Monday, April 27, 2020

Making Room for Your Dreams: Matching Opportunity with Possibility



There is so much wisdom in not feeling obligated to fill free time with something productive automatically. There needs to be space and rest as well.

But what happens when we have had some of that space and rest and could use an enjoyable enterprise to lose ourselves in? Well, here might be an opportunity to match opportunity with possibility. 

In moving forward in the space we've spotted to start walking our dreams out, we can examine, what series of small actions would move our dream projects, past-times, and practices forward? We do not have to do it perfectly to make things happen. Nor do we need to be previously motivated. Even the smallest grain of intention can be enough if we water it frequently with small habits. As we move into a repetitive practice we can give ourselves the advantage of likely success by putting a few helps in our tool kit.

Don’t underestimate the power of rewards

Success is not about feeling heightened desire to do the thing and then doing it. Often, at least at first, taking action on our dreams can feel considerably like grunt-work. Whether it is setting a timer to write or deciding to run down the road for  1km and then back home for another; the first step does not have to be done enthusiastically to be done. Give yourself a reward upon completion. Pair up something you are looking forward to with something you want to get done. Practice will turn into routine which will affirm the practice.

 Keep a file with distracting ideas

As you get going on your project, you may find more ideas arising. These ideas are great to file away for future sessions. For now, keep them in the future until you are finished the project at hand. They are not a sign of your inability to concentrate, but a sign of your creativity. Don’t curse yourself for them. Be thankful and set them aside as a future savings to draw on.

 Remind yourself why you are working on your current project with a visual

This project’s realization and importance to you can be emphasized at the start, before it has much to show for it, with visuals. Whether it is a vision board or a “what if” mind map or flow chart; having something to look forward ahead to allows us to work in a more focused manner.

Attaching dates and times to see it through 
       
      You can both make a schedule of content with dates (feel free to adjust as you go) as well as batch create outlines, scenes, graphics, or primed canvases when you're feeling productive. When you are not feeling as inspired, all you will have to do is add another layer or hit publish. Give yourself the advantage of seeing where working on your dreams, even for a little bit, will encourage you to dream more about what could be.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Recharging Creatively: 4 ways to look at creative energy differently



It is often thought that when stressors and demands are high, creative energy will suffer. But what if we could turn that thought on its head? What if it was the exercise of creativity that recharged us? Here are 4 ways to look at creative energy differently:

1.       Unlocking the creativity as finite myth

Creativity is something that expands the more it is used. When we operate from our creative selves and bring that energy to our work, our daily living, and our engagement with other humans we are more likely to bring passion to our projects. We are also more likely to show up human and vulnerable. It is worth the risk for the connection and the possibilities. What project do you want to work on today? Brainstorm how to get there. Celebrate the creativity you see happening in your day-to-day. Record it. Use the proof of its existence, even in a season of challenge, to excite you and propel you to work a bit at your creative project.

2.       Being open

Having a preconceived notion of what creativity looks like from day to day limits us. Some days it might manifest in stretching our resources or time. Some days it might result in ideas that we need to file away until there is more time to work on them. Other times, it might mean a fun twist on everyday occurrences and challenges. Being creative, even in how we get to a project or come up with ideas to motivate ourselves to work on it, will pay dividends.

3.       Accept a variety of results

Celebrating what it happening creatively instead of holding out for something else allows us to build on what is. When we accept reality, but are also open to what could be; we are ready for something exciting to happen. It is hard to be lacking in energy and depleted or discouraged when new ideas are presenting themselves as possibilities. Do not hit the backspace or crumple any papers or hit delete or erase right now. Save all the attempts. Try mini sessions. Try again tomorrow building on the little bit that happened today. Partner up with others who want to see creativity flourish as well. See what you can spur each other on to do.

4.       Ride the creative wave

Working with what is happening means we can get excited about where creativity shows up from problem solving to new project inspiration. Embracing the creative beings we are means being proud of what we are doing and what we’re producing and gives hope that what we do will positively impact others. With the hope of that -- bringing to the world more than ego -- means we can trust and let go. In such an environment, creativity has no choice but to show up. 


