Since we’re still a little bit behind on these pep talks, here’s another double dose for you:
Week 5’s pep talk is titled “Make Creativity Your Routine,” and returns to the idea that inspiration (your muse) is more likely to visit you when you regularly make time and effort for it to do so. Creating a routine is necessary, Faulkner insists. He reminds readers that “if there’s a single defining trait among most successful writers, it’s that they all show up to write regularly” (31).
Although, I would add the qualifier “prolific” to that as well. Because there are some successful authors who only have one or two novels for their entire career and that is enough to make them famous. However, many authors who enjoy popular success tend to be prolific as well, and these are the ones who insist that having a routine is the key to their success.
R.L. Stine, Nora Roberts, Steven King (Faulkner uses King as an example as well), and James Patterson are a few well-known names who are extremely prolific and popular. They all have well defined writing routines, providing weight to the idea that a routine is a key part of inviting creativity and inspiration to visit you often.
Faulkner asks that we experiment with our writing routines and take note of what we do that feels effective in inviting in our inspiration. He reveals one of his own effective tactics: to put on a new hat that fits the atmosphere of the project he is writing. Faulkner considers the hat a talisman of sorts, but putting it on makes him aware that he is going to “work” and signals to his brain that creativity is about to happen.
Faulkner asks us to reflect on the following:
“What was the last noticeable change to your routine? How did it impact your writing, either positively or negatively? What can you do to make your routine work for your creativity?” (33).
This week’s task was all about refining and reflecting on the experiments you’ve done with your writing routines. Have you found something that works for you? Can you optimize it even more? The process of asking yourself what were the changes you’ve implemented and truly reflecting on the impact the changes had will The process of reflecting on the impact your changes have created is a part of “best practices” to continually improve your writing and your creative efforts.
Why bang your head against the wall when there’s a better way to do things? Reflecting on our process will help us see what improves the quality and quantity of our work as well as what decreases our levels of frustration and procrastination.
The last intentional change I made was the experiment to add more morning sessions to my writing and compare if I write more in the morning or the afternoon. Generally, I can say that I am reassured that I write more in the afternoons and evenings than in the mornings. However, on the days where I made sure to add in morning sessions as well as my normal afternoon sessions, I obviously got more work done than on the days when I only did one writing session.
Does that mean that I should start doing multiple writing sessions every day? Ideally, yes. But I also know that some days will be spent with an editing session, or a session for marketing purposes. So I may not always be able to do more writing sessions.
However, I can and will be adding at least one to two days per week of the multiple long writing sessions. This will help improve my writing routine by providing more dedicated time to the drafting phases of writing.
What refinement are you considering for your routine?
Pep Talk Summary
Week 6’s pep talk title is arranged like a addition problem: “Goal + Deadline = Magic.” And I can attest (as a procrastinator) that there is nothing else quite like a deadline that makes me a manic workaholic. Of course, I normally have the bad habit of waiting far to long to make progress, and then I am forced to exist on coffee, anxiety, and panic as I rush towards the deadline at the tail end of the allowed time.
My problem lies in knowing how to break a larger goal down into achievable small steps and keeping up with the mini deadlines. Because they never seemed as important to me as the larger deadline until it loomed over me.
This mini goal idea – what you can feasibly do in a day – is something that NaNoWriMo champions (your daily word count goal to reach 50K by the end of the month). The Kanban board method of setting your goals also relies on this mini-goal or task method.
It’s like the old metaphor: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How do you reach your goals? One bite sized task at a time.
If you’ve been on Authortube for a while, you might have encountered Sarra Cannon’s Heart Breathings channel and her HB90 method for setting quarterly (90 days) goals. She also breaks those larger goals down into bite sized tasks. But one of the things she mentioned (and I appreciate her honesty) is that sometimes we don’t necessarily understand how much we can get done in a day or a single writing session.
Sarra suggests trying this method over 2-3 quarters and really reflecting on our tasks that we set. Ask yourself if you can truly get that done in one sitting. And be honest with your answer. You may find that your “bite size” is still too large to chew.
Faulkner also mentions the idea of “fake productivity” and describes himself as someone who is “consistently accomplishing” tasks while never seeming to make progress on actually finishing a novel (35). Boy, did I feel called out when I read that! Research, editing, shiny new ideas, but not actually moving forward in the process of getting the process completed is practically part of my M.O. at this point.
Faulkner emphasizes the need to set a goal (finish the dang novel!), decide on a deadline for it to be finished (really finished!), and a method to track your progress (wordcount, scenes finished, chapters finished, number of editing passes, hours of revision, etc.). The goal and the deadline cannot be vague. They must be clear and defined, otherwise, your work is liable to continue spinning in the void.
Of course, Faulkner also admits that life will give you “obstacles” and agrees “it’s important to forgive yourself, readjust your goals, and give yourself a fresh start” when necessary (Faulkner, 37). With this in mind, Faulkner’s assignment for week 6 is to outline your goals, deadlines, and the mini-tasks.
“This is the big moment. Map out your writing goals- big goals and all the milestones that lead up to them. Pin a piece of paper with your goals over your writing desk. Tattoo them on your arm if need be. Set deadlines on your online calendar – with reminders. Form a strategy of accountability and enact it.” – Faulkner, 38
Admittedly, this is difficult because I have grand delusions about how much I can accomplish in a short period of time. However, it is a skillset that I want to acquire and hone. I’ve done this for the current quarter (my Kanban board). Unfortunately, but honestly, by mid-February, not a great deal of my writing tasks have migrated to the “Done” section.
I decided to look at the entire year rather than just this quarter. I printed out a full year calendar to put up on my wall. I have grouped my major writing tasks to either be the main focus for a single month or a single quarter. That will give me enough time to get a significant amount of work done in each project, yet still allow me to switch between projects before I forget about them completely.
I have written the deadlines for certain WIPs into my planner. My planner now has dates for when to finish drafting vs editing, the date to send a project to a reader to get feedback, when to start looking for editors and agents, etc.
It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Previous Writers’ Pep Talks: