The feasting season is nigh! Which means you may need some tools to help protect your writing time.
In this episode, I’ll give you eight tools to overcome the challenges of other people or responsibilities interrupting or stealing your writing time.
You’ll also get a little NaNoWriMo pep talk that can be used for ANY dreaded week two for ANY new habit.
Links and things mentioned in this episode:
- Quick Start Guide to Writing More in Less Time (yep, this again!)
- You’ve Got a Book in You by Elizabeth Sims
- 7:00 Reboot
- 7:37 Level Up
- 9:35 The Joe Dirt
- 10:24 Commit Already
- 12:03 Go Streaking
- 13:12 Make it Fun
- 14:18 Do The Anna
- 15:36 Close the Door
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Intro and outro music from Uppbeat (free for Creators!): https://uppbeat.io/t/hartzmann/clear-sky
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If you have questions about the podcast content, content in any of my freebie resources, blog posts, books, website, etc.
Transcripts are created by Descript. Please forgive any spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors!
Hey, Toucan. The feasting season is nigh! At least here in the US where we celebrate Thanksgiving in November and the various December holidays.
This is the time of year in which we fatten up for our winter hibernation. Just kidding. Wouldn’t that be awesome though? Eat and get fat, and then sleep for a few months… then wake up all skinny… and depleted… and atrophied.
Okay, Maybe not that last part, but man, do I love a good feast. I can practically smell the Turkey already.
Heading into the holiday season is usually a stressful time for a lot of people, especially with how commercialized Christmas has become, how dysfunctional family gatherings can be, and just expectations around all of it.
I’m gonna put my soapbox away before I even get up on it. Just know this. I know this time of year can be a joyous time. We get to spend with others. It can be a sad time as we remember those we lost over the past year those we used to spend the holidays with. It can be a time of giving and also a time of greed, disappointment, surprise, and excitement.
It’s up to you to determine how your holidays go. Be thankful for what you do have. Maybe take a few minutes each day and write three things you’re grateful for. Big or small, doesn’t matter. This is a time of giving, a time of peace and love. Don’t let the evil side of the holiday spirit take you in a choke hold.
So today, aside from seemingly poo pooing the holiday season—I actually do love this type of year—Let’s talk about planning for anything to get in your way. I’m specifically talking about interrupting, disturbing, distracting, or plain old canceling or stealing your writing time because chances are, even if you have a regularly scheduled writing time, something or more likely, someone will try to sabotage that time and steal you away from it, or steal it from you.
Don’t let them do it. The truth is though, my friend, the person sabotaging your writing time is probably you. don’t hate me for saying that. According to the March, 2022 survey, you know the one from episode three that I like to beat to death. Life reasons were the main excuse for not showing up to their writing time.
I broke these into four categories: family and people, events, health and wellbeing, and other.
This is the first part of a two-part episode on planning for anything to get in your way. The tools I’m going to talk about are designed to help you plan for interruptions and use resilience, perseverance, and advancement behavior to bounce back, press on and do the next right thing.
Before we get into this though, I want to address the fact that it is also the dreaded week two of NaNoWriMo. If you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, these tools will also help you, and this episode will help you no matter where you are in your writing journey. And no matter what time of year it is, let’s get into it.
In the words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr. “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
It is super important this week, the dreaded week two, to keep showing up. Keep logging. Your two can 20 sessions. Keep committing to yourself and your writing practice.
When you look at your computer or notebook or stone tablet with dread, tell yourself I can. When you log off from a bad day at work or get home after a horrendous commute and all you wanna do is sit on the floor and sob into a bowl of ice cream instead of writing, tell yourself, I can tell yourself I can, and you will
Remember why you want to do this, why you want to write this book. In fact, write that down somewhere and put it where you’ll see it frequently throughout the day because you can too. The words I can are so powerful. Here’s a little story. When I lift weights and I go for the medium to light dumbbells my old standbys, instead of the one step up heavier ones, I have a little note in my workout area that I look at and what does that note say?
It says I can. And you know what? I see that note and I pick up the heavier dumbbells and I know weight lifting has very little to do with writing, but just the power of telling yourself I can will reprogram your thoughts and your negative brain energies and your unwillingness to try I can will make you want to try.
Keep showing up this week. It will get easier. I can almost guarantee that I believe in you now. Go believe in yourself. And in the words of Jason Nesmith from Galaxy Quest, never give up. Never surrender. Now let’s get into the tools to help you to keep showing up even during the dreaded week two and during this holiday season when everyone in everything wants to pull you in different directions and steal your riding time and any other time of the year.
Quite frankly, this is a podcast for busy authors, by a busy author because we’re all busy, right? That’s what I’m here for. To help you with your writing practice.
These tools will help you resiliently, bounce back and keep going despite pitfalls and perceived failures. Perceived failures, there is no failing.