Sunday, March 01, 2020

Who Do You Think You Are? Getting Past the Accuser to Dare Creatively



You might not think daring creatively is something you can accomplish in 6 easy steps. And while the daring itself requires bravery; the steps can be tackled even before you feel ready to do so. Which is good news for any writer feeling afflicted by Imposter Syndrome (the worrying that you are not worthy of this thing you feel called to do). Know that it is not uncommon and you can work through it. Here’s how:

1.       Think big
What is the thing that if you were brave, you would do? Don’t dissect why it is you’re not doing it. Or shame yourself for not being closer to it. Or compare yourself to someone else who seems to be farther along than you. Just start moving toward it. Tell yourself you’re going to do it. And commit. Whether it’s X amount of words per day, or scenes per week; make those happen.
2.       Scale up
Either from where you’ve just started or from where you’ve been working; scale up to the next level. What would that look like? You might talk to a group of young writers about what you’ve learned so far, host a writing sprint, or offer a guest post to a newsletter or newspaper you have the contact for. If you don’t have the contact, look it up and cold call. Yes, it’s supposed to be terrifying. That’s why not everyone will do it. But you will.
3.       Accelerate
Instead of being satisfied with your current pace, give yourself a tight deadline for a component of your project. Hit it and then set the next deadline. It doesn’t have to be dramatically bigger or faster, just enough that it is moving the momentum along. With progress comes another level of enthusiasm than can get you past doubts and excuses that occur to you.
4.       Take action
Sending the email, having your website go live, promoting your upcoming event, booking your upcoming event –these all qualify. The key is to make a list of the things that will move your project farther and then go in that direction.  A movement that you can’t take back and have no choice but to move towards is the one that will take you farther than you dare to go.
5.       Bring in Others
Building a community around your efforts, whether it’s getting creative with others or offering to cross promote is scary, but pays off in spades. It multiplies your audience and the chances others will discover your work. If you think of it in terms of service, and helping others by sharing what you know, it helps to get ego out of the way and reduce the accuser’s voice.
6.       Persist
Simply carrying on is an act of daring creatively. Persisting in going after your dreams is an applaudable act in a world where a few dream and even fewer act on those dreams. Keep on and you will be glad you did. Your projects which are now mock-up covers on your vision boards will be real stories you share down the road.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

How to Get Going: 4 Easy Ways to Structure Personal Writing Goals



Crafting structure for your personal output goals is like hiring a personal trainer for your work. You won’t regret it. Here are 4 easy-to-employ approaches to choose from.

1.       Date deadlines

You can make these weekly if you like. Having an agreement with yourself about what you’ll produce and when (ie, article queries, chapters, scenes, or blog posts) and a regular calendar with next steps (adding them to the larger document in waiting, submitting to publications, or posting on your blog) means you will gain a sense of accomplishment and achievement without experiencing overwhelm.

2.       Micro assignments

Breaking things down into the smallest components of each larger part is the quickest route to beating paralysis. Drafting 100 words is achievable. Do that 5 to 7 times and you have an ideal blog post. Do it 25 times and you have a chapter. Assign yourself many of these over your week and you’ll be making the most of small chunks of time.

3.       Public countdown

Holding yourself accountable by having others invested in what’s upcoming also takes care of promotion at the same time. There are html code plugins you can use for your social media pages to keep it constantly real and looming. Coupling this with a regular practice or set goal makes things happen.

4.       Daily commitment

Making your creative practice a short achievable regular occurrence will make natural progress. By incorporating several strategies here that work together you will be hitting your goals without needing to drastically rearrange your daily schedule.

Your art is something that adds to your life organically. Finding what works best for you and is most likely to be regularly repeated will be key to your success.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Building Your Creative Community



      Creative community is something that will be a big help to you.
      It will keep you lifted when you want to throw in the towel.
      It will convince you of your artistic calling.
      It will keep you company on the journey.
      You can do it before you feel like you're a master at your craft.
      In fact, that's when you should.
      Because it will help you get there.
      Here are 6 steps to help you build your creative community (& practices).

          Focus on productivity and creation

It is good to come together around a love of creativity. Whether it is meeting up to share your latest work, inviting others to collaborate with you on a project, or simply joining a creative productivity challenge together; there are many ways to meet up creatively without falling into the rut of simply talking about what you love to do.

