Writing Through Chaos: Three Tools by Rochelle Melander

file0001591236156The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything. —John Irving

Last week during the class I taught online (Three Shifts You Must Make To Succeed As An Author), a participant mentioned that she’d tried scheduling time to write, but it never worked. She asked: how do you write if your work or life schedule is too chaotic to depend on?

It’s a good question. All of us experience times in life where it’s hard to find time to write. Here are three ways to make time to write when life is crazy:

+Piggyback. Attach writing to an established habit, the stuff you do every day or week. Even in the land of crazy, you do a few things every single day: get up, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, check email, go to bed. You also do a few things every week at the same time: go to yoga class, stop by the coffee shop, visit a family member in the nursing home. Take one of these constants and attach writing to it, either before or after.

+Drop everything and write. In my daughter’s school, they have DEAR time every single day—drop everything and read. In her school, not having a DEAR book is an offense punishable with detention. How many times do you find yourself stuck in time, with nothing to read or write? Despite owning a smart phone, it happens to me more than I’d care to admit. Take a moment to consider what you’d need to carry with you if you wanted to be prepared to drop everything and write at all times. Then do it.

+Social Media Steal. Use your social media habit to write.  According to a 2013 article, we spend about 3 hours on social media per day.  Wow. For the next week, note the time you spend on social media. Pay attention to what tool you use to surf—are you on your computer, smart phone, or tablet? At the end of the week, ask: how could I use some of this time to write? Find a writing app that works best on your surfing mode of choice. Then, next time you log on to Facebook, Tweet, Tumble, Pin, or Link: use that app to write first.

Your turn:

 

 

 

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Overcome Unrealistic Expectations and Write by Rochelle Melander

W4473 WriteAThon-1Dear Writers,

Today at 7:00 PM CDT, I’ll be speaking at Nonfiction Writers’ University. I’ll be talking about Three Shifts You Must Make To Succeed As An Author. The class is free, but you must sign up here.

We’re still in the middle of the July Write-A-Thon. We didn’t get enough people to do the weekly calls, but I am posting daily at the Write Now! Coach Facebook page! Check in and update us on your progress.

Today’s tip talks about how to write forward in the midst of crazy days and unrealistic expectations!

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

Autumn morning Oct 06 2013_1014 (5)Overcome Unrealistic Expectations and Write by Rochelle Melander

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. —A.A. Milne

Years ago, I read Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D. In the book, he identified ten common cognitive distortions—unhelpful thinking patterns that leave us feeling miserable.

While I don’t subscribe to the idea of the crazy writer, I do believe that many of us are done in by cognitive distortions. We apply unhelpful thinking to our writing goals, holding ourselves to unrealistic expectations. We think or say things like:

+If I don’t have the whole day to write, I might as well do nothing. (All or nothing thinking)

+I only wrote for ten minutes today, I’m such a loser. (Discounting the positives, Labeling)

+This sounds like crap. No wonder the agent rejected me. I’m a bad writer. (Jumping to conclusions, labeling, emotional reasoning)

Yikes!

Many of us are in the middle of a write-a-thon. We set a big hairy audacious goal. I know I did. And from the notes on the Write Now! Coach Facebook page, I know some of you are doing well. (Yeah you!) But for those of you who’re having a rough time, let me tell you how it’s going for me: it’s not. My life got the kind of busy that leaves one dizzy. I wouldn’t be able to write a chapter a day. My temptation: give in to all or nothing thinking and give up.

Not this time. Instead, I reset my goals.

Every day, I write for 15-20 minutes on my work in progress. I hold onto what Stephen King said: When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “one word at a time.”

Writers, don’t let crazy thinking stop you from writing. Instead:

+Identify the distortion. (See chart.)

+Ask: Is this true? Challenge your thinking with evidence from your life.

+Ask: If this isn’t true, what is true? (I don’t have the whole day, but writing for fifteen minutes will move me forward. I’m accomplishing enough for now.)

+Create a new plan.

Writers, remember: every book is written one word at a time. And if you’re at least on the river, or better yet the stream, your little bits will add up and you will get there…one word at a time.

Your turn: How have you beat crazy thinking, redefined your goals, and written forward?

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Why You Need to Write-A-Thon! By Rochelle Melander

Dear Writers,

WAT_participantToday, we’re starting the July Write-A-Thon (and the second half of 2014!), and today’s tip talks about why you need to write-a-thon. If you want more support, follow the Write Now! Coach Facebook page for daily encouragement, and write!

And, think about coming to my class next Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 7:00 PM CDT at Nonfiction Writers’ University. I’ll be talking about Three Shifts You Must Make To Succeed As An Author. The class is free, but you must sign up here.

