This blogpost was originally published as a guest post about the third volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner for Sandra’s Book Club.
Three challenges writers face and how to overcome them
As writers, there are so many different challenges we face. Now we’ve left 2021 behind us, I want to share the three main challenges that came up for the writers I coached that year.
I struggle to stay accountable to myself
For some writers, it’s rather easy to keep themselves motivated. For others, it’s harder. I don’t have an answer as to why some writers need more external motivation than others, but I do know it’s become harder generally to stay motivated since the You-Know-What started.
If it has been a struggle to keep yourself motivated and moving forward with your writing, I highly suggest you find yourself an accountability partner. This could be a fellow writer, but it doesn’t have to be. An accountability partner doesn’t have to have similar goals. Perhaps one of your friends or colleagues has set some intentions for the new year and you could keep each other accountable?
Whoever you pick, make sure you are on the same page. You both need to understand the kind of motivation the other person needs, and you need to be comfortable giving that kind of motivation. I once had a client who asked me to be meaner to her when she didn’t achieve her writing goals, but that doesn’t align with who I am and the kind of coaching I do.
You also need to set some rules about who is reaching out first and how often. Make sure you’re not creating any loopholes for yourself to get out from doing what you said you’d be doing! If you want write every Tuesday morning, but you’ve been struggling to get started, it might not be helpful if your accountability partner waits until the Thursday to ask whether you got your writing done. Neither is it helpful if they text or call you while you should be writing. So think through this and figure out together what makes the most sense for you both.
I struggle to stay true to myself in my writing
I’m quite sure that this is something writers have always struggled with, simply because we don’t exist in a vacuum, isolated from people with opinions about what we’re writing. There’s also always been a writing market, with its supply and demand and publishers and agents trying to make money of our work, telling us what stories are and aren’t selling right now.
Of course, not all writers face this challenge, because there are those who are perfectly happy writing certain pieces simply because they sell well, even if it’s not exactly the genre they would have picked themselves. But there are a lot of writers who do feel like they’re stuck between what they want to be writing and what they think they should be writing instead, if they’re to make any kind of money with their work.
If you feel similarly caught between these two options and wish to return to yourself, it could be useful to grab a journal and write down why it is you’re writing. Why do you write? What does it bring you? What do you want it to bring you?
Once you’ve figured out the answers to those questions, think of what you want to be writing and ask yourself why this is. Why these particular works? Why this genre? What do you love so much about it? What does it allow you to say?
Now look at what you think you should be writing and be honest with yourself: Could writing this kind of work give you the same as what you want to be writing? Does it feed your soul in the same way? If the answer is no, you know what to do. In the future, you can use these answers as guideposts to help you decide what to do when you next feel forced to write a particular kind of work.
I struggle to set boundaries around my writing
This, too, is one of those struggles that seemed to have been here forever and isn’t likely to go away any time soon, if at all. The You-Know-What made it even harder to set boundaries, especially for those with families. I mainly coach women writers and we’ve talked a lot about how most of the extra work the pandemic created ended up in their lap. Some ended up full-time mothering again, while others lost their dedicated writing space to their spouse, who suddenly needed a home office.
The thing about boundaries is that you can only set them properly if you:
- believe in what you’re doing, and
- feel worthy of what you’re asking for.
If you, on some level, don’t believe you can write or have nothing interesting to say, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries around your writing time. But even if you believe in your writing, you still have to feel worthy of taking time away from whatever else goes on in your life.
For example, if you, on some level, feel that locking yourself up in a room with a sign on the door that you’re not to be disturbed unless the house is on fire makes you a bad mother, it’s going to be really hard to set and stick to that boundary. Likewise, if you feel that setting time apart to write makes you a bad partner because you could be spending that time with and on them, it’ll be hard to keep it up, if you manage to do it at all.
So before you start asking yourself what kind of boundaries you need in your life, you need to have another honest conversation first. Do you believe in what you’re doing? If not, how come? And what do you need to do to start believing in yourself? What do you need to let go of? Do you feel worthy of setting boundaries around your writing? If not, what is that based on? What do you need to do to start feeling worthy? And what do you need to let go of to make that happen?
If you’re facing any of these challenges, I wish you all the luck in overcoming them. I hope today’s post will help you get there.
This blogpost was originally published as a guest post about the third volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner for Deborah-Zenha Adams.
5 ways to stay motivated in the new year
The past two years have challenged us all and it can be hard to stay motivated when it feels like the world is coming undone. Below, I share five of the ways I’ve kept my coaching clients motivated during the pandemic.
Know why you write
Knowing the why behind your writing will keep you motivated when the going gets tough. It will also help you decide whether or not certain opportunities are aligned with you.
If you find yourself struggling to finish a writing project, think about the why behind your writing – it helps to write it down somewhere – and how the project you’re struggling with relates to that why. Being reminded of how exactly a project fits your dreams and desires is a great motivator.
