Writer’s Block is a Privilege

Did you know that the keyword, “writer’s block” is Googled 9,000 times/month?

Nine thousand times. It looks like a lot of writers experience writer’s block and while we all feel blocked or discouraged at times, writer’s block is a privilege.

“I don’t know what to write.”

“I know what to write but the words come out all wrong.”

If you are in a position where you don’t have to write to pay your bills, you are privileged. 

I’m privileged—tremendously. I’ve been blocked on my Christmas story for months. I had something written but it’s ridiculously awful and I can’t bring myself to mold it into something better.

Why?

Because I don’t have to.

I can work on other projects, tackle  my marketing logistics for my other books, and distract myself with other shiny objects. 

The privilege of being blocked

Cassie Gonzales cited writer’s block as privilege at the Stockholm Writers Festival when asked how she overcomes occasional blockages.

“It’s a total privilege to have writer’s block, isn’t it? My mom is a copper mine truck driver in Arizona and she has written her books on her iPad while sitting in the cab of her truck.

She has one minute while the truck is being loaded up and in that minute, she writes as much as she can. Her books read like they’ve been written in one minute chunks because they have. But she has manuscripts written down on paper.

Anytime I want to complain about writer’s block, I think about my mother and what she’s overcame to write her books.”

Tips from other writers on overcoming writer’s block

“I have a Spotify playlist for each of my characters and mood boards for each character. Whenever I start to feel stuck, I start to listen to that character’s playlist to get me back into the mood.” —Jess Lourey

“Set word count goals. Everyone can write one sentence at a time.” —Paul Rapacioli

Manipulate your emotions to break a block—it doesn’t mean your writing will be good but you’ll get unstuck.”—Cassie Gonzales

 

Everyone gets stuck sometimes

Your first draft is going to be horrible but nobody is going to see it so keep writing.

Everyone is really uncomfortable with their writing at first and it’s only until draft #10-#70 that you start to feel like a genius.

To break through my Christmas story rhyming disaster, I’m listening to Christmas music on YouTube, reading rhyming quatrains for inspiration, and putting words down on paper that will never see the light of day.

The best way to break writer’s block is to write.

Write down any words that come into your mind and eventually, your mind will spit out something worth keeping.

Overcome Procrastination With These 4 Tips

“Procrastination is self-hatred.”—Robin Sharma, The 5 AM Club. 

Woah, that’s a bold statement. I’ve heard of procrastination being related to laziness, anxiety, and depression but not self-hatred. 

I’ll admit, I’m no Superwoman when it comes to powering through and beyond procrastination. I’ve had to devise multiple systems, test out new theories, and come up with creative ways to hold myself accountable in order to stay on task.

Even with a ton of resources, prioritized action lists, a fancy new journal, and positive incentives, I still procrastinate on projects or activities that I need to accomplish in order to move my business and writing forward.

Positive affirmations

I’ve been listening to positive affirmations and even created my own affirmations specifically for writers in order to keep the mindset moving in a productive direction.

We all have the same 24 hours in the day to accomplish our goals.

Dedicated writing time

As part of a change in my routine, I scheduled dedicated writing time between 8:30 am-10:00 am every day. I have found that word count goals don’t work for me but dedicated time always does.

Sort of like cleaning where I give myself 20 minutes to clean whatever is around me, I give myself 90 minutes to write about whatever it is I want to write about. It doesn’t have to be going toward the word count of my latest novel if that’s not what I’m interested in writing about that day.

After 90 minutes of writing, I move on to responding to clients’ emails and creating content for my websites.  

 

Write during your most productive time

We all have “productive” times during our day. These are the moments where the words flow effortlessly from our brain to our fingertips. The time when we feel most energetic and excited about writing.

For me, the morning is when my brain is freshest and ready to tackle problems. 

Ideas often surface after I meditate in the morning before the kids wake up. I jot those ideas down and expand on them during my block of writing time.

Ideas for stories that come to me later in the day are recorded and I’ll write down as much detail as I know I’ll need to capture the idea and revisit it later. Sometimes, I rush upstairs and capture the flow before it disappears—my fingers clacking furiously on the keyboard. 

These moments of inspired writing don’t happen often for me, so it’s crucial that I capture them when they do.

Reduce your distractions

I’m the first to admit that I often choose to become distracted in Facebook groups under the guise of being helpful for others.

