Welcome to the second installment of The Seven Questions Series! Many thanks to Jennifer Blanchard for being my guest.
It was inspired by my blog, Procrastinating Writers, and by all the questions and comments I get from writers/readers saying they “don’t know how to get started” or “they don’t have the time/motivation/energy/etc to write.”
I wanted to make it easy for people interested in writing to get started and maintain the momentum.
TCW: You wrote this book with Joe Williams. What was the collaboration process like and what advice would you give collaborating writers?
Jennifer: Our collaboration process was a bit easier than most because we live in the same house. But since we’re on totally different schedules for the most part, we divided and conquered. I split the book “to-dos” into two categories: stuff that’s already written, but needs to be edited; and stuff that needs to be written. Then we split the list up—he wrote some and I wrote the rest, then we both read through and edited the stuff that had already been written (since I pulled a lot of the content straight from the blog).
Overall I think the best advice I have for anyone who wants to collaborate is this: Find a writer who you can work with; someone who is responsible and who will support you and hold up their end of the deal. Without that collaboration just can’t happen.
TCW: What is the “All-Or-Nothing Mistake” and what can writers do to let it go?
Jennifer: The all-or-nothing mistake is a mindset that writers often have: They think they can only write under certain conditions, and if the conditions are not exact, they won’t/can’t write.
For example, if my goal is to write for an hour every day, but I only have 20 minutes available to me today, with an all-or-nothing mindset I would tell myself I can’t write because I don’t have a full hour.
But what writers don’t realize is that mindset is not only distracting, but also very limiting. Instead of all-or-nothing, focus on what’s important: Getting writing done! Even if that means writing for 20 minutes instead of an hour. Every little bit is moving you in the right direction.
TCW: There’s a whole section for writers who fear rejection. What are some reasons writers fear rejection, and what are some ways to deal with it?
Jennifer: Writers fear rejection because they view rejection of their writing as a rejection of themselves when that is absolutely NOT the case. Just because your writing was rejected, that doesn’t mean you were rejected. Remember that and repeat it to yourself.
Putting yourself out there as a writer is a huge challenge. Many writers never take that challenge on and instead keep their writing hidden in a drawer. Your writing should be where it belongs: In the hands of readers. In order to get it there, you need to open yourself up to all possibilities, which includes the possibility of being rejected.
A wise business coach once told me, “There is no rejection; there is only selection.” I like that.
Some ways to deal with it could be:
• Practice putting yourself out there. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
• Have someone sit down with you and for 10-15 minutes keep saying “No” to you over and over again until you’re sick of hearing it. Getting over the idea of “no” is a huge step toward getting over the idea of being rejected.
• Ignore the haters and naysayers! When your writing gets rejected you have two choices: believe the rejecter or believe yourself. If you choose to believe them, your writing career is doomed. You need to believe yourself. You know your writing, you know your talent and you (hopefully) know your worth. When someone rejects you or your writing, love them for it and make it your goal to prove them wrong. And anytime someone “hates” on you, make it your goal to love yourself even more. Fear of rejection will become a thing of the past.
TCW: What are writing affirmations and how can writers use them to produce a positive outcome?
Jennifer: A writing affirmation is a positive statement about your writing that you say over and over again to yourself. So, for example, a writing affirmation could be: “I am an awesome writer” or “I am a brilliant, confident writer” or “My writing is excellent and worthy of awards.”
I suggest making up a statement that sits well with you. A statement that makes you feel confident and motivated every time you say it. Different statements will work for different writers.
Once you have your perfect statement, write it on a Post-It note and hang it by your writing area. It’s also a good idea to hang it other places too, like on your bathroom mirror or in your car. The more often you can remind yourself of how great a writer you truly are, the better.
TCW: I’ve read in numerous places that you need to set yourself a writing schedule. What is the “un-schedule?”
Jennifer: The problem with writing schedules is the whole self-set deadlines thing. It’s hard for writers to work toward self-set deadlines because there’s very little incentive, apart from completing the piece of writing. That’s why you have to figure out a way to incent yourself for getting writing done. Sorry—that response is a little off the topic of the question, but I thought it was important to mention.
An un-schedule is a tool created by psychologist, Neil Fiore, that helps you identify where in your schedule you have free time. You figure out what you’re already doing each week (things that you know for sure you’re doing, not things you might do). Then you add up the empty time you have and that’s how you determine how much time you have available for writing.
You can read more about the un-schedule and get a free download of an un-schedule worksheet here: http://procrastinatingwritersblog.com/2010/05/a-useful-tool-for-managing-your-writing-time/
TCW: In the chapter titled “Productivity Methods,” there are six methods writers can try. Which one do you find most useful and why?
Jennifer: Before I answer this, let me just point out that different methods will work for different writers, which is why I recommend trying so many. I highly recommend doing what works for you and not what works for someone else.
With that being said—for me—the most useful method has been the word-count goal method. It helps me measure how far I’ve come and I how far I have left to go. It also helps me stay on track because I know that every day I have to write at least 500 words (or whatever word count you choose). Some days I hit it, some days I don’t, but either way I am always heading in that direction.