Set realistic goals
If you can dream it, you can be it, but it’s difficult to reach your dreams without breaking down your goals.
The smaller the pieces you break your big goals up into, the more attainable they are. The more attainable – and realistic – your goals, the more often you get that dopamine hit that will help you tackle the next goal and move closer towards your dream.
Take breaks to fill your creative well
It’s OK to take breaks from your writing projects, even if you don’t have much time for writing to begin with.
Just make sure you’re intentional about any breaks you’re taking. One of the prompts in Volume II of 52 Weeks of Writing suggests asking the following questions before you step away from your writing:
- Why do I need this break?
- What are my intentions for this break?
- When, where, and how am I going to pick up where I left once I’m back?
Celebrate your achievements
Whether big or small, celebrate all your achievements. Better yet, write down how you’re going to celebrate for each of the goals you’ve set for the year ahead.
Knowing what lies ahead of you, what is to come if you just keep going, is another great way to keep yourself moving forwards. Regular celebrating also stops us from getting stuck in negative, demotivating thought patterns that might ask us what we’re doing it all for and convince us we’re not doing nearly enough.
Find an accountability partner
Find yourself a kindred spirit in the online or offline writing community you can share your goals and dreams with. Someone who gets what you’re dreaming of and understands how you might get in your own way.
It they’re on a similar enough path as you, even better. You can keep each other motivated and accountable as you share your struggles and wins with each other.
This blogpost was originally published as a guest post about the third volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner on J. Lynn Rowan.
Disclaimer: I wrote the original post in December 2021. During December 2022, I couldn’t get myself to write down goals beyond the next six months. This is a first for me, and I’m attributing it to having flirted with burnout too often over 2022 and finding my way back to myself after being forced to finally work through some deep-rooted personal issues.
I’m positive I’ll get my groove back eventually and I’ll just write down my long-term goals when I do. Because I’m sticking with the advice given in this post: it’s a really good habit to have.
Starting your writing year on the right foot
It may seem obvious, but I start every year filling in my own author journal and planner. Each volume of 52 Weeks of Writing is undated, so you can start whenever you want, but even before I published it, I was used to plan out the year ahead somewhere during December. That’s why I crack open a copy for personal use at the end of each year.
I’m not saying everyone should buy a copy of 52 Weeks of Writing, that that’s the best way to start your writing year on the right foot. I do want to talk about a planning habit of mine that made it into the journal/planner because I’d been doing it for years already, and with great success.
In 52 Weeks of Writing, during Week 1, I ask you to write down your long-term goals. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Five years? Three years? Two? Where do you see yourself in a year from now? In nine months? Six? Three?
Over the past two years, I’ve often been asked why I ask after long-term goals backwards. Wouldn’t it make more sense to start small and then expand? Well. No. Not in my experience. And that’s because I don’t just believe in setting goals. I believe in setting realistic goals.
I’m very much in favour of dreaming big dreams, but the more unrealistic your goals, the more you’re setting yourself up for failure. And consistent failure is not a great motivator. Consistently achieving your goals, that’s a great motivator. That’s what causes those dopamine hits that’ll keep you moving forwards.
So plan for success, that’s how you start your writing year on the right foot. Planning backwards is helpful here because it makes you ask over and over: ‘So if I want to be there in ten years, where do I need to be in five years’ time? If I want to be there in five years, where do I need to be in three years’ time? And if I want to have achieved that in the next three years, what does that mean for my two-year goals, my one-year goals, etc.?’
Backtracking like this gives you a great sense of whether you’re expecting too much, too little, or exactly the right amount of yourself. Perhaps you see yourself having published ten novels in ten years. As you figure out what your other goals have to be in order to achieve that big ten-year goal by then, you might realise there’s no way you can possibly pull that off, not while, let’s say, working fulltime and are thinking of having another baby.
Maybe you set out to have been published in ten literary magazines over the next ten years. But, as you spell out for yourself what that means for your five-year, three-year, and so on goals, you might come to the conclusion that you could be doing much more with the time you have for writing.
Of course, having ten novels published or having been published in ten literary magazines in the next ten years might be utterly realistic for you. We’re all different, we all want different things from our writing, and we all find ourselves in different circumstances. That’s why this exercise is so useful, because it will demonstrate quickly what can and cannot be realistically done within your specific situation.
As you do the exercise, don’t forget that goals aren’t set in stone. I use goals as guidelines, as something to keep me focused, but I revisit them at least annually to see if anything needs to go or needs to be added.
And whatever goals you set for yourself, don’t forget to celebrate each and every milestone. In 52 Weeks of Writing, I explicitly ask you to write down how you’re going to celebrate each of your goals as you achieve them, because it’s all too easy to ignore the small steps and just keep going. But we wouldn’t reach our big goals without those small steps, and they should be honoured as such.