The Worried Writer Episode 12: Mark McGuinness ‘Start with your curiosity’

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Mark McGuinness is a poet, creative coach, and author of non-fiction. As well as coaching individuals and businesses, Mark runs two highly successful websites for creatives, Lateral Action and Wishful Thinking. Mark’s first non-fiction title, Resilience, offers practical ways to deal with two mainstays of the author life: rejection and criticism, while his latest book, Motivation For Creative People, shows the reader exactly how to break down their own barriers to productivity.

Mark has been coaching creative people for twenty years and saw the same issues repeated; resilience, procrastination, lack of motivation, and creative block.

In Motivation For Creative People: How to stay creative while gaining money, fame and reputation (see my review here), Mark describes the different types of motivation and how they can be harnessed to increase productivity and satisfaction.

Find out more about Mark and his books at lateralaction.com. To sign up for Mark’s free creative course on becoming a creative professional head to lateralaction.com/pathfinder

One-on-one coaching is at lateralaction.com/coaching and his poetry is at www.markmcguinness.com

In the interview:

Hypnosis and meditation for unlocking creative block.

How Mark built his confidence through blogging and how the blog led to the book.

On choosing what path to follow:

‘Start with your curiosity.’

‘Your body is your best coach… If you pay attention to your body and your heart, the physical sensations will let you know how strongly attracted you are to it or not.’

On the tension between art and business:

‘I’ve spoken to hundreds of creatives and they all say the same thing. You have ambitions for your career and, yet, as soon as you achieve them or are close to achieving there is this pressure and there is a conflict… But that is normal… It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you personally, it’s an occupational hazard.’

Mark talks about the power of focusing entirely on one thing at a time and being

‘Cocooned in the world of an individual chapter’.

He also mentions the benefits of meditation and practical tips such as finding physical/habitual ways of marking out the different states (creative writing state distinct from ‘answering emails’ state for example).

And I ask Mark what he would advise a creative person who feels blocked or has fallen out of love with their work.

Links mentioned:

headspaceappI’ve been using Stay Focused, a free Chrome extension to moderate my internet use. Highly recommended!

Headspace: I’m going to give meditation a try and I have heard good things about this meditation/mindfulness app. I will report back next month on how I get on…

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!

Motivation For Creative People by Mark McGuinness


Subtitled ‘How to stay creative while gaining money, fame and reputation’, this book sounded right up my street… And it was!

I like my self-help to have a strong practical side and this book delivers that in spades. While it focuses on the emotional and psychological aspects of getting (and staying) motivated, it does so in a very clear and jargon-free manner.

It’s also written by a creative entrepreneur – someone who walks the walk as well as talking the talk. Mark is a poet, psychotherapist, writer of non-fiction and a coach to creative professionals, and his experience shines through.

The book covers getting started (working out your true passion in life), and the different sorts of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic, social and personal motivation, as well as the roadblocks to using these (such as resistance).

It’s full of tips to keep you productive, but will also help you to reflect (honestly) on your own unique set of values and influences. I think discovering the factors which affect your own inspiration, creativity and productivity could be genuinely life-changing.

I also love the way he addresses the tension between art and commerce – and the challenge of remaining inspired when your pay packet relies on that inspiration.

Mark also offers a free 26-week email course. I’m following it at the moment and you can sign up here.

I’m excited to announce that Mark will be a guest on the podcast very soon. If you have any questions for him, please let me know in the comments!

Finally, here’s the link to the book: Motivation for Creative People: How to Stay Creative While Gaining Money, Fame, and Reputation

I bought the book and this is a genuine review, but this link is an affiliate one. (If you use it to purchase the book, I make a – tiny! – amount of money).

 

 

 

How To Write Your Novel Ten Minutes At A Time

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In the last podcast, I answered this great question from Helen Redfern. I’ve have had enough messages since to know that it’s an issue for lots of folk, so I thought I’d jot down my answer and add a little more on the subject.

Helen asked:

How do I learn to write for just ten minutes? I feel that if I don’t have a few hours uninterrupted there’s no point in starting and just doing ten minutes. How do I change that?

I definitely used to struggle with this, but I have managed to shift my thinking on it.

I say ‘shift my thinking’ because that’s really what is required. You have to alter your perspective on ten minutes so that you stop viewing it as a tiny, unusable slice of time.

First off, I suggest you prove yourself wrong. Set a timer for ten minutes and write. Not to add wonderful words to your manuscript, but purely as an exercise. See how many words you have written when the timer goes off. It doesn’t matter if you have 30, 50, or a 100 words, it is concrete, recordable evidence that something can be achieved in that time.

If you’re feeling too much resistance to this idea and you really feel you cannot write for just ten minutes, do consider that this is fear talking. It’s offering a reasonable-sounding excuse to prevent you from having to put words down.

