Tag Archives: Motivation

Why Writers Need Confidence—5 Ways to Boost Yours

I attended a week-long writing workshop once that nearly destroyed my confidence as a writer. Though workshops can be very helpful, it depends on the teacher, and this particular one didn’t know how to guide and motivate writers.

There are many times in a writer’s career when something happens to zap our confidence, and that’s not good, because self-confidence may be the one thing that separates successful writers from those who never reach their goals.

The question then becomes: How do you get that confidence back, or find it in the first place?

What Kind of Confidence Do Writers Need?

First, it’s important to know what kind of confidence we’re talking about here. This isn’t about inflating your ego, bragging, or believing you’re special. In fact, these types of beliefs—often associated with the high “self-esteem”—can actually be detrimental to success.

In a 2013 study, psychologist Jean Twenge and colleagues examined the results of the “American Freshman Survey,” which asks students to rate how they measure up to their peers. Results showed that over the past few decades, there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of students who think they’re “above average.”

These students are also more likely to label themselves as gifted in writing ability, interestingly enough, even though objective test scores show that actual writing ability has decreased since the 1960s.

A related study showed there has been a 30 percent increase in narcissistic attitudes over the past few decades. Unfortunately, despite popular belief, the “self-esteem” movement that encouraged parents and teachers to tell children to believe they were great no matter what, has not been found to lead to success.

Students who were struggling with their grades, for example, who received encouragement aimed at boosting their self-esteem, were actually found to perform worse. Scientists believe these types of interventions removed the motivation to work hard, which is always necessary for true success in anything.

Instead, the way to bolster achievement is to nurture a form of self-confidence called “self-efficacy.” This is the belief that you can succeed in a specific situation or accomplish a particular task if you set your mind to it—you can finish that novel, self-publish your book, recover from that scathing critique, or create a successful launch.

“You need to believe that you can go out and do something but that’s not the same as thinking that you’re great,” Twenge says. She suggests you picture a swimmer attempting to learn a new skill, like turning quickly. Self-efficacy means the person believes she can obtain that skill if she works hard enough. Self-esteem is the belief that she’s a great swimmer, regardless of whether she learns the skill or not.

Self-efficacy is the type of confidence we need as writers.

Why Writers Need Self-Confidence

Self-efficacy (or self-confidence) effects a number of things that determine whether or not we reach our goals, including one super important thing—how well we learn.

Learning is a huge part of a writing career. Not only are we continually learning how to improve our skills as writers, but we’re also learning about publishing, self-publishing, marketing, building a platform, and more. With each change in the industry or new technological wonder, we have to go back to being students, just to keep up.

Self-efficacy also determines how well we respond to the inevitable difficulties that crop up. In their findings, Tuckman and Sexton (1992) suggested that participants with higher self-efficacy were better at searching for solutions to problems and were more persistent when working on difficult tasks—qualities that writers definitely need. People with low self-efficacy, on the other hand, were more likely to give up more easily.

Albert Bandura, psychologist at Stanford University, wrote in a paper on self-efficacy: “Perceived self-efficacy is defined as people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave.”

Note the huge implications there – self-efficacy effects how we:

  • think,
  • feel,
  • motivate ourselves, and
  • behave!

And isn’t that everything that’s involved in writing? If any of these things are off, don’t we falter in reaching our goals?

Says bestselling author and speaker Margie Warrell, “It’s been long established that the beliefs we hold—true or otherwise—direct our actions and shape our lives. The good news is that new research into neural plasticity reveals that we can literally rewire our brains in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior at any age.”

That means if you don’t feel this type of self-confidence when facing the page, or considering any other move in your career, you can change that.

5 Ways to Boost Your Writer’s Self-Confidence

There are several practical, realistic ways you can boost your writer’s confidence. (Find more in the free report, below.) Here are five ways to get started.

  1. Don’t Give Up On Yourself

As noted above, those with low self-efficacy give up quickly, while those with high self-efficacy—or self-confidence—continue to work to find solutions. We often put limits on ourselves in terms of how much we can learn—when things don’t go well the first time, we tend to think it’s hopeless.

