Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

NaNoWriMo Prep: Finding Motivation

In episode #198 of The Creative Penn Podcast, Steve Scott, a self-published author who earns a six-figure income from his writing, gives his advice for being productive and successful. His number one tip?

“Consistent butt in chair at least 5 times a week.”

procrastinationIt is no secret. The magic way to produce writing is to sit down and physically write. However, as all writers know, sometimes this is much easier said than done. After all, when our day jobs and families and friends and fully-loaded DVRs come calling, it’s difficult to turn them away. Given the opportunity, many writers will exercise their imaginations to invent any story necessary to get out of doing their work. Unfortunately, I am no exception to this weakness.

This November, I will have to beat myself at my own game and figure out how to get to “butt in chair” long enough to crank out 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. As part of my NaNo prep, I’ve evaluated my strengths and weaknesses and concocted a few different brands of kryptonite to help break down my inner-procrastinator.

By finding honest answers to the following questions, you can do the same.

What is your biggest motivator?

Without a doubt, my strongest motivator is my knight-like sensitivity to obligation. I like to believe that this stems from my parents, who raised me to be loyal and honest and keep my promises. But, whoever or whatever is to blame, when I feel connected to something or someone, I go to insane lengths to hold myself to that commitment. I can’t even stop writing in the journal that I’ve wanted to abandon since April, simply because I feel obligated to finish 2014. Yeah, I’m crazy. Hopefully, it comes in handy.

knightHow can you create that motivator for yourself?

This question may be tricky for some, but for me, it’s simple. I am telling anyone and everyone who will listen that I am doing NaNoWriMo. I’ve announced it on this website, on every form of social media, and face-to-face with my family and friends. By telling so many people about my goal, I will feel obligated to succeed. Additionally, one of my other complexes is that I abhor looking stupid, and if I talk a big game and don’t deliver 50,000 words, I’m going to feel pretty damn stupid.

Who can help you?

No matter who you are or where you live, you can find a support system to help you achieve your goals. For me, I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful husband, Daniel, who has agreed to be my word count tyrant. Even tonight, when I was tired and did not want to write this blog post, he yanked my cell phone out of my hand and ushered me upstairs to write. He has also agreed to give up our office and desktop for the entire month so I can have a free work space. I’m also lucky to have close writer friends, Teresa and Sam, who understand the undertaking that is NaNoWriMo and will cheer me on this month. I’ve also been able to meet more writing buddies simply by doing a few searches on WordPress and Twitter. As the Aussies say, too easy.

Where is your sacred space in your home and day?desk

So many writers talk about having a special place to write or about carving out a specific time of day for writing. I intend to do both this November. As already stated, my husband is giving me free reign of the study and computer, so that I have no physical excuses not to write. Time is a little more tricky, given that I work a full time job from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (including commuting time), and I sometimes do take-home work in the evenings and on weekends. Most writers say that writing in the morning works best for them, as they can get their writing done first thing and then tackle the day worry-free. I am an ogre in the mornings, but I may have to give this a shot. However, so far, I’ve been able to devote at least an hour every night to writing for this blog, so I can probably do a bit of both and make it work.

How can you practice your skills and build confidence?

By this, I mean, how can you take on a smaller venture to prove to yourself you can complete your goal? For instance, my goal is to write 1,666 words a day for all of November. Well, for the last week, I’ve been writing roughly 800 to 1,000 words every night for these blog posts. While nonfiction flows faster from my mind to my fingers than fiction does, surely if I can write this much for a blog post every night, I can slam out some prose. Think about your own goals and see if you can do any “test runs” to build your confidence.

finish lineHow will you reward yourself?

If all else fails, humans are animals, and we love pleasure. What can you give yourself as a reward that will motivate you to complete your goal? And better yet, who can safeguard your reward to ensure you don’t cave and just treat yourself early? For me, a huge motivator is that I will be able to cross off my #1 bucket list item and feel less like an amateur when I talk to people. However, for a physical reward, I am going to treat myself to Scrivener (I’m using the free trial during NaNoWriMo) and buy myself some new, professional clothes. My husband will be monitoring me all month and ensuring that I do not let the credit card slip until I reach my word count.

