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How to Get Unstuck: Overcoming Writer’s Block


stuck in the mud

Break the Procrastination Habit Today

Does this ever happen to you? You sit down to write or create something and you end up doing everything but writing and creating. And then suddenly it’s the end of the day and you think “How did the day slip away from me? Arg!” It slips away because we find ways to procrastinate, often in the name of getting things done. The truth is we need to make our writing, art, and creation time a priority before we can overcome the procrastination habit.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

The reason people procrastinate is usually because of a few reasons:

  • Seeking Pleasure. You’re looking for a little serotonin fix a la checking email, blog stats, or some other compulsive pleasure producer.
  • Avoiding Pain. You’ve got your mind thinking only about the work and not the pleasure you’ll get from completing your creation.
  • Lack of Direction. You’re not sure what the next step is in your writing or what you are trying to create.
  • Faulty Prioritization. You have other things to do and you are inadvertently prioritizing them higher than your creation work. (a.k.a. procrastination by doing things)


How to Break the Procrastination Habit and Get Back to Creating

1. Make a Mental Commitment. Commit to doing your writing/creation work first before anything else. If you are reading this then it is probably important to you. Focus on how good it will feel when you complete solid progress on your creation work each day. The other things on your list can be done later.

2. Plan Your Day. Write out what you need to accomplish today including your creation work. Then prioritize each item with creation work being #1. Then schedule each item into a time slot for the day. Be realistic about your time frames and be sure to include transition and buffer time in between activities. Keep some time open for unplanned items. When your other tasks have been scheduled then your mind will be free to focus on writing and creating.

3. Clear Your Desk. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and get everything piled up or put away somewhere else. Leave another 5-10 minutes at the end of your creation time to organize and put everything in it’s place. Don’t get sucked into organizing the items on your desk. Just move them out of sight so they won’t be grabbing your attention while you’re trying to create.

4. Clear Your Computer. Close all windows that don’t relate to what you’re creating. If there is anything you need to look at later, write it down in your capture notebook to review and prioritize later. You’ll be amazed how much unnecessary stuff will be eliminated from your life this way.

5. Start Writing or Creating. Just write/create. Don’t stop. Don’t censor or edit. Anytime you come to a sticking point, find a way to highlight it and come back to it later. Examples:

  • Title: Just fill in a crappy working title. Once the piece is written then it will be easy to bring the title into focus.
  • Items to research: Highlight and return to it after the piece is written.
  • Items to hyperlink: Highlight and create your links after the whole piece is written.

6. Writer’s Block. If you’ve been procrastinating because you can’t find the words, don’t know where to start or what comes next then it is time to get away from your computer. Transition to the simple tools of paper and pen. If you’re still blocked, get away from paper and pen and find a place to daydream. Try both lighted and dark rooms. Try closing your eyes and ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • What do I want to create?
  • What do I want to say?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What do I need to communicate?
  • What action (if any) do I want my readers to take?
  • How do I want them to feel?

Take as much time as you can. Really daydream. Don’t censor yourself. Be wild and free and loose with your ideas. There will be plenty of time later to hone your creation later. When you’re done, say after 20 minutes, then grab a piece of paper and quickly write down the main ideas you came up with.

7. If You’re Still Stuck in the Muck. You might be trying to hard or you may need a significant break. The cure is to get away from the task altogether to allow your conscious mind to unwind from the project. Don’t worry, your subconscious mind will continue to process and solve your next steps. Try doing something completely unrelated like going to the zoo, playing a sport, or going to see a movie. When you return you should have a better perspective and a renewal of energy. You may discover that you were going down the wrong path completely and you need to start anew. Even if you are contracted to create for someone else and you’re not into it, make it a goal to find a way to get excited about the project and have fun.

Please Share!

How do you get unstuck? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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24

Get the Creative Time You Need: 3 Simple Tips

Time to create

We All Need Creativity Time

We all need creativity time. Everyone needs time to think about their personal life vision and time to create the daily and weekly plans that will bring that vision into being. People in business need to: think of creative solutions to client problems, strategize creative ways to build business, and dream up the next generation of products and services. Parents need to create routines for the home and their children. And creative people need time for writing, painting, coding, designing and so on.