“[The learning curve] is really steep initially,” says professor and study author Darron Billeter. “There’s some pain associated with it, but we’re actually improving. You’re going to be better than you think you are and are going to learn it quicker than you think you are.”

Here’s where you need to be your own best cheerleader. Tell yourself you can do it, and keep trying.

Here’s another tip: talk to yourself in the third person. Research has shown that you can motivate yourself better that way!

For example: “Eileen, you can finish this novel. Just keep going.” Or, “Adam, just because your first self-publishing attempt didn’t turn out as you hoped, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it better this time.”

  1. Remember that Actions Lead to Results

Too often we think we’re just supposed to “believe in ourselves,” but in truth, it’s when we take clear, concrete action that we boost self-confidence.

Typically when you start anything new—whether that be writing, publishing, or some other related activity—you’re likely to feel unsure about it. Your confidence may be low, and your fear may be high. The important thing is to act anyway. The moment you do, your energy and motivation will increase, which will help you keep going.

Then, with every action you take, your skills will increase. You’ll learn something, and that learning will boost your confidence. So don’t let fear stand in your way—just do it!

  1. Be Realistic About Your Abilities

True self-confidence stems from knowing exactly what your skills are, so you can take steps to improve them.

“Exceptional achievers always experience low levels of confidence and self-confidence,” says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at University College London and at Columbia University, “but they train hard and practice continually until they reach an acceptable level of competence.”

For a writer, that means getting those critiques, working with an editor, and being open to improvement. Just be sure to guard your creative self when you’re going about these activities.

Your best approach: always get more than one critique. Submit to contests that supply more than one, or ask two editors to give you a sample edit. That way you can compare and contrast the feedback, ignore the subjective comments, and work on those all the critiques have in common.

  1. Imagine Yourself Successful

This is a type of meditation in which you imagine yourself going through all the steps you need to go through to succeed, and eventually succeeding.

Keep in mind—this isn’t simply imagining yourself with your published book in your hands, or your sales numbers rising. It’s imagining the process you’re going to go through and the hoped-for outcome. Imagining each step puts your unconscious mind to work at making sure you follow through on those steps.

If you want to increase those sales numbers, for instance, imagine each task you’re going to complete to reach more readers.

“If you can’t imagine yourself being successful,” says Hendrie Weisinger Ph.D., “confidence will be hard to come by. Confident people have a history of having playful positive visualizations of themselves in all sorts of moments.”

  1. See Failures as Successes

So your agent wasn’t able to sell your first book. You can look at that as a failure, or you can reframe your view of the event—thus, boosting your self-confidence.

According to the authors of the book, Learning, Remembering, Believing: “If one has repeatedly viewed these experiences as successes, self-confidence will increase; if these experiences were viewed as failures, self-confidence will decrease.”

How can you view what seems to be a failure as a success? Write down everything you learned, including the skills you gained, and realize that even if it didn’t turn out as you hoped, you still pocketed the experience. That means you are, essentially, “more experienced” than you were before, and your next attempt will likely benefit from that experience.

By the way, the more difficult the experience was—writing a novel, publishing a book, launching a book, etc.—the more it may boost your confidence. “The influence that performance experiences have on perceived self-confidence also depends on the perceived difficulty of the task,” the authors wrote, as well as on “the effort expended.”

Stay Confident In Your Ability to Improve

In closing, remember this: you can always learn more and improve your skills, no matter what. Have confidence in that.

“There will always be people smarter, there will always be people richer, there will always be people more competent,” says psychologist Audrey Brodt. “The issue is self-improvement, and that will come if you apply yourself and persevere.”

Source: writersinthestormblog.com

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How to Get Past Excuses and Finish Your Writing!

Do you struggle with finishing? Believe me, I’ve been there.

Perseverance has never really been my thing.

I was the one in school that could easily write papers, finish assignments, and obtain excellent grades with very little effort.

But as soon as something difficult came along, I would give up. Any iota of resistance would stop me in my tracks.

