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How to Get Back on the Writing Wagon

Cathy YardleyCathy Yardley is an author, mother, and the brains behind Rock Your Writing, a terrific online resource for novelists. Cathy’s ebooks and audiobooks — Rock Your Plot, Rock Your Revisions, Rock Your Query, and Write Every Day — are full of accessible, well-grounded strategies. While Cathy’s focus is genre fiction, writers across the board will benefit from her advice. (I keep the audio versions of Rock Your Plot and Write Every Day in my Audible app for frequent hits of inspiration.) Writers among the Studio Mothers audience will appreciate the article in Cathy’s latest newsletter, which is reprinted below, with Cathy’s generous permission. Enjoy!


Ah, February. The month when the shiny, sexy promise of New Year’s resolutions turns into the dreaded “morning after” of everyday life… when the dream meets the routine.

Suddenly, getting up at 5:00 am every morning to bang out a few pages isn’t as enticing as staying under your warm covers. You’ll do the pages at night, you promise yourself, tapping the snooze button.

But you have a hell of a time at the day job, you find out your son’s book report is actually due tomorrow and he hasn’t started, you’re out of dog food, and you’ve got no idea what you’re making for dinner.

By the time everyone who needs to be is fed and in bed, it’s nearly 11:00, you’ve got all the energy of a dead car battery, and your creativity resembles a fossilized raisin.

Next thing you know, you rationalize: I’ll just double the pages I write tomorrow.

After “doubling” to the point where you’d need to write 20 pages in one day to catch up, you find yourself passively or actively avoiding writing altogether.

You’ve fallen off the writing wagon — and you’re not quite sure how to get back on.

“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Helmuth von Moltke

If this sounds familiar, fear not. You are in good company (to the tune of 95% of the writers I know). If you want to get back on track (and stay there), here are some tips that might help:

  1.  Set the bar really low and hit it out of the park.

The first way to “pull out of the spin” is to simply do something. Write a page, or 250 words. It’s relatively small, but it’s also substantial. (In 400 days, a series of 250 words turns into a 100K word draft!)

If you can’t do 250 words, do 100. If you can’t do that, write a paragraph. But do something small, and then celebrate that accomplishment.  

That may seem ridiculous, but you’re not doing this for the milestone. You’re doing this to start re-training your brain to think “action, momentum, result, reward.” Not “disappointment, exhaustion, discouragement, aversion.”

  1.  Mindfully adjust.

The word “mindful” gets kicked around a lot, and can seem awfully Zen and mystic. It isn’t. It’s just another way of saying “pay really close attention without being judgmental.” In other words, instead of beating yourself up for not writing (which will drain your energy), just go “Huh. So that didn’t work. What happened instead?”

Again: no judgment. It won’t help you. There isn’t even an inherent benefit to it. It’s not like the world will think you’re a better person because you felt guilty.

Just the facts. You didn’t write. As I explain in my ebook Write Every Day, it’s usually a time issue, an energy issue, a fear issue, or a process issue. Be a detective. Determine what the issue is (or issues, plural) and then create an action plan to address it and keep moving.

  1.  Get support.

There are a few different kinds of support.

You can have critique support. One benefit to this: actually showing someone your work, which in turn encourages you to complete and hand something off. Hopefully, you will also receive valuable input and hone your writing skills, as well.

You can have accountability support. You don’t need a writer for this. This is just someone you tell your goal to, someone you report in with on a weekly basis, to make sure you’re staying on track. If you need a boot camp-styled “drill instructor” or a “loving supportive mentor,” match your personal motivating style. The wrong mix (you need gentle, comforting motivation, and you’ve got somebody yelling on your voice mail “WHERE ARE THOSE PAGES?”) will actually derail you faster.

You can have mentoring support. That can be check in with a coach, or taking a class.

Finally, you can have emotional support. Going to writing groups where you actually feel energized because people are talking shop, may be an option. Or simply connecting with a group of other people who are pursuing big goals and who are cheering each other on might be helpful.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a combination of several kinds of support in the same person. However it works, it’s very difficult to accomplish your writing goals without support of some kind.

Forty Places to Find a Critique Partner

I’ve written a guest post over on The Write Life called “Forty Places to Find a Critique Partner Who Will Help Improve Your Writing.” It’s a hefty article, but if you’re looking for critiques, accountability, or even mentors, the list might have just what you’re looking for.

How to you plan to achieve your writing goals this year?

Cathy

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Free Inspiration Download: Postcards from the Monday Post

Postcards from the Monday Post

Each week’s Monday Post image and quote are intended to inspire and connect you to your creative path. To further serve that purpose, I’ve created a PDF of 85 favorite Monday Post images and quotes, gathered for your easy perusal. Whether you’d like to start your creative practice with a new quote each day, or you’d like to keep the PDF on hand in case you feel creatively blocked, this PDF belongs in your creative toolkit.

