Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 19, 2020

10 Ways To Lead Yourself To Writing Success

Successful Writer

Before Christmas, someone at my day job sent around an article from Inc that I’ve been pondering ever since: “How Can You Be Sure Someone Has True Leadership Skills?” The article offered twenty examples for the corporate crowd, and several of them offer life-changing opportunities for writers to lead themselves right down the path to success.

According to the article, these skills and habits are quickly changing the game of leadership development. Effective leaders are encouraged to “break up positive leadership actions into bite-sized daily activities, or ‘micro-actions.’” Basically, they're proving that micro-actions have the power to make BIG change.

Dang, that sounds powerful, doesn’t it? We’ve got to get in on some of that!

Powerful Micro-Actions for Writers

1. Show, don't tell.

We know about Show Don’t Tell in our writing, but what about the all-powerful Butt In Chair? Isn't that the number one way you can show yourself that your writing is important?

Every Top 10 list I’ve ever posted here at WITS includes one thing a writer can’t get away from: we have to do the work.

2. Take a mindful moment.

Focused breathing calms your mind. Before jumping into your daily workload, take a step back and spend two minutes with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing. .

If you have no idea how to take a moment with your body and your breath, there are at least 13 breathing apps for Android and iOS. I also like the Calm app but you have to pay about $3 for it.

3. Reflect on past challenges to confront new ones.

Our own Laura Drake loses her mind in the middle of every book. She falls flailing into the Pit of Despair and is positive, for minutes/hour/days, that she will never EVER climb out of it.

And then she remembers: this happens with every book.

She can climb out of the pit. She has tools and friends and experience. She remembers the last time the pit swallowed her up, and the many last times before that. Her past challenges, and subsequent successes, buoy her up and keep her afloat until she figures out how to see clearly past that murky middle. And then she loves her book again.

4. Keep your eye on the why.

Why did you become a writer? As very busy author-preneurs who often have day jobs, it's extremely easy to forget that early joy and purpose under the mountains of to-dos that surround every author.

Don't lose sight of this "why" as it is one of the most important keys to staying happy as a writer. Write your goals and your "why" down so you can see it visually, and so you don't lose sight of it.

As Neil Gaiman said:

Imagine where you want to be with your [writing] life. Imagine it is a distant mountain. When you are doing that something with your life, take a moment to stop and see whether it is taking you toward the mountain or away from the mountain.  If it is taking you away, don't do that thing. Only do things that move you closer to the mountain.

5. Replace a bad habit.

Consciously avoid a bad habit by doing something positive instead.

Example: I do my day job tasks first thing, before breakfast, to get the time-sensitive ones out of the way and carve out an hour for writing. I used to play games on my phone to relax while I ate breakfast. After several weeks, I realized that my 15-20 minutes usually turned into 30-40, and I was hopped up on competitive adrenaline, which made me want to do more day job work instead of creative work.

Now? I read with my breakfast. Even if I go over my 15-20 minutes, my brain is in the right place for writing. I'm still re-setting between tasks, but I'm doing it in a way that ensures a smooth transition to my writer self.

6. Bring new people into the decision-making process.

Ask for input on important decisions. Even if you don’t take every bit of advice you are given, the act of seeing input opens your mind for new solutions.

You don’t have to do every blessed thing yourself. Really, you don’t.

7. Seek out feedback.

To take #2 a step further...few of us can exist in a vacuum with our writing. Whether it's an editor or a critique partner, a brainstorming group or a writing class, fellow writers often make the difference between giving up and moving forward.

8. Show gratitude.

I tell my 9 year-old this all the time: people like to do nice things for others, but they also really like to be thanked. Handwritten notes still rule but email works too.

That gratitude feels good for us too. Many people, myself included, think gratitude and writing inspiration go hand in hand. A bestselling author told me she writes three things she's grateful for every day and that it helps her get to her happy place before she sits down to write.

9. Celebrate small wins.

Look for the small wins to congratulate yourself (and your writing team) for. After all, they're what build up to the big wins later on. Our stories take SO long to write. There have to be wins along the way to keep us pumped up.

10. Make small progress towards a commitment.

We all have commitments we've made -- to ourselves or a team member -- that we haven't made good on yet. Even 10 minutes of progress in honoring the commitment feels awesome. It's astonishing how those little blocks of time will add up to a finished goal, whether it's writing time or marketing time.

In last week’s Lines We Love, we shared the following thought:

Many writers struggle with self-doubt, with imposter syndrome, with anxiety. The conundrum is that before we ask others to believe in us and our writing, we must believe in ourselves and know that our words deserve to be heard.

Go ahead, my friends, be brave. Lead your own self into the writing career of your dreams.

Do you have some micro-actions to add to this list? Little habits that have paid off big for your writing. or your life? Do you have bad habits you have consciously replaced? Share your stories with us down in the comments section!

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About Jenny

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Facebook at JennyHansenAuthor or at Writers In The Storm.

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16 comments on “10 Ways To Lead Yourself To Writing Success”

    1. Ha! Many thanks to you for your kind words. Although the words are challenging, I've come to believe that it's the mountains of to-dos that send most writers into a tailspin.

  1. I love all of these tips. The first one, especially, resonated with me, because it's something I practice. I have a day planner on my writing desk I use only for writing-related tasks. In it I break down every single day into little things that need to get done. Then I check them off as they do. Doing this allowed me to write three drafts of my novel last year, send it to beta readers, and now be in deep revisions in preparation to pitch to agents.

    It really is true, that old saying, about how a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

    Thanks for the advice!

  2. #3 is the biggie for me. I enjoy the writing, love that it gives me an excuse not to do housework, but eventually, I have to finish the damn book, and I hit that "this will never work" at about 40K words Every Single Time.

    1. It's such a painful place. I hate watching Laura hit it. Since I write out of order, it is different for me. I get the fits when I put all my pieces together.

  3. I meditate somewhat regularly, but I never considered a calming breath before writing. I'll add this to my routine! And here's another micro-action for those of us on Twitter. Creative Nonfiction magazine started #cnftweet - a hastag to write a story in a tweet. I try to write one every morning to start my writing day. It's honed my writing skills, and it's inspiring to see the wonderful micro-stories there by such talented witers.

  4. Wonderful words of wisdom.

    I've upped the meditation amount and need to weed out a bad habit or two and substitute them for more writing time.

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