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

ww_markmcguinness

 

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!

My 2016 Writing Goals

 

starlitsky

As I may have mentioned before, I adore setting goals. I also love reading about other people’s goals and find them inspiring and motivating. It really helps me to know that I’m not the only person who plans and strives in this way.

Although I feel a bit silly writing this post (who on earth cares about my plans for this year?!) I am going to do it anyway as it will make me more accountable (to you lovely folk!) and, hopefully, help me to stay on track during 2016.

Please feel free to join in and share your own goals in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

1.FICTION

Write more:

For as long as I can remember I have made some version of this goal in January, but this year I wish to improve on good writing habits developed over the last couple of years and to push my own personal boundaries.

For example, I’ve been saying that a good writing day (for me) is 1000 words. Well, that may be true, but I have never really tested it. Not really. And I do know that I’ve written far more than that when heading towards a deadline… So, this year I’m challenging myself to write more on a regular basis. I would like to make 1500 words the new ‘normal day’ and to reach 2000 words on a regular basis. Since this is my full time job, that really should be possible!

New books:


Last year, I wrote a novella and did rewrites of In The Light of What We See  (out this April from Lake Union), started a follow-up novel and wrote a messy first draft of an urban fantasy/supernatural thing.

This year I want to finish the supernatural book and get it ready for submission.

Finish my WIP (working title: Beneath The Water).

Write the first draft of a completely new novel.

In other words, by December 2016, I want two completed novels and one brand new first draft.

Keep on learning:

I am as obsessed as ever with books about productivity, writing and creative business and I plan to continue reading and learning.

I am also going to take an online course or two. I am booked on an ‘introduction to screenwriting’ course in February and I’m looking at other options/subjects.

Look after my creativity:

Yes, that’s pretentious-sounding sub-heading – sorry!

However, I do want to make sure that I take time to refill the creative well this year with lots of reading, watching great TV and films, and with travel/new experiences/visiting art galleries and museums. Basically the stuff that feels like bunking off but is essential to keeping the ideas coming (as well as maintaining sanity).

I’ve made an excellent start by binge-watching all of Jessica Jones on Netflix and reading several novels over the Christmas holiday – hurrah!

Celebrate the successes (every day wins as well as ‘big news’ items) and, as Miranda Dickinson so brilliantly put it in this episode of the podcast, keep on finding the fun in my writing.

 

desk2.NON-FICTION:

I will continue to release a new podcast at the start of every month. I’ve got some great guests lined up and I’m super-excited about speaking to them!

I want to further develop the Worried Writer site and add lots of new (hopefully helpful) content. My goal is to add a new article every week (at least) and maybe add some video, too.

Write The Worried Writer book and publish it. A guide to overcoming fear, self-doubt and procrastination which will include my (extensive!) personal experience as well as the best tips and advice gleaned from the podcast interviews.

3. COMMUNITY

Go to a ‘real life’ conference, workshop, blogger meet-up or writing festival. I would love to meet some more of the lovely writing community in person and I think 2016 is the year!

Send regular newsletters from both my author site (www.sarah-painter.com) and The Worried Writer, create more subscriber-only freebies and run some giveaways.

Your turn! What do you want to achieve in 2016?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Write Your Novel Ten Minutes At A Time

clock

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

desk

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!

The Only Way To Defeat A Bad Writing Day

girlforest

Bad Writing Days. We all have them.

We don’t like to talk about them. We’re frightened that by talking about them we will make them stronger. Or, worse still, we will jinx our productivity and conjure them into existence. No writer wants to say the word ‘block’.

I’ve always struggled to write. There are two people inhabiting this body; one wants to be left alone to write, wants nothing more than acres of time in which to type and think and come up with sentences and words and passages of description and dialogue. The other one, unfortunately, wants to do anything else. Anything!

Both of these people, however, like having written.

I read this quote from Brene Brown (from her book Rising Strong) recently: ‘We can choose courage or we can choose comfort but we cannot choose both.’

The toddler part of me bawled ‘why not?’, while the adult part of me nodded sagely, letting the words sink in and the truth trickle through…

I can’t have both.

It’s supposed to be scary.

I need to choose courage because that’s where creation lies.

But on a bad writing day, I choose comfort over and over again. I choose to write this blog rather than open my work-in-progress because however frightening a personal post like this feels, it is nothing to the anxiety I feel about working on my book.

On a bad writing day, I choose to say ‘yes’ to a friend’s invitation, even though I know it’s during my writing time. I may pretend this is something else (the selfless act of a good friend, for example) but I am lying.

On a bad writing day, I slip into the comfortable routine of editing a piece of old work when I should be making something new. Or I take all day to write a paragraph, telling myself it’s ‘difficult’ when the truth is, I am stalling.

On a bad writing day, I let the voices that tell me I’m worthless and my story is stupid and that I have no talent or creativity win.

I’ve had a lot of bad writing days recently. I’ve chosen comfort so often it’s beginning to feel like my new routine.

Luckily, that frightens me. I see my life stretching ahead, filled with comfortable no-writing-days, and I imagine all the books I will never write, the stories I will never tell.

That frightens me enough to make me open my document and get back to work. I want to have written and I know fine well there’s only one way for that to happen: courage.

 

Did this post resonate with you? Do you have Bad Writing Days? How do you overcome them? Please share your tips, advice, or experiences in the comments below! 

 

 

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

creativeliving_jump

Lovely Keris (check out her inspiring interview in episode #01 The Worried Writer: A Conversation with YA author Keris Stainton) recommended Elizabeth Gilbert’s new podcast, ‘Magic Lessons’, to me and it’s excellent.

I’ve listened to the first two in which she (and her guest Cheryl Strayed) advise a writer who is struggling with procrastination and feelings of guilt.

The writer worries that spending time and energy on her creative work takes something away from her children, which is definitely something I identify with… Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed are incredibly encouraging and wise, and I’m really looking forward to the rest.


I’ve also pre-ordered Gilbert’s new book – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Here’s the blurb:

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process – and showing us all just how easy it can be.

By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people that have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.

Whether you long to write a book, create art, cope with challenges at work, embark on a long-held dream, or simply to make your everyday life more vivid and rewarding, Big Magic will take you on a journey of exploration filled with wonder and unexpected joys.

Sounds good, right?