Sound familiar?

In 2008, I decided to write a book.

I was fairly young and had absolutely no clue what I was doing, but I managed to eke out a completed manuscript. It took me about a year to figure out what I wanted to write about and get past the first page, then another year to complete the first draft. It was hard, but fun-hard, and I loved it.

Then the editing began.

And it was just plain hard-hard. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to crawl in a hole, pay someone vast sums of money to edit it for me, then have a bunch of people pay me thousands of dollars to read my perfect words.

Sounds like a dream, right?

But here’s the thing: it’s not that easy.

Though I labored over the manuscript for eight years (eight years!) through multiple revisions and changes and got absolutely frustrated with how long it seemed to be taking, the time spent was absolutely necessary to the process. I was honing my manuscript, discovering what it was meant to be, similar to Michelangelo sculpting David:

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo

My book was inside me; I just needed to write it. Even though it wasn’t what I first wrote (or even what I wrote second or third), eventually the story was exactly what it was supposed to be.

I had people telling me I wouldn’t ever finish it, had my own voice inside my head telling me it wasn’t worth the hard work, had family who wouldn’t read a single word.

Yet I managed to keep going—the person who would never stick with anything—and somehow ended up with a completed manuscript.

But it wasn’t by accident, and it doesn’t have to be for you, either.

So how did I get past all the excuses I made up in my head and the doubts others threw my way to stick with it until it was done?

I stopped letting the negativity and the doubts take hold in my mind, taught myself to follow these five excuse-eliminating tenets, and finally stepped into the writer I was meant to be.

  1. Believe in Yourself and the Work Only You Can Do

Even though it sounds cheesy, a strong belief that I was given this story and needed to get it out into the world helped me through many hard days. If you have a passion for writing, don’t let other people or excuses you make up rob you and the world of your voice. Somewhere, someone needs to hear what you have to say in the way only you can say it.

Be brave, and believe in yourself and your work.

  1. Let Go of What Others Think About You

I know this is a hard one, but too often we give in to the opinions that others speak into our lives. When we do this, when we let this poison enter our minds, we eventually find ourselves living lives we don’t recognize. Show love to others, but don’t let their opinions of who you should be dig roots in your mind.

Only you truly know who you should be. So live YOUR best life.

  1. Give Up Your Feelings of Inadequacy

You are enough. Just you. Hone your craft, develop it like any other muscle, but you are a writer the moment you write a single word. Don’t let anyone—most importantly, yourself—convince you otherwise.

  1. Write Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

There will be minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months you won’t feel like writing. Do it anyway. You won’t get any better by not writing. The book won’t get done any quicker, either. I wish I would’ve taken this to heart sooner!

  1. Learn as Much as You Can

Writing may feel like a lonely profession, but there are scores of writers on social media and in your community who you can connect with to develop a network of like-minded people. Learn as much as you can from each other. Learn the craft, the community, the best practices, take the courses and then… learn how to break the rules. That’s my favorite part.

Have you let the excuses you make up in your head hold you back from completing that blog post, that manuscript, that series? Have you listened to the voices of others telling you you’ll never finish?

Resolve today to give up that mindset, ignore those lies, and step into the truth that you are a writer, you are enough, and you have a story that the world needs to hear.

By Bryan Hutchinson
Source: positivewriter.com

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How to Stay Motivated When You’re Not Making Progress

Writer’s block is real. Every writer, at one point or another, has experienced this debilitating inability to make any real progress in his or her work.

Note: This is a guest post by Jordan Conrad, he’s the founder and publisher of WritingExplained.org. With free articles on English usage and basic grammar, Writing Explained is an essential resource for editors, freelancers, and authors alike. Connect with Jordan on Twitter at @Writing_Class.

Like a 17th century galleon in the equatorial doldrums, we endure a bout of creative stillness, when productivity starves to death in a windless mental seascape where nothing is visible on any horizon.

Well, maybe that’s a little melodramatic. Nevertheless, a lack of progress can be discouraging for anyone, and sometimes it’s difficult to maintain the motivation needed to complete a long project.

