5 Ways To Get Rid Of Inertia In Your Life

 

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

*Knocking on microphone* Hello? Anyone there?

I’ve been MIA from this blog for a while. Quite a while. I haven’t touched my WIP for almost 4 months. I’ve lost my way. I could blame it on a lot of legitimate reasons. Continue reading

Write Anywhere #81: Weekend Wanderings

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Do you ever plan to NOT make a plan?

I am a planner. I have lists, and lists of lists. It’s not that I am necessarily skilled at fulfilling the plan, but giving myself structure helps me make progress. Even with all my planning, I find myself in a general pattern of creative ups and downs. Spurts of creative productivity punctuated by dry spells  filled with frustration, anxiety, and low spirits. I’m working at being more balanced, but it will be a lifetime journey.

I don’t do well at spontaneous. It can even make me nervous. That whole facade of control, you know.

Some days though, the stars align, and I agree to throw out the list for the day. Keeper Hubby is good at helping me do that. He helps me get out of my always-so-serious mode and enjoy the moment, live in the present, and laugh at myself. Another one of so many reasons that he is a Keeper. 😉

We spent a day letting nothing in particular dictate our plans, and it refreshed my creative focus. Continue reading

Organize Your Day For Maximum Writing Productivity

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photo courtesy Hustvedt, Creative Commons

By Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Does finding time for writing leave you overwhelmed?

The tug of your creative life versus ‘regular life’ got you feeling guilty?

You’re not alone. Continue reading

10 Shortcuts To Defeating Writing Procrastination In Record Time

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for?

Do you find yourself with all the good intentions to sit down and write that novel/memoir/poem/magazine article/editorial/blog post that’s been tugging at your insides, only to find yourself at the end of another day with nothing to show for it?

If so, you may be a writing procrastinator.

There are a lot of legitimate reasons your writing doesn’t happen, but if you find yourself struggling on a regular basis, procrastination may be an issue for you.

I’m a procrastinator. I struggle. I wallow in indecision on a regular basis. It seems at the moment I decide to write I realize the dishes need washing, the bills need paying, the cat needs feeding, and suddenly messes that have been messes for months must be organized. When I want to I can find all kinds of things to distract me from writing, from de-cluttering to cruising Facebook and Twitter to making lists of things I need to accomplish ‘whenever I finally have the time’. What’s wrong with that picture?

Procrastination affects about 20% of the population. Some people procrastinate because they get a rush from putting things off even though it creates anxiety. Those are the people who say they do best with a deadline looming or cramming for tests at the last minute. Other people procrastinate because they want to avoid the activity they need to accomplish, even though they would tell you they really want to do it, ‘if only’.

If you procrastinate in other areas of your life, it creeps into your writing time as well.

“Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle.” – James Surowiecki

Many prolific writers have occasional times of procrastination. Procrastination is often confused with writer’s block. Writer’s block is when you have the discipline to sit down and write but nothing comes. Procrastination is when you do all you can to avoid sitting down in the first place, though you may have lots of writing that wants to come out. I think more writers are actually dealing with procrastination issues rather than true blockage.

Perfectionism is also a willing partner to procrastination. A perfectionist would rather not do something than do it with the possibility that it doesn’t turn out perfect. Perfectionism is based in fear and the need to control all circumstances, but in reality it causes a lack of control. Perfectionists have a cushion in procrastination. They don’t have to take responsibility because ‘there wasn’t enough time’.

I know this from personal experience. I’ve struggled with perfectionism and the guilt that follows all my distractions in order to avoid writing because the truth, if I’m willing to face it, is that I fear I will be found out as a failure.

Procrastination boils down to fear.

Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of judgment, fear of commitment, self-doubt.

Fear.

“Procrastination is not Laziness”, I tell him. “It is fear. Call it by its right name, and forgive yourself.” – Julia Cameron, The Prosperous Heart

Procrastination guarantees one thing. You don’t move forward. You don’t move at all.

What does procrastination look like?