Embrace a variety of genres and mediums

There is no need to limit who can join your creative group. Often the inspiration that comes from interacting with other projects or work drastically different from your own is a catalyst for further creativity. You will each be seeing with new creative eyes.

 Set a positive tone

The whole point of collecting creative community is to be encouraged to create another day. Each member needs to come with their own inspiration and motivation. Having a commitment to positivity at the outset from each member ensures everyone can continue working positively as they’ve arrived and are just benefiting from seeing others engage creatively as well.

               Hold on to your creative boundaries

You want to be producing more than talking about it, achieving more than dreaming, and engaging with your creative self more than impressing others. If you do not have creative boundaries in place, you may find yourself fooled into thinking you have done more creative work than you actually have. Put in the time and use your time with others to celebrate what’s been done already and to set achievable goals for the next time you meet.


                Accept virtual creative support as well 

           (digital platforms, books and magazines and blogs that feature creatives)
Whether you live somewhere remote or have little flexibility in your day to day schedule to be meeting up with others; you can still grow your creative community at a distance. Social media is a great outlet for connecting. Make it production positive by using stories as an opportunity to show step by step progress or word counts and engage positively with others’ accounts. Stalking is less inspiring than you might think and usually leads to draining comparison tendencies. If you are working up to or are augmenting a creative community; also consider creative living documentaries, books, blogs, and magazines. Seeing others’ creative spaces and projects can do wonders for your practice as well.


Get intensive with your creative retreats, both independently and communally.

Making your time together structured is a good idea. If it is a weekly meetup, add a critique component or a word count challenge with a prize. If going away for a retreat or signing up for a conference is in the budget, do that and make your stay writing intensive in the outside of workshop hours as well. Even setting up a great workspace in your home and timing your sessions there is bound to up your creative practice so the next time someone asks what you’ve been up to, you can invite them in to share in your creative process. Community achieved.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

5 Ways to Make Writing Sprints Work For You



Writing sprints are a go-to of writing retreats and intensives and there is good reason for that. Writing sprints force you to get on paper what is otherwise just running around your head. When engaging in writing sprints, one of several things is bound to happen. You will break open a creative spring. You will get more words on the page than you would have if you simply waited for inspiration to strike. Or you will flesh out your project more fully. 

Now that you're convinced; here are 5 ways to make writing sprints work for you. 

1. Decide on a word count or timed session. 

The benefit to a word count is that you know when you end and it is easy to work towards. Take 1000 words, for example. Start with one sentence, note the word count, then add 100 words to that, note the new word count, add 100 words and so on. Even for the very easily distracted among us (myself included) the constantly moving target and the achievement of hitting each 100 word mini goal will take you to the end of the sprint. If you simply must walk away mid sprint, it is also relatively easy to pick up where you left off. If you are truly forcing yourself to hit each 100 word target on a particularly distracted day, it may help to have a concurrent household project such as folding laundry and let yourself fold 10 items between 100 word outputs to recharge your bored or restless brain 

2. Decide on the subject matter. 

Getting your material to page directly fights and engages with the tendency to just daydream and think pleasant thoughts about your storyline, premise, projects, and scenes. It is the way you are forcing yourself to take the next step. Whether you are working on a scene, a chapter, or a blog post, deciding on content will allow you to get there in your head. It will allow your stream of consciousness to take over. It will theme up your output. It will allow you to more fully develop what has been mere concepts to this point. If you have distracting sub-plotlines or competing topics pop up, simply note them on a sheet of paper to the side of your laptop or notebook. Then you can use them as a starting point for your next scheduled sprint or file them away for future projects.

3. Decide on the starting point. 

Even once you know what you'll be writing about, you need to know where you are starting so you are not spending your time typing, deleting, and retyping or simply staring at a blinking cursor. You may find it is helpful to start with a dramatic sentence, a random word or a character name and then start riffing. Speak out loud if it is helpful. If you want to have a simple way to rush into each next paragraph when you run stuck, you can have a list of prompts pre-typed on the screen before you start and use them as you need them as you go along. If you find yourself wanting to write more on another scene or find a plot hole as you go along, write your questions or developments in brackets so you can find them and sort them out when you come back to the scene later.