If you’re not feeling motivated, it’s not a reflection of your abilities as a writer. Creativity can seem to ebb and flow according to its own schedule, and we all have to find a way to cope with the slow periods in anticipation of the next big spark.

What to Do When Progress Eludes You

Let’s take a look at a few ways to deal with writer’s block. Whenever I feel less than inspired, I start here.

I hope you can use these same strategies to stay motivated in your own writing when it seems as if you aren’t making any progress.

Strategies for Staying Motivated

Take it one day at a time.

Try to write every day, even if it’s only a small amount. It doesn’t have to be your best work—you can always go back and revise it later.

Sometimes it only takes one tiny, unexpected breakthrough to get back on track. These breakthroughs will come much easier if you’re actively writing.

Remember that progress is a relative term.

You don’t have to write an entire book in a single day. Progress can be measured in small amounts.

Even if you only write a few words or sentences, you are still making progress. Those are sentences that you hadn’t written at the beginning of the day, so even if it’s only a little bit, you’re that much closer to being finished.

Set manageable goals.

Too often, writers get bogged down by word counts and page numbers. If you wanted to be at 3,000 words and you’re only at 750, those last 2,250 probably aren’t all going to come at once.

Likewise, the page number indicator at the bottom of your word processor window can sometimes do more harm than good. If your page count is far behind where you expected, it might be better not to look at it—or to find a way to turn it off.

You can’t finish an entire project in one sitting, so set small goals for yourself. You’ll get a confidence boost when you achieve them, and that little boost can keep you motivated to reach your next goal.

Try writing 500 words instead of 5,000, or a single page instead of ten.

Try working on something else for a while.

This works best if you, like many writers (including this author), always have multiple projects running at the same time.

Stuck on one project? There are probably five or ten more that could use your attention. Pick one you’re excited about and work on that one for a while. That should get your creative juices flowing again, and you might be able to transfer that excitement back over to the one that has you at a standstill.

The new project doesn’t even have to be in the same medium. Are you also a photographer, a musician, or a maker in addition to being a writer? Take a break from writing and shoot some portraits, or learn a new song, or 3D print something.

Take a break and do something fun.

Your brain is like a muscle—if you strain it for too long, you will use up your cognitive resources. It’s important to take breaks every so often to give your mind a chance to recharge and rebalance.

Try doing something you enjoy, even if it’s not productive. If you enjoy video games, devote half an hour to one of your favorites to reward yourself.

Breaks can quickly become distractions, though, so set strict time limits and stick to them.

You can combine this technique with setting manageable goals to build a contingent reward system that will keep you motivated. Alternate periods of productivity with enjoyable activities, so that you make progress without wearing yourself out. Like a carrot on a stick, contingent rewards can help you boost your productivity without burning out and getting discouraged.

End Note

There are times in every writer’s life where progress seems to come only in short fits and spurts, and projects come grinding to an unexpected halt. This is part of the natural creative cycle for many writers, and it’s usually just a matter of time before the juices start flowing again.

Still, a lack of progress is never enjoyable, and there are strategies you can use to stay motivated when your work isn’t going how you planned.

The above are all strategies I use personally, but there are many more out there. Don’t be discouraged if progress eludes you—if you’re patient for long enough and keep these tips in mind, it’s only a matter of time before you’re up and writing again.

By Bryan Hutchinson
Source: positivewriter.com

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7 Ways to Encourage Young Writers

I wrote my very first novel on the rainbow-colored pages of a Hello Kitty notebook. I was eight. It definitely read like an eight-year-old’s first novel, but it also was over 80 pages of a story with characters, a plot, and dialogue. I had a lot of maturing and growing to do, but even then I knew I was a WRITER. My parents encouraged this every step of the way and their support fostered creativity and faith in myself as a writer. Because of this new age of digital media, we have many more opportunities than ever before. This can be a great thing, but it also has some pitfalls. Here are 7 ways to encourage young writers.