The Problem

Life is so full, that creativity time gets squeezed out. And our propensity for procrastination doesn’t help. We contribute to squeezing out our creativity time by fettering it away on lower priority tasks first. Why? Because in many ways they are easier to do. Creativity takes a lot of energy and mental gymnastics. So what’s the solution? It’s right there in front of you. And it’s been there all along. Here’s where to find the time and places to make it happen.

Where to Grab Creativity Time

1. Mindless Tasks.

All the things that you need to do on a daily and weekly basis that don’t require thinking are potential opportunities for creativity time. Here are some examples:

  • Exercise time
  • Laundry – folding, hanging up, etc.
  • Driving
  • Commuting
  • Putting kids to sleep – (if you lay down with your kids while they go to sleep)
  • Waiting in Line

Now it’s not ideal creativity time because you won’t always be able to record your thoughts and ideas right away. That’s ok. This will force you to keep it simple. Use that fact to focus on just one idea during any of these opportunities. All creativity requires a certain amount of brainstorming before you can start writing down your ideas or making sketches or laying out plans. In fact, sometimes the act of writing down ideas can halt a certain amount of creativity. So use these small times to brainstorm a bit. After the brainstorming is done, as soon as you are able, write down your ideas or use Jott to send a voice message to yourself which will be converted into text and emailed to you.

2. Air Travel

This is a great place to hunker down to pure creativity time.

  1. If there is a TV , leave it off!
  2. Leave your computer turned off, too.
  3. Put on a set of headphones to give other passengers notice that you’re busy. (Noise canceling head phones are one of the best things you can buy for yourself if you travel frequently at all. Even if you don’t they are great whenever you need to drown out noise.)
  4. Start by closing your eyes and brainstorming first.
  5. Get out a pad of paper and a pen or pencil.
  6. Create!
  7. If you need to, make a pact with yourself to “treat” yourself to leisure items (music, reading, TV) once you’ve completed a preset amount of creative work.

3. Closed Spaces
This one is a little different than the first two in that you need to create the time for this one. It also may strike you as a little strange, but therein lies it’s power. The idea is to confine yourself to a small space where you won’t be interrupted by any distractions. Some ideas are:

  • Sitting in your Car – Anywhere you can park your car is fine. In your garage, on the street, or in a parking lot. Does your spouse ever ask you to go shopping, but you don’t enjoy it? Well how about coming along for the ride and once at the store, you remain in the car for some distraction free creativity time! This is one of my favorites. My mom loves to shop. I don’t, or at least I can’t afford it. She goes shopping and I wait in the car and do some writing. Being in a different place helps me to think more creatively.
  • A large closet with a light or (smallest room in your house) – obviously, make sure you can’t get locked in and that there is enough air to breathe. 🙂 Small spaces are good because there is not enough room to have distractions.
  • The bathroom – sitting on the “throne” with the lid closed, sitting in the tub with or without water in it.
  • A dresssing room – I haven’t tried this one, but I bet it could work. If you have a friend who needs to go clothes shopping, but you don’t need anything, you could wait for him/her in the dressing room and do some creative work until they come in. If you feel strange going into one of the the dressing rooms you could just wait on the bench or the floor by the dressing room attendant. This one isn’t for everyone, but it could work for some.
  • Nook in library or bookstore – ah, peace and quiet. I don’t know about you, but I get very inspired creatively when I’m in either of these places. Find a small quiet corner away from distractions and let the creativity flow.
  • Tent. Do your kids have a tent? If not, consider setting one up. All you need is a blanket and some kind of furniture to place it over. Go inside. Where are you? Pretend you are somewhere other than your living room or back yard. Let this fictitious location inspire you to find new ways of thinking about your project.
  • What are your ideas?

Please Share!

What are your most unusual and useful hacks for finding creativity time? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

 

If you found this post valuable, perhaps you’ll be kind enough to vote for this with a Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always appreciated!

If you want to Support Life Learning Today, you can visit one of my sponsors, make a donation, or make a purchase at Amazon through one of my links. Thank you!

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18

How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less

Write a book

Commitment

Whether you choose 60 days, 30 days or 6 months as your goal, all that matters is that you commit to it and implement a schedule that will get you there. Choose a realistic time frame that you can stick to. A little bit every day is better than trying to do too much and then giving up.

How to choose your time goal? Start by determining:

  • How many hours per day can you devote to writing?
  • How many pages can you write per hour?

