Renewed and Revamped!

For thirty years, I’ve designed and maintained my own website. I added onto it as my needs grew.

Until recently it resembled a one-bedroom house that, over the years, had four bedrooms, three porches and a garage added on. 

You won’t recognize now!

It’s New!

A couple months ago I had a chance to have my website redone by an actual web designer starting a new company, Write the Next Book Web Designs. I actually met Christie Wright Wild through this blog. She took my unwieldy website and redesigned it into something beautiful. It’s easy to navigate now. The free resources are easy to find. It even has some childhood photos.

You can see a few “before and after” comparisons on her website. As Christie said:

“I’ve been a reader and a writer my whole life. We all have stories to tell. That’s why we’re writers. Working with Kristi Holl was a dream come true! I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with her on her visions to share her work with the world. Being a writer allows me to be creative. But being a web designer allows me to be supportive of other writers. Every time we bring literature closer to readers, it touches a life. Words and stories heal. They are powerful. And that’s why I do what I do.”

Do YOU Need an Author Website?

At what point do you need an author website? And what do you want a website to accomplish? For answers to those questions, you can get Christie’s free report 9 Things Every GOOD Author Website Must Have To Attract More Readers and Make More Money.

Posted in Uncategorized, web design | Tagged | 6 Comments

Undo-It-Yourself Projects

(Due to illness, I am re-posting a popular article from a few years ago.)

“A bad habit never disappears miraculously; it’s an undo-it-yourself project.”~~Abigail Van Buren

We all have some self-defeating behaviors, and sometimes these behaviors can cause our writing dreams to be grounded. Through my years of writing, I certainly developed some bad habits that are counter-productive to my writing. I’m still working to break a few, but most of them are a thing of the past. We all have those habits, but no matter how or why we acquired them, breaking them is an undo-it-yourself project.

Reasons or Excuses?

Quite often I hear a list of reasons why a writer isn’t writing much–or doesn’t plan to get serious about her writing until a future time. (You know, that fantasy we all harbor somewhere deep inside about endless uninterrupted hours of quiet, someone else fixing the meals, and words flowing like water.)

There will always be reasons not to write–college classes keep you too busy, babies keep you awake, day jobs take your time, teen-agers take your energy, or elderly parents require attention. There will always be reasons to feel depressed about writing: rejections, lack of family support, or poor economic predictions.

It can be good to analyze why you’re not writing. Obviously, if you can’t pinpoint the problem, you will have trouble fixing it. While it’s good to know the reasons, though, don’t let them become an excuse to stay in your miserable non-writing rut.

Plow Past the Problem

Find a way to get past it. Talk to friends. Learn more about your craft. Set goals and deadlines. I pray first, but I don’t stop there. I also take action. (Like yesterday–I finally realized that my restless ants-in-the-pants feeling in my office was nothing more serious than the fact that I had piles of books and magazines everywhere. I don’t create well in chaos, but I’d run out of room. Solution? A new book case and instant organization. The restless block magically disappeared.)

Last month I blogged about Margie Lawson‘s online course called “Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors.” I was dragging and had been for nearly a year, thinking my writing life was about over. The only self-defeating habits I uncovered were severe sleep debt/deprivation, a need for more stretching-type exercise, and a need to give up chocolate and sugar. I kept careful records, promising myself at the end of thirty days that I would go back to the chocolate. I just needed to know if it was contributing to my lethargy and headaches. (Oh, how I secretly hoped it wasn’t so!!!) Well, it was…

I had a bad habit of eating sweets for rewards and pick-me-ups and times I needed soothing. I stayed up too late reading (while eating chocolate), and I always thought stretching exercises (like gentle yoga) were a waste of time. Wrong on all counts! Each one was a big factor in the daily headaches, which I’ve almost licked!

No More Excuses

Breaking those three bad habits became my “undo-it-yourself” projects. Was it fun? No–especially going without chocolate. But I sure don’t miss it like I thought I would. The habits (dare I say excuses?) that interfere with your writing dreams probably aren’t the same as mine, but I can guarantee you one thing. Breaking those habits is going to ultimately be your own “undo-it-yourself” project.

It’s your life. It’s your writing life. No one will create the writing life of your dreams for you. It will require effort of your own–and lots of it. So what are you going to do with your bad writing habits?

My advice is a paraphrased Nike slogan: Just Undo It! [NOTE: Make it easier on yourself. Remember the power of mini habits when  making those changes! See Not Enough Willpower to Reach Your Goals? Make Mini Habits!]

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The Best YES

One of my friends is a writing coach. She spots things in my writing life when I can’t see “the writing forest for the trees.”

She recently asked how the writing was going with my new contracted mysteries, the ones with firm deadlines that are longer than anything I’ve ever written before.

How many chapters had I written?

Truth Telling

I was embarrassed to tell her how little writing I’d accomplished in August so far. It wasn’t my fault that my writing timetable got derailed. Yes, I had scheduled quite a few babysitting days for various events. But that isn’t what did it. They were planned for weeks ago and fully enjoyed.

“It’s other people’s emergencies that got me,” I confessed.

Tell Me More

“What emergencies?” she asked.