A Note to Parents: These suggestions may not be suitable for young writers of all ages, especially the ones related to the internet. I would recommend you continue to use the common sense and boundaries that you already have in place with regards to these!

A Note to Young Writers: If you are reading, I’m so glad you are here! Please contact me if you have questions or need more resources. I would love to help you on your writing journey.

7 Ways to Encourage Young Writers

1. Buy a domain.

Do this right now. Immediately. Domains are a commodity and it would be great for you to own your child’s name.com right now. It costs less than $10 to buy and keep one as a placeholder, even if you don’t want a website yet. (More thoughts on owning your own name.) Do make the domain private (a paid service) so your family address, email, and other information cannot be accessed. If you DO choose to actually make a site, this will represent your young writer, so do be professional. Consider gifting this as a graduation present, as I have known some parents to do.

2. Get a Twitter handle.

Many social media platforms come and go. Twitter is, I think, in it for the long haul. Facebook also might be, but with it’s ever-changing algorithms for pages, I would recommend Twitter. I have also found that Twitter is a great place to make connections with other writers and reveals less than a Facebook profile. (Some tips for using Twitter!) Encourage your child to use it as a WRITER, not simply as interaction with friends. (If your child uses Twitter with friends, perhaps set up a separate Author Twitter handle.) Read these tips on how to use Twitter as an author.

3. Find community through Wattpad.

Wattpad is a place where writers can register, post their work, and read the work of others. Many people use it to reveal their work chapter by chapter, receiving comments and shares from other Wattpad users. Writers can be inspired by other writers, connect with new readers, and be part of a community. *A word of caution to parents: Not ALL writing on Wattpad is appropriate for all ages. Check it out with and for your child and make appropriate boundaries.

4. Set up good work habits & goals. 

Writing should stay fun. But young writers can also learn about writing as a craft. Whether that is taking classes, attending a conference (like the Teen Book Con here in Houston), or simply setting up a time to write each day, young writers can learn good habits now that will help in the long run. Encourage your child to both foster creativity and also discipline.

5. Consider self-publishing on Amazon.

Every year in elementary school, I entered the Young Authors competition (and even won a few years). It was my favorite time of year because I got to write a book, then bind it together and hold it in my hands. There is something magical about holding your own book in your hands!! My nephew just published his first book on Amazon & Create Space and I couldn’t be prouder! But I use the word “consider” seriously. The only flip side to self-publishing is that the internet has a long shelf-life. Perhaps later on, your child might be embarrassed for that work to represent him or her. That work will carry his or her name (which could be a privacy concern) and will represent him or her. If you do decided to make the book available to the public, take it seriously. Hire an editor to make the work polished. Make sure the book formats correctly and also has a slick cover!

My nephew with his self-published book, flanked by proud grandparents!

6. Start an email list. 

This may sound like a strange one, but if your young writer does want to become a serious published author one day, starting an email list would be an asset. For now, it could be dormant like a website. Maybe it would be friends and family to start with, but your young writer could collect emails and add them to the list along the way. If he or she does publish on Amazon or Wattpad or has any fun writerly news, this email list could be the place to share it. No one EVER regrets starting an email list too early. (Read how to start an email list.) An email list is a valuable digital commodity and would be a huge resource to start early.

7. Encourage reading. 

I don’t know any writers who were not also voracious readers as children. Read with your child and to your child. Take your young writer to author readings and to the library. Budget for books. Spend time in book stores. Allow for extra time at night for reading before bed. Mix up the kinds of books for your child—maybe encourage him or her to read one classic for every two or three modern or YA books. Readers don’t always write. But writers always READ.

 

How were you encouraged by your parents as a writer? Or how have you fostered creativity and writing habits in your child? 

Source: createifwriting.com

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CHARACTER MOTIVATION THESAURUS

A compelling goal is one of the cornerstones of strong fiction, but conveying why the character is driven to achieve it is what draws readers in and makes them care. Explore all angles of character arc by digging deep into what is motivating your protagonist, the obstacles that could stand in their way, and how sacrifices may play a role if the character is to succeed.

