Create a Plan for Success
The thing that I'd like to do then is think about, okay what's your plan for success? You know you've gotta have accountability, emotional support. What is your plan for actually getting this book done? And the elements of success to think about are, you gotta commit. I think a lot of you here today, and a lot of you here watching, if you're taking a class like this, and you've put some money down for something like this or you've traveled to be here at Creative Live you're making a commitment. And if you find yourself frequently going to writing workshops and conferences and programs and not writing, that might be a red flag that you're enjoying the talking about writing but not the doing of it. So I see a lot of heads nodding in the audience. You know you've gotta commit to doing the work. There's certainly a lot to be said for learning and growing and building skills but you've gotta commit to doing the work. And establish good habits to do that. I often say the most important thing...
for a writer is to decide what you're gonna give up. So you can't expect to write 10 pages a week or 10 pages a month or wherever your rate of production is and not give something up in your life. It's just not gonna happen. And if you think about what are you gonna give up in order to bring this into your life, now you're talking about that commitment again, about sacrifice, about actually, how you're gonna bring this to life in the context of what your days are like. I used to tell people this story and they didn't believe me. I wrote most of my books when my kids were little and still at home, and they're grown up and gone off in the world now, but I had two little girls. Was running that household. I was a mom and I was writing these books and I had the messiest house in the neighborhood by far. And people would laugh and they'd say, oh yeah. And I'm like, no, it was bad. Like, dishes in the sink. Laundry piled on the floor. My kids never thought that laundry actually got put away. It was just, you went to the laundry room. And there was a pile of clean and a pile of dirty. And that's the way it was. And I made very conscious choices in my own life. That I cared more about writing books than I did about having a clean house. And there were days when it was really embarrassing. And people would show up at the door you didn't expect or, like if there was some crisis. And you needed to have a plumber come. Like, I'd just be dying that the plumber was looking at my kitchen. And that there are ants crawling. You know, like, it was bad. But I made that conscious decision. And, yeah, it's getting me in a little trouble right now because I'm doing the same type of thing with running a business. And my husband is like, I'm sort of done with this dishes in the sink (laughing) thing. And I'm like, sorry. That's the choice that I'm making. But the point is you've got to give something up. You can't just add into your life a whole other thing. You've gotta decide what are you gonna give up. And, one of the other things I gave up that has been a big cost to me personally is I don't go out to lunch. I work at home. And I don't go out to lunch. A lot of my friends go out to lunch. They know that I'm at home. So they say, let's go out to lunch. And it's, I don't go out to lunch. So, I have sacrificed a lot, in terms of, from friendships. But that's a choice that I consciously have made. So you know, I think you really have to think, think through what are you going to give up. It's not just a matter of will. Like, oh, I shall write x number of pages a day. It's, how are you gonna actually do it in the context of your life? Then there's set a specific goal. I mentioned why I like 50 pages. I think it's a really good first goal. Then get some project management support. So, this is what a coach or an editor would do. It's what it sounds like your guys' group does for you. How are you gonna manage this big project? How are you going to do all the work that we saw on the no excuses book map? How are you gonna see that through? And if anybody has been involved in a project, a big project at work, you know that you plot the whole thing out, right? Like on a Gant chart. Like this is gonna happen between now and April. And then this is gonna happen. And then we're gonna do this. And, oh I'm going on vacation. So this isn't gonna get done. Like you really think about it like a project that is going to have an end date. Rather than just, oh, it's this thing I do. And I do it when I sort of want to. And I, I like to encourage people to think of it in very specific terms like that. Get emotional support. We talked about that. And get editorial support. Get people who can look at your work and give you good feedback on what you're actually doing. And speak to you in a way that you, that you can relate to. That you can get better at your work. And that's not damaging (laughing). We don't want damaging support. We don't want that kind of support. Like, I think this should be a romance not a mystery. Or, you know, random brainstorming. You know, you want strategic good, good support. So in the