  • You ignore the activity or act like it doesn’t exist.
  • You wait until the last minute until it’s too late to do anything about it, and blame it on your ‘lack of time’ or ‘being so busy’.
  • You have a Scarlett O’Hara attitude. “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
  • You downplay the importance or priority of the activity.
  • You substitute a less important activity for a more important one. “These dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, I need to shine the silver (that you haven’t used in three years) in case someone drops by.”
  • You deserve a reward or comfort for all you’re going through. “No one cares about all the frustration I’m going through with my writing. I’m going to cheer myself up with some comfort food/drink/new shoes/a night out, etc. This is legitimate until it starts happening regularly while writing does not.
  • Unproductive productivity. You convince yourself that your delaying tactics actually help your writing. “I can learn about dialogue so much more if I watch the entire season of Duck Dynasty, read these fifty blogs and seven writing instruction books that I need to read before I start writing, and go meet my writing friends for coffee four times a week to talk about writing.”
  • You focus on your weaknesses and give them all the power. “I’m just too tired/angry/depressed/anxious/in pain/lonely/to do any writing.”

Self-sabotage is the sneakiest kind of roadblock to your best writing life because who better than you knows all your triggers and knows how to use them against yourself?

Sometimes the universe aligns and the words seem to drip off our fingertips. But most of the time we slog. We march in the mud. We throw wild punches at the air. We rant and rave at the blank page. And then we write.

Writing is hard just like life is hard. As you work to move forward through life, don’t let procrastination keep you from moving forward in your writing life. Fight for it. Push back at fear.

Here are 10 Shortcuts To Stopping Writing Procrastination:

  1. Admit it. Just like any other bad habit (and it is a learned habit), you first have to admit you have a problem before you can do something about it.
  2. Consider the root cause of your procrastination. Why do you delay and distract yourself from the writing? Fear? Past failures? Lack of discipline? Not wanting to face the truths you are writing about? Take time to examine the heart issues that result in procrastination behaviors.
  3. Ask for help. Let your friends and family know this is an issue for you (although they already know) and that you’d like encouragement and support as you’re trying to change your habits.
  4. Find a buddy. The buddy system works in many behavior modification scenarios. Procrastination is no different. Connect with someone else who is struggling with procrastination and hold each other accountable. Three writing friends and I used a calendar system for accountability to help us focus on writing productivity. It’s surprising what you make time for when you know someone is watching.
  5. Get unblocked. If you feel like you are dealing with true writing blocks, try some unblocking techniques like writing prompts, free writing, other creative pursuits (painting, photography, etc.), or work on another project for a change of pace.
  6. Be realistic. Perfectionists tend to make grandiose plans that they know they can’t complete in the finite amount of time they give themselves and quit before they start. If you have a day job, small children, or other obligations, know that those things are not going away and you have to negotiate your time. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Start your time management make-over with small consistent bites of time to encourage yourself. A timer set for 15 minutes works wonders.
  7. Show up. Position yourself at your desk or wherever you usually write and hang around awhile. If you write, that’s great. But if you don’t, that’s okay, too. Train yourself to show up and eventually the writing will come.
  8. Stop comparisons. Comparison is only helpful when you are trying to find the best deal on hamburger at the grocery store. Don’t compare yourself to your writing friend who writes for seventeen hours straight or writers who may be at a different skill level than you are. Do what works best for you and be content with that.
  9. Embrace the process. Vanquishing procrastination is not something you do in one fell swoop or a single proclamation. “I’m not a procrastinator anymore. Ta-dah!” Instead it’s the accumulation of a million small choices, day in and day out. Don’t quit just because you backslide into old habits from time to time.
  10. Resolve to do one thing every day towards your writing goals.

BONUS SHORTCUT: Let go of excuses. Today.

Stop postponing your dreams – what are you waiting for?

Eradicate procrastination with this epic blog post master class:

What has been the greatest self-imposed obstacle to your writing?

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Mental Health Series: How To Harness Your Creative Temperament and Stay Sane, Married and Sober

image courtesy crosa, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Do your emotions stop you dead in your writing tracks?

Do you find the intense emotions you experience daily make for messy relationships, messy productivity, messy life?

This post is the first in an 8-part series over the next two months on creatives and mental health. I don’t write this as one with all the answers but one who is on the journey. I experienced a severe chemical depression in 2004 that resulted in medical treatment. I also have an ongoing diagnosis of panic disorder, so I have been in the trenches. I want to get a discourse going. Bring this subject out of the shadows and into the light of day.