How can you remind yourself of all this?

Some writers surround themselves with motivational quotes or images; some have a daily creed they say to themselves. While I do love quotes, the way I am reminding myself of my commitments is by writing these posts, right now, on this website. These words are my motivation, straight from the source, my purest form of obligation to commit myself to this goal and not look back. Plus, surrounding myself with awesome writer friends and a relentlessly supportive hubby helps, too. Even if I forget, they won’t let me hear the end of it.


To follow my NaNoWriMo journey or add me as a writing buddy, check out my NaNoWriMo profile.

What are your answers to these questions? How are you motivating yourself to win NaNoWriMo or achieve other big goals? I’d love to read your tips!

Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Feedback Friday, Review: The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I first heard about Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art through comic book writer, Jonathan Hickman. At the end of his graphic novel, The Nightly News, Hickman includes a section titled “Fully Committed,” in which he describes how he learned to dedicate himself to his craft. He attributes much of his motivation and success to The War of Art. He begins, “It was October 2nd, 2004. I was sitting alone, bawling my eyes out, in a little Greek restaurant about half a block from the hotel where I was attending a Robert McKee seminar. I was reading Steven Pressfield’s book, THE WAR OF ART.” He goes onto detail how the book gave him the kick in the ass he needed to get his comic career going.

If the fact that this self-motivation book brought a grown man to tears isn’t a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is. As you can imagine, I was intrigued. I did some more investigating into the book, read more reviews online, and knew I had to read it. People were hooked; they swore by this book.

I borrowed it from my local library, read the first section, felt super-motivated, and promptly ignored it until my loan expired. Pressfield would say that this was Resistance keeping me from realizing its existence. I would say it was university. Either way, I let the book go.

This year, as I prepare for my first true attempt at NaNoWriMo, I knew I needed a swift kick in the ass to get myself in gear. Therefore, I decided to pick up Pressfield’s manifesto again and actually finish it. Clearly, I had high expectations from all of the internet hype. Maybe these expectations skewed my reading, maybe not. Either way, I am left with mixed feelings.

Pressfield divides The War of Art into three “books.”

Book One, “Resistance: Defining the Enemy,” describes the forms Resistance takes (basically all the various ways we procrastinate and/or become distracted and discouraged) and the characteristics of these forms. Each section in Book One, and all the books for that matter, is short and punchy. The personification of Resistance is dramatic, but it is effective in making the reader hate it and desire its defeat. Book One also has a surprising amount of humor, and even a dash of anti-capitalist leanings sprinkled in, which make it easier to digest and reminds the reader not to take things too seriously.

In Book Two, “Combating Resistance: Turning Pro,” Pressfield outlines the difference between professionals and amateurs. This book was the most helpful to me, as it properly shamed me into re-evaluating my self-definition in relation to my craft. All I’ll say is, I have some work to do. Overall, I like Pressfield’s definition of a professional, especially how he encourages artists to take themselves seriously enough to become a business and invest in themselves.

I did have some major issues with Book Two. Most notably, I disliked the separation between one’s self and one’s craft that Pressfield mandates. I agree, a person is not her work, and she should not take professional criticism personally. However, Pressfield argues that the artist should entirely separate himself from his work, giving all the credit to a divine, higher realm, and that the artist should never listen to any criticism at all. I strongly disagree. Yes, not all criticism is useful, but most criticism is constructive and is a great learning tool. Moreover, I believe that the artist should take credit for his work, as he does put in great effort to manifest his products.

My other problem with Book Two is that Pressfield defines the professional in very depressing terms. He describes how the craft is difficult and all professionals must suffer for it. Pressfield’s obsession with misery plays into the “starving artist” stereotype that is damaging to creative people and industries. Newsflash: you can enjoy your creative work, and while it may be difficult, you do not have to live your life in constant agony. Misery is not chic.