While I’m doing those authors a service, I’m doing myself a complete disservice because the time I spend on Facebook is time I’m not spending creating my next book or helping a client with their books.

I’ve reduced my distractions by limiting my phone time entirely and I don’t look at my phone between 7 pm and 10 am if I can help it.

I try to steer clear of Facebook group interaction until my scheduled blocks of time dedicated to email and social media in the afternoons when my productivity is already naturally waning.

You know yourself best

You already know what you need to work on and what distractions you face. 

Limit the distractions that are within your control (we can’t control when our kids need us or when our dog has to go outside) and make the most of your productive time.

I’ve made the decision to go to bed a bit earlier and wake up at 5 am in order to start my day with exercise, gratitude, and meditation. I feel it’s given me a competitive edge on starting my day right, owning my schedule, and outlining my goals for every day of the week.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals?

Pssst…

Are you launching your book on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo in March or April of this year? If so, then you need to get started with a crowdfunding outreach plan and strategy.

Click here to schedule a no-pressure 20-min chat with me to see if my Crowdfunding for Authors Masterclass is right for you.

Staying Focused: Battling “Shiny Object” Syndrome

Are you always starting new projects but rarely finishing them?

Do you find yourself with an endless source of ideas and not enough time to dedicate to seeing them through?

Are you tweaking your website, testing out new newsletter providers, recording podcasts, and writing blogs but your book is still in outline/draft mode?

If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, then you might be suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome.

What is it?

Shiny Object Syndrome is just what it sounds like—it is the culmination of distraction and procrastination.

We get excited about the latest and greatest technology, writing tool, or gizmo and zoom off to investigate, research, and experiment.

Some crafty people fuel their procrastination under the guise of learning. They sign up for course after course and webinar after webinar because they are convinced that they must learn more before they can get started.

I know…I’ve done it.

When the going gets tough…some people jump ship

At some point in everyone’s entrepreneurial career, we hit a point where the work gets hard. The project stalls a bit because we struggle and without dedication to seeing it through, we abandon the sinking ship and hop onto a new opportunity that looks like it’ll float.

We work on one project for a while until we hit another rough patch, struggle, and then we justify abandoning it because it wasn’t working.

This cycle will continue until you stop it.

We have to be disciplined and struggle through the unsexy parts of each project in order to see it through to completion.

How can we finish more projects?

Clearly define your goals

Are you setting project-based goals? Income-based goals? Whatever they are, clearly define them and then map out a process to tackle them.

Maybe you want to publish one book in the next 12 months year that is at least 75k words. 

Your writing timeline needs to be truncated a bit so that you can allow time for editing, formatting, and publishing.

So, you need to write 75k words in 6 months. That’s 12,500 words/mth or 416 words/day.

Does that sound manageable?

Find an accountability partner (or hire one)

Would you go to the gym more often if you had a free gym membership or if you were paying $200/mth for a personal trainer?

I guarantee you would show up every day if you were paying $200/mth and guess what? You’d see results! 

Accountability partners can help us reach our goals but not all accountability partners are created equal.

During the publication of my first book, my husband served as my accountability partner by asking me every day, “So, what are your plans for the day?” or “How is it going?”

But, as my business grew and my tasks varied between projects, I found I needed to hire someone who could direct my energy to profitable activities, not to tasks that kept me busy but not productive.

This is why I know that free content will only take you so far and why hiring someone to check in on you every X weeks can be worth every penny you spend.

Start small and keep yourself accountable to your accountability partner. Prepare progress reports/updates like you would a manager in an office setting and check-in with each other on a regular basis.

Create both carrots and sticks

What will motivate you to reach your goals in the time you have set? If you set a certain income-based goal, reward yourself with something you really want when you reach it. Maybe it’s a trip somewhere warm and beachy or maybe it’s a nice dinner out on the town. 

In order to stop deadlines from whizzing by you at an unstoppable speed, devise some punishments that provide real consequences for missing those deadlines. Be your own boss but be somewhat demanding of yourself.

If I don’t reach my writing goal each day, my usual veg-out and watch Netflix time will be used to write instead.

I will often deny myself social interaction with friends (I know, that sounds awful) until my projects are done.

“No, sorry, I can’t meet up for coffee even though I so desperately want to because I have to get this finished.”

We have to stop allowing deadlines to zoom by without consequence. Create your own incentives and disincentives.

