We’re a few months away from the end of the calendar year—how are you doing on your promises that you’d write more in 2013? In January you told yourself you’d write every day, take classes, draft, revise, and submit your pieces. But something still doesn’t feel quite right: you feel like an imposter. You are hearing voices telling you, “What makes you think you’re a writer? What makes you think you’re any good?” How do you combat these voices and be the creative person you were born to be? How do you value yourself so others value you? Read on!
Show Up! And more than anything else declare that you ARE a writer. This means don’t talk about being a writer—actually sit down in that chair and write! Writing is not a luxury that only happens when you have extra time. You have to make that time happen and when you do, your life will be better. You have to want it so that writing takes over everything else. Know that sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice your social life and your sleep in order to get all of your writing work accomplished.
- Show up at the same place every day—say 8am at the kitchen table and start writing
- Bring an object with you that’s your writing object. It could be a hat, socks, scarf, T-shirt, Dollar Store Olympic medal. When you wear this object, your brain will kick into gear that YOU need to write
- Vary your workplaces: for instance, only check email in your kitchen, only write your blogs at the coffee shop where you know the Internet is spotty or even better, write outside in the park with no Internet.
- Time yourself—at least write for 20 min. The hope is that you’ll go longer than that.
- Order writer business cards off of VistaPrint.com or Zazzle.com—having tangible proof you’re a writer will help!
- Create boundaries. Once you value your boundaries, others will too and they will treat you like the serious writer you are.
- Designate space on your calendar for writing. Block it out in at least three hour chunks. Try not to schedule meetings, lunches and other items on your writing days, or you won’t get your work done.
- Limit your Facebook, Twitter and Angry Birds time. If you must go on Facebook, set a timer and honor it!
- Don’t respond to emails or phone calls during your writing time. Now if you have young children, you should keep your phone nearby, but perhaps you can put it on “silent” and only pick up when you notice the Caller ID is from your child’s school (or maybe not).
- If you have young children at home and need the time to write without distraction you’ll have to get creative. Hire a mother’s helper, swap out childcare with your neighbors or pay a reliable babysitter and go to a café. If your spouse can take the kids out of the house while you write on weekends—even better!
- Take risks! Are you “Facing the Dragon” in your memoir, meaning you’re talking about flammable topics and highly-charged emotions that will make your readers uncomfortable? If so, then good for you! Are you stepping outside of your creative comfort zone and trying out a new angle, even if your loyal readers may not accept it? As soon as we pander and only write what we think others will like, we sell ourselves short and don’t value our own voices and talents.
- Stop comparing yourself to other writers. Yes, there’s always going to be writers better than you. And even if your best friend, who has been only writing since last spring, did get published, you can’t wallow in self-doubt that you’re not good enough. Take this comparing energy and move it towards creating energy. Your time will come. Get back into your chair and create! Remember, there’s only one you.
- Figure out what your goals are. Do you want to be accepted in an MFA program? Write a novel? Be a full-time freelance writer? Be a poet?
- What actions are you taking to achieve these goals? What problems are you solving? For instance, do you have good enough grades from your undergraduate program to get into grad school? If not, see if you can take graduate-level classes in English/writing to strengthen your application.
- Then set the conditions for your success. If you are writing your novel, you’ll need to write frequently and set up accountability measures—can you email your word count to a writing buddy every Friday?
- Are you keeping track of all your submissions and word counts? If not, you need to create an Excel spreadsheet where you’ll input your word counts and when/where you submitted your work off to. Treat your writing like a business! In that vein, you should also be recording your mileage to conferences, writing-related expenses and any income you’ve earned from writing.
- Invest in yourself with a good computer, and with go to conferences, classes/workshops to keep developing professionally as a writer. Read “how to write” books and books within your genre. Hire a writing coach and do your homework. You need to put some skin in the game and when you spend money on yourself, you’ll know you’re a “real” writer.
- Make yourself business cards (see #1 above)
- Create a website and a blog, where you can post your research, book/product reviews and helpful resources for fellow writers
- Hire an editor when the time comes. A good editor will help you with clarity and consistency and she’ll also tell you when you’re way off track, which is something a writing budding may not do.
- Spend time making your name and brand consistent across all of your social media channels. Make your name “Daniel,” not “Dan” or “Danny” depending on if you’re on Facebook or GoodReads. When you’re consistent, you’re setting boundaries and therefore you are valuing yourself.
So what if after you’ve done all of these steps and your nasty inner voice is still saying, “You’re not worthy as a writer?” Acknowledge these negative voices. Tell them you hear them loud and clear, but today you have more important things to do—you have to write. Over time, these voices will go away as you write and create.
I wish you all a very productive rest of 2013 filled with joy, productivity and FUN!
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