Finally, in Book Three, “Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm,” Pressfield takes things to another level, literally. Pressfield describes how there is a divine plane filled with divine entities who reach out to inspire us lowly humans. These divine creatures are the ones who should receive the credit for human art, as all inspiration comes from them. When he does try to use secular terminology, Pressfield maintains that each person is predestined to fulfill certain acts and create certain masterpieces and to deny the world and the creator these predestined gifts is selfish.

If you can’t tell already, I’m not religious, and I’m not very spiritual, either. I will grant that there is some unidentified force that makes humans specially equipped with personalities and allows us produce art unlike other animals or living things. But that’s just it — it’s something within humans. Even if a divine plane and God and angels do exist, I do not believe the artist needs to give every speck of credit to these beings. Maybe I’m a revolutionary, but I believe that humans are capable of independent thought and free will, which makes us capable of making our own, unique art.

My last gripe with Pressfield comes from the introduction of his book. In it, he claims that, if every human could defeat his or her unique Resistance, then all social evils would be cured. In an extreme example, he argues that “it was easier for Hitler [who wanted to be an artist] to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”

Again, maybe I’m a revolutionary, but I feel like society is a bit more complex than that. But hey, maybe, just maybe, if everyone did beat “Resistance” and fulfill their purposes, then poverty and starvation and sickness and war and everything else bad would disappear. I’d be okay with that if it could really work.

As I said already, I’m left with mixed feelings on Pressfield’s The War of Art. Some of Pressfield’s claims are hyperbolic, and his devotion to the divine is no doubt entirely unrealistic to a large portion of his audience. However, his personification of Resistance is motivating, and his direct calls to action are inspiring and full of useful catchphrases.

If you take this book entirely for what it is: a way to motivate yourself to get off your ass and fulfill your life’s purpose, you’re golden. If you try to evaluate it more deeply, you’ll be left with some serious philosophical questions that will likely ruin the book’s intention. My advice? Enjoy books one and two, and unless you do have some proclivity for the divine or supernatural, skip book three. Also, read fast. If you just read it fast and don’t think too much, you’ll only hear the uplifting battle cry.

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If you are interested in reading The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!

Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Feedback Friday, Review: Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World
Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World is a solid guide to building a brand and using social media. Due to the range of subjects covered, I would say that this book would be useful for all experience levels, but most useful for beginner and intermediate platform creators.

Platform is divided into five parts: “Start With Wow,” “Prepare to Launch,” “Build Your Home Base,” “Expand Your Reach,” and “Engage Your Tribe.” Hyatt begins by describing the product/brand creation process: how to select a name, how to garner attention, and how to create a “wow” experience. As the book progresses, he moves into advertising and marketing, utilizing social media, and starting a blog and growing its following.

Within each section, Hyatt begins with the very basic procedures and then works his way up to more technical realms. For instance, Hyatt provides step-by-step guides on how to create Twitter accounts and blogs, then expands on how to use them strategically, and eventually, how to track one’s statistics. While this structure is useful for a beginner, it can be a bit redundant for more experienced social media users and marketers. Therefore, I would encourage experienced individuals to read the book in a non-linear format in order to avoid wasting time on simplistic chapters.

My main criticism of Platform is that Hyatt deems it “A Step-by-Step Guide for Anyone with Something to Say or Sell.” He claims that the procedures work for companies, products, and individuals. However, as the book goes on, he gets less focused on this comprehensive model and more into the individual aspects. Admittedly, social media and blogging are somewhat more geared toward individuals than companies. However, I still feel like Hyatt was not true to his premise in the way that he actively focused more on individuals than products and companies for the bulk of the text. (Of course, as someone who read Platform for individual branding purposes, this does not bother me personally.)

Structurally speaking, Platform is strictly organized with lists, graphics, and certain font styles. This is both a positive and negative. On the positive side, it creates continuity between chapters, makes the content easier to absorb, and helps the reader memorize the tips. On the negative side, the format does begin to feel tired and the predictability becomes a bore after a few dozen chapters. In short, while the structure may be a bit boring in fashion, it is necessary and helpful in function, which is clearly more important.