Don’t allow yourself to change projects

As a fellow sufferer of Shiny Object Syndrome, I’ve decided to be even tougher on myself and not allow myself to even consider taking on another project until the first project is completed. 

Yes, that means that some of my days are horrendously boring. Some days are incredibly frustrating and I feel like I’m barely treading water.

But, I simply cannot allow myself to abandon projects whenever I hit a technical snag or rough patch if I truly value and want to honor this idea.

Map out a full strategy for each project

Every book, course, collaboration, or blog post should have a strategy behind it. What are you trying to accomplish? We stop working on projects because we get overwhelmed by everything we need to do.

Break down the monumental task into bite-sized pieces and set a deadline for each task.

Map out your calendar and then add in a fudge factor for sickness, interruptions, and all of the things that are beyond our control that affect our work.

Set days aside for when you will take on non-project but still necessary tasks like admin, website edits, accounting, and complementary content generation, and then only work on those tasks on those days.

Sometimes, life gets in the way but it's always better to have a plan mapped out

Minimize Your Distractions

I’m on social media a lot for my work and I found myself contributing to conversations that had nothing to do with my business. 

  • Install News Feed Eradicator to eliminate Facebook news feed distractions.
  • Sign out completely from your email, chat messengers, and other things that notify you when you’ve received a message.
  • Put your phone on Airplane Mode
  • Keep your coffee, tea, water handy

Write down your #1 task and place it somewhere visible

If you’re currently working on writing, then place your daily writing goal somewhere visible to remind you to always come back to that task.

Hire other people to do your non-essential time-intensive tasks

I haven’t done this myself for many reasons but I often flirt with the idea of hiring someone to manage my social media accounts.

Find yourself a Virtual Assistant (VA) to manage your social media posts (I still recommend you do the interactions and engagement with your readers) if you find yourself struggling with consistency.

I hire two accountants (one for the US and one for Sweden) to file my taxes every year because it is worth the money to do it correctly and allows me to focus on the actual running of my business.

Say no to collaborations that aren’t 110% aligned with what you want to do

I’m all for collaborations that advance your interests and get you in front of a wider audience, but not all collaborations do that.

Sometimes, you need to say no if you’re not 110% on board otherwise it’s just another distraction that takes away from time you should be devoting to your ideas.

Recognize your tendencies and change your behavior

If you know that your work is suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome, then you need to commit to changing your behavior, which is very difficult to do, as we all know.

Best of luck as you tackle one project at a time!

If you know someone who also suffers Shiny Object Syndrome then share this blog post to unlock my video on 3 ways to boost your productivity

Overcoming the Overwhelm of Self-Publishing

Checklists are ineffective against overwhelm if your tasks are not in the right order. You end up having to re-do parts you thought you had already crossed off the list.

A typical day when I was researching how to self-publish my book looked like this—I sat down at my computer, logged into the latest webinar, and furiously took notes on every gem and insight into the process.

What should I do next? I have my manuscript, so should I hire an editor? Maybe I should send it around to a few friends first. They can send me feedback, and then I’ll find an editor. Yeah, an editor can wait.

Wait, how much will an editor charge me? Do they charge by the hour or by the word? Should I have fewer words? Maybe I can trim the manuscript down a bit…should I?

The process was fuzzy, at best. I kinda-sorta knew what came next but I didn’t know where to focus my energy, and I wasn’t 100% confident I was heading in the right direction.

I worked at max capacity while my kids were at school and then again for hours every night after they went to bed. I wanted to be sure that I got as much done in the time I had available. It was hard work, but it was fun.

My husband noticed a change in my energy. He had seen me working late on other projects—not related to self-publishing—and knew something was different. “I’m so happy to see you like this. Your face lights up when you talk about your book.”

I didn’t mind the long hours because I was spending them doing what I wanted to do. I was learning new skills and figuring out how to create a book that I would enjoy reading.

After four months of intense work, I finally made it to the interior formatting stage—the part where you make the text look all pretty and every chapter title starts at the same height on the page.

I nearly gave up at that point.

Every tiny change I made to the manuscript affected the rest of the text. It seemed like I would get one chapter finalized but then the rest of my manuscript went all wonkadoo on me (yes, that’s totally a word when you are typesetting).

Two steps forward, one step back. The. Entire. Time.