Example: Let’s say you commit to 2 hours per day and you’re able to write 3 pages per hour. To write an average length book of 300 pages will take 50 days. ( 300 pages per book/6 pages per day= 50 days)

My Experience: My new book, Secrets to a Healthy Life, is only 60 pages. I wrote approximately 2 pages per day and completed it in one month. I used Nick Daws method which I discuss further down in this article.

Process for Novel Writing

For writing a novel, I can recommend Randy Ingermanson’s free online manual titled: “Writing a Novel Using The Snowflake Method.” This is a concise guide that will get your novel written if you follow it. For a sneak peek, here are the 10 steps of the method. You will want to visit his site and print out the entire instructions which has detailed instructions for each of these steps. (don’t worry it’s not too long)

Snowflake Method for Writing a Novel: (summary from http://www.ingermanson.com/writing/snowflake.php)

  1. Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your story.
  2. Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the book.
  3. Write a short summary sheet for each character.
  4. Take several hours and expand each sentence of your summary paragraph into a full paragraph. All but the last paragraph should end in a disaster. The final paragraph should tell how the book ends.
  5. Take a day or two and write up a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of the other important characters.
  6. Now take a week and expand the one-page plot synopsis of the story to a four-page synopsis.
  7. Take another week and expand your character descriptions into full-fledged character charts detailing everything there is to know about each character.
  8. Prep for writing the first draft: make a list of all the scenes that you’ll need to turn the story into a novel using a spreadsheet.
  9. (Optional.)Switch back to your word processor and begin writing a narrative description of the story.
  10. At this point, just sit down and start pounding out the real first draft of the story.

Randy has other products that he sells, usually for very good prices relative to the value he is offering. If you are very motivated, his free manual is probably all you will need. If you like his technique and want to dig deeper with it, check out his advanced snowflake guides.  Please do yourself a favor and visit his site. He has 2 great free monthly ezines that I subscribe to, one on novel writing and one on marketing your work.

Process for Non-Fiction (also fiction and screenplays)

Another great process resource that I can recommend is Nick Daw’s program “Write Any Book in Under 28 days”which gives you “everything you need to know to devise, write, edit and sell a complete book in the shortest possible time, be it fiction, non-fiction or even a screenplay.”

I love this program!

It is so logical and encouraging. It helps you get your book written!

The process part always lets you know what your next step is. And the encouragement part keeps you moving forward with enthusiasm.

This program does have a cost which depends on which package you choose. It is provided in the form of a CD-ROM which will run on any computer using Windows 95 or later.

Nick Daws states that anyone can write a non-fiction book. (I agree!) We all have experiences that others would find valuable and could learn from such as:

  • Getting Married
  • Having a Baby
  • Bringing Up Children
  • Living With Teenagers
  • Dealing With Bereavement
  • Being A Student
  • Shopping for Bargains
  • Coping With Divorce
  • Buying/Selling a House
  • Making Your Own Clothes
  • Designing a Garden
  • Getting a Job
  • Starting Your Own Business
  • Managing Staff
  • Managing Your Time
  • Investing Your Money
  • Study skills for students
  • Improve your memory
  • How to work your way through college
  • Making the most of student life
  • What is YOUR Life Experience you will write about?

If you click on the link it does have one of those cheesy sales pages, but never fear, the product is excellent. I bought it, used it to write my first ebook. I give this program my highest recommendation. Free resources are good, but this one is totally worth the small cost. I found it supplemented the the free resources I was using, allowing me to stop dreaming of writing my book and actually finish writing my book!

Writing Tools

1) For me, my favorite tool is pen and paper. I’m able to think more freely when I write straight onto paper. So I certainly recommend using this method and then typing your work onto the computer, which can also be the first editing session. If you like typing directly, go for it. Use whatever method that works best for you.

2) Here is a free tool that I discovered for book writing. It is called yWriter. It is free story writing software and it is offered via free download (this link just brings you to the download page only). I have this tool and I like it very much.

Some of the Features of yWriter:

  • Organise your novel using a ‘project’.
  • Add files to the project, each containing a chapter.
  • Add a summary to each file, showing the scenes in each chapter.
  • Print out summary cards, showing the structure of your novel.
  • Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
  • Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
  • Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
  • Allows multiple scenes within chapters
  • Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
  • Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
  • Re-order scenes within chapters.
  • Move scenes from one chapter to another.
  • Automatic chapter renumbering.
  • FREE

3) Google Docs. I’ve talked about Google Docs before on my blog. I discovered it from Leo over at ZenHabits, a top notch productivity blog. Google Docs is a great online document application. It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as MS Word, but it has everything the basic user needs!

