Therese here. Today’s guest is the ever-positive Michelle Ward. Michelle has a great job. She’s a certified life coach, and “helps creative people devise the career they think they can’t have.” She’s served as an expert source and contributor for such outlets as Newsweek and Psychology Today, and led workshops and seminars at SXSW 2011 and the sold-out Etsy Success Symposium. She’s with us today to talk about something we all need to hear at one point or another: how to sustain momentum in our writing. Enjoy!
How to Put One Foot in Front of the Other Without Tripping, Flailing or Falling Flat on Your Face
The light bulb goes off above your head, the clouds part and the angels sing, and you may or may not shout, “Eureka!”, followed by a loud rendition of The Hallelujah Chorus – you have an idea! Whether it’s for the title of your next book or the topic of your next blog post, it comes along with a strong feeling of joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and… total terror.
How can you make what’s in your head come out on the page? Oh sure, the idea is the easy part – it’s the blank page, or being confident that you’ll get to that last sentence, that keeps your knees knocking and your fingers away from the keyboard. No matter where you are in the process, here are some ideas to help you take that first step and keep putting one foot in front of the other:
If you’re having trouble starting….
- …you might not be so psyched about the idea. Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you wanna commit to it. Sometimes writing is like dating – you need to kiss a few frogs to find your prince! To me, a prince of a writing piece is something that I’m excited to share, is important for me to put out into the world, is going to give me pleasure in the process and is gonna keep calling me back to it without any feet-dragging on my part. If there’s feet-dragging before ya start, then write the idea down in your Amazeballs Ideas book (you have something like that, right?) and let it sit. If it doesn’t call you in a week or a month to come back to it, let it live in the book until it does. And if that’s forever, that’s OK, because sometimes you don’t wanna kiss the frog at all – you know at first glance that it won’t be your prince!
- … you might be overwhelmed with the scope of the idea. Sometimes a project seems so big, it scares us away even though we really want to dig in. If this describes your situation, then set a timer for 3 minutes and do my favorite thing: a braindump! Take those 3 minutes and write down all the steps that need to happen in order to take this idea from your head to the very last word. Feel free to use my Goal Game to keep you moving along (and reward yourself along the way!), or start from the last step and work backwards to the first. Then just do the very first step and pat yourself on the back – you’ve begun!
If you’re having trouble mid-project….
- ….you might not be working within your time constraints. I’ve had many the client who’s said, “But I can never find the four hour block I need to write!” Well, nobody can find time – you have to make it! So take an objective look at your week and see how much time you can realistically carve out for your writing. It might involve giving up the newest episode of Tabitha’s Salon Takeover, but she’d understand – that go-getter would do the same thing! Also, get over the idea that a good 30-minute chunk of time doesn’t count, because if that’s all you have, then you gotta work with it. Just think – 30 minutes every day is 3.5 hours at the end of the week, and that’s not chump change.
- …you might not be enjoying what you’re writing at that moment. If you still think this idea is a prince, then it might just be where you’re at in the story that you don’t like. Write down some notes or general bullet points for each section until you get to a place that excites you. Then, start writing from there. You can always go back and fill in the blanks!
If you’re having trouble finishing….
- …your perfectionist muscles might be kickin’ in. If you hear yourself saying things like, “It’s not ready!” or “I just need to…” more than once (or twice, even!), then you might be a perfectionist. I’m a recovering one myself, and I know how easy it is to keep editing and editing…well…forever. To combat this, you have to find your own Perfectionist Pause Process. For me, I allow myself to go over my final draft twice and then I send it over to my virtual assistant for typos. Once she’s checked it, it’s “done” – no more changes allowed! One of my clients hears her own voice saying, “Enough is enough already!” when she gets into Perfectionist mode, and sometimes that’s, um, enough. Figure out – or create – your own stop sign so you don’t keep beating a dead horse.
- …you might be scared to share. I’m about to release a rhyming (yes, rhyming!) 50-page career change workbook for adults out into the world, and, well, I’ve been sitting on it. So, instead of continuing to sit on it, I take one small baby step: sending it to friends who expressed an interest in the content, and getting their warm words of encouragement. It gives me the warm and fuzzies so that I can take a bigger step: announcing it to my newsletter list, who I feel are most receptive since they asked to be updated on My Stuff. Then, I’ll be able to blog and tweet and Facebook away about it to The World at Large.
So stop waiting for The Right Moment and do just one thing, for even just a few minutes, to take a baby step forward. You’ll be able to bring your idea to life, keep it going, and/or cross the finish line sooner than you think!
Photo courtesy Etsy’s thingspeoplesay