If there are any images that you’d prefer to have in jpeg format to use as a desktop background, screensaver, or whatever else, feel free to visit the Monday Post album at the Studio Mothers Facebook page, where you can browse and download anything you like.

I was hoping to be able to offer the file without making you provide an e-mail address — as I’m personally annoyed by freebies that require personal info — but at 19MB, the file far exceeds the WordPress size limit. The download is available via e-junkie, for which you do need to enter a name and an e-mail address — but I assure you that I’m not collecting this info and won’t be adding you to any mailing list (or sharing your address with anyone else) unless you check the subscription box.

Click here to access the free download.

Enjoy!

Brittany: Finding Time to Write

Brittany VandeputteBrittany Vandeputte, writer and mother of two young boys, is one of 13 contributors whose wisdom appears in the e-book The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. Brittany wrote the piece below before her second son was born. If you’re a writer with a wee one, do you resonate with Brittany’s snapshot?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a mother who writes. Ordinarily, when I think of a “writer” I imagine a reclusive character locked behind a door who neither eats nor sleeps for days. I think of this person because that is how I used to write before I had obligations to other people. I still have an “office” but I use the term loosely. An office seems to signify a private place to conduct one’s business and that is hardly how I would describe the place I do most of my writing. As a mother, I fully expect to find toys littering the floor and a strange assortment of other odds and ends that my son finds endlessly amusing. Lately, it has been the remnants of a bag of polyfill stuffing that he excavated from my craft basket.

I don’t get a lot of time to write. I try to jot down ideas while my son is playing, but more times than not, he ends up stealing the pen out of my hand and following that up with a victory dance where he leaps triumphantly on my notebook. For the last 6 months, I have done the bulk of my writing in very short bursts during my son’s naptime — which is unfortunately only once a day. It frustrates me to no end, but the alternative is even more frustrating.

There are times I wish I could push everything outside the door and lock myself in. All I want is one day where I can write and make some real measurable progress. But of course, I can’t do that and I know it. The thing is, other people know it too, and very occasionally, someone will say to me, “Come to my house. Bring the baby. I’ll watch him while you write.” There’s a special place in heaven for these people. And I always take them up on the offer. As a mother, I already know that it takes a village to raise a child, but I’m learning that a village is also essential when you’re a writer. It takes that many offered spaces to get your novel finished!

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If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Creative Imperfection Is Perfect

The following is an excerpt from my e-book short, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years.

Imperfection Is PerfectPerfectionists tend to experience a greater amount of creative resistance than those who are more easy-going. I don’t have scientific data to back up this observation, but reams of anecdotal observation tell me I’m right. Unwilling to sacrifice in any area where someone else is depending on them and unwilling to settle for less, perfectionist creatives often avoid creativity if they can’t have it on their own, ideal terms.

Research does show that perfectionists are more likely to experience burnout, stress, and even depression. If you tend toward perfectionism, you might benefit from trying to readjust that framework, if only in a few areas of your life. The bar may be too high on quality, and it may also be too high on quantity. Or you may be too conditional. For example, if you tell yourself that you can’t write, paint, or create unless you have X hours of uninterrupted solitude — after your house is clean and the laundry’s done — be prepared to wait. If you have children, be prepared to wait for a long time forever.

As time management and productivity guru David Allen puts it, “You can do anything. You just can’t do everything.” The good news is that you don’t have to move mountains or make big sacrifices in order to live a more creatively fulfilling life. Instead of beating yourself up for what you’re not doing, set the stage for success. Your success: feeling creatively satisfied with your ability to “make something” given the constraints and gifts that come with your particular situation. It’s the making part that matters.

Perfectionist standards indicate a focus on outcome, rather than process. Accept that practice is not about perfection. It’s about practice. Is there anything in life that we can knock out of the park on the first try, and thereafter never have to practice, ever? (If there is, please inform me immediately!) Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing. Chalk up those perfectionist voices to the brain noise that prevents us from doing. Forget about perfection. Instead, just do.

And if you end up with a garbage can or recycling bin full of “failures,” so much the better. That basketful of rejects is a lot more useful to your creative journey — and a lot more important to your well-being — than a basketful of nothing.

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More where this came from: If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Pages of Wisdom: Liz Hum

Liz Hum, writer and artist, is one of 13 contributors whose wisdom appears in the e-book The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. If you’re not already reading Liz’s blog, you’re missing out. Enjoy the following gift of Liz’s words as taken directly from the e-book.