ACHIEVING SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT

AVOIDING CERTAIN DEATH

AVOIDING FINANCIAL RUIN

BEATING A DIAGNOSIS OR CONDITION

BECOMING A LEADER OF OTHERS

BEING ACKNOWLEDGED OR APPRECIATED BY FAMILY

BEING THE BEST AT SOMETHING

CARING FOR AN AGING PARENT

CARRYING ON A LEGACY

CATCHING THE BAD GUY OR GIRL

COMING TO GRIPS WITH A MENTAL DISORDER

COPING WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY OR ILLNESS (KIDLIT)

DEALING WITH BULLIES (KIDLIT)

DISCOVERING ONE’S TRUE SELF

DOING THE RIGHT THING (KIDLIT)

EMBRACING A PERSONAL IDENTITY (KIDLIT)

ESCAPING A DANGEROUS LIFE ONE NO LONGER WANTS TO LIVE

ESCAPING A KILLER

ESCAPING CONFINEMENT

ESCAPING DANGER (KIDLIT)

ESCAPING HOMELESSNESS

ESCAPING INVADERS

ESCAPING WIDESPREAD DISASTER

EXPLORING ONE’S BIOLOGICAL ROOTS

FINDING A LIFELONG PARTNER

FINDING FRIENDSHIP OR COMPANIONSHIP

FITTING IN (KIDLIT)

GIVING A CHILD UP

HAVING A CHILD

HELPING A LOVED ONE RECOGNIZE THEY ARE HURTING THEMSELVES AND OTHERS

NAVIGATING A CHANGING FAMILY SITUATION (KIDLIT)

OBTAINING SHELTER FROM THE ELEMENTS

OVERCOMING ABUSE AND LEARNING TO TRUST

OVERCOMING ADDICTION

OVERCOMING A FEAR (KIDLIT)

PROTECTING ONE’S HOME OR PROPERTY

PURSUING JUSTICE FOR ONESELF OR OTHERS

PURSUING MASTERY OF A SKILL OR TALENT

REALIZING A DREAM

RECONCILING WITH AN ESTRANGED FAMILY MEMBER

RESCUING A LOVED ONE FROM A CAPTOR

RESISTING PEER PRESSURE (KIDLIT)

RESTORING ONE’S NAME OR REPUTATION

RIGHTING A DEEP WRONG

STOPPING AN EVENT FROM HAPPENING

SURVIVING THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE

TRYING SOMETHING NEW (KIDLIT)

TRYING TO SUCCEED WHERE ONE HAS PREVIOUSLY FAILED

WINNING A COMPETITION

Source: onestopforwriters.com

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Encouraging Words for Writers: 3 Essential Reminders for Struggling Writers

There are a lot of things that stop us from writing. Fear of failure, discouragement, and exhaustion are my big three. Sometimes, what we need to push through those barriers is a reminder of who we are and why we do what we do. We need someone to come alongside us and speak encouraging words for writers.

We need to be told again the stories that have led us to the place we are now.

3 Encouraging Reminders for Writers

On the wall of my office, I have a collage of quotes and pictures that have inspired me. Each quote represents a story from my past. I read over them whenever I need a boost of encouragement (which is at least once a day).

These encouraging words for writers are a wonderful source of strength for me. Many of the quotes on the wall are from friends and family who had the right words for me at the exact right time.

Here are three I lean on regularly to get me through rough patches.

1. “Work the process.”

My mentor said this to me at a moment when I was completely lost.

Things at work were falling apart. Several projects had started to break down at the same time, another staff member had verbally attacked me in a staff meeting, and I was being accused of something I didn’t do. On top of that, the organization I worked for was in financial trouble and I wasn’t sure we were going to turn things around.

I called my mentor to ask for help because I had no idea what to do next. We sat in an empty hallway in the basement of the building. It was late and everyone had gone home. Leaning against the painted cinderblock wall, I explained to him in detail everything that was going wrong and all the extravagant plans and drastic measures I had designed in my head that would turn things around.

After hearing me out, he said, “Work the process.” I asked him to explain.