I gave her the last week’s list. It included things like cars over-heating when someone needed to get to work. I was glad to help out, taking people to work one day and loaning my car another day. (And doing my errands during rush hour instead, a time I usually avoided.) I watched a neighbor’s kids when she didn’t want to take them with her to the dog grooming place. I filled in for someone when I should probably have been home with my sore throat. 

I didn’t feel resentful. No one’s “stuff” happened just to derail my writing or make me work late four nights in a row. I just felt tired by the time I got to my writing. Too tired to get much of it done, which made me sad. (And fearful that I might let this opportunity slip through my fingers.)

Some Hard Truths

“Yes,” my writer friend said, “emergencies DO happen. But everything you described to me is more of an inconvenience than an emergency. It’s stuff that happens to everyone: a sick child, a car needing repair, packing for a vacation, or a dog needing to go to the vet. They aren’t emergencies.”

I pondered that. Each phone call had sure sounded like an emergency.

“These people wanted you to drop everything and make their lives EASIER. They didn’t want to deal with the normal problems that everyone runs into who have children, cars, and pets. You stepped in so they didn’t have to cope. If you didn’t have some big deadlines, it might not matter. But if you don’t let others deal with their own normal problems, you’ll just fall further behind.” And maybe lose those contracts, I added silently. 

Paradigm Shift

Hmmm… It’s true that I often call other people’s problems “emergencies” that really aren’t. And it’s true that even if I still choose to help, often it could be done later, after I finish work. Just because someone wants it done now doesn’t mean it always NEEDS to be done now. Or, horror of horrors, when asked for help, I could have said, “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t today.” Period.

Writing and making deadlines is a good thing. Helping someone truly in need is also a good thing. But choosing between them can be hard.

A Christian author who deals with the tough issue of choosing between one good thing and another good thing is Lysa TerKeurst in The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. If we use up our time and energy by saying “yes” to many unnecessary things, we won’t have any time or energy to say YES to the best things. As Lysa says, we don’t become Wonder Woman; we become worn-out woman.

If you find yourself also in the position of wanting to devote more time to writing opportunities—but so many people are wanting your time—you might enjoy this book too. I expect I’ll be blogging about it in the future.

Time for Change

In the meantime, today when you are asked to postpone your writing in order to assist someone else, stop first. Think about it.

  • Does it really require your help?
  • Does it have to be right now?
  • If the person has to wait for your help, do they take care of it themselves? [This happens a lot!]
  • Is this just a normal problem any person would have in that situation or season of life? In that case, you might be doing them more of a favor if you let them struggle and grow and mature in their role.

And while they do that, you can struggle and grow and mature in your writing. A win-win solution!

Sometimes we worry so much about being selfish that we go overboard the other way. It’s not wrong to say “no” or “not now.” And if you do it often enough, you might actually get some writing done!

Posted in boundaries, Uncategorized, writing challenges | Tagged , | 4 Comments

No Motivation or Willpower? A Simple Solution

Motivation is a great thing to have, but note this: it’s unreliable. And because it’s unreliable, motivation is NOT a good strategy for making change in your writing life.

Motivation to write comes and goes. I love when it’s there. I love that “can’t wait to get to the keyboard” feeling about telling a story. I had it yesterday, as a matter of fact. Today a headache and list of unexpected “to do” items have derailed my motivation to get into the writing zone.

Willpower? Won’t Power!

The only alternative seems to be using willpower, but that’s a limited resource. You might start the day with a full tank of willpower. If nothing siphons off any of it, by the time you get to your writing, you can look at your goal and be determined. You can use that willpower to write those 2,000 words or whatever your big goal for the day includes.

But many things can use up willpower. Maybe before your writing time–which for many writers is later in the day–you have wrestled with a big decision. Or you went to the gym when you really didn’t want to. And you forced yourself to be pleasant to the clerk who wouldn’t get off her smartphone to wait on you. (Or you dealt with an obstinate toddler all morning.) We use bits and pieces–or big chunks–of willpower throughout the day. If you have little left when your writing time rolls around, you will look at your goals list (“write tomorrow’s blog post,” “outline chapter three,” “write 1,000 words”) and go to the fridge instead.

What’s the Answer?

Counting on motivation to help build good writing habits will give you mixed (and often disappointing) results. Feeling motivated is wonderful, but it is more of a bonus that you can’t count on. Motivation, based on your feelings, comes and goes. It can be affected by anything: low energy, headaches, rejection of any kind, you name it. If you base your writing success on being motivated, it will be very on-again-off-again. It won’t be the daily habit you want that will make you the most productive, help you grow the most, and let you truly enjoy your writing.

So, is it hopeless? No! You can count on writing habits.

As Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, said,

when you’re not motivated to do something, the “willpower cost” skyrockets. And when willpower cost is high, it makes it difficult for you to sustain a behavior over time (and build it into a habit).

Remember: willpower is limited. And I know from many years’ experience that if you grit your teeth with the Nike slogan on your lips (“Just do it!”), you’ll be productive and get sick. Not the happy solution you’re looking for.