Okay, I’m, I’m gonna save that little pep talk for another time though. Cause we gotta get into these tools, People.
These tools will help you persevere and keep showing up and keep trying even in the face of rejection. Your negative self-talk, procrastination in days where you just don’t wanna. Here I would add in like a little foot stomp, like a little five-year-old child.
They will knock out avoidance behavior. If you don’t know what avoidance behaviors are, they are, anything that you do that you don’t have to do right now that tends to take precedence over your writing time. Usually menial chores like, I don’t know, dusting the baseboards and vacuuming behind the fridge.
They’re just these little chores that you feel like you have to do right now, but they’re actually just, you’re just avoiding getting to your writing time for whatever reason, whatever psychological reason you have to, to try to avoid your writing. These tools I’m gonna tell you about will help take you towards your goals, get back on track, and move forward.
They will help you to consistently show up and keep you on track, even in the face of life reasons or life happening. Okay. The first tool. Yeah. I’m finally getting into it. Look at this.
The first tool I wanna share with you is called Reboot. Rebooting is particularly useful if you fall out of a multi-day riding streak, or if you take a day off or two, or you just can’t seem to get back to old musty.
Remember old musty? Get one of the trackers from my free quick start guide to writing more and less time. Another thing I like to beat to death on this podcast, right, I’ll link to it in the show notes. Get one of those free trackers and log that first Toucan20 session. Fill in the fields, add stickers, get back to it.
Essentially reboot your writing habit by starting again.
The next tool is: level up.
This is for you gamers out there. So I feel like writers often create absurd daily word count goals. I certainly cannot be alone in this . In fact, NaNoWriMo itself has an absurd daily word count goal. I certainly cannot sustain 1,667 words per day beyond 62 days.
Now, if you listen to the Bonus NaNoWriMo episode, you’ll know what about what happened when I tried to do. What feels like a reasonable goal? Say, Oh, I’m gonna write a thousand words a day can suddenly become daunting or even overwhelming, especially when procrastination has you in its grip. You know how it goes, Oh, I’ll take today off and make up the word count tomorrow.
Your seemingly reasonable 1000 word goal is now 2000 words, which is just too much, especially if you’re balancing, juggling other responsibilities. Leveling up is setting level goals. You know, like leveling up in a game. You become stronger with each successful level you obtain, and so does your writing habit.
I like to start with three levels. Level one, two, and three. Level one is the, everyone gets a trophy goal. This goal should be easy to accomplish if you have some two can 20 data collected. Look at your lowest word count session and use that as your level one.
Level two, stretch it out. Level two should be your level one times two. Double it. Make it even stretchier and add another 50 words to it. Don’t be too easy on yourself, but don’t make it too overwhelming either.
Level three is your ultimate writing day. Again, look at your Toucan20 tracker and look at your best word count session. Use that number, but add 50 words to it. If you’re feeling super ambitious, add even more words.
Think of this as like a boss level achievement. This will set up small incremental steps for a bigger daily goal, and that’s what Creating Habits is all about.
Your next tool is: the Joe Dirt, aka Keep on Keeping On.
Remember the movie in which David Spade plays a redneck mulleted character named Joe Dirt? That movie, thought idiotically funny, has a lot of really great gems of wisdom hidden within. Joe’s motto of Keep on Keeping on isn’t the wisest bit. It is the key to consistency and the key to forward progress on your manuscript. Adopt a keep on, keep an on attitude, and keep moving forward.
What does that mean?
It means nothing can stop you, not yourself, not someone else. Nothing. You are invincible. Show up. Write the words, Log them, see results. Simple as that. And if you have a setback and miss a writing session or two or more, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back to it the moment you.
Your next tool is: Commit Already.
Creating a consistent writing practice is about showing up when you say you’re going to, and the first part of that is to make a commitment to yourself and to your manuscript. If you say you’re going to write at a certain time, make sure you show up to that time unless the world is ending. Side note, your world ending could be that your sick child needs you or you gotta take your dog to the vet or X, Y, Z thing.
If you skip the session you had planned and tell yourself you’re going to write later, and then something else comes up and you have to skip again twice in the same day, I might add, you will miss a day of writing. Your Toucan20 streak will be broken. You don’t want that. Similarly, recognize the little pockets as they come.
When you have quote unquote free time and quote unquote, nothing to do to fill it, recognize that you can get in a Toucan20 session at odd times of your day, not just when you have your time scheduled and just in case life happens during your regular writing time, and you have to adjust your schedule.
Why not log a Toucan20 session during one of these strange time slots that you might happen? If you have 20 minutes before a meeting or while the lasagna’s in the oven or before the kids or significant other or roommate get home from school or work or wherever the roommate goes every day or while you wait to leave for an appointment, get in a quick Toucan20 session.