The way to blast that excuse is to set the timer for ten minutes and NOT WRITE. You have to sit and stare at the blank screen or page of your notebook and not write a single word. You can’t do anything else, either; no music to listen to, no browsing the internet, no reading. Just sit for ten minutes. I bet you’ll be surprised at how long that actually is.

Okay, so once you’ve proved it’s possible, you might still feel that it isn’t worth it. That adding 75 words to your book or working for ten minutes is a drop in the ocean.

Now, you need to make it fun, make it a challenge. See how many micro writing sessions you can fit in this week. Reward yourself for every ten minute session. As long-time listeners know, I like stickers. A sticker for every ten minute session over a week. At the end of the week, count them up and marvel at the hours you have worked.

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Congratulate yourself on your wizardry – you have created writing time where none existed before.

Or, you could draw a grid of boxes on a sheet of paper or use some squared paper. Every time you work on your book for ten minutes, colour in a box. When you look at that ever-expanding block of colour you’ll have a visual reminder of how that time adds up.

Another tip is to prepare for your ten minute sessions so that they are as valuable as possible. If you know you could grab some time when you get home from work, then use the commute to think about your story and about what you’d like to write next.

Finally, it’s good to remember and to truly understand – deep in your bones – that this is how books are written.

They are written in small chunks. Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph by paragraph.

As hard as writing is, I think we sometimes think it ought to be even harder. So difficult that we couldn’t possibly dash off a few sentences while waiting for the kettle to boil. The secret, if there is such a thing, is that the time taken to write the words does not reflect the quality of the writing. Some will come out well and some will not. Some will be cut and some will not. And, sometimes, words dashed off between appointments will be the very best, because you didn’t have time to second-guess yourself and were able to access your muse or sub-conscious or wherever you believe your writing comes from directly.

A final tip is to consciously alter your thoughts. I know that mantras and affirmations sound a bit ‘out there’, but they do work. I like to use positive phrases which have success built-in. They describe the belief or behaviour as if I already possess it, making me feel instantly more positive and capable.

So, for this issue, I would use something like: ‘I am the kind of person who grabs every spare moment and uses it to write.’

If this doesn’t speak to you, try different wording until you find something which chimes. Then repeat it. Whenever you remember to do so and whenever you think about your writing or schedule. It will feel false and ridiculous, but if you stick with it you will find the statement becomes more plausible. Repeat it often enough and you will believe it. Magic!

Was this helpful? Head to the comment section if you have a follow-up question (or a tip of your own to pass on). And thanks for reading!

Got The NaNoWriMo Blues? Five Ways To Get Unstuck

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If you’re doing NaNoWriMo (or are slogging though a first draft at any time!) there will be plenty of days when you get stuck.

Don’t panic!

First off, know that this is entirely normal. It doesn’t mean that you have failed or that your book sucks. It (almost) definitely doesn’t mean that you are working on the ‘wrong’ project and that you should switch to the Shiny New Idea which is fluttering its eyelashes and looking adorable. A couple of weeks with that idea and you’ll be in exactly the same situation – trust me!

So, if you can’t switch projects and you’re not going to give up (as if), what can you do to get the words flowing again?

  1. Stop writing and go for a walk. Or do some cleaning or crafting or take a shower. Activities which engage part of your brain (and get you away from the blank screen), can be perfect for mulling over tricky plot points.
  2. Try a different point of view (POV). Try writing in a different tense or POV (switch from first person present to third person past, for example) or write from the POV of a minor character. Remember, these words aren’t intended for the final manuscript, so it doesn’t matter whether they ‘work’ or not. They’re just to get you writing again and to give you alternative insights into your characters and story.
  3. Go meta and write about your story. Open a new document and tell yourself the story as if you don’t know it. I like to begin with: ‘This is a story about //name//who wants…’ Then you just waffle on about everything you know about your book; where it’s set, what happens, who is in it and what they are like. There will be lots you don’t know and that’s fine, too. Ask yourself questions! Don’t worry if you can’t answer them right away, just typing them out will plant them in your mind, ready for your subconscious to answer.
  4. Write a list of everything you thought was cool about your idea when you started out. The stuff which would make you want to read the book if you were the reader, not the writer. If you’ve done this already, revisit the list and remind yourself of what got you excited about the book in the first place.
  5. Make a book collage (or Pinterest board) or book soundtrack. Concentrate on getting the feel for the story; the atmosphere and tone, but don’t over-think your choices. Just pick the pictures or musical tracks which you feel instinctively belong in your book.

Finally, try not to fret too much about your word count goal (even if you have signed up for 50,000 words during November). All of this day-dreaming and noodling about and writing words which are for your eyes only is part of the process; it is the work.

Good luck and happy writing!

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!

 

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]