Five Ways To Show Up For Your Own Writing

Daphne Gray-Grant

Daphne Gray-Grant

One of my most admired writing sages is a gracious lady named Daphne Gray-Grant.  She was first brought to my attention by Stephanie Ciofalo, one of the very talented writers at FantasyFic.com and a contributor of two stories to the anthology Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories.

I read the first article of Daphne’s that Stephanie posted on our forum.  I was amazed and wanted to know who this lady was who knew so much about what went on inside me when I wrote.  Steph told me and added, “I believe she is a countrywoman of yours.”  Yup, turns out that Daphne lives in the beautiful province of British Columbia.  I followed her writing after that, became a subscriber to her site and her newsletter, and thrived on her advice.  Her last Power Writing post, as she calls them, blew me away.  I asked Daphne if I could reblog it, and she graciously consented.  Without further ado, heeeeeeeeeeere’s Daphne:

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Do you make a commitment to write, and then fail to live up to it? Here are five ways to stop sabotaging your goal….

FIVE WAYS TO SHOW UP FOR YOUR OWN WRITING

A few weeks ago, my husband made a date for us. He agreed that we’d both meet some friends at a nearby mountain, snowshoe into a lodge, eat dinner there and listen to some bluegrass music. At first, it sounded like fun! But as departure time approached, I grew leery.

The friends are perfectly nice, but I don’t know them terribly well. It was really cold out and I’m easily chilled. My back hurt and wouldn’t all that snowshoeing make it worse? Blah, blah and blah.

I went only because I’d promised. I was even grumpy on the snowshoe in to the lodge, although both the weather and the snow were perfect. In fact, it took me until we started dancing (in hiking boots!) to have a really good time. On the snowshoe home, I was raving about what a spectacular evening we’d enjoyed.

Funny how things change in retrospect, isn’t it?

I find the same feeling of dread frequently plagues writers before we write. We delay and procrastinate, finding a zillion other things to do, but when (if?) we finally sit down to do it, writing is not nearly as awful as we’d imagined it to be.

"I now pronounce you author and novel - to love and cherish and complete each other."

If you have a hard time getting yourself to show up for your own writing, here are five tips:

1)    Know that “discipline” is an illusion. Yes, there are people who write every day — just as there are people who exercise every day. But this has little to do with “discipline” and more to do with motivation. The people who do any task regularly do it because they have a darn good reason. Find your motivation for writing and remind yourself of it constantly, perhaps with a picture of whatever motivates you propped on your desk or taped to your computer.

2)    Be sure to reward yourself for meeting your writing goals. Don’t just use the stick — remember the power of the carrot (or the latte, or the 20 minutes on Facebook).  And make those rewards frequent. If you’re writing every day, you need at least one reward a week, maybe more than that.

3)    Start small. Big tasks are always overwhelming and it’s easy to postpone them. So, if you want to write every day (which is a great idea, by the way) then start with a time that’s a small fraction of what you eventually intend to achieve. It’s better to do a little bit of something every day than a whole lot of something once a week — even if you contribute exactly the same total number of minutes.

4)    Monitor how you’re speaking to yourself while writing and shut down the negative comments. Yes, we all talk to ourselves. And writers are among the harshest self-critics I know. Don’t allow yourself to get away with that! When your inner voice tells you your writing is boring, tell it that you’ll deal with that concern later.

5)    Make a precise commitment. Don’t vow to “become a better writer.” (That’s way too vague.) Instead commit to writing for x number of minutes per day or producing x number of words per day. Furthermore, make this commitment public, perhaps by finding a writing buddy with whom you can share your goals. (I’ve written this newsletter every week for five years now only because I promised you I would. Without that promise, I would certainly have slacked off ages ago.)

As Woody Allen says, eighty percent of success is showing up. Be sure not to miss your own date with your writing.

The above newsletter is © 2011 by Daphne Gray-Grant.  All rights reserved. 

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About Daphne Gray-Grant.  A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.

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8 responses to “Five Ways To Show Up For Your Own Writing

  1. Great advice. So simple and basic too. At first glance advice t like this seems to just be the same thing you’ve heard several times before, but actually it can be very easy to lose your motivation. Just reading these tips gave me a bit of a lift. Thank you.

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  2. Thanks, Daphne.

    I have the opposite problem . . . motivating myself to STOP writing:

    “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” ~ Isaac Asimov

    “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” ~ Gloria Steinem

    Cheers!

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  3. Joel, yes it is incredibly easy to lose your motivation. NRHatch, do you realize how unusual you are? (People who have a hard time stopping writing, often have an equally hard time self-editing, though….) I love the Isaac Asimov quote!

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  4. I think when I’m writing it’s the only time I’m NOT talking to myself! Honestly, I get *looks* at work and at the store sometimes…

    No, I know what you’re saying and we’re all our own harshest critics. If I had a nickel for every time I told someone they weren’t as bad as they think (or for every time someone told it to ME), I could quit my job and go live on my own private island.

    And breaking huge tasks into smaller ones? It’s just one of those things I know I should do but it’s so hard to get it started sometimes. I do end up doing it but it causes me no end of stress prior. Then it’s done and sometimes I’ll sit and stare in slack-jawed wonder, saying “That wasn’t bad at all!”

    For writerly quotes to live by, my favorite is Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

    Or Peter DeVries: “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

    How do you write? You just have to sit down and do it. Getting started is tough but for me, there’s a magic after those first couple words…they just don’t stop and I’m not entirely sure where they’re coming from after a while 😉

    Thank you for the newsletters, Daphne. I’ve enjoyed them in my inbox for quite some time…and I’ve been “pushing” them on Sandra for almost as long!

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    • You’re pretty smart for an over-achiever, Stephanie. But then I’ve seen how you work…blinding flashes of genius, interspersed between grumbling and steady spates of writing. I’m glad you kept “bugging” me about Daphne’s column.

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  5. I love the straight forward advice, thanks Daphne for writing it and thanks Sandra for sharing! The first tip is so true! Discipline is a daunting word. People feel they either have it or they don’t. Instead of finding it in them it can just become discouraging. When I give health (diet, exercise, supplement) advice I encourage my clients to find what gives them joy doing. If you don’t like to run, don’t choose that as your exercise, you won’t be motivated to do it no matter how much discipline you try to muster up. Sometimes it feels like I’m looking up a long dusty trail when I sit down to write, knowing what motivates me makes all the difference in the world.

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