Everything is Writing | Part Two

A while back, I posted a blog titled Everything is Writing which broke down how most writes fall into one of two camps when it comes to what constitutes as writing.

Some people think that the only thing that counts as writing is words on the page. They believe that writing is writing, so don’t kid yourself into thinking anything different.

For a long time, I agreed with this perspective, but as I shared in the previously mentioned video, I’ve jumped camps.

Now, I see how my writing is very much impacted by what is going on in my life, both in a practical sense and in a reflect sense. For example, if I have a bunch of teaching deadlines, this will impact how much time I have for writing. Similarly, the books I read or the conversation I have with other people may spark a new idea for the work.

I believe that thinking, reading, teaching, exercise, relaxation, socialising, and even errands can count as writing.

You can actively find ways to connect all of these aspects of your life to writing, but we also need to acknowledged how important it’s for our brains to have legitimate downtime.

Obsessively thinking about writing or your manuscript isn’t helpful.

Our subconscious is startling good at coming up with creative solutions and new idea and how we do that is by giving our conscious mind a rest by swapping tasks or giving ourselves permission to relax.

This reframe of what counts as writing is infinitely more helpful then the punitive belief that only writing is writing, however, even this reframe has a few potential problems.

When you’re first getting into writing, you will mostly likely consume a lot of content as a way to improve and develop your writing ability, your understanding of craft, how to be consistent, as well as how the industry, both traditional and indie publishing works.

You may join a writing group, sign-up for courses online, become a member of your state’s writing centre, attend book launches, volunteer at festivals, and follow other writers on social media.

All of this stuff is great and becoming an active member in your local and digital writing network can be really supportive, but we also need to balance all these external activities with our actual practise.

Don’t let them replace writing.

Let me explain…

Talking for hours with a writing buddy about your latest idea for a manuscript is a lot of fun and deeply satisfying.

However…

We write because our ideas comes with a certain about of tension: we aren’t certain what the story is, who is in it, or what they will do.

Remember, our brains are hardwired to solve problems, and stories are one giant problem, but by talking through your story with a buddy, you’ve largely solved the problem and thus eliminated the tension that would have propelled you into writing.

Every writer is different. Some writers can talk about their ideas before they have fully developed them and it doesn’t affect their progress.

Famously, the collaborative duo Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman develop their stories ideas together and outline the first one hundred pages of their co-written novels — but note that this is an example of a writing team not a solo writer sharing their ideas with another writer or friend.

In this case, Jay and Amie are also acting as accountability partners and they are both invested in working on their story together, plus they only draft one hundred pages at a time, so that the story contains some mystery and flexibility.

Maybe talking with other writers is supportive to your process, maybe it isn’t. But if you talk about writing more than you actually write, then we have a problem.

Similarly, reading craft books, completing online courses, obsessively listening to writing podcasts, attending festivals, book launches, and events are a great way to become a part of the community and to meet like-minded people, but these too can quickly become a trap.

Firstly, you may fall into the habit of constantly learning but never doing. You understand the fundamentals of craft, you’ve studies the writing routines of classic and contemporary writers, you’ve given your inner critic a persona, created multiple Pinterest boards that reflect your novel’s aesthetic, bought a bunch of notebooks, and read Writing Down the Bones four times and On Writing six times.

But you haven’t created an outline. Or written a chapter. Or played around with character profiles.

The internet is wonderful. Seriously. But sometimes knowing so much can actually become a hindrance.

We worry that we’re going to get it wrong.

We’re afraid that if we actually start writing, our worst fear will be proven: that we suck.

Let me reassure you here, you probably (see: totally) do suck because all first drafts suck and that’s okay. That’s why we edit books.

These external activities can hinder you in other strange ways, by getting to know people and building connections, you feel like a part of the tribe. You got accepted even though you haven’t finished (or started?) your novel.

That’s the wonderful thing about the writing community, we accept people of all different levels, experience, and motivations. Beginners, professionals, hobbyists, and devotees – everyone is welcomed.

And yet, when you get initiated into a group without having to do anything except show up and show some level of interest, there’s little reason to write your book because look – you already got in!

Of course, these activity help build your knowledge and being around other writers can inspire you to take writing more seriously, but you can’t rely on the community as a whole to make you accountable.

If you need accountability to reach your goals, then find a writing buddy, a mentor, or group to support you.  

The final problem with all these writing related activities is that they take time: a writer’s most precious resource.

Depending on where you’re at with writing, you need to assess how your time is best spent.

Will a weekend attending a writers festival refill your creative well, provide important industry insight, and forge new connections or should you finish the final round of edits on your novel?

Will signing up for a writing course give you the permission you need to be creative, or should you just get to work on your outline?

While I am presenting these scenarios as ‘this’ or ‘that’, sometimes it is possible to do both. For example, spend one day at a writers festival and one day editing or create your outline (and more!) while doing the course.

Writing related activities can give us the satisfaction we expect to get from writing, only without the hard work, wonder, tears, and joy that is creative practise.

Everything is writing, provided that you are actually writing.


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Are Author Platforms Worth It?

Whether you are an indie or traditionally published author, we all feel the pressure to be online, producing content, and cultivating relationships with our audience.

Most traditional publishers will want to know what your numbers are, and if you don’t have a public author profile, they’ll want you to set one up.

