

6. Create A Distractions Checklist

 
I created a distractions checklist as a way of helping me focus. Here’s what it consists of:
 
> 10 minutes to check Facebook and/or email (set a timer to keep it to exactly 10 minutes)
 
When timer goes off…
 
> Close browser completely
 
> Turn on writing playlist
 
> Flip phone face down on the desk so I can’t see the screen (put it on silent if it’s not already)
 
> Start writing (use timer—15-30 minutes)
 
Having this checklist allows me to wind down the things that distract me so I can focus completely on getting writing done.
 
Action step: create your own distractions checklist that you can use in your writing life.
 

7. Commit to 15 Minutes of Fitness A Day

 
This could be taking a walk, lifting weights, running on a treadmill—whatever feels fun for you. When you’re committing to finish something in 30 days, it’s important that you keep up your energy.
 
Getting in some daily movement, even for just 15 minutes, is enough to do that.
 
Action Step: choose a movement-based activity that you love and do it for 15 minutes. Repeat daily.
 

8. Fill Your Fridge with Snacks that Fuel You

 
Yeah, it’s fine to have some chocolate or other snacks to munch while you’re writing. But don’t overdo it. Otherwise you’ll just feel sluggish and uninspired.
 
If you’re finishing your novel in 30 days, there’s a good chance you’ll eat several meals in front of your laptop. So give yourself an energy boost and actually stock your fridge with some healthy stuff.
 
I like to stock up with chia pudding, homemade chocolate, popcorn, raw veggies with dip and things like that. (Although lately I’ve been trying not to eat high-carb stuff, so popcorn is out for me… except for when I go to the movies 😉 )
 
Action Step: make a list of foods to have on hand when you’re finishing your novel in a 30-day period.
 

9. Join the FINISH Your Damn Novel Workshop

 
Sorry—had to plug this one right here. Because this workshop will seriously change your life if you follow along and do the work.
 
The FINISH Your Damn Novel workshop will help you become a finisher, which is pretty much the most important thing you need to be. At least if you want to be a pro writer.
 
Pro writers finish what they start. And then they take the next step. And eventually they publish. Then they do it all over again.
 
Want to be a pro? Then it’s time to step into the big leagues and finish what you started.
 
 
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
 
 
#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

Habits Are Just the Things You Do On A Daily Basis

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.

Share With Us

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,

 

 

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

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!!

>> Details and sign up here

 

From Procrastinating Writer to Author of 10+ Books (and Counting)

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.

Yes. Really.

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?

Here’s how…

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?

4. Consistency

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,

 

 

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

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.

Life Will Get In the Way–Accept It and Keep Going Anyhow

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.

It happens.

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.

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

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How do you get back into your daily routine when life gets in the way? Share in the comments. 

———–

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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.”

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Success Is A Discipline. Stop Making It A Chore.

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.

Why?

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.

Share With Us

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 

How To Go From Idea to Published Novel: A Timeline

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.

a4-airwoman-coverAll Systems Go for Launch (October 2016)

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.

Share With Us

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.

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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.

Are You Suffering From “Carry-Over Tasks” Syndrome?

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):

  1. 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
  2. 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? 

Resistance

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.

Shoulding Yourself

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

Share With Us

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. 

Image courtesy of Banalities