7 Step Spring Detox for Writers

By Kathryn Burnett

 

Okay, buckaroos – Spring is here and brings with it all that optimism and promise of new growth. So what better time to regroup, reassess and creatively replenish?

Last month is so very last month so let’s look ahead – and to help you do that here’s your 7 day Spring Detox especially for writers.  And it’s not some gruesome regime but rather 7 small steps that encourage focus, self-care and gentle introspection about where you are right now and where you want to go.  Take one step a day over a week and observe the lift in your creative energy…

Enjoy…

Day 1: Declutter

No, not your house, your mind.  Refocus on your primary goal for the remainder of the year.  We’ve all got lots of project ideas – how about we park the ones we’re not currently working on until next year? How about we stop angsting over the niggly, detail stuff?  Take some time out to just sit in silence and really focus on what it is that you want.  What does YOUR writing dream look like? Once you know – write it down.

Day 2: Spring Clean #1

Again, not your house.  Think about whether you’ve been holding onto any limiting self-belief or negative self-talk this year.  If so, write them down and throw them away. (Burn them!)  They don’t serve you AND they take up valuable brain space that could be put to better use.

Day 3: Springclean #2

Okay NOW you can clean house.  Do a quick declutter of your writing space.  Throw out all the old stuff you’re no longer interested in or no longer need.  The junk that’s in your eye line but for no good reason. (Honestly, I have a dead plant that I just keep looking at and thinking – I should do something about that.)

Day 4: Pamper

Buy yourself something that makes your process more pleasurable.  It might be flowers for your workspace, new stationery, a new printer or a meditation app – it doesn’t really matter as long as it makes you feel good.

Day 5: Diet

Go on a screen diet.  I’m not saying cut screens out completely, I’m not crazy, but how about cutting back?  How about regularly carving out some time where you’re not looking at a screen?  Amazing how when you turn everything off you start to really look at other things.  Which leads me to…

Day 6: Replenish 

Cut out toxic brain junk for a day and consciously feed your mind with creatively rich and stimulating content.  Go to an art gallery, do something creative you’ve never tried before, read a new book, walk somewhere you’ve never been before. It doesn’t need to cost a lot  – there is a world of free art spaces, workshops and lectures out there.  Not to mention libraries and hospice shops heaving with pre-loved books.

Day 7: Breathe

Life stress been getting in the way of your writing process?  Creating stress by buying into your own personal self-doubt loop?  Start the daily habit of breathing deeply and often – it promotes better blood flow, re-energises you and calms the nervous system.  A personal trainer told me recently that 20 “belly” breaths a day is SO the business.  AND it has to be the easiest and cheapest anxiety busting habit you can adopt this Spring.

So here’s to productive final months in 2018 – I know you can smash it.

 

 



Can’t Finish Your Project? 6 Questions to Help You Work Out Why

 

Image: Kelli Tungay

We all have projects that grind to a halt and leave us staring at the unfinished draft (aka a big, hot mess) wondering now what? Or worse still we limp on in circles and start to get resentful. We’ve invested all this time and energy – and it’s still not finished!  We start to see our once beloved story as a chore.

But go easy friend, there are ways to work out why you’re stuck – AND what to do about it.  Now it might be time to jettison this project and start over but before you take that drastic step let’s investigate further.

There’s going to be a reason you’re struggling with this particular story and these 6 questions might just help you work out what it is and get you back on track.

Q1: Do you know how your story ends?

Are you stuck because you don’t know how to end your story?  Or are you stuck because you have an ending that you’re dubious about or feel uninspired by? Writers will always have some doubt about their work – but ignore those nagging critics and be honest with yourself – does your ending feel good to you?   No matter what the issue is with your ending – it’s so much easier to get to a destination when you know where you’re heading.

Solution:  Embark on some good old-fashioned brainstorming and explore possible endings.  Try mind-mapping or coming up with the lamest endings you can think of – just to reboot your thinking.  One of my favourite brainstorming exercises is to write the question that’s bugging you in the middle of a piece of paper, then set a timer for 10 minutes – and keep answering that question until the time is up.  Some of your answers will be nonsense but that doesn’t matter – the goal of this exercise is to keep writing.  It will stimulate new ideas – and very likely give you insights into the ending you need.

Q2: What Was Your Original Vision For This Story?

Maybe you’ve fallen out of love. Think back to when you first started this story. Think about all the things that you loved about it.  Remember why you started writing it in the first place.  What’s changed?  Has the current version gone off on a detour that has led to a dead end?   If so why and when?  Which elements are you still in love with?  Which elements can be recycled – which can be trashed?

