I have a secret.
I'm a lazy writer.
But I've written several books now, in spite of this fact. How? I simply learned a strategy, set some goals and kept plugging away until I met them. It's not very sexy. It wasn't super-expensive, didn't require four weeks at a posh writer's retreat or hours of counseling.
Just showing up to write is often the hardest part of the process.
In my soon-to-be-released book, The 15-Minute Writer: How to Write Your First Novel in Just 15 Minutes a Day, I compare the habit of writing (because really, that's what it becomes) to any other: flossing one's teeth, refraining from swearing, or starting an exercise program.
What stops you from showing up to write (or paint, or work on your business plan)?
It's helpful when you're trying to start a new habit, to begin small. Focus on just one area, Leo Babauta of the popular blog, Zen Habits says, and you will have success.
You say that you want to write ... but you don't do it. You'd like to take up painting again ... but you've been saying that for three years and have yet to pick up a brush.
Here are three tips that might help you get started on your creative project:
Often our resistance keeps us from starting. Don't let it. Just start. Start with five minutes or 10 or 15 but do begin. And see what happens.
Everyone is afraid of something. From Fear to Flourish, a bi-monthly series, will share true life stories of people who did something that scared them ... and how it changed their lives for the better.
Our first in the Fear to Flourish series is mother, writer, and athlete, Alexis Dubief, who runs the hugely popular blog, Troublesome Tots.
Ready? Let's begin!
Q: One time I was scared of:
Public Humiliation. Failure. The end of my dream.
Last summer I launched a Kickstarter campaign. I also did the Spartan Beast World Championship (see picture) but that’s another terrifying story, so for today we’re going to talk about Kickstarter.
The background is that I was offered and turned down a publishing contract (I still have huge fears about this being an enormous mistake but that also is a different terrifying story). As I got more embedded in the writing and publishing process I realized that getting the book out was going to be far more expensive than I had initially realized. A Kickstarter campaign seemed like a reasonable solution to the money issue.
Q: What was that like?
Here’s the thing about Kickstarter:
So financially, personally, and emotionally, I put a lot on the line with my Kickstarter campaign. I bet the farm. The prospect of failure was terrifying.
When it was time to launch my campaign I felt nauseous and had flop sweats. Not just for like, a few minutes, I’m talking days. I felt sick to my stomach for a full week.
Q: Why did you decide to tackle this particular fear?
I realized it was going to take money to put out the book that I wanted to put out. There was no other way around it. Yes Kickstarter was a do or die bet for me. But the alternative was quitting. Terrifying was better than quitting.
Q: How did you do that?
I don’t know if there is a method to tackling fear. For me it’s about 100% commitment.
I also consider the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario was public humiliation and the end of my dream of a book. Would I die? No. Would my family be harmed in any way? No. It would suck, but I would get through it. Eventually I could laugh about it. (There is very little you can’t laugh about if you try hard enough).
But I’ve never been a half-way sort of person. No dipping a toe in the pond. Go big or go home. So I committed to putting together the best Kickstarter campaign I could - I hired somebody to help me with video, graphic design, copyediting. (The campaign is long ended but you can see what I’m talking about here.)
I risked my own money, spent months NOT writing so I could work on it, spent an additional month promoting it (and not writing). It was a huge risk, a huge commitment, and a huge amount of money and time. If you’re going to do something DO IT. Do the best you can, commit as much as possible to making it a success. Scary or no.
Q: Was there a particular person and/or resource that helped you in the process?
Not really. Friends were amazingly and surprisingly supportive. My neighbor is an artist and takes a much more relaxed approach to things like this - his feedback was really helpful.
Q: What was the result?
My goal amount was $10K (note: you don’t actually get $10K in this scenario - there are tons of costs associated with Kickstarter including rewards for backers so I needed a big enough number to cover all those costs AND leave me with enough to make the book) and I ended up with over $17K. It was thrilling AND enormously validating. I’m full of self-doubt about this book (I’m not a writer, at best I’m a well-intended hack) and I don’t have the words for how much this validation meant and still means to me. It’s like a hug, and whenever I feel low I go back to Kickstarter and look at it. An Internet hug.
Any wise or encouraging words you'd like to share that I haven't asked you about?
This (see picture above). All the best things come from taking risks. This is how we grow as people. Even if you fail, you’ll be a better person for having tried. Just do it!
Thanks so much, Alexis, for not only sharing your inspiring story, but also for being our first guest in this series! Alexis's hugely popular blog, Troublesome Tots, provides insight into sleep issues for kids and funny, personable advice for parents. Want to reach Alexis directly? Reach out via Twitter or Facebook.
Are you good at nurturing?
Your first instinct may be to say, "no." After working all day, paying the bills, making dinner or doing laundry, taking care of the kids and/or pets, there's little left in the tank to use for nurturing yourself.
But does nurturing have to take hours? Must it involve expensive spa treatments or pricey weekend getaways?
How do you define nurturing?