“Don’t do anything extravagant. Don’t take drastic action. There are processes in place. Work the process.”

Often as a writer, I work myself into a dark place. I begin to feel like my writing is worthless. I grow discouraged and lose focus. I find a thousand things to do instead of writing the next chapter.

When I get in that head space, I remind myself to “work the process.”

There is a process to my writing. I write after my family has gone to sleep. I sit at my kitchen table with my laptop, a drink, and a notepad, I skim the last chapter I wrote, I look at my outline, and then I write the next chapter.

When life is hard and I don’t feel like writing, the process keeps me focused and moving in the right direction.

It’s not extravagant. It’s not drastic. It is mundane and routine; and when things get hard, that’s exactly what we need.

2. “No one is going to die on the table.”

I wasn’t prepared for the pre-med course load I took on my sophomore year of college.

My freshman year, I’d been a music major. Since the classes were mostly about performing, I’d been able to wing it with a minimal amount of preparation. Instead of working hard in the practice rooms each day, I learned to play racquetball and became a regular on the basketball court.

Predictably, my disdain for practice made it clear to me and my teachers that I wasn’t going to cut it as a musician, so I decided to pursue one of my other interests, science. While I loved the classes, I was not prepared for the amount of studying that was required.

By the time I got to my midterms, I was way behind in multiple classes.

The night before three tests, a group of friends who were in class with me came over to study. We blew through our biology and chemistry notes in our first three hours together and I felt good about my prospects in the morning.

A little before midnight, we began studying for physics. I hated physics. Sitting at my small round kitchen table, my friends rattled off formulas, made up problems for one another, and answered practice questions with ease. I, on the other hand, was completely lost.

After an hour and a half of trying to “get it,” I excused myself from the study session, claiming I needed to get something from my bedroom. Hiding in my closet so no one could hear me, I began to cry. I called my dad and explained through tears what was happening. I was sure I was going to fail the test and it was too late for me to do anything about it.

After calming me down, he said several things to me that night that have stayed with me. One of which was, “Listen, if you fail tomorrow, no one is going to die on the table.”

Dad was a surgeon who primarily saw high-risk patients. When someone got to him, it was life-or-death. If he messed up or came to work unprepared, someone might literally die on the table.

The words he gave me that night were a fantastic reality check that I’ve used again and again. They’ve helped me take risks and push through fear. When my fear of failure begins to slow me down, I remember sitting in my closet and getting a good dose of perspective from my dad.

Through the years, fear has stayed with me. It is the greatest enemy of writing. Many nights I will sit down to write a chapter and hear fear in my ear whispering, “You’ve got nothing. You’re not a real writer. Stop kidding yourself. You’re going to fail.”

When that voice comes around, I remind myself of the stakes. If I write a terrible chapter, no one is going to die on the table. I’ll just erase it and try again tomorrow.

Having a refreshed perspective helps me move through fear and write.

3. “The tension is good.”

It was after midnight. My friend and I were alone on the second floor of a bar. On the table in front of us were stacks of meeting notes and ideas we’d sketched out together over the years. We were drinking coffee, talking about a non-profit we were both serving, and dreaming up ways to solve all the organization’s problems.

There were some amazing things happening in the organization. We were seeing real breakthroughs in the community we served and people were being helped.

At the same time, we could feel the organization hadn’t reached its full potential. We knew what it could be, but we weren’t sure how to get it there.

We thought that maybe, if we tweaked this one process, or increased our effort in this one area, or redirected resources to this other direction that we would see a breakthrough.

Caught in the tension between the good we were doing and the good we wanted to do, I began to complain. I whined about wanting the future to arrive already, and how I didn’t want to have to wait for changes to take hold.

After I finished another pointless rant, I remember my friend smiling at me and saying, “Don’t rush it. The tension is good.”

He was right. If we had made the changes right away that I wanted to make, we would have failed. Things that looked like a good idea at that moment were actually terrible ideas. Moving slow and making careful and strategic changes helped us see different paths and solutions that weren’t immediately apparent.