Solution: Take a step back and reassess.  What was and IS your vision for this story? (And I mean YOUR vision for it – not what you think it should be.) Now go back and work out which elements in your story don’t serve that vision.  Then re-state your intent for this story.

Q3: Is This The Type of Story You Enjoy?

If it isn’t then no wonder you’re finding it hard to write.  Yes, you’re ultimately writing for an audience – but right at the moment how about writing for you? How about you start writing the type of story you enjoy?

Solution: Find your way back into your story by spending some time reading the type of work you want to write.  (And this goes for screenwriters too.) It’ll re-invigorate your imagination and you’ll start seeing new possibilities for the existing work.

Image: Annie Spratt

Q4: Are You Giving Yourself Enough Time?

It’s easy to sit staring in frustration at that unfinished chapter or poem or scene and declare it hopeless.  But remember this – writing isn’t for the faint-hearted. It requires some intestinal fortitude and commitment.  There are many seemingly valid reasons to do something else instead of write but none of them will help you finish your work. And the more you procrastinate and avoid – the harder it will be to get that story momentum going again.

Solution:  Get serious about committing some time to your project. Seriously! Carve out a regular appointment to write and stick to it.  Whether it’s 15 mins a day or two hours a week – it doesn’t matter.  Regularity + commitment + discipline = productive writing habit. And it doesn’t matter if you use this time to play or brainstorm – just forcing yourself to start is surprisingly effective.

Q5: What Are You Telling Yourself About You As a Writer?

Sometimes we tell ourselves things about ourselves that just aren’t true. Labouring under self-limiting beliefs can slow anyone down.  So identify the main criticisms you’re leveling at your writer self – and ask yourself this – are those criticisms opinion or fact?   If they’re fact then you’ve got something to work on.  But if they’re opinion then you can probably let them go.  It’s only an opinion based on not very much actual evidence.

Solution: Write down the four attributes you have as a writer.  Then write down the four attributes you think a writer needs to finish their project.  Which of these attributes do you already have?  And if there are some you don’t have – how can you develop them?

Q6: Do You Need Some Feedback?

Sometimes talking out a story problem or just talking about your project generally gives you a way back into it.  Not to mention renewed enthusiasm for it.  There are plenty of ways to get feedback – you can go down the professional route, you can get involved in a writers’ group or online forum.  And if you need to connect with other writers for support and inspiration – it’s hard to go past a writing workshop – check out my Writing Room for example!  And I also have the BIG Mid-Spring Write-In coming up.

Solution:  Think about what type of feedback will best serve your project at the moment. Do you need an intensive critique or friendly encouragement in a group?  Do you need to discuss a specific part of your story?  Work this out and go find the place, people or situation that will give you what you need.

Happy trails folks…



Show Me A Perfect Writer & I’ll Show You A Unicorn

 

When I speak with writers about what’s getting in the way of them finishing their projects I tend to hear the following reasons:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of momentum

And then I hear … I’m worried that it’s not good enough – so I just keep fiddling with it.

Just so you know – the endless fiddling isn’t you improving your work, it’s fear thwarting your writing goal.   And you know I’m right…

Here’s the thing – if you’re waiting for your work to be perfect you’re going to be waiting for a very long time.   If you can’t share your work until it’s perfect you’re going to be waiting a very long time.  Sure, you’ll be safe from potential criticism and rejection but your work is never going to see the light of day.

And I don’t know many people who write for the audience in their bottom drawer.

So if perfectionism (aka cunningly desired fear) is getting in the way of your productive writing – here are some thoughts to consider.

  • Writing is a messy, imperfect process – so why do you expect your work to be perfect?
  • You’re going to get it wrong at some point – especially if you’re a new-ish writer. You’re going to get things wrong even if you’re not!
  • Getting critical feedback is invaluable to you as a writer and will help you improve your craft. You can’t get that if you don’t finish your work.
  • There’s no prize for being perfect.  Seriously – zero prizes!
  • Perfectionism is stopping you finishing because after you’ve finished the next step is invariably putting your work out into the world.  Never finishing means never having to show anyone your work = your work is NEVER seen.  And that’s sad.
  • Everybody wants their work to be amazing! Plenty of successful and talented writers struggle with getting their work bang on.  The difference is they don’t let that worry stop them finishing their project.  They finish, then they may go through the agonies of self-doubt and then they rewrite.
  • What’s worse?  Feelings of self-loathing because you never finish your story OR  someone (directly or indirectly) telling you your story needs more work?
  • What’s the worse thing that could happen if you get negative feedback?  And just so you know – everybody gets negative feedback at some point.  And getting it helps you build creative resilience.

Want some support to keep your project on track?  Check out my Writing Room page.

©Kathryn Burnett 2018 – For reprinting permission please get in touch via my contact page.