The following is my handout from my 1 1/2 hour workshop today at the Stories of the Heart Memoir Conference in Austin. I think it’s fairly self-explanatory. The conference was exceptional this year for me. I felt as if I took away some critical information related to writing and publishing. Hopefully, my workshop was helpful to others. It is always great to see old writing friends and make new ones. I am already looking forward to the next conference in 2 years!
How 20 Minutes a Day Can Transform Your Writing Life
Benefits of Writing/Blogging 20 Minutes a Day:
2 ½ years (or 864 posts) ago I wrote:
If you write daily, you will Increase writing fluidity, develop your “voice,” discover who you are and how you think, feel good about yourself by doing something every day related to writing, believe you are closer to being a “real” writer, stop debilitating perfectionism, have a daily chronicle of your life, and create a body of work.
If you blog daily, you will increase readership, open yourself up to people writing similar things on the internet, create a community of writers, increase your chances of attracting an agent, and others’ posts will spur your own writing.
Today I would add:
Writing 20 minutes a day will often not just be 20 minutes, but rather an hour or two before you look up from your writing.
You begin to see life more fully since you are now always looking for “material” for your writing. You may find yourself taking more pictures, as well, since photos will help you to remember the details of what you saw.
You’ll find that your family will inform you they already know what you’re telling them. “I read your blog, Mom.”
If you’re lucky, you will find random people writing you and confessing that they love your blog. These may be neighbors, acquaintances or old high school friends who you haven’t spoken to in forty years. That’s a lot of fun, by the way.
You’ll discover a ready source for quick rewrites and submissions to either online or print journals. I have increased my publication rate significantly since I have so much more material to work with than ever before.
You will remain puzzled why anyone would find your boring life/blog interesting, but you will accept that there are truly people out there who want to read about the ordinary aspects of someone else’s life. Go figure.
You will also begin to see which pieces your readers respond to and which ones seem to leave them a bit cold. Ironically, for me, the more brilliant I think the piece is, often the less response I get. Conversely, the simpler the piece, often the greater response.
You will find yourself experiencing all of life more fully: music, art, literature, relationships, spirituality, etc. because you are now constantly thinking about how to transform these experiences into writing.
You may, in fact, feel as if you are actively growing as a human being because you are allowing passion and discipline to be an active part of your daily life.
Challenges to Writing 20 Minutes a Day:
2 ½ years ago I wrote:
1)I am boring and so is my life.
2) Why would anybody care about what I’m writing?
3) I am wasting my time. I will never make money doing this.
4) I have nothing to write about. I am blank.
5) I am not a good writer, why am I bothering?
6) My family is complaining that they need me, and I should be more attentive to them.
7) I am kidding myself that this makes any sense.
8) Other people give me that look that reads, “Oh my, who do you think you’re kidding? You will only fail at this.”
9) I would write, but I have so many other more important things that need my attention.
10) I am too lazy for this; this must be for other people not me.
Today I would add:
!) I need to write earlier so I am not always tired when I write.
2) I need to have some plan-ahead blogs in case I truly can’t write that day.
3) I need to have a ready resource of prompts just in case I am dead cold with ideas for my 20 minutes.
4) I need to get comfortable with who I am so I don’t censor myself when writing (within reason, of course).
5) I may need to have particular days for certain types of writing to help organize my blogging week better.
6) I need to be sure and categorize my blogs every time I write so that I (and readers) can more effectively find my posts when doing a Google or Yahoo search.
7) I need a better phone so I can upgrade my photographs.
8) I need to learn how to incorporate occasional podcasts of my work on my blog.
9) I need to learn how to title my blogs better for increased readership.
10) I need to take the chance to write fiction, nonfiction, poetry or whatever I damn well please on my blog. In other words, I need to banish DOUBT.
The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way by DR. WAYNE W. DYE
TRUE NOBILITY: “True nobility isn’t about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you used to be.”
Faulkner’s wisdom: “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
Don’t compete. Come from your soul and CREATE.
Be you. The best you imaginable.
“Hit the mental delete button every time fear appears.”
And ask yourself the question: “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?!?”
More wisdom on the subject of doubt:
William Shakespeare: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”
Ramana Maharshi: “Doubts arise because of an absence of surrender.”
Emerson: “Always, always, always, always, always do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
Some inspiration from Brenda Ueland
Taken from her book, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
If you compare yourself to other writers, Brenda says:
“Don’t always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers.”I will not Reason & Compare,” said Blake;”my business is to Create.” Besides since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable.”
If you are constantly dissatisfied with your work, Brenda says:
“If you are never satisfied with what you write, that is a good sign. It means your vision can see so far that it is hard to come up to it. Again I say, the only unfortunate people are the glib ones, immediately satisfied with their work. To them the ocean is knee-deep.”
If you don’t know what type of writing you want to do, Brenda says:
“Tackle anything you want to–novels, plays, anything. Only remember Blake’s admonition: ‘Better to strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.’”
