Whenever you achieve a goal, you can use hindsight to look back and see exactly what you did that worked. Once you have that information, you can create a process for yourself that will allow you to achieve the goal again and again (unless it’s a goal you only want to achieve once).
That’s how you create success. By figuring out what works for you and then doing it.
Over and over again.
For me, step-by-step processes work. Checklists work.
And they work really well.
I’m almost totally balanced right and left brained (48% left brained and 52% right). I like being creatively unleashed, but I also need steps and lists to keep me focused and not veering totally off track.
I know this about myself, so that’s why I’m now working from a “Daily Fucking Actions” list that tells me specific, outcome-focused tasks that I need to do every day. In the last . week and a half, this process has helped me to create 20+ new pieces of content for my community.
When I’m writing a novel, I know that I need to spend a minimum of 6 weeks developing and planning the story. I have to do this before I write the draft.
Because I know I’m someone who can’t write more than one full draft of a story. If I have to write a whole other draft, I’m not finishing.
I know these things because I’ve taken enough action and achieved enough outcomes to know exactly what works best for me and what causes me to flail (and fail).
Do you know what works for you?
And I define “works” as something that actually gets you the outcome you’re going for. If you’ve been doing something for a while and you don’t have the result you want yet, what you’re doing is probably not working.
It can be hard to admit that, I get it. It was hard for me back in 2009 to admit that I had no freaking clue what I was doing and my novel draft showed that.
But I admitted it, I got real with it and then I found what did work (for me, that was story structure).
You absolutely have to do what’s best for you and what works best for you. I’m a full supporter of that. I don’t believe in doing things just because other people are doing them (especially when other people are doing them!). I’ve always gone against the grain in my life. That’s what works for me.
But you also have to see when something is not working and heave-ho.
Otherwise you’ll find yourself stuck in a repeating pattern where you’re living the same year over and over again, never really getting anywhere.
Still working on that novel? Yeah, this will be year 113.
I know how you feel because I’ve been there. It took me 18 YEARS to publish my first novel, and it wasn’t because I didn’t have a story worth publishing.
It was because for the first 13 years I had NO CLUE what I was doing–and I didn’t care. I thought I could just get inspiration for a story and then sit down to write it.
Now I’m lucky because I’ve been an avid reader and writer my whole life (when I was 5 I climbed on my mom’s lap with a book and asked her to teach me how to read). So because of this I have an intuitive sense of story. I may not have known the specifics of story structure, but I knew the story had to change in 3 places and that it needed a beginning, middle and end that was cohesive.
But that didn’t mean I could write a good story (I couldn’t, and if you read the very first draft of my very first novel you’d see that).
Writing a good story took me 3 years of studying craft. Every. Single. Day.
I watched movies and deconstructed the plot points. I read books and tried to pick apart the structure. I studied Larry Brooks’ blog and his books, and I practiced planning and developing stories as much as I could.
I was truly a student of story (still am).
So 15 years into my journey, I finally had a story worth publishing. Problem was, I spent another 2 years sabotaging myself with procrastination, perfectionism, feeling not good enough, skipping my writing session, not doing the work, not showing up to the page, Upper Limit Problems and more.
It took getting my mindset in the right place to clear all that shit up.
And then in June 2015, I published my debut novel, SoundCheck.
No one gets there without blood, sweat, tears and a whole lot of freak outs. I sure didn’t.
But I got there. So now I know what works best for me and what I need to do to repeat that success and get another novel out there.
Do you know what works for you? Really?
My guess is, you don’t. Maybe you know some of it, but you don’t know really what works for you.
Because you’re not doing the effing work.
You say you want to, and you even mean it. But still you don’t sit down and work on your writing.
To be successful on your own terms, you have to know what works for you and then do it.
But you can’t know what works for you if you don’t do the work.
So fucking do the work. Show up. Work on your story. Revise it. Publish the damn thing. Get it out into the world.
Otherwise you’ll never know what works best for you or how to repeat it.
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When it comes to planning, developing and writing (and publishing!) your stories, what works best for you?
4 Replies to “Is What You’re Doing Keeping You Unpublished?”
I don’t have a system that works for me yet. Because I work such an erratic schedule, it’s hard to find a set time to work on my writing. In the mornings, I’m usually up after everyone else, unless I have to work in the morning. At nights, I’m usually too tired to write anything. So finding a schedule that works for me is key. I need to look at my schedule every week to see what works best for me.
@George Thanks for your comment. Do you get a lunch break at work? When I still had my corporate job my lunch breaks were sacred time to get writing done (not every day, but a lot of days).
“So fucking do the work. Show up. Work on your story. Revise it. Publish the damn thing. Get it out into the world.” Yes! I really need to snap out of this thinking that writing will just happen. “I’m trying” to write, but it just doesn’t get done. I’ve “studied” craft by checking out tons of books out of the library, but I don’t do the exercises. Usually the exercises don’t sit well with me (they are too general when I want to work with the actual stories I’m working on), but I rarely sit down and actually read through the books for hours.
I think the best thing for me would be to make my own exercises, but I don’t know where to start at all! And even then how would I know I’m doing it right without anyone to ‘grade’ me.
@Sarah that’s what the Students of Story group is for! (And you’re a member right now.) Do the exercises from the trainings and resources in the member’s area and then post them in the group to get feedback. 🙂