Episode #08 The Worried Writer: Joanna Penn ‘I measure my life by what I create’

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This episode features Joanna Penn, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author writing heart-pounding thrillers under the name J.F. Penn, as well as non-fiction books for authors.

Joanna is a superstar in the world of indie-publishing and I was so delighted to get to speak to her.

Even if you’re traditionally published (or aiming for it) and have no intention of self-publishing, I believe you’ll get lots out of this interview as Joanna has excellent advice on productivity, creativity, and conquering self-doubt. She’s an absolute inspiration (and part of the reason I started The Worried Writer) and I love her can-do attitude, positivity and work ethic.


Joanna’s most recent non-fiction book How To Make A Living With Your Writing is currently free in ebook form. Quick! Head to Amazon, Kobo or iBooks to get it before the promotion ends!

Once you’ve listened to the podcast(!), do check out Joanna’s site www.thecreativepenn.com as it is stuffed with valuable information and free resources.

Also, for more on Joanna’s excellent thrillers (the ARKANE adventure series and the London Psychic trilogy) head to JFPenn.com.

You can even pick up one of her thrillers, Day of the Vikings for free.

 

Recommended:

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self

The Pursuit of Perfection: And How It Harms Writers: 3 (WMG Writer’s Guide)
Authorearnings .com

Things app for capturing ideas/thoughts

Joanna has so many good things to say about success and getting the work done.

‘I’d rather have Dan Brown’s success than win the Booker Prize!’

 

‘Putting constraints on things actually helps you achieve faster’

And this one, which hit me right in the gut:

‘I now measure my life by what I create’

I reveal the (new!) title of my next book – In The Light of What We See. Available for pre-order now!

Also, I answer a listener question from J Long @NovelWanderer on Twitter:

I hope to learn how to get 1 of my 3.75 novels into proper condition for submission to an agent

Thanks so much for the question and for your kind words about the podcast, J Long!

If you have a writing (or publishing) question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter.

I’ll answer it on the show and credit you (unless, of course, you ask to remain anonymous).

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening!

 

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How To Build A Writing Habit The Easy Way

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So you want to start writing regularly? Or you want to increase your current productivity and write more every week/month/year… I’m going to reveal the secret in this post. Or, more accurately, I’ve already revealed the secret by using the word ‘habit’.

Yep, that’s right – you’ve got to make writing a habit so that it happens almost automatically.

Then you can sit back and watch your word counts rise. Okay, maybe not just ‘sit back’, but you will be amazed at how much you get done with what feels like very little effort.

Think about the stuff that you do every single day; watching television while you eat your breakfast, brushing your teeth, clearing the dishes after dinner, putting on your shoes before leaving the house… You don’t have to think about these tasks and you never (or hardly ever) miss them out. However ingrained and natural these behaviours feel, you weren’t born doing them. Somewhere along the way, you developed the habit and now they are a part of your life.

You might be thinking that brushing your teeth doesn’t take very long and writing a novel does, but you are going to build your writing habit by starting small.

Even tiny actions, repeated regularly over time, can make a big impact.

Plus, once you establish a habit it’s easier to tweak it (to, say, increase the amount of time you spend writing).

ID-100323590It’s this last principle we’re going to use to get started. Think of an existing habit you have and adjust it. For example, when you brush your teeth, use that time to think about your writing. If you don’t have a story in mind, use the time to brainstorm ideas. If you’re completely stuck, just use the time to reflect on your new creative habit. The focus should be on positivity; you are giving yourself permission to day dream, not trying to accomplish anything concrete or scary.

After a week or so, you are going to add a new habit and this one will actually involve writing. Pick a clearly-defined task that is easy to complete, and pick a time that is both easy to remember and suits your current schedule. The aim is to minimise every possible block to achieving the task and, once you’ve done it, to reward yourself. I like to use stickers for this, but it’s your choice!

For example, you might decide to write for ten minutes every day (or every week day). That’s a small, clearly-defined task.

You might choose to add it to your evening routine, say after dinner (before you get up to wash the dishes) or first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.

Next, you prepare for success. If your writing session is scheduled for first thing in the morning, put your notebook and pen (or laptop) next to your bed the night before.

Repeat the habit for a few weeks until it feels very natural and easy. If you miss a session, don’t beat yourself up about it, just do the next one.

