The #1 question I loathe as a writer is, how’s the book coming? I know. It seems like such an innocuous question, and as writers, we love to talk about our stories. We wax on about our characters and the plot situations we’ve put them in while the listener glazes over and gets a distant “I should not have asked” look in their eyes.
But if the book isn’t coming, as in I’ve fallen out of my writing practice, it feels like a passive aggressive attack. Like the person is just waiting for me to give up on this whole writing thing, or even fail.
I feel like Brian, on Family guy, when Stewie asks him how his novel is coming along.
Questions like this, along with, Are you still writing? Oftentimes bring on feelings of guilt, or panic, or disappointment, because chances are, if you’re a Busy Author, which I’m assuming you are if you’re listening to this podcast, a lot of the time life gets in the way. Then we adopt these limiting beliefs or mindsets around our writing that give us negative associations around writing and keep us from it. They create these preconceived notions about our writing and end up holding us back.
Well, friend, I’m here today to tell you these are myths you’ve created in your mind and by the end of this post you will have the mindset shifts you need to transform the way you think about you’re writing.
So then, when someone asks you, How’s the Book coming? You can confidently raise your chin and say, “The book is coming along well. In fact, I’m almost done with the first draft.” Instead of feeling held back by the beliefs or myths you have in your head.
Myths and Mindset Shifts to Transform Your Thoughts on Writing
Myth #1: I don’t have time to write
Or maybe you tell yourself, I’ll write when my kids are out of the house, or when I retire. Or when hell freezes over… you get the point.
You have this dream to write a book, or to finish a book you might have started long ago, but you feel like your life is in too much turmoil, too busy, too jam packed to do so.
Mindset Shift: I do have time and you don’t have to wait.
You do have time – this whole podcast is about how you can find time to write and how you can fit writing into your busy life.
Revisit this post, and you’ll understand that yes you do have time.
As Denise Brennan-Nelson says “Someday is not a day of the week.”
Start today. Start now. Set your timer for 20 minutes and sit down and write.
Myth #2: I only have small scraps of free time. There’s no way I can get into my story in that short amount of time.
I used to believe this, too. I’ve talked about how I used to write on my 60-minute lunch break. I’ve mentioned how I wasted that time scrolling to the bottom of Facebook. I might have even mentioned how I used to think 20 minutes wasn’t enough time to do anything.
Maybe you’ve even tried Toucan20 and you just can’t get into the right writing mindframe in that short amount of time. Or maybe you haven’t even tried because you wholeheartedly believe it isn’t enough time.
Mindset Shift: If I keep showing up, it will get easier. Small scraps of time are enough.
As with every new skill you learn, it takes time and practice. The more you show up for smaller periods of writing time, the quicker you’ll get into the writing mindframe until hitting start on your timer becomes a trigger for your brain to get to work.
Try Toucan20 for seven days at a minimum. Track your word count each session (the Quick Start Guide has free trackers in it, check it out at youcantoucan.com/guide. I’ll link to it in the show notes).
When try it for seven days, you’ll see improvement in the number of words you write. You’ll also notice a difference in how you feel when you sit down to write. You’ll start writing sooner. You’ll add more words to the page than you thought possible.
You’ll have trained your mind and body that 20 minutes is enough time. Or even shorter scraps, if that’s all you have.
In fact, one of the people who filled out the March 2022 survey said they write in FIVE minute sprints because of ADHD. Find what works for you. 20 minutes is a great starting point.
Myth #3: I’m too tired, distracted, or unmotivated to write.
Being tired is hard. We’re all tired for one reason or another. There’s a quote my student Judalon told me her dad used to say, “Every worthwhile thing that’s ever been done in this world was done by a very tired person.” She wasn’t sure if he made that up or was quoting someone else, but such powerful words, right?
Staying up too late, sleeping poorly, not sleeping at all, imbibing too much the night before, your collicky baby kept you up all night, your partner’s snoring was like being at a monster truck rally…
The same goes for being distracted. We are in the Distraction Age. The era of notifications and pop-up ads, and everything else vying for our attention. Not to mention the things in our real lives.
Like stress from our day jobs. Or maybe something else is going on that’s distracting you, and that’s a little different. But have you tried using whatever emotions that event is boiling inside you to fuel your writing?
Mindset Shift: Oftentimes, my most tired, distracted, and unmotivated days are my best writing days.
This has been true for me on so many occasions, I can’t even begin to estimate how often it happens. And yes, there are always good days and bad when it comes to writing. But as long as you show up and do the work and don’t allow those pesky inner thoughts to coerce you into skipping, you’ll still add words to your manuscript. You can always polish them later to make them sparkle and shine.
Even if you’re tired, just write. Even if you’re brain dead, and you can’t even think straight, just write. Even if you’re unmotivated. You guessed it. Just write.
Twenty minutes is all you need to do. Go hide in a cave for twenty minutes. Lock yourself in the bathroom and turn on the fart fan (you know, to deter any nosy family members from knocking and asking what you’re doing in there).
Even if you think what you’re writing is garbage, do it anyway. Get the story down. I guarantee when you go back and read it later, you’ll see it isn’t garbage. You’ll see it’s actually quite good. It has good bones. You can always add muscle and flesh to it later.
Myth #4: My writing time is always interrupted. I can’t get a moment of peace. Why even bother trying?
I get it. Life isn’t always neat and tidy. It doesn’t always fit in a perfectly scheduled list of activities. Despite our best efforts to plan our days, something is bound to mess something up and throw the whole timeline out of whack.
People also don’t take our writing time seriously. But here’s the thing, if you don’t take your writing time seriously, no one will.
Let me say that again. If you’re multitasking, listen up:
People also don’t take our writing time seriously. But here’s the thing, if you don’t take your writing time seriously, no one will.