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

Why You Need to Write-A-Thon

by Rochelle Melander

Be careful what you wish for, because you might not be dreaming big enough. —Dar Williams

2014 Ironman

2014 Ironman

For the last three years, I’ve completed the Idle Ironman at our local Y (and I have the t-shirts to prove it). Although I finished, the idle ironman was a huge challenge for me—a recovering wimp! But by challenging myself to do something really hard, I gained confidence and grew stronger. The idle ironman helped me to see myself as an athlete.

If you’re a writer who wants to write regularly but don’t think you have the time, talent or tools, I’d like to challenge you to take on a write-a-thon this summer. Doing a write-a-thon will help you turn your writing hobby into a habit. And guess what? I’m doing it, too! (Stop by my Facebook page for encouragement every day during July!) On top of that, the creators of National Novel Writing Month have launched Camp NaNo—occurring this July, so you don’t have to write alone.

Here’s how to write-a-thon:

1. Choose a project. What writing project are you most passionate about working on right now? Write what strikes your fancy: a nonfiction book, a poem a day, a memoir, or even a graphic novel. Or write something that has to get done: query letters, that dissertation, or your weekly blog post!

2. Set a goal. This is your write-a-thon, so do what works for you. Your goal can be writing for a set amount of time each day, composing a certain number of queries each week, or writing a few hundred words a day.

3. Choose a cue. In the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes the habit loop: Cue, Routine, Reward. Wannabe writers tend to depend on inspiration to cue them to write. Unfortunately, inspiration comes most frequently WHILE we are writing and not before.  In order to succeed at the marathon, choose an external cue to trigger your daily writing practice. It helps if you can use a pleasant cue you’re already doing as a cue to write. This could be drinking your morning cup of coffee, walking to the library or local coffee shop in the middle of the afternoon, or changing into your writing clothes at the end of the day.

4. Get rewards. We tend to do the things that provide rewards—whether they are tangible, like a participant t-shirt, or intangible, like the feeling of success. Make a list of daily rewards for the write-a-thon—and make it a habit to reward yourself for writing every day. These rewards might be something as simple as giving yourself a sticker for achieving your daily goal, spending a few minutes on the Write Now! Coach Facebook page to see the daily meme, or taking a short walk outside. Don’t forget to plan a bigger reward for finishing the marathon.

5. Get support. In the middle of the idle ironman, when finishing seemed insurmountable, I depended on the encouragement and support of my workout buddies at the gym. Often a simple, “How’s it going?” or “Keep at it!” was all I needed to stay motivated. Invite a friend to share the write-a-thon journey with you and give each other daily support via email, phone, or in person contact.

Here’s my prediction: after you finish your write-a-thon, you will boldly claim, “I’m a writer.” And it will be true—because the write-a-thon will help you create the habit of writing every single day. Happy writing, writers!

Your turn: Share your write-a-thon goal below!

 

 

 

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The Secret to Writing Success by Rochelle Melander

file000251965952“…I had formed the habit of working in my studio almost every single day. Rain or shine, eager or dragging my feet, I just plain forced myself to work.” —Anne Truitt (Daybook, p. 126)

When I was in second grade, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. The novel taught me to think beyond what teachers, parents and ministers said was real. Because of A Wrinkle in Time, I embraced my imagination as a gift instead of the thing that made me odd and often got me in trouble with grown-ups.

I met L’Engle several times during her lifetime. At the first event, she said something that still helps me write every day:

“Success is thin unless we can be committed to drudgery.”

Wow. The woman responsible for the book that opened my mind also had to slog through the boring parts.

Being a writer is about showing up and writing, whether we feel like it or not. We scribble down the words before they disappear from our heads. Then we change them. Sometimes we get lucky, and while we’re wading through the muck, inspiration hits and sets our imagination on fire.

Both the artist Anne Truitt and the author Madeleine L’Engle found the secret to success: work hard. For them, making art was a habit. They created daily, no matter what.

My advice? Go and do likewise!

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Three Secrets to a Happy (Writing) Life by Rochelle Melander

W4473 WriteAThonNote From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m beginning to panic: only a couple of people have signed up to Write-A-Thon with me in July. I don’t want to do this alone! If you’re contemplating writing your book this summer, here are three quick reasons to join us:

WAT_therapy1. Writing is cheaper than therapy. I don’t care if you’re writing fiction or the story of your life: you’ll feel better afterwards. (Promise!)

2. You’ll write more than you thought possible! (Remember—you can set your own goal, so don’t freak out about having to write a gazillion words!)

3. You won’t be doing it alone! (Visit my Facebook page and say hi to the others who are writing in July!)

How does it work? Set your goal, follow the Write Now! Coach Facebook page for daily encouragement, and write!  If you need more support, check out the announcement at the blog and sign up for group calls or a one-on-one coaching session with me.

Today’s tip offers some lessons for writing and life from the great B. B. King.