Often the word brings up images of a mother bending over her baby in a crib, rubbing his back and humming a lullaby. Sometimes the word nurture makes us think of a career in the medical field or teaching profession. After all, these professionals spend their days taking care of other people's needs.
As a creative though, what does the word mean? We're told to "nurture our creativity," or maybe to "allow the muse to nurture," but what the heck does that really mean?
In a world that's rush-rush, helter-skelter, it's hard sometimes to know how to effectively nourish one's soul. How to carve out time to just be, and in being, find the creative deep down inside. (This article lists 7 tips for doing just that.) But I don't think that nurturing has to be all about big things. Or even about adding more to one's already over-full plate. Maybe it can just be about a certain frame of mind. A certain kindness in one's inner dialogue. A little bit of contentment in one's everyday life. What do you think?
I'm going to be embarking on another 20-day challenge in the month of February: adding 15 minutes of nurturing into each day. I'll be blogging about my progress here and, if you're interested in joining me, I would love to hear about your tips/tricks and successes (or lack thereof) with this experiment.
Sometimes the best thing to do when you don't know what to do is S-O-M-E-T-H-I-N-G.
I'm notorious for getting myself so caught up in the "what if's" and the "could happen's" that I become paralyzed at the starting gate. Not so in certain areas of my life--these, I've come to realize--are the areas where I feel more confident.
But when it comes time to try something new business-wise, particularly in public, I start to second guess every decision.
Should I really have said/written that?
Was that the right response?
Couldn't I have done a better job at that if I'd only ...
This is not only an unhealthy pattern, it's a self-destructive one.
One can't reach big goals if they don't first take tiny steps. And one can't know what their goals even are if they don't allow themselves the freedom of potentially screwing up. Big time. Tim Ferris talks about this in his book, The Four-Hour Work Week, as does Napoleon Hill in his famous work, Think and Grow Rich.
"So, how do I get un-stuck when I'm faced with trying something new and scary?"
For an example of what not to do: check out image of my cat, Magoo, above. He hasn't tried anything new in years. Look where it's gotten him!
Let's use a real-life example: this blog. For months I've been halfheartedly posting, wondering if I should just delete it from the website all together. I tried to follow what other mystery/action writers wrote about on their sites. Meg Gardiner has a great and funny blog. Hugh Howey's blog is interesting, entertaining and updated regularly.
Problem? I wanted to write about things that I'm passionate about, not necessarily mystery/action themes all the time. Things like helping other first-time authors, entrepreneurship and creativity. But how does all of that tie in with my mystery/action novels?
I didn't find the answer until I embarked on this January challenge. And even now, I'm still sorting out the details, clarifying my vision and future goals.
The point is that I wouldn't have gotten even close to clarifying my new vision if I hadn't taken the leap and done this challenge. If I hadn't been open to attending an author's panel last week on a bitter cold night ... if I was content with hemming and hawing and wishing things would be different ... but not doing anything to make them so.
So, whether you're facing a big decision like moving across the country or marrying someone, or a small one like whether or not to start working on your short story, take some action, any action in the direction you believe you should go and just see what happens.
It takes courage for sure. But the results will likely be better than you have ever dreamed possible.
Have you made a decision that you've been putting off for a long time out of fear or resistance? How did you feel afterward and what were the end results?
I'm a weird sort of writer. I like doing my own thing and rarely feel the need to go to events focused solely on writing. Sure, I've attended writer's conferences and the occasional workshop and enjoyed them.
But even though I'm a writer, I'm just as passionate about business. Sign me up for a course in marketing one's creative efforts or an afternoon workshop helping other first-time writers to get into a schedule and I'm happy as a clam. What I love most about both is the possibilities. Creating something new out of what wasn't there before is fascinating and exciting to me.
Which is why, sadly, I haven't paid much attention to this cool local resource, the Burlington Writers Workshop. Until last week.
I drove to Hotel Vermont (which is stunning by the way, more so in person) in downtown Burlington to attend a writer's panel. The focus on the discussion was writers and money and it was W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L. Not only did I get a lot out of what the speakers were saying but I chatted with a few other writers after the event and felt completely inspired when I left.
It's funny because as a fairly introverted person, I just assumed that I didn't need to have a group or tribe as Seth Godin calls it. Besides, I have writing friends in real life and sometimes we chat via email. More often though, it's taking time to be reflective and get reprieve from the bustle that I need as a creative.
There is something different though, really different, in sitting in a warm room on a cold, blustery winter night and talking about one's passion in life. Face to face, in the flesh.
I loved what each of the writers had to say. They talked about being true to your own voice, setting aside the time to write as "sacred" and understanding that rejection is just part of the process and that it should be expected. They talked about social networking and putting your work out into the world, looking for a "perfect" agent and finding the energy to write after a long, tiring day at work.
And while sometimes we assume that being creative for a living = no money, author and book coach, Suzanne Kinsbury said something that I loved, "In my experience, joy has led to money. If one person can make a living fro this, why can't I?"
Why can't you? Is there a particular situation or belief that you find holding you back? If so, what do you plan to do to change that? Or what support do you feel you need?
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