Staying on Track…

Hey, we’re halfway through 2019 – so what better time to check in with ourselves and see where we’re at with our current writing project?

So at this juncture – where are you at?

Are you further along than you hoped or not quite where you wanted to be? If you’re where you hoped you’d be – excellent!  And well done on maintaining momentum and being so goddamn awesome.

If you’re less than happy with where you are I have some thoughts about how you can get back on track and stay there.

Something you probably don’t know about me is that I really hate housework.  Don’t get me wrong, I love clean and tidy I just have to force myself to do it and then tend to stop halfway because I’m bored.   Sound vaguely familiar?

I hear this same kind of talk about writing all the time. We love and want the outcome – so what’s the big deal? Why is it sometimes so hard to start and go after what we desire?  (The answer to that question is a whole other post, probably a book…)

So how do we get ourselves motivated and working?  Some tips for you…

Getting to Work Tip #1 – Take Small Steps
Here’s how I force myself to do housework (I wish I was joking – I’m not.) I set the alarm on my phone for 15-minute blocks – and try to get as much done as I can in that time.  Here’s my rationale – I don’t want to do it but I know I can bear 15 minutes of tedium.  And then I just rinse and repeat until I’ve done 15 minutes in every room.  And it works.  Squalor avoided – phew!
How about applying that technique (or a variation thereof) to your writing task every day?  Little and often is surprisingly effective.
My housework trick is essentially my own variation of the Pomodoro Technique which you may also find useful. 

Getting to Work Tip #2 – Choose a deadline and stick to it.
The world is awash with competitions and submission opportunities – my monthly newsletter is always full of them.  Choose one that suits you and your medium – and then work towards it.  A deadline is fantastic – otherwise, there’s the temptation to meander forever. (I know, I’m in that place right now on a particular project.)   And it is SO satisfying sending off that entry or application.  Notice how whether you are successful or not – just entering/submitting has forced you to move your project forward.

Getting to Work Tip #3 – Get a Writing Buddy
Being held accountable to someone makes your writing life easier.  If you have to show up, you probably will.  If someone is waiting for you to show them your work – you’ll probably do it.  

Getting to Work Tip #4 – Consider a Writing Group
As you may know, I’m a big fan of the writing group as a mechanism to help you move your project forward.  Company, motivation and regular accountability. These are exactly the guiding principles, the very point of The Writing Room that I run in Auckland – check it out.

Writing Mojo AWOL? 8 Simple Ways to Stay Motivated

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last.  Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”  Zig Ziglar

We all experience those crappy times when our writing mojo is AWOL and we start to think things like…”What’s the point of this writing lark?” or  “I’ve put in years of work – where’s the movement I’ve been promised for working so hard?” “When is IT going to happen?”

And worst of all (my personal favourite) – “am I just wasting my time?”

We have the desire and the ideas but things just aren’t going how we hoped or taking way, way too long.  How do you keep writing when it feels pointless or you just can’t be bothered?  I wish I could offer a magic bullet for this – but there ain’t one to offer.  There’s only one way to stay motivated and that’s to get your internal monologue in hand and take action you feel your mojo starting to flag.

Here are some simple things you can do to motivate yourself right back to that keyboard.

  1. Consciously spend some time with people who ARE motivated.  Let the energy and enthusiasm of other people who kick butt inspire you. Follow their lead.  Conversely, spend less time who are constantly negative about their own writing – negativity diminishes your energy and tends to reinforce any negative feelings you might have.  Not really helpful, right?
  2. Use your failures constructively.  Get the best from your setbacks by asking yourself this – what can I learn from this and how can I do better next time?  And then ask yourself – what’s the one positive that has come from this situation?  It might be a small positive but it’ll be there.
  3. Compare yourself to where you were 5 years ago.  And realise how far you’ve come and how much more you know now. As opposed to comparing yourself to others – which is waste of time. Take a couple of minutes to look back and focus on your successes. Close your eyes and let the memories of your biggest successes – no matter in what part of your life – remind you of what you’re capable of.
  4. Take 5 Minutes to think about why you want to write.  It’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing this stuff.  Remind yourself of what your writing dream/goal is and why.  Then think about the one thing you can do straight away to move towards that dream.
  5. Park it!  If you’re not feeling the love for your current project – park it for a couple of weeks and indulge yourself in another creative pursuit like reading an author you like. Then come back to it.  It’s amazing how some distance gives you new eyes – and you might just find a renewed enthusiasm.
  6. Coffee!  Grab a coffee with a friendly writer and talk through your idea with them.  Ask them for a positive comment about it and encourage them to ask any questions.  You’ll find out what excites you about this project when you start talking about it.
  7. Step back and appraise your current project.  Write down two lists.  One list that notes all the positive aspects of your project while the other mentions all the negative.  You may be surprised how much you like about it.
  8. Reassess your writing goal – is it still right for you?  Is it still what you want?  If it isn’t  – then maybe it’s time to amend your goal.