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

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I never use that word, retire. —B.B. King

Last summer, we attended a B. B. King concert. As the night began, King shouted: “I’m B. B. King, and I’m 87 years old!” (He’s 88 now.) Then he launched into a song with his deep baritone voice. As I reflected on the concert later, I realized that King had some lessons to teach me about writing and life. Here are three of them:

By Tom Beetz [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tom Beetz [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Do not let your age define you. In our age-obsessed culture, we need to learn this lesson repeatedly. No matter what your age, no doubt someone has told you it’s wrong for what you want to do. When I was in my 20s, many more experienced people from my profession told me I was too young to have important ideas or write books. Just a few years later, in my early 30s, some of my colleagues told me I was too old. Wow, from young and useless to old and washed up in just five years! I love what the Indigo Girls say about this in their song, Go:

Did they tell you, you would come undone

When you try to touch the sun

Undermine the underground

You’re too old to care

You’re too young to count

Take away: Stop using age as an excuse. If you really want to do something, do it.

2. Get a great team. When B. B. King came to sing, he brought a band that rocked. Literally. Every member of his band could (and did) play solo. Together, backing up B. B., the sound was magnificent. None of us can do it alone. Writers need colleagues, critique group partners, editors and more. When I look at my writing career past and present, I am constantly grateful for the people who have supported and comforted me along the way.

Take away: Look around. Do you have writing colleagues to support you? If so, say thank you! If not, join a critique group or writing circle.

3. Have fun. At the end of the night, B. B. King said, “I have a curfew and I’ve already gone past it, but I’m having so much fun.” And he was. His whole body radiated joy. I don’t always feel that way when I’m writing. Sometimes writing feels like slogging through knee-deep mud. But I also have moments when I’m so engaged in the writing, I don’t want to stop. I feel like a kid at the playground who can’t understand why it’s time to go home. In those moments, writing feels so absolutely right that I cannot image doing anything else.

Take away: Doing what you love won’t be fun every day, but it also won’t be a drag. If you’re not having fun, poke around at why. Maybe you need to be working on a different project? Maybe you need to lower your expectations or slow down? Once you figure out what’s not working, you can get to what is working again and enjoy it!

Rock on, writers! 

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Writing Outside the Box by Rochelle Melander

Out of the box and into the labyrinth!

Out of the box and into the labyrinth!

Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box. —Deepak Chopra

In a study published in Psychological Science, Angela Leung of Singapore Management University and her coauthors enacted the popular metaphor thinking “outside the box”. They created two comfortable work environments, one literally inside a box and one on the outside. Then they gave participants a test used to measure creativity. Those who worked outside the box performed better.

My first thought: well good thing I don’t work in a cubicle. My second: I kind of do. I have a great home office with loads of books, supplies, and light. But it’s still an office, with desks and walls. So I decided to work outside my box. I worked in several places: my home library, the porch, and a local coffee shop. All of them provided what I needed: a non-office space to think and write “outside the box.”

After my experiment, I remembered that many of my clients and colleagues like working outside the box, too. They found success working at parks, bookstores, and fast food joints.

The takeaway? Work somewhere other than your office. See if it helps you break out of your rut or—if you’re not in a rut—explore new levels of creativity.

Your turn. What other writing metaphors do you take literally? Do you think better on your feet—that is while walking or standing at a desk? Leave your comment below!

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Are You Ready to Write-A-Thon?

W4473 WriteAThon-1Join the summer Write Now! Coach Write-A-Thon and get that project started or finished or anything in between.

How does it work? Set your goal, follow the Write Now! Coach Facebook page for daily encouragement, and write!

What kind of a goal? Do I have to write 50,000 words?

Nope. This isn’t NaNoWriMo. You can choose to:

+Write a defined number of words each day (you decide how many)!

+Work toward a month-long word count goal.

+Write for a defined number of minutes each day or week.

+Write for a number of days each week.

What kind of a project? Do I have to write a novel? Nope. Write what you want: a memoir, a nonfiction book, a bunch of blog posts, a series of poems, a few picture book or … anything else that seems right.

What if I need more support than posts on a Facebook page? Join our weekly Write-A-Thon Mastermind group. We’ll meet every Monday in July at 12:00 PM CDT on the phone. The price is right at just $100 for all four calls. You can sign up at our Group Coaching page.

What if I need EVEN MORE SUPPORT? Sign up for a 45-minute get-your-act-together call with Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander. She’ll help you focus your project idea, set a daily writing goal, and find the time to write. How much? $100—but sign up soon. We have a limited number of spots available for this.

What if I’m already doing Camp NaNoWriMo? No problem! Think of the Write Now! Coach Write-A-Thon as the extra box of treats you bring along to camp just in case you get extra hungry.

So how do I sign up?