I struggle most with guilt. The guilt of not creating when I try to be a mom. The guilt of not being a mom when I’m trying to create. The guilt of feeling like a crappy artist when I try to rush through a creative project just to get it done. Not to mention the guilt I feel for not being able to be all things at once.

Marketing makes it look easy to “have it all,” doesn’t it? We can wear our babies to the coffee shop after yoga class where we can bang out another chapter on our novel, take them to the park, whip up an optimally nutritious meal, teach our children some brilliant skill or new language and then have them delightfully fingerpaint on the floor next to us as we finish our own masterpiece? Did I mention we’re supposed to be cool and stylish at all times as well?

I’m in awe of creative moms who can crochet a sweater while breastfeeding or create their crafts while rattling off their kid’s math problems, but I don’t know if I have fully forgiven myself for not being one of them.

Give yourself a break. When you find you have free time, go for it! But you know what? If you don’t, don’t sweat it — you will. If you live in the present instead of fretting about all the projects and dinners you’re trying to juggle, you’ll start enjoying your time with your kids more and you’ll be able to recognize and utilize your pockets of free time. Sometimes you have to put your art on the back burner and take care of your kids while they need you. Baby and toddlerhood is a temporary condition, mommas, remember that. They’ll all be in school soon, right? And we’ll have a few hours every day in which to get to know ourselves again. Eyes on the prize, ladies…eyes on the prize.

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If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

New e-book short! The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years

I’m just a wee bit excited to unveil my new e-book short, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. This e-book is the culmination of many years of work, research, and personal interviews. I am so pleased to share this project with you!

When a creative woman has a child, her universe shifts. How to maintain — or begin — a creative practice while caring for a little one? Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is your indispensable guide to navigating the early years of motherhood.

  • Written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five
  • Filled with the first-hand experience and wisdom of 13 artists and writers
  • Specific, concrete strategies for being more creative without adding more guilt and “shoulds” to your already overflowing plate

When you have young children, what you don’t have is time. This 35-page e-book short gives you the information and tools that you need, quickly. Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is a resource that you’ll refer to for inspiration and support again and again. It might be the best tool you download this year! It will certainly the best value you’ll get out of $11.98. Click here to order and download. You can also check out a free sample page here.

Thirteen generous, talented creative mothers share their experience and tested strategies:

A few words of praise:

“Miranda Hersey explains how you can keep your creative life vibrant while you parent your young children. Your creativity doesn’t have to be sacrificed while you parent! Miranda tells you exactly what you need to know to keep your creative life alive. Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel, Author of Coaching the Artist Within and Fearless Creating

“Becoming a mother can feel as if you have lost yourself deep under nurturing others and meeting their needs. If you’ve also lost view of the way to creative expression, the place you were most yourself, real grief may temper the joy of falling in love with a baby and raising children. When Miranda Hersey encountered that particular reality of motherhood, she asked other writers and artists, women for whom creativity is food, how they managed. She distilled their wise and practical answers into six do-able practices that restore your creative life and make space amid the toys and laundry for you. Those conversations and Miranda’s own experience as a writer and mother of five reveal the best secret of all: when creativity can be merged with mothering, they enhance and expand each other in wonderful, unexpected ways.” ~Gale Pryor, Author, Nursing Mother, Working Mother: The Essential Guide for Staying Close to Your Baby After Returning to Work

“In Six Creative Practices for the Early Years, Miranda Herseyrallies her readers into a band of sisters, united by the challenges we share. Drawing on her own experiences, and the wisdom of 13 practicing artists and writers, Hersey invites us to embrace motherhood and creativity as related, cross-pollinating endeavors. Simple, proven practices lay out a formula for success, encouraging us to reexamine our creativity with openness and generosity. With engaging, frequently humorous, narration, Hersey is the voice in our ear, the friend by our side, nudging us to discover those hidden pockets of time and inspiration and the courage to use them to sustain our creative lives. The lessons in this marvelous volume will be with me for years to come!”  ~Susan Edwards Richmond, Poet

“When my twins were babies, I relied on a stack of dog-eared parenting books, flipping through them whenever I needed encouragement, and concrete advice. As a mother who needed to create in order to feel truly alive, I would have added The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years to that library in a heartbeat. Miranda Hersey understands the realities of parenting young children, but gently challenges the reader to tap into the rich creative possibility that exists nonetheless. This is a book that creative mothers will return to again and again for reassurance, inspiration, and genuinely helpful practices.”  ~Ellen Olson-Brown, Author

Click here for a free sample page, and to order and download! And of course, if you like what you read, I’d be delighted if you could let your friends know about Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. Thank you!

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