I have seen examples of traditionally published authors who’s social media accounts are run by the publisher or that are totally inactive (created as a way to safeguard against posers), but these examples are rare and it’s likely that these writers have only been able to get away with this behaviour because their books are best sellers — but how did they become best sellers?

Because the publisher ran a massive marketing campaign.

Of course, there are examples of heavily marketed books that ‘failed’ despite the big backing (and big budget) of a major publishing house, and there are examples of indie authors who went from obscurity to lucrative full-time earnings solely because their platform suddenly took off.

Social media can be powerful and it can work for you, but there is no guarantee — and the same goes for traditional marketing.

We’re attracted to building a social media platform because it’s in our control and we’re attracted to traditional publishers because they offer support, experience, reach and a network. (NB: Sometimes ALL that still isn’t enough for a book to be ‘successful’).

What sucks though is when traditional publishers ask their new or mid-list authors to develop a platform. Because here’s the thing: it’s actually not that easy to build a big, engaged audience, AND it’s a massive time suck.

Looking for content to repost on Twitter with a summary sentence or witty comment, replying to comments, creating Instagram stories, and finding your balance between 80% sharing and 20% promotion (the ‘magic ratio’ according to some person on the internet) — all takes time and energy.

The same two resources we need to write, which is the activity that lead to the product we’re trying to sell in the first place!

And let’s be honest, if you don’t have a public author page by now, it’s probably because you don’t want one and if you don’t want one, but feel pressured to have one, you probably won’t do a very good job.

Alternatively, some indie authors have only been able to survive because of their platforms (for e.g. Jenna Moreci).

However, if you speak to the booksellers of brick and mortar stores, they’ll say their customers’ purchases are based off recommendations in the newspaper, radio interviews, or because of a friend.

Now, this may be because the bulk of buyers who still go to physical bookstores consume these type of media, whereas the bulk of people who buy online look to podcasts, YouTube videos, or social media profiles for recommendations. Who knows?

It’s very difficult to track how many followers convert into buyers online, but I’ve heard other writers say that for every 40, 000 followers they’ll make 2,000 sales (during a launch). But again, every platform and artist is different.

The one thing that all those business marketing courses, free videos, and blogs fail to tell you is that convincing a stranger on the internet to buy your stuff is hard.

You can work on your know, like, and trust factors, put in a funnel, develop an email campaign, and every other step recommended out there on the interwebs and there is still no guarantee.

You can do everything you’re supposed to do and not achieve the results you had hoped for, but that’s not to say you won’t ever achieve success, you just need to find the model that works for you, and sometimes, you simply have to give something more time.

The whole point of this post is not to arrive at one tidy conclusion backed by a step by step action plan, but to show that there is no guarantee of failure or success no matter which way you go.

Social media is one way to promote your books and yourself as an author, but it’s not the only way.

The best way to approach this aspect of the writing life is to have an experimental attitude and to find the methods that work best for you.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

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Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

It’s okay to write slow

We can be really hard on ourselves, and writing — honestly — can be so frustrating because it’s the exact opposite of everything that capitalism and hustler culture stand for.

Writing takes time.



We shouldn’t speak in absolutes and it’s true that writing a book doesn’t have to take a long time. There are indie authors who write and publish books every 6-8 week; they produce a draft, give it a quick edit, and hit publish.

Dead Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rush are big believers in the originality and authenticity that comes through fast drafting, though admittedly, they always give their fiction three rounds of edits before they publish.

For the rapid release model to be viable as a business, you need to publish new long form content every 3 months.

Sales will peak at the beginning, then taper off over the first, second, and third month.

Some writers maintain this publishing schedule because it’s their full-time job and they want it to become a sustainable source of income, however, there is a massive dropout rate because writing takes energy and many people find that writing 8,000-10,000 words a day and publishing a new 40,000-60,000 word book every three months is unsustainable and they quickly burnout.

To paraphrase the creator of 20booksto50Ks, Michael Anderle, if you stop writing and publishing books, you’ll stop making money.

Rapid release is an option, but it is not the only option.

This model works because it follows the rules of capitalism and hustle culture, but that doesn’t mean that it’s sustainable or enjoyable.

The problem is, most of us aren’t full-time writers, though for some of us that’s the dream.

Because we’re working other full-time jobs or maintaining a portfolio career, our writing time is less than we desire. We get frustrated that it is taking so long to finish a first draft, but writing (prior to the golden days of CreateSpace back in 2002) has always been slow with a few exceptions, such as Charles Dicken’s serial publications.

It used to be that releasing one book a year was considered fast and to be honest, I can’t imagine working at that pace, at least not at the moment.

For example, if I had published the first, second, or even third draft of my current manuscript, it would have been fine, but it would have lacked the complexity and emotional richness that the current (sixth) draft has.

You can write and publish at whatever speed suits you, this is totally in your control, but do not use your slower pace as a reason to beat yourself up.

Even when you work on your writing 2-3 hours a day, five days a week, it still feels slow because we’re often not ‘finishing’ anything. Instead, think of writing as a slow progression, a gentle unfurling.

Writing this way feels more enriching, satisfying, and rewarding. We’re able to go deep into the work, to explore all the possible variations, and we allow space for new discoveries and revelations to occur in the act of writing and when we are out living our lives.  

In this model, writing isn’t a product it’s a practice. It’s an activity that is connected to every other part of your life and every part of your life is connected to your writing.