One final note: Even if you’re finding your goal very easy to manage, don’t be tempted to increase or change it too quickly. If you raise the bar too fast, you’re more likely to miss sessions and get discouraged. Allow yourself to ‘win’ at the task easily and regularly and you’ll soon have an instinctual writing habit in place.

What do you think? Do you already have a regular writing habit and, if not, will you try this approach? I really hope it helps!

 

[Toothpaste image credit: by aitbodyphoto courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net]

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Creative Thinking for Beginners

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This post is aimed at the absolute beginner, but it might help if you’ve temporarily lost your creative-mojo, too!

Maybe you want to write but you’re too scared to try because you don’t think of yourself as creative.

Maybe you had some knock-backs or harsh criticism in the past, or perhaps the idea of creativity just feels out of your reach… Something that you’d love to do but just isn’t on the cards.

You need a crash course in creative thinking and the best news is that it won’t cost you a penny (and very little time).

The first thing to say is that you are already a creative person. I can say this with authority because it’s part of what makes us human. (If any toasters are reading this, sorry, but kudos on the literacy skills).

You are a creative person. You have your unique perspective on the world and a well of individual thoughts, responses, interests and emotions. All you have to do is to start noticing and valuing these things and you’ll find that ideas begin to flow.

Creative thinking is about two things – noticing stuff (external observations and your own thoughts) and then putting them together in new and interesting ways. Don’t worry about the ‘new and interesting’ part just yet, just concentrate on noticing.

So, when you see a person walking their dog while furiously typing into their phone and it strikes you as funny, notice yourself noticing it. Expand on the impression a little by thinking about that person and why that text is so important and serious. Imagine describing the person to someone else and pick out a few details which encapsulate the scene.

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Imagine your mind is like a camera, taking snapshots. Fix these images in your mind by being very specific on the details. This will help you to recall the impression later on, but will also hone your powers of description.

Play the ‘what if’ game. What if the sky was a different colour? What if cats could talk? What if a modern-day bubonic plague decimated the population? It’s okay if you can’t think of an answer, just practice asking the questions.

This works just as well for more ‘everyday’ scenarios, too. When I’m on a train or restaurant or waiting room, I like to people-watch (sorry people!), but I also like to think through ‘what if’ for scenarios like a fight breaking out or the train derailing. I think about what I’d do (and feel!) in the situation and what the other people around me would do, too.

Which leads me to my final bit of advice for creative thinking:

Embrace boredom. Boredom is your new best friend.

Intentionally leave your paperback at home and put down your smart phone. Go for a walk without audio accompaniment. Engineer small spaces of time in which you don’t have an escape mechanism for your mind and, instead, entertain yourself with the thoughts in your head. This might feel uncomfortable – even scary – to start with, but it will get easier.

I hope this is useful. Do let me know if you’d like more of this kind of post, and please leave your own tips for creative thinking in the comments. Thank you!

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Episode #07 The Worried Writer: Clodagh Murphy ‘There’s a reason I write fiction…’


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In this episode I talk to author of romantic comedy, Clodagh Murphy, about her writing process, journey to publication and struggles with self-doubt.

Clodagh Murphy has published several romantic comedies including Girl In A Spin, Frisky Business, and Some Girls Do. The Irish Independent called Clodagh ‘An exceptionally talented (and hilarious) Irish writer’.


Find out more about Clodagh’s work at www.clodaghmurphy.com or follow her on Twitter @ClodaghMMurphy

 

Recommended by Clodagh:


The 7 Habits of the Prolific by Hillary Rettig. (Clodagh and I both love this book!).

Freedom software for internet-free work time

Alphasmart – another great way to avoid the internet while writing. Plus, it only lets you see a couple of lines of text at a time which helps you to just plough ahead and not get derailed by reading back over your work.

 

 

Also recommended:

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast

The Joined Up Writing podcast. Wayne and Leah were kind enough to recommend The Worried Writer and to invite me onto their show as a guest. Check out my interview here: Banish Self Doubt – interview with Sarah Painter – Joined Up Writing #30.

 

I reveal the title of my next book – podcast exclusive! – and give a writing update.

Also, I answer a listener question from @Maxi_Scribbler on Twitter:

Any chance of a chat on the podcast about finding an agent whether before publication or after and how you found yours?

Thanks so much for the question, Maxi!

If you have a writing (or publishing) question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter.

I’ll answer it on the show and credit you (unless, of course, you ask to remain anonymous).

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening!

 

 

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