EVERYONE!: Head on over to Facebook and like the Write Now! Coach page. If you want, you can add a comment to the post about this Write-a-Thon to let me and others know you’re in!

Weekly Mastermind Calls: Head on over to the group  Write Now! Coaching page and sign up. You’ll receive an email with instructions for the weekly calls.

Individual Get-Your-Act-Together Call: When you purchase the group coaching, add an individual  Write Now! Coaching session for $100.  I’ll be in touch about scheduling our call.

What if I have more questions? Leave a comment below.

Anything else? Yes! Whether you plan to write or not, enter to win a copy ofWrite-a-Thon.

 

 

 

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Connect and Write More by Rochelle Melander

The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: “Tell me more.” —Brenda Ueland

IMGP8720-2Last week, I met with a writing friend for coffee, and she asked: “So, when can I read your book?” I’d promised it to her a month earlier and then got busy with other things. I was so thankful that she remembered and asked. Now, I’ll make finishing the draft a priority so I can get it to her sooner.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that writers who connect with other writers tend to write and publish more. Here are three ways to make that happen:

1. Find a Mastermind Group. For years, I’ve met with small networking groups for accountability. When I wanted to quit writing, these connections have helped me to leap forward. During these meetings, we ask the same questions:

+What are you writing?

+What’s working?

+What do you need help with?

2. Join a Critique Group. Professional writers study great writing—and know what works and what doesn’t work. When we invite other writers to read and critique our writing, we expand our understanding of good writing. And, we learn about our blind spots. From complex comments on structure and voice to technical lessons on commas and run-on sentences, a good critique can strengthen our writing. [Pro Tip: Check the website of national writing groups to find a reliable critique group. I belong to a group through the Wisconsin chapter of The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators (SCBWI).]

3. Challenge a colleague. Create a deadline pact with another writer. Promise that by a certain date you’ll each write 10,000 words, complete a project, or complete a portion of a manuscript. To make it sweeter (and more difficult to fail), make a bet. If one of you doesn’t finish in time, you’ll have to . . . treat the other to dinner or whatever.

Your turn: How has connecting with other writers helped you to write more?

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The Power of Saying No by Rochelle Melander

©Rochelle Melander

©Rochelle Melander

At the beginning of summer, the days feel open and full of possibility. I feel like I can do it all—and still write. Of course I can’t. When I try to do too much and say yes to obligations that don’t make my heart sing, I end up letting go of writing time. And then I feel resentful. I’m learning to say no instead.

Here’s what Anne Lamott says about saying no:

My therapist, Rita, has convinced me that every time I say yes when I mean no, I am abandoning myself, and I end up feeling used or resentful or frantic. But when I say no when I mean no, it’s so sane and healthy that it creates a little glade around me in which I can get the nourishment I need. Then I help and serve people from a place of real abundance and health, … —Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions, pp.48-9

Writers, here’s my challenge to you this summer. Decide what you want to write. Grab your calendar and block out your writing time. Say no to anything that threatens to interrupt your writing. And then enjoy the feeling of doing what you’re called to do: write!

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Walk Now! Write More by Rochelle Melander

Rochelle walks the labyrinth in West Bend, WI

Rochelle walks the labyrinth in West Bend, WI

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking. —Friedrich Nietzche

Now that spring has arrived in Wisconsin—finally!—I’m walking more. In addition to my daily exercise, I take tiny walking breaks. In Write-A-Thon, I wrote about a study that showed that women who walked had better brain connectivity.  But that’s not all! Recent research suggests that walking boosts creativity, improves concentration, and restores our ability to pay attention. Wow! Read on…

Walking boosts creativity. In late April, the American Psychological Association released a study on the creative benefits of walking (published in APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.) While at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, Marily Oppezzo, PhD, and colleague Daniel L. Schwartz, PhD, did a number of studies that found students who walked performed better on tests that measure creativity, especially free-flowing thoughts. They did less well on tests that required a single answer.

Walking improves concentration. A study by Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances Kuo measured how walking in three different environments—nature, urban, and residential—affected children with ADHD. The children who walked in nature did the best on tests of concentration (almost as well as their peers without ADHD). (Journal of Attention Disorders OnlineFirst).

Walking restores attention. A study by Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan at the University of Michigan found that walking in nature can restore our ability to pay attention, something that usually diminishes throughout the day. For urban dwellers, it takes more than walking around outside—since paying attention to street and sidewalk traffic uses up more attention. Instead, head to a park for your walk.

So how do you use walking to jumpstart your writing? Here’s advice from my Write-a-Thon book:

*If you’re already walking or exercising, write for 20-30 minutes right afterwards.

*Take a ten-minute walk before you write.

*Take a ten-minute walk every time you experience writer’s block.

*Take a ten-minute walk as a transition between writing projects.

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