You’re allowed to take your time, to get messy, to question the work, to lift your game and stretch your abilities, to work in short bursts and long walks. It’s okay to spend time on your writing. The world will wait, and when you’re ready, you’ll know that you did the right thing by yourself and the book because writing is the reward.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you wish you could write faster? Do you have the pace of your own writing frustrating, or do you enjoy taking your time? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

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Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

What’s Your Writing Superpower?

It’s human nature to want to progress. One of the best and worst parts of being human is that once we solve a problem or master a skill, we immediately start looking towards the next thing.

We don’t just do this to ourselves, but others too.

At a friend’s wedding, we ask when they will start having kids; a week after someone has given birth, we ask when they will have another; and we toast a new graduate while asking, ‘What now?’ (This problem is so prevalent that Ann Patchett wrote a commencement speech and then published a tiny book by the same name.)

We do this as writers too. We’re constantly looking for ways to develop our skills, to reach a greater audience, and to generally improve.

When we read a great work of fiction, we inevitably compare it to our own work.

The gap between where they are and where we are may be wide or narrow, but it is there all the same.

We’re told one of the best ways to improve our writing is to read more, and this is one of the easiest ways to become aware of our weaknesses as a writer, but it can also be a great source of inspiration as it shows us what is possible.

Reading is one of the best ways to improve your writing.

As creatives, we are so aware of the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

With our eye on the prize, we focus intently on our weakness.

We’re berate ourselves for being ‘bad’ at …

  • Setting
  • Description
  • Dialogue
  • Underwriting
  • Overwriting
  • Character
  • Plot
  • Structure
  • Tension

Of course, it’s important to be aware of our weaknesses, but I invite you to think about what are your writing superpowers?

What’s your writing superpower?

What aspects of writing come naturally to you? What can you do so easily that you’re not even aware of it, or think about it as special?

Write them down or ask a writing buddy, your critique partner, betareaders, or editor.

To give you a little inspiration here are my three superpowers:

  1. Dedication
  2. Discipline
  3. Application of feedback

You’ll note that none of these aspects have to do with craft element but instead relate to mindset and behaviour.

What writing skills come to you so naturally you don’t even think of them as special?


1 / Dedication

I gave up a lucrative job and moved city (multiple times) to pursue writing and writing-related study. (NB: I don’t have a mortgage or kids, but I do have a high tolerance for risk!).

You don’t have to give up your job or move cities to prove that you are dedicated to writing, those are massive decisions with massive ramifications, and to be honest, it’s the mundane, garden-variety dedication that creates meaningful results.

I started a weekly blog seven years ago and later a YouTube channel as a way to document my experiences and share all the writing advice I’d come across (and yes, to build a platform. Let’s be transparent here!).

I consume A LOT of writing-related content, which means I’m able to recommend other resources to my coaching clients and to reference them myself when needed!

I’ve seeped myself in this community for years, and while I don’t know everything, I know a lot.

My dedication to writing is the reason all of these things have happened.

I didn’t give up when I got rejected or even when other things had to become the number one priority.

2 / Discipline

I make time for writing and when I show up, I work with little distraction, not even my inner critic can stop me.

My inner critic may say things like, ‘This is a waste of time. You’re ruining your life. This sucks. You suck. This is boring.’

I acknowledges these comments, often by writing them down, and I think, ‘okay this may suck. This could be boring, but I’m going to keep writing anyway.’ And then I do.

Part of the reason I am so disciplined with writing is two-fold.

One, I’ve worked a lot of soul crushing job and I really want to make this current trajectory to work.

Two, I know the following statement to be all too true: ‘Resisting writing is harder than writing.’ Even on bad days, even on shit days, writing is always better than not writing (even if only for five minutes).

Of course, you don’t have to be saving the world with your writing all the time. Even superheroes deserve a break.

3 / Application of Feedback

I’m great at receiving feedback from betareaders and editors, but I didn’t realise this was a strength until my mentor pointed it out!

They said so many people will accept punctuation suggestions but then reject all the critical advice surrounding plot, structure, characterisation, and so on.

I am always open to feedback and while I’m aware that makes these changes will be work, I know they will lead to a better book/short story/article.

I don’t take the criticism personally because I work with smart and kind people who I trust so I know their feedback is coming from a good, informed place, and it’s often great fun to brainstorm potential solutions.

As life coach, Cheryl Richardson says, ‘Don’t go to the hardware store for milk!’ by which she means, be selective in whom you seek advice from. 

It’s so easy to only focus on our weakness as a writer, and this makes sense because awareness is the first step to improving that aspect of our craft, but it’s also important that we celebrate and acknowledge what we’re actually good at too.

Know I’d love to hear from you. In the comments below, please share 1-3 of your writing superpowers. Remember, these can be related to mindset, behaviour, habits, or craft.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Writing and Productivity: What Can We Realistically Expect of Ourselves?

Our writing practice is rarely perfect, and for so many of us, it isn’t our number one priority (though it may be close!).

Other responsibilities like work, study, care giving, or even health may consume the bulk of your time, but in many ways, this is totally natural and to be expected.

Many professional writers only write for one to four hours a day, whether that’s a result of their schedules or their energy levels.

For the rest of us, we squeeze writing into the fringes of our life. Maybe twenty minutes before or after work or an hour or two over the weekend.