Realizing the connection between your emotions, mental health and your creative temperment may help your productivity and your daily life. So we’re going to go there.

Stories of famous creatives who struggled with issues like depression, bipolar, panic disorder, etc. abound: Michelangelo, Hemingway, Styron, Piaf, Plath, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Woolf, Kerouac, Dickinson, Asimov, and Streisand, just to name a few.

Part of this may be explained by DNA. Scientists have discovered in the brain scans of creatives and mental patients a similar brain activity. In both groups there is a flood of uncensored information because of a lack of a certain kind of receptor in the thalamus. So we really do see things differently than other people.

Creativity is known to be associated with increased risk of depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.  People who have mental illness in their family have a greater chance of having high creativity. You might have to give your ‘crazy’ Aunt Edna some credit in your next book dedication. There has also been a long-standing cultural mythology of the eccentric creative as a bit mentally unhinged that artistic personalities have to overcome.

Researcher Mihaly Csikczentmihalyi says:

“If I had to express in one word what makes their (creatives) personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude. Like the color white that includes all colors, they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves. Creativity allows for paradox, light, shadow, inconsistency, even chaos –and creative people experience both extremes with equal intensity.”

No wonder in that extreme intensity come intense emotions

Creatives are pre-wired to experience circumstances more intensely. We process these intense feelings through our art, our creativity, our innovation. Our highs are higher, our lows are lower. The elevator from high to low feelings can drop dramatically or explode out of the ceiling like an emotional Wonka-vator. Our anger outward becomes rage, our anger inward becomes spiraling depression.

Some of the mental health issues we’ll talk about in this blog series are: depression, anxiety and panic disorders, addictive behaviors, OCD, ADHD, hypersensitivity, boundary issues, internalization, PTSD, and artistic paranoid jealousy. Disorder has a very negative connotation, but it is dis-order, out of place, not out of mind.

I believe that mental health challenges are not any different than physical health challenges. Understanding, compassion, and access to treatment should be the same as any health issue. I also believe at times emotional struggles may boil down to Resistance.

Resistance can come from outside forces, but most often is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Julia Cameron addresses this in The Artist’s Way:

“Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control. This is frightening, and we resist it. Our resistance to our creativity is a form of self- destruction. We throw up roadblocks on our own path. Why do we do this? In order to maintain an illusion of control. Depression, like anger and anxiety, is resistance, and it creates dis-ease. This manifests itself as sluggishness, confusion, “I don’t know…” The truth is , we do know and we know that we know.” 

Steven Pressfield in Do The Work refers to Resistance this way:

“Resistance cannot be seen, heard, touched or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work. Resistance is insidious. Resistance will tell you anyting to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.” 

Whether it’s Resistance or a medical situation, creatives may have more tendency to emotional turbulence and mental health issues, but it doesn’t mean we have to accept the unpleasant consequences. We can admit we need assistance, and take care of ourselves.

When we live out the best life we can, our creativity is less hindered and we can create our best art. It’s okay to have emotions, but don’t let emotions have you and steal your best life.

Question: Do you think mental health struggles are strictly biochemical or does Resistance play a part?

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Write Anywhere #46

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Have you been taking yourself out on a creativity date? Here at kristin nador writes anywhere, we are all about encouraging creatives to step out of the everyday and let your creative self bloom, if only for a few minutes at a time. What if you don’t have time to step out of the everyday? Then take a small sidestep while you’re in the midst of the everyday. That’s what I did this week, to some good results.

Write Anywhere #46: Grocery Store

What stories lurk in these otherwise ordinary grocery aisles?

A grocery store is a pretty mundane place. Most people go there on an regular basis, doing ordinary shopping chores. It’s ordinary.

Unless you look for the unexpected. Take the time to really experience it. Get your notebook ready. Find a bench, sit down and watch the goings-on.

Drive your cart slowly and listen. Eavesdrop. You might find some great nuggets of dialogue for your next project. Talk to the older people. They have stories to tell that are just waiting for a patient audience.

Slow down and look at the products. Where did those red bananas come from? What types of people eat polenta from a roll?