The benefits to using Google Docs are:

  • Online storage of your documents makes them completely portable. Access them from any computer.
  • Copy/Pasting into blogging editors is smooth and clean, perfect formatting, unlike MS Word.
  • It’s in my browser which is my main computer tool. No extra applications to open and slow me down.
  • Online sharing and publishing of your document to the web.

4) Check out my previous post on writing your book via a blog.

Getting It Done

The simple answer:

  • Schedule in your writing time and do it.
  • Don’t start if you are starting other new major goals.
  • Ask a friend if they will be your Goal Buddy Turn in your draft each week to this person. They don’t even have to read them, but this can help force you to get it done. (In turn you can help keep your Goal Buddy on track for one of their goals, i.e. “What exercise did you complete today?”

The longer answer: get a copy of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. This is the ultimate book on productivity that is customizable to the system that works best for you.

Publishing Your Book

This topic is far too extensive to give all the information that you will need in one article. But I can recommend 2 essential books that will give you everything you need to know.

The first is a world class book by a very successful self-published author. It is called The Well Fed Self Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living” by Peter Bowerman. In this book, Peter covers self-publishing for both fiction and non-fiction writers.

How “The Well Fed Self Publisher” will help you:

  • Develop a “marketing mindset” minus the anxiety!
  • Create a book that turns heads and grabs eyeballs
  • Find tons of reviewers anxious to publicize your book
  • Get the bookstore chains to come looking for you
  • Build a cash-generating web site that works 24/7
  • Minimize your dependence on fickle mainstream media
  • Parlay one book into multiple income streams
  • Separate the “Print-on-Demand” hype from reality

Peter is a freelance commercial writer who offers a free ezine for freelance writers. He is very successful speaker, consultant for writers, and self-published author. I have been learning from him for many years. He has two books on freelance writing, but you only need this updated one: “The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds.” It gives you everything you need to know to make real money as a commercial freelance writer, the ultimate no gimmic Work-At-Home business!

 

The Fine Print of Self Publishing is a must have book if you want to know the pros and cons of all the the different self-publishing options out there including how to understand their contracts. The author, Mark Levine, has done all the nitty gritty research for you and culled it into terms the layman can understand and use to make an informed decision about which company to go with for self-publishing.

Conclusion

It’s not easy to write a book, but if you are committed, have a plan, and persevere, over time you will have a book! One page a day will yield a 365 page book in one year! What are you waiting for?
Steps to take today:

  1. Commit your time
  2. Plan the book
  3. Write it day by day
  4. Celebrate!

Additional Writing Resources

Find tons of additional writing resources on my “Resources for Writers” page!


Please share

All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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228

Write Your Novel Online

WRITE

Have you been thinking about writing a novel?

Are you fed up with watching it spin around in your mind like so much laundry?

Well, me too! And I’ve come up with a solution. It’s not something entirely new. NaNoWriMo and crew thought of it first a la NaNoBlogMo on Blogger.com.

The idea is to write your novel online.

Now I’m not talking about buying some kind of fancy shmancy software package that will help you design your plot and characters. (I’m sure those are great, but somehow I think most of that stuff falls into the category called “Procrastination.”) I’m talking about something much more organic than that. I’m talking about writing yourself an email everyday that furthers your novel or really any writing project you may have – memoir, screenplay, essay, you name it.

Here’s where I had my epiphany moment. I’ve been emailing a lot lately, getting back in touch with a few old and some new friends. I probably spend a good hour, or maybe even two thinking about and composing these emails.

Then I read an article by Anna Quindlen called “Write for Your Life.” Basically she talks about the lost art of letter writing and tells the story found in the new movie “Freedom Writers.” In the story young “at risk” youths are saved by a teacher who encourages them to start a journal. This started me thinking about all my emailing lately and how I miss the long hand written letters I used to write. But mostly it made me think about how I could combine my love for letter writing with reaching my goal of writing a novel.

When I found out that you can post to your blog via email, BANG! The idea struck!

Why don’t I write myself an email each day with a little more of my story (aka my novel)! I can pretend the audience is whoever will provide the best motivation.

So I have set up a blog just for this purpose.

You should too! Get writing!

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