Most of us are doing way more than we should be doing. In fact, I shared the below image on my Instagram, Facebook, and newsletter a few weeks ago and the response was really interesting.

The point of this exercise was to show the mismatched between what I actually get done in a day compared to what social media and hustle culture tell me is reasonable. (Obviously, I exaggerated the left-hand side as a way to make this post funny, but also show how ridiculous these expectations are).

The comments I received back on this post were pretty illuminating. Everyone knew that the left-hand side was a joke, but many actually thought the right-hand side was also overloaded.

  • Some of the comments were things like:
  • Woah! That is intense!
  • So intimidating.
  • I would take half a day to write that.
  • Just one day? I’m in awe.
  • You are a maniac.
  • Puts my day to shame.

    Now, I’m not including those here as a way to big note myself, I’m sharing them because these responses legitimately surprised me. I don’t have a typical 9-5, Monday to Friday job. I have multiple streams of income from working as a sessional academic, coaching, hospitality, editing, and freelance writing.

I’m largely in charge of my schedule, and what I wrote on the right is what I literally did one random Tuesday. And to be honest, I was embarrassed to share this post because I didn’t think it was enough! I was afraid that it would make me look scattered, unprofessional, and unstructured.

On this particular day, I remember feeling frustrated that I hadn’t gotten more done. While I did do four writing session on my novel, I was also aware that I didn’t make any progress on my thesis, I didn’t edit the short story I’ve been working on or the three journal articles that I have in the pipeline.

I also worried that the mini-breaks throughout the day like taking an hour for lunch, meeting my mentor for coffee, and watching an episode of TV would make me look lazy and indulgent.

I shared this activity as a way to show other people how ridiculous hustle culture is and how real life is so much more colourful and responsive; instead, it showed me how much damn pressure I put on myself. Maybe you can relate.

By placing these two lists side-by-side, I wanted to visually depict how our mental to-do list measures up to what is possible in a given day.

The left-hand side doesn’t take into account interruptions or the daily chores we do to keep life ticking along, things like bills and laundry, and seldom does it refer to other people, whereas in real life, we’re usually dealing with other people all day.

Of course, this too can be a daily point of frustration.

Hustle culture and our obsession with productivity can mean that we deeply resent these interruptions because they are ‘stealing time’ away from writing. But something that we need to remind ourselves of is that the story isn’t going anywhere.

We can tend to these interruptions, responsibilities, or the administration of life and then return to our writing, or better yet, we write first and then tend to these tasks second.

Anyway, I just wanted to share these quick insights with you and invite you to have a crack at this activity yourself, either in the comments or using paper and pen as I did. If you do the latter, feel free to tag me on social media (@authortaraeast) or send me a copy via email (authortaraeast@gmail.com), I’d love to see what your two lists look like.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Creative Solutions for Handling the Inner critic

The inner critic needs little introduction. Regardless of where you are in the creative journey, you’re likely very familiar with this inner gremlin.

If you’re new to writing, then the inner critic will be your biggest enemy.

This may come as a surprise.

You may think that your lack of experience, knowledge, or ability may be your biggest hindrances, but these three aspects are within your control.

You can choose to gain experience by writing; you can improve your knowledge by reading fiction books, ‘how to write’ book, and attending courses, and you can improve your overall ability by combining these two steps together, applying what you’ve learnt to your writing practise.

Newbie writers must learn how to overwrite their inner critic and to ignore their harping. It will tell you that you’re no good, that writing is a waste of time, and that do body cares what you have to say. Some of this may be true.

Your writing may be bad, but writing is never a waste, and you have no idea what impact your writing will have on others.

If a newbie writer isn’t careful, their hunger and discipline can become dampened by their inner critic. It can stop you before you even begin, but it is possible to develop creative strategies for handling the critic so that you can continue doing what you do best: writing.

But don’t go thinking that established writers are free from the critic’s grip. Oh no, if anything, the voice gets louder and sneakier. Sometimes, it can be hard to separate the critic from the critical self. (NB: I can appreciate that these terms are similar, but stick with me!)

During the drafting of a manuscript neither the critic nor the critical self are invited to the party, but once you begin the revision process, the critical self is vital.

What’s the difference between these two voices?

Essentially, it’s how they talk.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

The inner critic is mean. The critic will say, this story is no good, you are a terrible writer, what a dumb idea, they did it better, maybe you should check your email instead of write, or you can’t pull this off.

The inner critic pinpoints a fault and makes it personal while offering no solution.

The critical self, confusingly, may say similar things, but it’s usually followed by a suggestion or some kind of encouragement.

For example, this story isn’t working (but you can fix it). This paragraph is awkward (rewrite it). What a dumb idea (make the plot more complex). Theydid it better (there’s a market for this). Maybe you should check your email (do not check your email!). You can’t pull this off (yet. Do some more research. Practise, practise, practise).

The critical self identifies when something isn’t work in the novel, but it doesn’t fling its hands into the air, admit defeat, and close up shop. Instead, it rolls up its sleeves and gets to work.

The critical self is our friend, especially during revision.

The inner critic is not our friend and every writer or creative must find a different way to handle it.

Everyone’s critic tends to offer up the same generic opinion — you suck and everything you write sucks — but our unique critic may fall into one of the following camps as well.

