Transform Your Writing, Shift #6: Let Go of the Projects that No Longer Serve You

Transform Your Writing, Shift #6: Let Go of the Projects that No Longer Serve You

I have a confession. You know those writers who have a novel in a drawer, collecting dust and going no where? I am one. Only my dusty novel is in a bag in the storage space above the master closet, and I left it there on purpose. 

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Transform Your Writing, Shift #5: Follow Your Curiosity

Transform Your Writing, Shift #5: Follow Your Curiosity

I was sitting on a panel at a writing conference when an audience member asked a great question: should he write his book to be more publishable (in his mind, that meant rosy and optimistic) or stay true to his own perspective (a little more dark)?

My fellow panelists, all book authors, each said the same thing: stay true to your voice. You're going to write a better book if you're writing something that interests you.

I added what I'd learned from my clients:

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Transform Your Writing, Shift #4: Get Real About Your Writing Needs

Transform Your Writing, Shift #4: Get Real About Your Writing Needs

Have you ever noticed how a lot of writing sounds like rules? Write every day. Write first thing in the morning. Write 1,000 words per day. It's tempting to think they're the secret to writing more. 

I often hear my clients make similar pronouncements. "I'm going to write every day," they say. 

Or, in a wistful tone, "I just need to carve out two hours a day."

In those moments, I counsel caution.

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Transform Your Writing, Shift #3: Own Your Process

Transform Your Writing, Shift #3: Own Your Process

My better half is a builder, and he is not a whap it, tap it, slap it kind of worker. He is a craftsman, who built our home with reclaimed oak floors, spacious windows to let in the light, and an eye for detail. He could see our house before it existed, and his job was bringing it life. After watching his process first hand, I knew: his best clients will appreciate quality, not the fastest, cheapest work.

I've realized something similar about my own writing. While the newspaper industry taught me to write fast and on a deadline, I have not transferred those skills to my short stories and novel writing. I don't want to.

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Transform Your Writing, Shift #2: Adjust Your Expectations to Your Priorities

Transform Your Writing, Shift #2: Adjust Your Expectations to Your Priorities

As you now know, I'm more than a writer (you probably are too). I'm also a partner, a dog mom, a friend and writing coach. I mountain bike, rock climb, camp, hike and spend time with the people I love. I like a clean house too (though my standards pale compared my guy's) and prefer to cook over eating out.

Once I realized that all of those roles and pastimes are just as important to me as writing (and in some cases more important) I was able to do something critical for my writing: relax my expectations.

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Transform Your Writing, Shift #1: You Are More Than a Writer

Transform Your Writing, Shift #1: You Are More Than a Writer

There's this image of "The Writer" that permeates our culture: a solitary creature, so devoted to his or her craft that she writes EVERY DAY. Perhaps that means writing all day, from 9 to 5, and treating it like a job. Perhaps that means getting up at 5 a.m. and sacrificing sleep for writing. Or perhaps it means writing first thing, no matter what.

These approaches work for some writers, and certainly for those whose entire livelihoods are based on writing (Steven King and Dani Shapiro come to mind). I'll never argue against consistency and the importance of showing up. But there's a flip side to thinking you have to do it like they do: you feel guilty when you don't write, you question whether you're meant to do it, or you wonder if you're a fraud. 

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It's possible to transform your writing life.

It's possible to transform your writing life.

Not too long ago, I was dissatisfied with my writing. It wouldn't have looked that way from the outside: I was an editor at a successful weekly newspaper, where I got to write pretty much whatever I wanted. I'd been published in The Wall Street Journal, more than once, and in magazines. I'd published essays, too. 

But instead of focusing on what I had accomplished, I couldn't stop thinking about the things I hadn't done. I'd never published a short story. I'd never taken a novel far enough to seek publication. 

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Lost that lovin' feelin'? Put the fun back in your writing!

Lost that lovin' feelin'? Put the fun back in your writing!

I tend to get really serious about my writing. I should know what to do, when to do it, and proceed in an orderly fashion. But the truth is, I often don’t know what to do. And sometimes, I’m drawn to do things all out of order with no apparent rhyme or reason. When I get caught up in thinking of that process as wrong, it means I end up not writing or writing in fits and starts of frustration.

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Sometimes, a Break from Writing is the Best Next Step

Sometimes, a Break from Writing is the Best Next Step

Life has this serendipitous feel sometimes, and the last couple of weeks has been one of those times. A few of my clients and I happen to be in the same phase of writing: we've compiled a lot of pages, and now we need to take stock of where we are. 

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It's All Just Practice

It's All Just Practice

Toward the end of grad school, one of my friends still working on her MFA asked if all the essays I'd written for school made it into my final thesis. I remember nodding and saying yes, that most of them had. 

Seven years later, I think of this moment often, because I know I was wrong.

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