workbook there are some questions around these ideas for planning out your success. And, I ask people to take a little time to really write them down and make the decisions about how they're going to move forward so that your path is really clear. So one of the things I really suggest that you do is when you pick your first goal, so let's say it's 50 pages, to be very specific about when you're gonna finish that out. And to actually do the math. So what I mean by do the math is, okay, 50 pages. Start getting a sense of how long it takes you to write 50 pages. Actually time yourself. How long does it take you to write a page? What about two pages? What about a scene? Obviously this is gonna vary wildly over time. Some things come very easily. Some don't. But just to get a general sense of how much are you able to produce so that you're not guessing. You're not in the dark just thinking, I don't know, I wanna finish by August 1st. But like actually what can you do in your life? How much can you write? And to then take that number, let's say you can write, I think 10 pages a week is a pretty, a pretty good goal. It's, it's somewhat aggressive. Especially if there are weeks when your work life falls apart. Your dog gets sick. You're going on vacation. It means probably writing more in other weeks actually than 10 pages. But I think that's a good number to sort of work with. And then you think, okay, how many weeks to write 50 pages? How do I do that math? And, and be intentional about it. That's, that's the thing, the key, is to really think through, all right, if I'm gonna have 50 pages by this date, what do I have to do and what does my life look like? And put it on your calendar. And those kind of habits are I think much more valuable than the kind of random, write every day. Write a thousand. You know, not everybody writes every day. Cheryl Strayed famously talks about how she doesn't write every day. And she goes in fits and starts. And that's what works for her. It's obviously worked beautifully for her. I don't write every day. I'm not writing right now. But when I do, I don't write every day. I, I like to write in bursts as well. Or, to maybe just on the weekend. Or get up on Saturday and kick out, like I would rather kick out three or four hours at one time than to do a little bit every day 'cause it takes me a while to get into it. And, paying attention to your routines. I have this weird routine that I do where I like to sit down and look at Twitter. I love Twitter. Twitter is full of all the writers. Follow me on Twitter (laughing). And I like to see what other writers are doing. And what books are coming out. And just like get myself in the head space of being in the writing universe. And it's not random to me. It's like a little ritual to me. Like, I'm just gonna see what happening in the Twitter world out, out there. And the writing universe. And then turn to my own work. So you know, you wanna think through how are you gonna approach that work every day. People talk all the time about different rituals. Where they write is really important. Do they need quiet? Do they have music? You know, to be intentional about all those thoughts. So before we move on to the piece about getting coached are there any thoughts or questions about these ideas of commitment and habit and routine? Everyone feel okay about it? Getting support. Yes.
There are so many methods that suggest that you hand write things. And others that say no, you can use a computer. What's your take?
Oh gosh. I think it just totally depends on, on so many things. When I teach a revision course and I actually teach printing paper out and using a pen, and there's a specific reason why I teach it for that, and why I suggest going to a different place, it's about the head space. It's about perspective. It's about getting that kind of analysis brain. So it just, it just completely depends on your process. What I do know is that if you write by hand and then you go to the computer, it's almost like a whole other draft is happening. Because if you're translating from your, your hand to the computer it's, you usually don't just transcribe straight. You know, you, you change it. Or you think. Or you think, oh. You know so it, it just really depends on what works for you. I used to write by hand. And I just can't anymore. I can't write fast enough to keep up with my brain. So, you know, I think it just depends. Which is a terrible answer but it's true. Yes. One question.
Along those same lines, what are your thoughts about using software like Dragon where you have the first draft be verbal?
Yeah, I've heard that as well. Especially for people who commute. That can be a really fantastic thing to do to narrate the story. So yeah, if that works for you, absolutely. I've never tried it. But I know people that use it. And, you know, they are super thrilled with it. And some people that's just absolutely the way they do. They narrate their first draft. So, yeah, you gotta find what works for you. And I would just say try it. Like, try, try it. Why not? You know, be intentional about trying to find what, what works for you.