The Over Achiever:

You need to write and publish more content. You cannot rest! You must do more, more!

The Perfectionist:

Every piece of writing could do with one more edit.  Nothing is ever good enough or ‘ready’ for publication.

The Comparer:

Everyone is fantastic, productive, successful, inspired, motivated, and clever all the time. You, however, are none of these things ever.

The Procrastinator:

Publishing = being judged. So, you better think really hard about what you’re going to do. Make a plan and an outline. Think about it. Make a new plan and outline. Repeat.

The Victim:

Writing is pointless. No one want to read my stuff. I am so out of my league.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Perhaps reading these descriptions have helped you better identify your inner critic?

These categories can be used as a spring board for personifying your inner critic. Maybe you can give them a name, describe what they look like, and where they live.

The uber-creative author known as SARK, takes this one step further. Whenever her critic appears, she acknowledges them, listens to what they have to say, and then she imagines them being arrested and taken away, or she invents a job for them.

For example, you could ‘send’ your inner critic away to be an egg packer in France or to escort wild life crossing the road in South Dakota. Think about what type of job would suit an Over Achiever (CEO) and what type of job would suit a procrastinator (nap champion).

For type A personalities, this may seem a little silly, but you might be surprised by how effective this little mind game can be.  

When it comes to dealing with the inner critic, it can be helpful to have a wide range of solutions at your disposal for what works one day may not work the next.

Another activity you can do is sit with your inner critic and have a dialogue with them.

What are they worried about? What is the worst that could happen? Is this situation survivable? What might you do if such an event occurred? Would you really allow your life to unravel to this extend? Is it possible that you could prevent this, if so, how?

If the inner critic appears while you are working, and if you find that their opinions are interrupting your work flow, you may find that simply writing out this criticism on a piece of paper is enough to dispel its power.

When my critic starts piping up with comments like ‘this is boring’, I write down the comment, acknowledge that my writing may indeed be boring, but then continue on anyway.

For some people, a firm ‘no’ said a loud whenever the critic starts piping up may be enough to silence them.

For those who are a little more type A, you may find that questioning your critic’s opinion is the most effect method. When met with a criticism like, this book isn’t very interesting or you’re writing is bland, ask yourself, ‘Is that true? Can I be certain that is true?’ Naturally, the answer will always be ‘no’, because nothing (besides natural laws like gravity, death, and taxes) are certain.

We cannot be rid of our inner critic, and we wouldn’t want to. Their job is to keep us safe and sometimes it is important to be afraid. Fear stops us from crossing the road without looking or publishing an unedited first draft.

Fear is good, but not when it stops us from creating.

Our critics aren’t going anywhere, but with awareness, mindfulness, and playfulness we can learn to live and creative with them. Once you discover your unique formula, it’s possible to turn a critic into a creative ally.   


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

The Myth of the Ideal Writing Day

Imagining your ideal writing day. You can probably do this in a snap because you’ve imagined it so often, wished for it wistfully, and occasionally, even lived it.

We long to write under the perfect conditions because we so rarely experience them.

Days that are appointment free, when the house is empty, the dog is walked (or uncharacteristically uninterested in going for one!), and there’s a stack of left overs in the fridge.

Maybe a fire is going. Your favourite scented candle is let. The sun is falling through the window perfectly.

You have eight empty hours in front of you.

A day dedicated only to writing.

And that’s when the fun begins, because when there’s no distraction between you and the work there is only you and the work present.

As the Buddhist writer Jon Kabat-Zinn said, ‘wherever you go, there you are’.

Soon, you’re up from your desk doing laundry, shaking out dog beds, organising receipts, vacuuming the car, and weeding the front garden. Lunch time rolls around and then you start beating yourself up for allowing this to happen. For wasting such a perfect day.

Ideal writing days often become our worst writing days, because when we fail to perform, we have no one to blame but ourselves: no one was around to interrupt us, we didn’t have any errands to run, or appointments to make — hell, we didn’t even have to cook a meal!

Ideal writing days make for a beautiful fantasy and a pressure cooker reality.

We believe that because the conditions are perfect, the words should melt from our fingers like rare honey. The boundaries between us and the work should blur as we enter a state of deep focus where we forget that we — the author — even exist, and writing becomes a form of passive dictation rather than active creation.

That, dear friend, is a lot of pressure to put on a single day.

On an ordinary day, we have the luxury of blaming our family, friends, colleagues, maintenance workers, or the Administration of Life for interrupting our writing. Unfortunately, if we ‘waste’ an ideal writing day, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

As I write about often on this blog, we only have so many good hours in a day and it takes a lot of energy to write. For this reason, some of my most productive writing days have been days when I wrote in-between teaching classes or coaching clients, picking up an extra waitressing shift, or popping in and out of the house as I completed errands.

Why?

Because I didn’t have the luxury of mucking around. I had to make use of the time available to me. My writing windows were clear and defined: fifteen minutes here, an hour there.

There was no space to settle down into the work by making my environment pleasing with a scented candle, mug of tea, and roaring fire place. All those things are fantastic and lovely to do, but they are decoration; they are enhancements.

You don’t need any of them to write.

Believing we can only be productive when life gifts us our ideal conditions can be dangerous.

Sometimes, you really can’t write because you feel under the weather, you’re distracted by a personal or work related event, or your day is too full of other commitments.