As a writer, I often find myself with a problem I can’t fix easily. For me, it usually has to do with plot. I’ll work myself into a hole in my story that I can’t get out of.

Weighed down by exhaustion, my gut tells me to just ignore it, hope readers won’t notice, and rush to the end. I tell myself, “Just publish it and move to the next one.”

Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that readers always notice.

The phrase “the tension is good” has served over and over again to remind me that some problems need to sit. They can’t be solved right away. Instead, they need to be thought through because marinating in the tension will produce a better result.

Encouragement for the Journey

Those are three of the memories that bring me inspiration and encouragement. When I’m stumped in my writing, overwhelmed, afraid, or all three at once, these encouraging words for writers remind me that I will make my way through.

No, my writing isn’t perfect. But the process works. No one is going to die on the table. And the tension is good.

When you hit a rough patch, what encouraging words for writers do you lean on? Let us know in the comments.

By Jeff Elkins
Source: thewritepractice.com

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How to Achieve Goals: 5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Actually Accomplish Your Goals

The end of the year/beginning of the next one is always exciting. It’s a time to reflect on your accomplishments and prepare for the next ones. But often times, the newness and anticipation of New Year’s resolutions lasts for just a few months before fading away, checklists long forgotten in a dusty drawer. Here’s how to achieve goals and actually maintain your motivation throughout the new year.

acheive goal

5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Achieve Goals

If you want to stay strong throughout the entirety of 2018, here are five tips to help you achieve just that.

1. Set goals for the month rather than the year

That’s not to say year-long goals aren’t important, but “smaller” goals that are easily finished in a short amount of time will give you that rush of positive energy everyone needs in order to keep up the good work.

Think about your long-term hopes and dreams for yourself, such as writing a novel, and break them down into more manageable chunks that you can spread out over twelve months, like writing 10,000 words per month.

2. Write a checklist

Who doesn’t love checking off boxes when a task is completed? Make your list of goals something large, aesthetically pleasing, and visible.

It must be placed where you’ll see it often to remind yourself what still needs to be done and what you have already finished. And if you don’t enjoy looking at it, you won’t necessarily enjoy doing anything off the list, either. Keep it positive!

3. Create consequences

First decide if you are the kind of person who works better under the threat of punishment or the promise of reward. Maybe you work well with both, in which case, even better because you have plenty of flexibility with which to work.

If negative consequences are the way to go, give yourself deadlines for each of your goals. Writers have to work under deadlines all the time, which is a great way to boost productivity when you know someone is counting on you to pull through. But if you are your own boss, you have to come up with your own punishment, too. If you don’t reach the deadline, maybe consider pulling the plug on the television for a while.

If rewards cause you to race to the keyboard with glee, set concrete promises for yourself, such as, “If I finish editing this short story by the end of the month, I will treat myself to a nice dinner and a movie.” When you have a specific incentive in mind, you will be that much more determined to finish what you started.

4. Switch up your setting

If I ever start to feel bored with my usual routine, I pick up my laptop and move somewhere new. This can be as drastic as sitting yourself down at a coffee shop or library or as simple as moving to a new room in the house.

A different view and a different seating orientation can do wonders for your enthusiasm for your work.

5. Envision your future

What kind of writer do you want to be? When you picture yourself ten years in the future, what do you see for yourself?

Don’t be afraid to dream big. Imagining your future can be exciting and terrifying all at once, but it always helps when it comes to deciding what your next move should be.

But if you do, be ready to put in the work. The amount of effort you put into a task will match the outcome.

How to Achieve Goals and Make Changes in the New Year

Don’t sell yourself short. If you want to be somewhere else a year from now, figure out what you need to do to make the change and do it.

One more tip for how to achieve goals? Ask for help, if you need it. Having a community standing behind you in support is one of the best ways to drum up the courage to achieve your goals in any way possible.

You’ve got this.

What are your goals for the New Year? Do you have other tips for how to achieve goals? Let us know in the comments.

By The Magic Violinist
Source: thewritepractice.com

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