Overall, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World is a comprehensive guide to starting a brand and using intelligent and creative marketing to grow it. Platform is accessible to beginners while still being useful to intermediates and experts. If you are looking for a place to start your platform, or strategies for expanding and analyzing your traffic, this is the book for you.

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platformIf you are interested in reading Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World  and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!

Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Feedback Friday, Review: 8 to Great: The Powerful Process for Positive Change

8 to Great: The Powerful Process for Positive Change
8 to Great: The Powerful Process for Positive Change by Mary Kay Mueller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

8 to Great: The Powerful Process for Positive Change entered my life through my office’s employee development program. M.K. Mueller is a Kansas City local, so the boss thought we should support locally and give her program a try.

Overall, the “8 to Great” process is nothing but old self-improvement advice repackaged in a trendier way. The formatting of the program is effective, as each of the eight “High-Ways” builds upon the ones before it to lead the reader to his/her highest self. Each chapter covers a different “High-Way” and follows the same structure, which makes the information within easy and comfortable to ingest. However, some of the language, specifically the puns and plays on words, make the book feel cheesy and forced.

My biggest problem with this program is that several of the “High-Ways” contradict one another. For example, High-Ways 5 and 6 tell the reader that, when someone is mad at him/her, that person is just feeling his/her “angergy” and that nothing that person feels is a result of the reader or his/her actions. However, High-Way 3 informs the reader that he/she must take “full-responsibility” for his/her actions. Clearly, one is not actually taking full responsibility if one denies the impact one’s actions have on others. This is just one example of many ideological conflicts from this program.

To conclude, here are my brief reviews of each “High-Way:”

High-Way 1: Get the Picture
I agree that being able to state one’s goals clearly and visualize them helps in their attainment. However, I cannot buy into the idea that simply visualizing them is enough to make the universe manifest them for you.

High-Way 2: Risk
The tenants of this High-Way hold for me. One must take risks in order to change one’s place in life, whether they be big or small. This chapter is a great pep talk for people who need to get off their butts and get in motion.

High-Way 3: Full Responsibility
This chapter is something many people need to read: own up and take responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your own happiness.

High-Way 4: Feel All Your Feelings
In this chapter, Mueller maintains that all feelings are neutral: not good, not bad, they just are. Moreover, she encourages the reader to use feelings like sadness and anger as energy to fuel the reader’s ambitions. While easier to say than do, I like the point she is making.

High-Way 5: Honest Communication
I believe this is the most useful chapter of the program. It suggests specific strategies that can be used to improve one’s communication in almost every social relationship as well as with one’s self.

High-Way 6: Forgiveness of the Past
While everyone knows the now-Disneyed adage, “Let it go,” this chapter is somewhat unique to other forgiveness advice. It offers simple exercises the reader can undergo in order to work toward forgiveness, which seem like they could truly be helpful. However, I would add: don’t forget to take responsibility for the harm you may have caused others.

High-Way 7: Gratitude for the Present
As with the other chapters, this one is nothing new. However, creative and artistic types should glance through it for tips on finding inspiration in even the most mundane aspects of life.

High-Way 8: Hope for the Future
This concept, I did not like. I agree that hope is good and maintaining optimism is important for one’s well-being. However, Mueller markets hope as a cop-out for when “getting the picture” doesn’t magically manifest one’s dreams. In short, she defines hope as surrendering to the universe and trusting that eventually one’s goals will be fulfilled in some way…without one having to lift a finger. Maybe I just didn’t drink enough of the Kool-Aid, but I believe that people need to use hard work and hope together, not just hope on its own, to manifest their dreams.

In short, this book is well-structured and an easy read. As long as the reader doesn’t think too critically about the information provided, I see no reason why this program could not teach one new skills and improve one’s life and outlook.

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41Xf5kQhFfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_If you are interested in reading 8 to Great: The Powerful Process for Positive Change  and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!