There’s a photo developing counter. What kind of story could you write about the woman picking up her photos?

my favorite shopping partner

Watch and listen to the grocery employees. What’s their story? What could their story be? How would they act  if the President or Brad Pitt stopped by to pick up a few things?

What if the store was the only one open after a major disaster? How would the atmosphere change?

Maybe you know the cashier or produce manager. Can you surreptitiously interview them about their job? It’s good practice.

You might feel silly trying out the write anywhere concept in a place you frequent often. Think about this quote from Julia Cameron and her classic book for creatives ‘The Artist’s Way’:

“Much of what we do in a creative recovery may seem silly. Silly is a defense our Wet Blanket adult uses to squelch our artist child. Beware of silly as a word you toss at yourself. Yes, artist dates are silly, that’s the whole point. Creativity lives in paradox: serious art is born from serious play.”

You might feel pressured to try a writing exercise while searching for some edible stuffs for your hungry family who want their dinner NOW. Pick a time when you have time. Time to let go of the ordinary and focus on the extraordinary, which is your creative ability.

“Creative living requires the luxury of time, which we carve out for ourselves – even if it’s fifteen minutes for morning pages and a ten minute minibath after work.”

– Julia Cameron, ‘The Artist’s Way’

My foray into grocery store writing gave me the makings of a funny short story to work on. Give yourself time and even in the unlikeliest of places creativity will bloom.

Where did you write this week?

**Important News: Stay tuned to kristin nador writes anywhere for some exciting happenings that will revolve around the 1 year anniversary of Write Anywhere Fridays. Week #52 is coming up, and we’ll be having all kinds of fun with some virtual parties, and some giveaway surprises. I’ll also be making some announcements concerning new features to make our second year even more creative, informative and interactive. Make sure you’re subscribed in email or RSS so you don’t miss a thing and tell all your creative friends. The more the merrier! More details in the coming weeks.

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Start Your Week Off Write: Tackle The Discipline Of Practice

Did you watch the Super Bowl last night? What an exciting, surprise-a-minute bunch of craziness! And the game was good, too. Don’t you love those commercials? 😉

Seriously the game was a nail biter. Two great teams, two awesome quarterbacks. Tom Brady and Eli Manning are the best of the best. They’re both seasoned athletes that strive for excellence and know how to get it done when the pressure’s on. But they weren’t always premiere NFL quarterbacks. They were both rookies once. They’re better players than they were in high school, and better than they were in college. And there’s only one reason for that. They practiced. In the heat. In the cold. While injuries healed. When they didn’t feel like it. They have talent, or DNA in Manning’s case, but talent and DNA only get you so far. Practice is the only way to be able to throw bullets when stampeding defensive ends are coming your way.

Practice = perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, maintain or improve proficiency in it.

You should practice whatever you are passionate about. If you are a football player you should practice playing football. If baking is your passion, perfect that cookie recipe by baking cookies. Lots of them.

If you are a writer, you should practice writing. No matter where you are in your writing journey, you can get better. We writers like to excuse away our need for practice with the fact that we need inspiration, a spark, a call from the Muse. Practice seems intrusive and boring and regular and not spontaneous. Let’s get to the exciting stuff of writing best selling novels. Yes, let’s get to it, but don’t despise the days of small beginnings. You have to walk before you can run, and all those other good cliches that apply. Unfortunately being the very best you can be takes practice.

You won’t be publishing every word you write. But all the words you write will help you get your best words published. 

The key, as in the definition above, is to perform the activity regularly to maintain and improve proficiency. I like what Farnoosh over at Prolific Living says:

“Practice can be the one gap you have to close between yourself and your goals (Choose to close it). It can be the one impediment that can hold you back and leave you wondering why others are so much better at that something for which you pine (Don’t allow it). It can make the difference between good and great, mediocre and magnificent (Go for the latter). It can define your skills by different scales altogether (Up the ante) It can be your breakaway strategy and your true path to your very own authentic success or the lack thereof (Seriously, practice is that good and almighty.)”