If you get discouraged, Brenda says:
“When discouraged, remember what Van Gogh said: ‘If you hear a voice within you saying: you are no painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working.’ ”
18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick:
Scott H Young
Wouldn’t it be nice to have everything run on autopilot? Chores, exercise, eating healthy and getting your work done just happening automatically. Unless they manage to invent robot servants, all your work isn’t going to disappear overnight. But if you program behaviors as new habits you can take out the struggle.
With a small amount of initial discipline, you can create a new habit that requires little effort to maintain. Here are some tips for creating new habits and making them stick:
1. Commit to Thirty Days – Three to four weeks is all the time you need to make a habit automatic. If you can make it through the initial conditioning phase, it becomes much easier to sustain. A month is a good block of time to commit to a change since it easily fits in your calendar.
2. Make it Daily – Consistency is critical if you want to make a habit stick. If you want to start exercising, go to the gym every day for your first thirty days. Going a couple times a week will make it harder to form the habit. Activities you do once every few days are trickier to lock in as habits.
3. Start Simple – Don’t try to completely change your life in one day. It is easy to get over-motivated and take on too much. If you wanted to study two hours a day, first make the habit to go for thirty minutes and build on that.
4. Remind Yourself – Around two weeks into your commitment it can be easy to forget. Place reminders to execute your habit each day or you might miss a few days. If you miss time it defeats the purpose of setting a habit to begin with.
5. Stay Consistent – The more consistent your habit the easier it will be to stick. If you want to start exercising, try going at the same time, to the same place for your thirty days. When cues like time of day, place and circumstances are the same in each case it is easier to stick.
6. Get a Buddy – Find someone who will go along with you and keep you motivated if you feel like quitting.
7. Form a Trigger – A trigger is a ritual you use right before executing your habit. If you wanted to wake up earlier, this could mean waking up in exactly the same way each morning. If you wanted to quit smoking you could practice snapping your fingers each time you felt the urge to pick up a cigarette.
8. Replace Lost Needs – If you are giving up something in your habit, make sure you are adequately replacing any needs you’ve lost. If watching television gave you a way to relax, you could take up meditation or reading as a way to replace that same need.
9. Be Imperfect – Don’t expect all your attempts to change habits to be successful immediately. It took me four independent tries before I started exercising regularly. Now I love it. Try your best, but expect a few bumps along the way.
10. Use “But” – A prominent habit changing therapist once told me this great technique for changing bad thought patterns. When you start to think negative thoughts, use the word “but” to interrupt it. “I’m no good at this, but, if I work at it I might get better later.”
11. Remove Temptation – Restructure your environment so it won’t tempt you in the first thirty days. Remove junk food from your house, cancel your cable subscription, throw out the cigarettes so you won’t need to struggle with willpower later.
12. Associate With Role Models – Spend more time with people who model the habits you want to mirror. A recent study found that having an obese friend indicated you were more likely to become fat. You become what you spend time around.
13. Run it as an Experiment – Withhold judgment until after a month has past and use it as an experiment in behavior. Experiments can’t fail, they just have different results so it will give you a different perspective on changing your habit.
14. Swish – A technique from NLP. Visualize yourself performing the bad habit. Next visualize yourself pushing aside the bad habit and performing an alternative. Finally, end that sequence with an image of yourself in a highly positive state. See yourself picking up the cigarette, see yourself putting it down and snapping your fingers, finally visualize yourself running and breathing free. Do it a few times until you automatically go through the pattern before executing the old habit.
15. Write it Down – A piece of paper with a resolution on it isn’t that important. Writing that resolution is. Writing makes your ideas more clear and focuses you on your end result.
16. Know the Benefits – Familiarize yourself with the benefits of making a change. Get books that show the benefits of regular exercise. Notice any changes in energy levels after you take on a new diet. Imagine getting better grades after improving your study habits.
17. Know the Pain – You should also be aware of the consequences. Exposing yourself to realistic information about the downsides of not making a change will give you added motivation.
18. Do it For Yourself – Don’t worry about all the things you “should” have as habits. Instead tool your habits towards your goals and the things that motivate you. Weak guilt and empty resolutions aren’t enough.
This questionnaire was invented by the noted French author Marcel Proust. These questions are frequently used in interviews so you may want to pretend you’re interviewing your characters. You can also ask yourself these questions for memoir pieces.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
- What is your current state of mind?
- What is your favorite occupation?
- What is your most treasured possession?
- What or who is the greatest love of your life?
- What is your favorite journey?
- What is your most marked characteristic?
- When and where were you the happiest?
- What is it that you most dislike?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What is your greatest extravagance?
- Which living person do you most despise?
- What is your greatest regret?
- Which talent would you most like to have?
- Where would you like to live?
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
- What is the quality you most like in a man?
- What is the quality you most like in a woman?
- What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
- What is the trait you most deplore in others?
- What do you most value in your friends?
- Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
- Whose are your heroes in real life?
- Which living person do you most admire?
- What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
- On what occasions do you lie?
- Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What are your favorite names?
- How would you like to die?
- If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Blogging – Go to WordPress and dive right in. There will be a learning curve, but just stay with it. You can learn this. Ask your friends to sign up. Also, post your blog to Facebook and Linked In. You will have a readership in no time.