But sometimes, we use imperfect conditions as excuses not to do the work. We can’t write because…

  • The kids are home.
  • Your partner is home.
  • You’re tired.
  • It’s the weekend.
  • It’s rainy.
  • It’s sunny.
  • You don’t have enough time.
  • The dog needs a walk.
  • There’s a hundred emails in your inbox.
  • You’re out of milk.
  • The wrong party won the last election.

And so on.

The truth is ideal writing days can be hard and non-ideal writing days can be hard.

Both can also be great. It just depends on you, the day, what stage the work is at, how the axis of the earth is aligning that day…

Whatever the conditions are, we need to identify what we most need from ourselves in that moment: kindness or firmness, maybe both?

Writing is a strange practise. In so many ways we live a life out of sync with those around us. Our daily efforts are without pay. There’s no sick leave or annual holidays. There’s little different been weekdays and weekends.

A cross word with a loved one or a mean comment online can derail a whole day while a vivid dream or a realisation while walking can fuel us for a week.

Writing, regardless of the conditions, whether we’re feeling inspired or not, is work. Some days the work feel easier, some days it is harder, the only thing that matters though is that we continue to show up for ourselves and the story we’ve committed to.

I know of no other way to live the writer’s life.

Now, I’d love to hear from you? Do you feel as though you can’t write outside of your ideal conditions? Do you frequently use excuses to get out of adding words to the page? Or do you actively work against this form of resistance? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Creative Comparison

One of the most painful periods of being a writer is starting.

When first developing your craft, there is so much you don’t know in terms of terminology and technique, but also your own process.

There’s a unique pain in recognising how much there is to learn and that you are only just beginning even though you long to be in the middle of things.

Beginning a writing practise can be hard especially when our early attempts look nothing like the novels that inspired us to write in the first place.

And this may be a new writer’s first mistake: comparison.

Unfortunately, comparison is not limited to new writers. We all suffer from it no matter the level of our career or stage of writing.

Comparison can be good or bad, depending on your perspective.

We understand, intellectually, that first drafts are supposed to be bad, and yet we still feel disappointed when that first attempt at a story doesn’t resemble the edited, bound, and available for purchase books on the shelves.

Unfortunately, you can’t go to a bookstore and say, ‘I would like to see draft two of A Song of Fire and Ice and draft three of The Overstory.’ We don’t get to see the rejects, only the best version of that story.

Comparing our work or where we are in our author journeys is a losing game and one that will deplete your energy and motivation.

Hearing, at 35, that Stephen King published 25 books by age 28 (slight exaggeration) is unlikely to fuel your creative fire. Instead, you’ll probably decide that it’s too late, you’re behind the eight ball, and who would even want to read a novel written by an old fart like you?

In one way, literature is seen as inaccessible, stuffy and pretentious, and in another way, claiming your desire to be a writer can come across as foolish, childlike, irresponsible, unrealistic, and avoidant.

Comparison feeds these underlining narratives. We say, I am not a real writer because…

  • I don’t have a publishing deal.
  • I don’t have Stephen King on speed dial.
  • I don’t pay my mortgage with book money.

Comparison is often worse whenever we’re not creating as our lack of personal productivity and progress becomes evidence against us.

‘She’s publishing another book? Didn’t she just release one last month? How is that possible? Meanwhile, I haven’t touched my manuscript in six months.’

Ebooks aren’t better or worse than physical books; it’s just a matter of preference. Both have strengths and weaknesses, just like everything else!

Creative comparison can be doubly destructive when we strongly admire someone else’s work or when someone publishes something similar to what we are working on.

In both these instances, it can be all too easy to give in. Thoughts like, ‘they are so much better than me,’ or ‘they’re doing the same thing as me, only better’ or ‘I can’t write a book about a school for wizards or teenage monster hunters because that’s already been done!’

Yeah … cos no one ever wrote about those subjects before…

To move forward, we need to accept ourselves for where we are at in our writing journey and how developed your skills are. Note: both these components are highly nuanced!

You may be great at plot, but all your characters sound the same, or maybe you come up with great premises/concepts, but you’re self-conscious about your vocabulary.

Sometimes, comparison can be a good thing.

It can show you what is possible in a story; it can highlight a weakness you were unaware of or serve as an inspiration by giving you something to strive towards.

One writer’s use of language or description or structure could inspire you to lift your own game, for example, Eleanor Catton’s work has inspired me to be more specific in my character description and to spend a little more time on this detail.

While it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison, measuring our beginnings against other people’s middles or endings, it is important to remember that writing is an activity with no expiry date. You can only grow with time and practise, as you read more books or write more stories.

There’s no rush. No need to compare.

It’s okay to go slowly and to stick to your own lane.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you compare your work to others? Do you complain about how you’re not further along yet? Does comparison look different for you to how I discussed it here? Leave your comments below!


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Burnout: The Dark side of the Writing life

I’ve never experienced burnout, but I’ve been near to those who have.

Burnout is the emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that follows a prolonged state of excessive stress.

We don’t talk about burnout as it relates to creatives specifically, but this type of intense fatigue is of course just as real for artists as it is for anyone else.

As Joy Carol Oates says, ‘You need so much energy and encouragement to write.’

The act of creating can be exhausting. It does take a lot of energy to write because you’re creating something out of nothing. Gone are the days when the only thing a writer had to worry about was their stories—did those days ever really exist anyway?

