Just Keep Showing Up

This quote is from one of my favorite authors, Henry Cloud, co-author of the Boundaries books.

The last few months have been challenging, and I’m behind where I wanted to be on a deadline. So this quote is appropriate today.

I won’t obsess about the deadline. I will show up at my desk early every day to plant, water, weed, and nurture this plot.

Fruit will grow!


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The Power of Intermittent Recovery


From the book The Power of Full Engagement:

To be an effective energy manager, you need to spend nearly all of your time fully engaged in the high positive energy quadrant or recovering your energy by spending time doing things in the low positive energy quadrant.

Definition of Terms

The low positive energy quadrant consists of doing activities that leave you relaxed, mellow, peaceful, tranquil and serene. For me, that means reading a good book or watching a good movie or spending time with certain people with whom I’m on the same sympathetic wavelength.

For you, such positive-energy producing activities may include fishing, golf, sitting in your porch swing, listening to music, going for a bike ride or stroll, or any number of things. The important point is this: unless you spend sufficient short periods throughout your day in intermittent recovery, you’ll burn out and experience a host of other unpleasant symptoms.

Is It Really That Important?

Yes, if you spend all day writing furiously on your novel, zipping along in your high energy positive quadrant, you’ll produce an amazing amount of work. That day, anyway. Maybe even two days in a row, but that will be it.

By relentlessly spending mental energy without recovery, you’ll be tired, anxious, irritable—and self-doubt will inevitably set in. In a tired state, our stories stink, our ideas sound hackneyed, and our prose deadly dull. At that point, we end up taking off more time from the writing than we would have if we’d made ourselves take those intermittent breaks throughout the writing day. (Trust me on this. I speak from experience.)

The Pay-Off

What’s the result of taking those short “low positive energy” recovery breaks? You’ll come back to your work more energized, less ache-y in the neck and back, and more emotionally upbeat.

The emotional component is just as important as your physical energy level! Defusing the bombs of self-doubt and anxiety will help your writing as much as feeling re-energized. And in the end, you’ll write more, not less, by taking the short breaks throughout the day. This is one of my 2016 goals.

Now I think I’ll try it myself and step outside into the lovely Texas sunshine.

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Striving for Contentment

Would you call yourself a contented writer? Are you happy with your current situation and writing progress?

Or are you a dissatisfied writer, striving to better yourself and always pushing hard toward your goals? It’s something we are faced with all the time, but especially at goal-setting time.

Embrace Opposite Traits

To be honest, if you want to enjoy the writing life–if you want to enjoy the process, and not just the final product–you’ll have to find a way to embrace both contentment and the urge to grow and  improve. Why? Because BOTH traits are important to your well-being as a writer and directly influence your career.

At Peace with Writing

First, you need to be grateful for what you’ve learned as a writer. If you’re a student, or you’ve been writing on your own for several months or years, take a look at your earliest stories and articles. You’ll groan, or maybe grin, at what you considered great writing back then. You’ll see how much you’ve learned about the craft of writing as well as the business of publishing. You can be grateful that your skills aren’t what they used to be!

Giving yourself credit for how far you’ve come is important in keeping your spirits up. We melancholy writers are too quick to get down on ourselves, our abilities, our ideas, and our publishing record. This critical mind of ours (so very valuable during the editing phase) can also be our greatest enemy if we don’t “think about what we’re thinking about.”

It’s probably true that you aren’t where you want to be as a writer (I’m not either!), but be thankful that you’re not back at the very beginning. Take note of your progress with writing skills, marketing skills, how deeply you read, your new blog, and how your lessons are improving. This is being content as a writer. “Whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) It will allow you to enjoy the writing process.

[Caution: don't confuse being content with being complacent.  A complacent attitude says, "I've arrived. You can't teach me anything. I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I can coast from now on."  A complacent writer stops reading and studying and working at his craft the minute he emails his final lesson or makes his first big sale. Complacency keeps you stuck in one spot--and eventually you start sliding backwards.]

Striving to Grow

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the desire to mature in your writing, and the inner gumption to press forward and make it happen. It’s enjoying your progress while at the same time moving forward to learn even more.

It’s being consistent in your learning curve. (By consistency, I mean devoting a certain amount of time almost daily to your writing growth. Maybe it’s thirty minutes of reading writers’ blogs or writing magazines. Maybe it’s studying a good writing craft book or taking an online class or webinar.)

Juggling Act

Like so many things in life, you have to find the balance here. You want to have enough “drive” to make steady progress in your career–but not end up “driven.” Trust me on this–”driven” is no fun. It comes with ulcers and headaches. On the other hand, you want to enjoy your writing life, and that means learning to be content in whatever stage you’re in. BUT you don’t want to be so content that you become complacent.

It sounds confusing, but it’s not really. Being happy with your writing while striving to learn and write better is akin to being in the zone for me. Slipping out of that zone, on either side, brings doubts and pressure. Pay attention to how you feel about your writing. Make course corrections, if necessary, to remain a happy writer.

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Happy New Year Tomorrow!

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Self-Care for Writers Series

If your year has included sickness and/or a lot of deadlines, and you’re dragging yourself into the New Year, I want to point you to a series on self-care for writers.

I am making self-care my “push goal” for 2016. (Michael Hyatt calls a push goal the one goal that, if you met it, would greatly impact all your other goals.) Recovered health will impact my new year more than anything else at this point.

Here is the series. As Cec Murphy says, it’s for writers who only write an hour or who write full-time. Enjoy! Take better care of yourself!

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