Mojo flagging because of self-doubt?  Check out my article on fighting doubt.

Distracted rather than unmotivated?  Check out my advice on avoiding distractions.  

Make it a great day, peeps.

©Kathryn Burnett 2018

Pesky Distractions Thwarting Your Writing Goal?

If your writing life was a work of fiction, endless distraction would be your arch nemesis.  And our world is a smorgasbord of potential distractions. How the hell are we supposed to focus our whole being on our project when there are fifty gazillion things competing for our attention ALL DAY LONG?

How are we supposed to write productively when things keep pinging and ringing – and demanding our eyeballs and time?

I discovered this little nugget in an Unmistakable Creative article recently…

“Every time you’re interrupted by a person, checking email, a social feed, or respond to a notification, your mind requires 23 minutes of re-focus time – just to get back on task! This doesn’t count the time you spend being distracted, this is just to get refocused again.

Which means, good people, that 30 minutes of undistracted writing is way more productive than 2-3 hours of distracted writing during which you’re constantly checking your phone, social media and emails.

When I’m taking a workshop – I sometimes see people spend 2 minutes doing the creative exercise I’ve set before reaching for their phone to start scrolling.  Here’s the thing – I personally don’t care how people spend their valuable creative time with me – it’s their time.  BUT it makes me kinda sad to think people can’t focus on creative work without seeking a distraction from it.

I find the whole short attention span thing quite sobering – particularly as I find myself being regularly distracted.  But what I’ve realised is that this is a relatively new development – I simply wasn’t like this 15 years ago. And there’s a pay-off to allowing yourself to be distracted.  Giving in to that pull to connect with others by checking texts, emails and Facebook likes feels satisfying – and it FEELS like you’ve achieved something.  But it’s not a productive pay-off.

But the GOOD NEWS is that we can unlearn those bad habits and get better at staying focused.

So here’s my best advice on how to start avoiding distraction TODAY – and, yes, I’m taking that advice myself.

  • Turn It OFF. When you sit down to write – turn off any distracting background noise, close open windows on your computer and turn off the ringer on your phone for a chunk of time.  Try placing your phone in another room for the amount of time you want to write.  You might feel twitchy about it initially – but it won’t kill you.
  • Do One Thing at A Time. Time block your tasks and focus on them one by one rather than multi-tasking. Write down a short to do list then allocate a small amount of time to each item – and spend that time working on that task only.  It’s a ploddy methodical way to get through your list but it works better than getting a bunch of stuff half done. The problem with something half done is that it sits in your head along with everything else you have to do.  Once you’ve allocated time to the things you actually have to do – allocate a chunk of writing time – and then focus solely on that task.
  • Time Block + Set an Alarm. Short on time?  Then set the alarm for an hour and give your project 60 mins of undivided attention.  You’ll be surprised how much you do and how quickly the time passes.
  • Learn a Calming Breathing Technique. Every time you start to feel like you better check one of your gadgets or start thinking about another task – stop and breathe.  Consciously draw your attention back to the work at hand – i.e the writing task you’ve allocated a block of time to.
  • Stop Browsing. Use the internet for specific tasks rather than just pottering.  You know how that goes – if you allow yourself to be distracted, 10 mins to research a piece of information easily becomes an hour and a half of mindless, time wasting.

Best of British with your new, focus habit!

© Kathryn Burnett 2018