I spent a solid four days editing the interior of my manuscript because the process went something like this:

– Quadruple check everything
– Everything looks good
– Upload file to Createspace
– Review on Createspace’s previewer
– Find one mistake on page 187
– Make the revision in Word
– Re-PDF everything
– Re-upload to Createspace’s previewer
– Review again…
– Find a mistake on page 223
– Revise in Word
– Repeat for days until I was ready to tear out my hair.

Maybe you can’t see the problem, yet. I knew that I didn’t.

After hours and hours of repeating these steps, I realized that even though I technically knew what I was doing—I knew how to correct my errors—I was doing the right steps in the wrong order.

There is a reason why interior typesetters can charge so much for their services. There is a definite method to the madness, and if you don’t know it, you’ll go crazy with frustration.

Despite being annoyed with myself for not figuring it out sooner, I felt like was in too deep to hire an expert now.

I had already invested so much time and energy into this task, why should I pay someone else hundreds of dollars to tweak my only-slightly-imperfect manuscript? 

Looking back on it, I should’ve saved my sanity and asked for help from someone who knew what they were doing.

Here are some ways you can combat overwhelm when it comes to managing your self-publishing journey:

Move your internal deadlines

Things are going to take you a bit longer than you expect, especially if you are doing things on your own.

Nobody but you will know if you miss your internal deadlines or not and adjusting the timeline will relieve a bit of pressure. Move things back a few days if you are feeling stressed.

***Want to know how long it took me to self-publish my books? Click here to read more.***

Change your environment

Go for a walk, get out of the house, or work somewhere new—maybe a cafe, library, or somewhere else to work on your book.

After months of working at home in my kitchen, I needed a break from my current environment. I needed to talk with someone in person and see them face to face. I needed to not think about all of the things I still had left on my to-do list.

Realize that it’s never too late to ask for help

I’m going to admit it—my ego wouldn’t let me ask for help. I was determined to do it by myself, and I made the conscious decision to continue plodding along with my obstacle-laden path instead of seeking the help of an expert earlier in the process.

Had I asked someone, maybe it wouldn’t have been as expensive as I thought? I’ll never know, but I do know that in the future, I’ll outsource any task that will take me days to accomplish if someone else can do it in only a few hours.

Learn from your mistakes but also forgive

I don’t regret taking on the monstrous task of interior typesetting myself because I ended up developing a new skill. It’s great to learn new skills, and now I know how to create a book that looks and feels exactly how I want.

That said, I should’ve been more forgiving of myself. The majority (okay, all) of my stress was coming from the high standards I was imposing on myself.

When it’s your name on the book, you want to put out your best work, and that might mean giving yourself extra time and forgiveness to correct whatever mistakes you make along the way.

Remember, this is your dream, your initiative, and your book. Be the best kind of boss for yourself. Self-publishers have to take on the work of an entire publishing house. That’s a lot of work. A bit of kindness will go a long way and self-care will keep your energy stable enough to see you through to the end.

Realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint

If you’re motivated enough to train for a marathon, you know that it’s a step-wise process. You don’t lace up your sneakers and head off on a 26-mile run on your first outing.

Similarly, self-publishing is accomplished step-wise and is best when you keep your head down. Stay focused on only one thing at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed by ALL of the things you think you have to do.

Don’t try to multitask and keep to tackling one challenge at a time.

Break each step down into achievable goals each day based on the amount of time you have available. If you only have two hours today to work on your book, then do two full hours of work on your book without distractions or excuses.

My to-do list is based on what is most important AND most urgent for me to work on and it has helped keep me focused. If you want access to my free productivity webinar, click here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do everything right the first time around?

Instead of struggling and wondering if you are heading in the right direction, I can provide even more help with the self-publishing process.

I have created a blueprint to guide you through each step of the self-publishing process.

Students have said this course helped them go from feeling overwhelmed about what to do next to confident about the self-publishing process.

It is never too late to save yourself stress, time, and ultimately, money from making costly mistakes heading in the wrong direction.

Click here to learn more about the course.

"One finishes the e-course feeling keen and confident to self-publish. The Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing is a well-designed course that I highly recommend!"
Laura M.
Writer
If you want to self-publish your book: get into this program NOW.It’s worth every penny.It saves you time, money, a lot of hassle and a headache or two trying to figure it all out by yourself."
Brigitte van Tuijl
Writer and Coach, brigittevantuijl.com