If you’re developing a creative career, then your energy is probably dispersed all over the place: a blog, newsletter, courses, private coaching, speaking engagements, media appearances, platform maintenance, amazon ads, research about amazon ads, etc.

If writing is your side hustle, then your plate is even fuller as you balance all the above tasks with full-time work and/or study.

Listed like this, it is easy to see how creatives can become burnout.

And yet, few creatives talk about this. We talk about being busy (because being busy is glorified), but perhaps the bigger reason why people don’t discuss this is because creative exhaustion seem unjustifiable.

We’re not solving major world problems or saving lives (at least not directly, and yet many people have made the serious and hyperbole statement, ‘This book saved my life’).

We haven’t earned the right to claim ‘burnout’ because writing stories isn’t very serious.

And here we arrive back at that old sad story of artist’s guilt.

Burnout happens for creatives, in part, because we are still fighting to be taken seriously.

What people think creatives are doing when they’re making art.

Sometimes, I struggle to relax because I take my art seriously and I want to be taken seriously. For that to happen, others have to see me working hard. Taking weekends off, socialising, or reading on the coach aren’t the types of activities that hard-working people do—or at least that’s the toxic narrative going around in my brain.

There are so many issues packaged in this mentality. Writing takes energy and we only have so many good hours in a day, once we go beyond this threshold, we really aren’t producing good work anymore and what’s more troubling is that we’re actually going into a deficit.

Studies and anecdotal evidence show that when we go hard one day, our productivity will be significantly less the next day.

In the pursuit of convincing others to take our art seriously we work ourselves to the bone; unfortunately, this only harms our art. It’s difficult to produce good work when the tank is empty. 

What is even more problematic is that engaging in this loop strengthens the link between productivity and self-worth on a personal level while keeping the grand narratives of hustle culture alive. 

Part of the reason we work so hard is that we feel that creating art is selfish and indulgent, but if we can find a way to make writing a punitive activity, then others will be forced to take it seriously.

Writing, like all creative pursuits, is a privilege.

It is an activity that is reserved for people who are able (or willing) to take the financial risk to pursue a dream. In some cases, they may have another source of income, such as a full-time job or spouse that keeps things afloat, but in other cases, it’s a matter of reducing costs, applying for grants, and taking on contract work.

Writers need energy, support, and resources to write.

You need time and space to write. You need to disconnect from the reality and responsibilities of your life in order to venture into another. These conditions could be difficult to create if you are a single parent working two jobs.

There’s more than one way to relax. For some, it may be active forms such as exercise or socialising, for others it could be time alone when their mind is allowed to wander.

The crux of artistic guilt: the world doesn’t need art in the same way that it needs food or shelter.

And yet, art is a record. What remains of ancient civilisations is stories and artefacts, the remnants of culture.

Art enriches our lives.

Imagine that all forms of art were removed from the world. No more music, film, theatre, paintings, weird exhibitions, or pottery.

Imagine a life without books?

Miserable, isn’t it?

And yet, continual cuts to art funding communicates a different message: art isn’t valuable.

A message that is underscored—to a degree—by new technologies that have trained consumers to expect products, services, and yes, art to be free.

And all of this plays into creative burnout.

The world doesn’t take art seriously, but we do and we want to be taken seriously which means doubling down on work, playing into hustle culture, and producing all the content we can.

We push ourselves to do and create more because there is always something else we could be doing (write another chapter, blog, join another platform, respond to a DM, design an email campaign, create a new opt-in offer etc).

To write, we need to leave our reality behind and step into another.

Self-publishing is a wonderful option for so many writers, but it’s also a lot of work and there is so much you can do that writers feel the pressure to do more, and more.

Writing for 2-3 hours a day isn’t enough, despite scientific evidence that this is the extent of our bandwidth. (To put things into perspective, the greatest minds in the world who are employed by MIT and NASA typically do five hours of intense work a day).

It is easy to fall into the trap of working six, eight, ten, or twelve plus hours a day, even if most of that work is hollow or meaningless (see: busywork). And yet, science shows most people are only productive for 1-4 hours a day.

Writers and creatives pull these long hours and engage in busywork as a way to justify our desire to create and so we too can be rewarded for our productivity, which is pretty much the easiest way to find instant validation and gratification.

While outsiders may think art-making is all glitter and Instagram flat lays, artists are just as prone to burnout as anyone else because we have so much to prove.

We burnout because we are trying to earn the space we’re taking up; we’re trying to prove that we are worthy and that this isn’t a hobby.

Burnout could happen for multiple reasons. Maybe you’re juggling full-time work and a family with your writing as a side gig. Maybe you’re a full-time writer who works for hire doing copywriting or editing as a way to fund your passion project or you’re a fiction writer balancing your imagined worlds against self-promotion and the constantly changing digital landscape.

The fundamental guilt that underlays the arts is based on the notion that our work isn’t practical, urgent or needed. That nothing would change whether we made it or not, that our time would be better spent doing the elusively worthy ‘something else.’

So when we do rest, we feel guilty.

We tell ourselves that writing isn’t coal mining, that we don’t ‘need’ to rest because we haven’t done anything that exhausting.

Also, we’re afraid to rest because we don’t want to affirm societal notions of ‘the lazy artist.’

And so we continue on, working and grinding away on our writing projects and platforms.

But we also need to rest.

It can be a little dysfunctional to say that rest is the best way to support your productivity, but if this is the only way to justify this need, well hey, it’s a starting point.

It’s all well and good to make luscious lists of restful activities, but it’s vital to think about what activities would fill up your creative well and make you feel restored.

Binge watching a Netflix season is unlikely to do that, but a long walk in the bush or ten minutes of a breathing exercise might.

One way to think about rest is to imagine an archer. To go forward, the arrow has is pulled way back before being released. That’s how rapid, sure fire action happens.

Because everyone need rest.

Even lazy, privileged writers.

Now I’d love to hear from you, what do you want your relationship with writing to look like?

How do you want to engage with writing? What goals (in your control) do you have?


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Writing Goals | striving for the bare minimum

Your long-term success as a writer (or creative) is dependent on your ability to be consistent.  

The easiest way to engage with your writing consistently is to create a ‘bare minimum’ goal, something you can aim for and realistically achieve every day (or at least most days).

It’s far easier to write for 10 or 15 minutes every morning than it is to write 2000-3000 words on a Saturday morning.

I fully acknowledge that aspiring writers with full-time day jobs may be tempted to leave their writing for the weekends when they have more time, but ‘tomorrow’ thinking can be a slippery slow. ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’ ‘I’ll have more energy tomorrow.’ ‘I’m too busy today, I’ll do it tomorrow.’

Tomorrow thinking results in added pressure and it’s an easy way to set yourself up for failure.

Big goals can quickly become bait for your inner-critic as they supply ample opportunity for self-doubt and imposter-syndrome to sneak in. And big goals rarely allow for interruptions, nor do they take into consideration your energy levels.

Photo by Anthony Shkraba on Pexels.com

Are you really going to want to write 2000 words on a Saturday morning after a full week of work? Does that appeal to you? (And if it does, great! But some people might be more intimidated than inspired by that goal).

For many aspiring writers, it’s better to create a goal that is small but meaningful. Consider what word, time, or even ‘feeling’ goal you can set for yourself. What could you realistically achieve on your average day?

Can you write for 10 minutes?
Get down 50-100 words?
Feel a slither of peace or pride at having made time for your art?

It can also be useful to create a ‘bad day’ writing goal for times when life gets hectic. What is the smallest amount you could achieve on days when everything falls apart? For example, fifty words, two sentences, five minutes of writing etc.

Minimum goal aren’t about burning yourself out. In fact, it is just the opposite. The idea of a minimum daily goal is that you are making small, but consistent progress on a project. You’re protecting your creative energy because you are choosing to engage daily for a small amount of time, say thirty minutes, rather than shooting for a big goal such as four hours.

There will be days when you can’t meet either your minimum daily goal or your ‘bad day’ goal and that’s okay.

Sometimes life does get in the way; sometimes we just need to take a break.

A minimum goal is not writing for two hours before your 10-hour night shift. We want to build a writing practise that is sustainable, remember?

You may think that writing every Saturday is consistent, but the problem here is that a lot of time and energy gets wasted on familiarising yourself with your work before you even begin. When you do a little bit every day, however, the story remains fresh in your mind making it easier to re-enter the work.

Now, some people may say 10-15 minutes isn’t long enough, but many people have written books in 15 minute chunks. Check out there articles here and here.

Yes, ideally we would set aside 1-3 hours to write. We all want to work in a flow state, however, there is no evidence that this generates better work. Flow state isn’t about quality but ease. When we’re in a flat state we are focussed and connected to what we are doing (which is great!) but it’s doesn’t guarantee that we’re producing good work.

Further, many of us don’t have 1-3 hours of spare time every day. You can certainly make time by getting up earlier, writing at night, or quitting other activities like watching TV, but not everyone is willing to do that.

Don’t use a lack of time as a reason not to not write.

If larger blocks of time are unavailable to you, then you need to find a way to write in bit sized chunks.

Okay, I hear you. You sit down to write but then nothing happens. Instead, you scroll on your phone, check emails, or stare out the window (for those of you who are super disciplined).

If this is you, you may be dealing with issues of perfectionism, in which case, you need to give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft.

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

Of course, there comes a time when we need to hold ourselves and our art to a higher standard, but not while writing a first draft OR when we’re creating a writing habit.

Remember, no one is going to see what you write unless you show them. It may be deflating to discover that you’re first draft doesn’t resemble a published novel, but everyone’s first draft is bad!

Do not let perfectionism or comparison stop you from writing your story.

You can fix a bad draft, and there are slews of professionals out there who can help you editing your story.

Now, some writers thrive on being in-consistent. Not everyone is a daily or at least, regular writer, some writers are binge writers that go hard for a short sharp burst and then they don’t write again for a long period of time.

Maybe this is your method, but I strongly advise you to give daily (or regular) writing a go first before declaring yourself a ‘writer who only writes when inspiration strikes.’

There are some famous binge writers (e.g. Cheryl Strayed), but this is a much more difficult way to create, so don’t adopt this idea as your own narrative because you think it is romantic or see it as a way of opting out of the hard work of regularly connecting with your story.

Inspiration makes writing a lot easier, but habit is a lot more dependable.

When you show up consistently, those hundred word chunks and ten minute sprints start to add up.

Promise.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.