This way, if life happens during your regular time and you have to miss it, you’ve already at least gotten 20 minutes and that many words in for the day. And if life doesn’t happen and you get another writing session, it’s a double prizes bonus jackpot.
Your next tool is: go streaking.
Now, I’m not talking about shedding your clothes and running down to the quad like Will Ferrell in old school.
I’m talking about a string of days in which you show up regularly and write, then reward yourself. Yes. Reward with a capital R. My mom used to do a summer reading program for us. If we read one book, we got to pick out a bookmark from Walden books. Remember Walden books? It was my all time favorite bookstore.
After three books, we got something better. Maybe an actual book after five Something even better, like ice cream from Friendly’s. I kind of miss Friendly’s. We don’t have them here in Colorado. This is what I’m talking about. Make each reward for each goal increasingly valuable and attractive. This goes hand in hand with Level up my friend.
First, create small goals. Start with a three day streak, then a five, then a seven, then a 10. Keep it to short incremental goals and watch your word count. Pile up second. Brainstorm some increasingly great rewards for each small streak goal you accomplish To further inspire you to keep showing up, just like my mom did with our book reading.
Your next tool is: make it fun.
In the words of Elizabeth Sims from her book, You’ve Got a Book in You. If it isn’t fun, make it fun. If you aren’t having fun writing what you’re writing and you dread showing up every day, or it’s a slog to get going, it’s possible You need to write something else.
Now, before you gasp and splatter and fight me on this, hear me out.
I’m not talking about giving up completely because that would negate the Joe Dirt tool I just told you. Here’s what I mean by writing something else.
Try writing the scene you’re working on from another character’s perspective, try writing by hand. I know that’s not new advice, but it’s worth mentioning because let me tell you, it works.
Take a day or two away from Old Musty and work on a pet project, or try experimenting in a different genre. Write something fun and meaningless that has no pressure attached to it. NaNoWriMo is perfect for this, by the way. In fact, that’s what I use to use NaNoWriMo for, to get away from the pressure of writing something serious that has high stakes.
Sometimes changing things up like this is enough to get your brain excited again.
Your next tool is: do the Anna. In Disney’s Frozen II, Anna has a whole song about doing the next right thing, though she’s talking about being sad and pulling herself up by her bootstraps. If you’ve taken the time to watch the show on Disney Plus about the making of frozen, by the way, you’ll discover that Kristin Bell, who does the voice of Anna, suffers from depression.
So this tool for advancement behavior has deeper meaning than just a song in a Disney, Pixar animated movie. It also applies to you and your writing. Here’s some questions to ask yourself when you find you are squandering your writing time by doing things other than adding words to the page, if you’re in drafting mode or revising, if you have completed your first draft, the most important question is: what is the next right thing?
For example, if you’re editing a previous chapter to proverbial perfection, when you should be writing an epic battle scene, ask yourself, Is this the next right thing? No, you should be adding words. Here are a few other questions you could ask yourself. Is this what I should be doing right now? How does this align with my why?
We talked about why you’re writing earlier in this episode. How does this help bring me closer to the end? And by the end, I mean the end of your first draft
Your next tool is: close the door.
Closing the door is a way of setting physical boundaries with other people in your life who are the biggest repeat offenders of stealing your writing time. It’s as if they’re moths and your writing time is a flame or a lamp.
If you write in a room that has a door, close the door, put up a do not disturb sign. Tell your family or roommate or whoever else shares your domicile that you are not to be disturbed for the next 20 minutes. And that’s another reason why Toucan20 is great because it is only 20 minutes people can manage without you for 20 minutes, I hope.
Closing the door isn’t only actually closing a door, it’s also eliminating any distractions, silence, or set your phone and other devices to do not disturb mode. Better yet, turn them off all together. So the siren, call of social media, email, or whatever else you do on your phone won’t tempt. If you write somewhere without a door, consider changing up your writing place to a room with a door.
Or if you don’t have the luxury of having multiple rooms that you could write in, notify your family of key indicators that you are unavailable even if you are right there in front of them. If you’re wearing headphones or this funky hat or this particular article of clothing or sitting in a certain place, you are not to be disturbed for 20 minutes.
I highly recommend investing in a pair of noise canceling headphones.
And there you have it, my friend. The first tools for planning for anything and for resilience, perseverance, advancement, behavior, and consistency. In next week’s episode, I’ll share with you even more tools to keep you on track to finishing your book or at least creating the writing habit of your dreams.
Have a question?
If you have questions about the podcast content, content in any of my freebie resources, blog posts, books, website, etc.
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Claire L. Fishback
Author coach, project manager, published author, amazing wife, dog mom, artist, twin, and your host and guide to discovering your path to the writing life of your dreams!
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