Read the entire post The Importance of Practice: Use It Or Lose It

Writing practice is like loosening the creative muscles. It might take us down an unexpected path in our writing, or it might clear the way to focus on our current WIP. Here are a few methods to use for a regular writing practice:

Morning Pages

Brought into popularity by author Julia Cameron, Morning Pages are a way to clear the mind, get the juices flowing and establish a routine that leads to more writing. Check out my post How To Rescue Yourself From Creative Captivity With Morning Pages

Writing Prompts

I saw those eyes roll. Writing prompts – people either seem to love or hate them. But you don’t have to use pre-programmed prompts. Make up your own based on what interests you that day. Use the news, the argument the neighbors had last night, that phone call with your mother. Then riff. If you like to be inspired by a writing prompt, one of the best places to find them are on Joe Bunting’s The Write Practice. Not only does Joe give you writing ideas, he lets you post the results.

Copy great passages of writing

If you want to be great, study the greats. You can bet Tom studies Eli. Eli studies Tom. They both study guys like Montana and Marino and Elway. And then Eli does it Eli’s way. Tom does it Tom’s way. Hunter S. Thompson typed out an entire book of Fitzgerald and Hemingway to improve his own writing technique. You might not want to take it to that extreme, but studying good writers by writing down passages will make you a better writer. Then write your way.

Need more inspiration for writing practice? Check out these links:

and for a different viewpoint…

Question: Do you think there’s such a thing as writer’s block? Have you ever had it and what did you do to get rid of it?

How to Rescue Yourself from Creative Captivity with Morning Pages

portrait of the cat as a writer

I’ve been trapped in the house for about three weeks while recovering from a serious bout of pneumonia. It’s a terrible feeling not to be able to take a full breath; I sympathize with those who deal with respiratory problems on a regular basis. I did, however, enjoy watching Keeper Hubby, Artist Daughter and Poet Son run the household; they were impressive at keeping the juice flowing and the soup hot. After the fever and codeine cough medicine haze lifted, I got back to the business of domestic management, pushing myself too quickly (but they NEED me, right?). A relapse continued my forced confinement and put a dent in my quest to explore different places to write. I couldn’t even go out in my backyard, thanks to a series of ozone alert days full of respiratory-distressed air that settled on the city. That usually doesn’t happen here until August. My captivity started me thinking about other ways to kick-start my creativity.

This week I began writing Morning Pages again.

Morning Pages, if you haven’t heard of the term, is an activity promoted by author and artist Julia Cameron in her classic book The Artist’s Way. First thing in the morning, before you do anything else, write three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing, also called freewriting. Author Natalie Goldberg touts this type of mind-freeing activity in Writing Down the Bones, another well-known book in writers’ circles. The concept is to free your mind from the cluttered thinking (read: monkey mind) that tries to smother the creative ideas lurking in your gray matter.

When I first read about Morning Pages, I was enthusiastic, anything for more creativity. But Perfectionist Me, my alpha alter ego, started protesting. You must make sense! Fix that grammar! It has to be three pages! Now you’re behind, so write six pages! When I would miss a day, I felt guilty about it. After more spurts and fits, I gave up. Perfectionism and guilt seem to be common partners-in-crime with procrastination. I’m ready to let go of the excuses and be my most creative me. What to do? Risk it all and be imperfect.

breaking the perfection rules

As if there is any chance of ever attaining perfection. Perfectionism really boils down to fear. Fear of failure. But the condundrum is if you don’t start, you are destined to fail for certain. Without risk, there is no success. Conclusion: Do It Afraid. 

Our imperfections, bumps, lumps and scars make us our unique selves with a unique voice to share, in whatever shape that voice comes in. Embracing our selves, our gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses can take a lifetime.

Ah, the ramblings of an amateur psychoanalyst. Note to self: try to avoid that.

Back to Morning Pages…

Interested in learning more, or getting back into a journaling mode to boost your creative side?

Check out Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way free online creativity workshop here.

It’s freeing to have a daily brain dump, so I’ll keep doing Morning Pages. If I miss a day, so what? Judging myself takes too much energy I could be using to, say, watch talking cat videos. I think of it as cerebral respiratory therapy. And I need all the therapy I can get. Help your brain breathe, the fresh air feels good!

Question: Do you journal on a regular basis? Do you feel it helps your writing/creativity?