4. Decide on the tracking mechanism. 

You can write your words as logged on an envelope and then the session’s list in your social media stories as I do. I find it helps my accountability and also scratches the affirmation itch I get by keeping public tally of my writing sessions (for my own benefit even if no one else notices). If it helps someone else pick up the habit, even better, but primarily I do it for my own motivation. At the end, I can put them into a story highlight and affirm the frequency to myself.  This same tracking habit can be completed on paper in a daytimer, calendar, or bullet journal for personal satisfaction and motivation. Do what resonates with you and doesn't cause extra in the way of steps. If you work it into your existing daily routines, it will be a lot easier to keep up with.

5. Decide on the frequency. 

Whether writing sprints are something you want to practice daily or weekly or in spurts on set-aside days; build in the time and opportunity so that you are setting yourself up for success. Add them to your to-do lists, your lunch hours, your after work decompression time, or your early morning day routine. Not only will you be impressed with what you can accomplish in a relatively short amount of time, but you will also be affirming, in process, your writer identity. This is something you do and enjoy doing because you are a writer and because doing so helps you process your world and gives your creative spirit breathing room.

Best wishes  as you experience the joy of watching your word counts climb and your writing practice flourish all because of a simple process you can start on today.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Relaunching Your Writing Habit Without Waiting for the New Year



It is a natural thing at the end of the year to be thinking about the things we accomplished in the months past and the new heights we want to reach for in the New Year.
If you want to take this opportunity to fine tune your writing habits, good news is ahead. You don't have to wait for the confetti to fly to make your biggest impact. In fact, if you start now, you will hit your ninety day habit stride right as most people are abandoning their New Year's Resolutions.

Here are a handful of components that are each helpful in their own way. Combining them into one effective strategy magnifies the effect.

1. Deciding on the main focus area(s).

Keeping it to a minimum of one focus area and a maximum of two allows for a little flexibility without diluting your efforts. Think of what you want to make progress on. Is it article querying or blog posting? Novel drafting or poem crafting? Regardless of writing project type, what you want is momentum. Working in the same direction for a sustained period allows you to experience habit success rapidly and repeatedly. Doing the writing work day after day in a regular way means that before long, it will be a go-to habit and by the end of the project window, will be an entrenched lifestyle. That's when you will know you have secured your writing habits in a way that will position you for breakthrough over previous results in the coming year.

2. Establishing an overall project scope.

You know best what resonates with you. Is it word count? Timed sessions? Numbers of submissions or posts? Decide at the outset and execute accordingly by determining how that breaks down over the individual sessions. Having a tracking log on your fridge calendar, notes in your day timer, or notes (and corresponding reminders) on your phone means that you always know where you stand in terms of project completion and habit momentum.

3. Attach your to do's to your schedule.

The idea of getting these new tasks completed is just concept without action. The way to move from decision to execution is to create space and expectation for yourself. Making a check off box to complete 500 words of new material, come up with a blog post of any length, or a daily timed writing makes that much more sure that you have a way to make yourself before writing is an automatic response. Use the strategy that best fits your lifestyle and way you currently live and schedule those sessions in to specific days and times.

4. Expect your minimum. Surprise yourself with more.

Having a low bar you expect yourself to hit means you are more likely to experience success from the outset. A line of check marks marching across the page is likely the motivation you didn't know you needed. As the initial honeymoon phase of writing re-launch fades, hitting these minimum targets will feel like a smaller target to hit and much easier to get out of the way. Let yourself enjoy that without undue pressure to keep accelerating at an unsustainable pace. It is better to experience that low bar success repeatedly and occasionally burst out with more than to keep moving the bar higher and burnout before the writing habit lifestyle is entrenched.

5. Work steadily to the overall number of days you are aiming for. 

Whether you decide to make it 90 days (which is akin to a three month habit) or 100 sessions (conveniently also the number of stories that fit into one Instagram highlight -- my personal habit creator favourite); consistency is the key. Don't expect perfection, just presence. Allowing yourself to show up and deliver a variety of results is the best way to re-learn, re-launch, and re-new. May the New Year find you riding the wave of habit formation and writing to tell us about it.

For more on grace and growth on the writing journey visit https://www.instagram.com/michellevandepol/

Let the process do its thing and turn you back into a regularly producing writer.