In the before times when I had to slog to a cubicle every morning people would actually interrupt me while on my lunch break to ask me what I was doing.
“I’m working on my novel,” I’d tell them.
“Oh, I didn’t know you’re a writer,” they’d say.
“Yep! I’m a writer.”
“That’s cool, so listen… I need your help with…” and they’d go on to tell me something they needed my help with as an employee of the company. Yes, they interrupted my writing time–my lunch break–to ask me to do something work related.
Fast forward a couple months of consistently writing in the lunchroom. Those people started taking me seriously. I started getting comments like, “Wow, Claire. Your dedication is astonishing. I wish I had the drive to do what you’re doing.”
I believed in my writing life. I showed up. People noticed. They took me seriously. They stopped bothering me while I was hunched over my little netbook computer. They started to respect my time.
So, to you who say why bother? Because to bother is to get it done. In other words, because that was kind of a strange way to say this: If you love to write, if it’s a calling or a passion, respect that desire and give in to it.
Here’s your mindset shift to help with this.
Mindset Shift: I can plan for distractions and interruptions by showing up when I say I will and as often as I can. As a result, people will take me seriously as a writer and learn to respect my time.
This mindset shift is for those who have a scheduled time they don’t show up to (because they promise they’ll make it up later) and for those who don’t even try, who assume there will be interruptions, so when they actually do have time, they already have a preconceived notion that that time won’t last long enough.
For the first kids, show up to your writing time! Because chances are, later won’t come because something else will come up that takes priority over the writing time. Show up to your time, then later if there’s more time to write, you have a double prizes writing day!
For the second kids–the ones who already have a preconceived notion that their time will get interrupted–write anyway. When you find you have a moment to take a breath, set your timer for twenty minutes and write! If nothing interrupts you, keep going. If something does interrupt you, at least you got that many minutes of writing in.
It’s all about baby steps here. Show up when you say you’re going to. Sit down and write. Plan for interruptions. Show those around you–your repeat offenders when it comes to interruptions–that you are serious. Your writing matters to you. Before long, they’ll understand. They’ll respect your time. They’ll see you hunched over your computer or notebook or stone tablet and, before they open their mouths to interrupt you, they’ll nod to themselves. There she goes. Writing the next great American novel. Their eyes will glisten with proud tears as they turn away and let you have at it.
Myth #5: I don’t even know where to start. Writing a book is too hard.
You’re absolutely right. Writing a book is hard. Starting is hard. Writing beginnings is hard. Some people say to start on Chapter Two, but if you’re a pantser like me, I don’t know what chapter two even is yet!
The key here is to just start somewhere.
If writing a book was easy, everyone would be doing it and the book shelves would be even more saturated with amazing stories (and, let’s face it, utter garbage, but mostly amazing stories).
The difference between those who long to write a book and those who actually do is passion, desire, and dedication.
Mindset Shift: I’ll tell the story the best way I can. Showing up will make it easier.
If you’re just starting out with a burning desire to write a book, this is for you. You do know where to start. Do you tell stories to people at parties or when you’re catching up with your friends? Do they enjoy your stories?
Then you know where to start.
People who want to write a book usually have a story or an idea they want to share with the world through prose. Or they’ve been inspired by another person’s books or stories (but don’t steal, okay. It’s one thing to be inspired, it’s another thing to steal a whole world or plot). Just sit down and start writing.
Start by writing down the idea like you would tell it to a friend. You can even start this session with, “I have this great idea for a story. It’s all about…” (I call this a narrative summary). You could even record yourself telling a trusted friend (I’ll have a future post about this) the story idea if that helps.
After that, you can start to put things into some kind of order. You can see the shape of the story. The bones. You might even be able to picture who the main characters are. They’ll become real people to you eventually.
Knowing a little about the people involved in the story, you can begin to flesh out the scenes. Add some dialogue. Some conflict.
And, ya know, you can always hire a coach to help you (that was a shameless plug, wasn’t it?)
Despite the over a million words I’ve written, and the folders full of novel length manuscripts taking up space on my harddrive, every time I start writing a new book I’m reminded of how hard it is.
It’s the nature of doing creative work of tapping into these parts of our minds that aren’t always easy to access. It’s calling upon–and believing in–external higher influences like gods or muses or the Universe in general.
Creativity is intangible.
You can’t see imagination. Creativity is intangible. The only proof you have that you’re even doing anything is your word count tracker and the satisfaction of adding words to the page.
Tap into THAT feeling whenever you feel like this is too hard.
And always remember your why. Why do you want to write? Why do you want to write THIS story? Knowing the answers to both of those questions is what will keep you going day after day.
So, set your timer for 20 minutes. It’s only twenty minutes! And just start somewhere. And then? Just keep going.
I’d love to hear what other things your mind tells you when it’s time to hit the keyboard or open your notebook or pull out your stone tablet. Use the question form below to let me know! If you’re struggling to reframe the myth into a mindset shift, perhaps I can help you!
Now, if you were nodding along to some, most, or all of this, but you are unsure how to actually make these shifts stick (because, let’s face it, mindset work is hard), I’m ridiculously excited to announce I have just released the Create Your Writing Life with the CAN DO Formula masterclass just in time to jumpstart your writing life in 2023.
If you’re interested in learning how to:
- Cultivate Awareness of your time and habits to fit writing into your busy schedule.
- Activate your writing time to make the most of what little time you do have.
- Navigate internal excuses that hold you back from being the writer you long to be
- Diligently show up by eliminating external obstacles that stand between you and your writing time.
- Overtake your writing goals so you can get to The End
The Create Your Writing Life with the CAN DO Formula masterclass is your perfect solution.
Now is the best time to grab your writing habit by the horns and start your year off on the right foot when it comes to your writing practice.
Set your timer. Go write!
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