For years, I believed those were my only options. I’d work hard to pump myself up with motivation. And when the motivation sagged, I’d invoke the willpower. And when I was low on willpower, I’d push harder and “just do it.” And then I’d get sick (sometimes from gorging on too much sugar, a dead-end in itself.)

Mini-Habits Trump Motivation and Willpower

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s blog, Not Enough Willpower to Reach Your Goals? Make Mini Habits!, creating mini-habits takes care of both problems (no motivation and low willpower). It is almost bizarre how our minds play tricks on ourselves. For days my goal was “write at least 2,000 words.” I just couldn’t get started. Each day had a different reason, but I didn’t feel motivated, I didn’t want to do the work to get motivated, and my willpower was low.

But when I switched to mini habits with mini goals, it all changed. My mini habit of “write 50 words” has consistently gone over the goal (and often over the 2,000 mark). It takes me so little willpower to get started if I only have to do 50 words and can quit. (That’s maybe 5-10 minutes of writing.) I still kept the goal at 50 words. [NOTE: My goal this morning was just to write 50 words for the blog--I'm up to 829 so far and not tired. But when I feel resistance kick in, I quit.]

Most important, I am building in my writer’s brain the idea that I write daily. I am also building the idea that getting started is easy. That might not sound like much, but it’s an area that has perplexed and depressed me much of my writing career.

A Simple Solution

Even if this sounds too simple, I urge you to try “mini habits” if a consistent writing life is a problem. Use tiny bits of willpower for mini goals. Realize that you can write every day, and often more than you intended. That will make you feel motivated from the inside fairly often. But even when you don’t feel motivated to write, you will know it doesn’t matter. Motivation is a bonus, but not necessary, because by then you will be in the writing habit.

And as we all know, writers write. That just means that writers have the habit of writing, plain and simple.

Posted in habits, motivation, Uncategorized, writing habits | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Not Enough Willpower to Reach Your Goals? Make Mini Habits!

“Focus on the process and you’ll be able to change your circumstances.” (Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results)

Another lesson I learned on my sabbatical was that my goals and desires outstripped my willpower.

I had high hopes and high expectations for the three months of the media “fast,” but I rarely was able to stick to my very carefully crafted daily schedule. It wasn’t the interruptions or distractions either. I simply felt overwhelmed by the goals I had set, even though I KNEW I had plenty of time to do them.

I hadn’t scheduled 12-hour writing days or anything. In fact, on paper, they looked quite easy for the days I was home alone all day:

  • 2 hours writing  
  • 2 hours of the DIY MFA studying  
  • 1 hour reading and research

Piece of cake, right? Especially since this was work I really, really wanted to do!

Willpower Burnout

I’ve survived and pushed through and gritted my teeth and met deadlines and ignored headaches for decades…using willpower. But as I faced writing the adult mysteries I signed contracts for, my willpower took a hike. I have no idea where it went, but it’s gone into hiding. When the willpower left, the panic arrived.

And then I read the book pictured above. I read a lot of books on focus, self-management, and the like. Most I don’t finish. Many I never get past the first few chapters. I had finally decided that there was nothing new under the sun.

But reviews for Mini Habits were wonderful and by people struggling with the same issues I was. I bought it and started it, not with any real hope, to be honest. But I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a day.

Mini Habits

The author’s scientifically researched, experience based, easy-to-read and understand book says this:  

You can succeed without the guilt, intimidation, and repeated failure associated with such strategies as “getting motivated,” New Year’s Resolutions, or even “just doing it.” In fact, you need to stop using those strategies if they aren’t giving you great results…It’s only when you start playing by your brain’s rules and taking your human limitations seriously–as mini habits show you how to do–that you can achieve lasting change.

From Hopeless to Hopeful

I couldn’t wait to try it. I was honestly amazed that something this simple could be so effective and stress-free!

And what are my new (silly sounding) daily mini writing goals?

  • Write or revise 50 words  
  • Read and do one page of my current craft book (My current one is called Voice Lessons.)
  • 15 minutes of research or professional reading

Has it worked? YES! For me, feeling overwhelmed and getting started has always been the hardest part. Having mini goals in order to create habits is so EASY. And just as he predicted, most of the time you’ll go over your mini habit goal. [For example, I am writing this blog using my "write 50 words today" goal. Until now, I forgot to check the word count, but it's up to 406 right here.]

However, the next time I sit down to write, I will NOT tell myself I must write 400 words. No…my internal resistance to that idea is almost immediate! A goal that size uses a lot more willpower. (Maybe not for you, but it does for me. We’re all different.)

My new writing goals for the day are so EASY to do, so non-threatening, that I don’t miss a day. The writing habit gets ingrained, my mind believes that getting started is now easy, and later I often WANT to sit down and knock off another 50 words (which, more often than not, stretches past 1,000 words before I want to stop.)

Stay Tuned!

In the coming blog posts, I’ll share some more insights I got from the book, but not so many that I plagiarize or anything.  By the time I’m done, though, I expect you’ll want to get this book. It was only $5.99 on my Kindle, although I read it with my free Kindle-for-PC app. (676 words written with no resistance!)

Posted in habits, Uncategorized, writing habits | Tagged , | 10 Comments