I’m a certified slacker when it comes to creative writing. Yesterday I was shocked to find out I have written more than 15,000 words of my first book project.
I was stoked! I couldn’t believe it.
Procrastination has been my best friend when it comes to writing my stuff.
I have thousands of excuses in my mind (like always), and I’m also juggling a handful of content development, digital marketing, and copywriting projects.
But last week of October, I decided to do it by hook or by crook.
So, what did I learn from this experience? I’ve been quietly working on it and accidentally set myself up for this challenge. I became a guinea pig of all pigs to understand my productivity, work-life balance, and just living the life.
Lesson 1: Decide to do it before anything else.
Begin with the end in mind. No excuses. I wanted to do it because I wanted to contribute something valuable to my generation.
I’ve been working as a freelance writer and copywriter for 6 years; it’s time to do something outside of business and technology writing.
Lesson 2: Accountability partners are gold
Accountability partners help me get things done because I can share my struggles and daily successes.
I was intentional about it because it helped a lot in my fitness journey via keto diet where I lost 50 pounds after 10 months. Check out our photos (My keto partner Paula @thefrugalketomama and I).
If accountability worked on my weight loss journey, why not try it on writing?
So, I messaged one of my writer friends, Ida Torres and told her I’d join the writing marathon. And we kept in touch since then.
Lesson 3: Sharing triggers dopamine
I was intentional in sharing my daily writing session and victories via Instagram and Facebook Stories (e.g. when I finished today’s 1,000 words+).
Not to brag my stuff (that’s why I was not posting directly in my feeds to avoid spamming my friends) but I felt the sense of accountability and transparency to my network in an exclusive way.
Lesson 4: Just show up
I wear different hats every day. Sometimes, I’m a consultant. Some days, I’m a copywriter, email marketer, web designer, or a Chinese language student (I make time to study the language online via WeChat thanks to the awesome folks at Culture Yard, the go-to language school of expats in Beijing).
But whenever I sit down and face the blank screen (I really love the minimalist design of Ulysses app and its cool writing features) I always go back to the writer within.
The secret is setting aside time each day. Like when I have meet-ups with friends.
I already decided to go, commit to the writer within, and just show up.
Lesson 5: Meet and connect with like-minded folks
I went outside of my bubble and started going out. It sparked creative ideas and helped me verbalize my thoughts, whether my struggles or successes.
When I surrounded myself with creative and talented people, I began to appreciate different views and ways to write and maintain productivity, and most of all, I discovered my “witching hours,” where I’m in the zone (2 PM – 2 AM).
Lesson 6: Embrace the process
There were days when I felt I’d probably drop the project and maybe try it next time. When I saw some friends’ social media feeds, most of them traveling, photos of children, engagements, weddings, tours and among others, I thought to myself, “Is this really worth it?”
Here I am, sitting at my desk; writing and digging holes in my brain.
Then I realized how comparison killed the creative process. So, I learned to embrace the present moment, let go of my insecurities, and enjoy the solitude.
It was a beautiful surrender.
Lesson 7: Pause
There’s a time for everything and pausing for a while helped me create a space, a vacuum in my mind where I just sat down, read, or did nothing.
Once, I caught myself staring at the blank screen. I took a deep breathe and pause. Then I opened my bundles of journals donkey years ago. I began to embrace that “pause moment,” and suddenly, the creative muse came.
Lesson 8: Always take short breaks
I used a premium Pomodoro app to track those 5-minute breaks and helped me to recalibrate my mind when I’m already in the zone.
Just because ideas started flowing, it doesn’t mean I’ll work continuously. Short breaks helped me build the momentum I needed for that specific period.
Lesson 9: Inspirations are everywhere
I found inspiration from unusual experiences – from daily commutes when in Manila while listening to The Creative Life podcast by James Taylor, to quick errands and short drives back home or from an odd painting that sparked nostalgic memories.
From the daily nuisances to little luxuries such as a favored MRT ride, a cup of hot tea at midnight, and delectable Stevia-sweetened, dark chocolates. There’s so much to learn from nature, city life, and from our waking lives.
Lesson 10: Make time because there’s a time for everything
“I’m busy. I don’t have time.” This is a big lie, and for the past years, I’ve been a slave of this thought.
I discovered this was my excuse, an escape to face the writer within. To write is to be vulnerable, to reveal our thoughts, convictions, and flaws. I hate that!
But finally, I have found the system (and there’s no one-size-fits-all, the writer must experiment and explore) and time that worked for me.
I have 24 hours. 16 hours left to do stuff in my waking life
I learned that it’s not because I’m busy and don’t have time.
I’m just busy with things that don’t help me get things done, and I don’t intentionally make time for things that matter to me.
Lesson 11: Write fast, let it flow, edit later
As an INFP with a touch of Steadiness and Compliance from DISC test, I’m somewhat a perfectionist, and I’m after quality where I end overthinking and procrastinating.
I learned that writing is a process and involves discipline. To let the thoughts flow and write as much as you can and edit later.
Lesson 12: Write first. Set aside the marketing or business
I already have an elevator pitch about my book.
In one of the writing workshops I attended, I learned that once you get to describe your book project in one sentence, you’re ready to translate that idea into an outline and then into hundreds of pages.
It’s easier said than done.
I’m a business-marketer type of person.
While writing the book, I was already thinking of the digital marketing strategies and sustainable business models for royalties and profits.
But my writer accountability partner reminded me to focus on writing. Set aside the entrepreneur for now. Write and focus.
Lesson 13: Appreciate the people in your circle
When I began to doubt, I started to encourage myself and the people in my circle.
I realized that a grateful heart helped me to see things from a different perspective, especially the folks who believed in me.
Lesson 14: Reward yourself
The writing part is the hardest part. And I learned that celebrating the small victories in my life helped me to move on and keep on writing because it’s a reminder that I’m making progress.
A cup of cold brew with heavy whipped cream, a new book, or just a walk in the park – these little luxuries are gold.
Lesson 15: REPEAT
So, I’ve finished the first half of the first draft I call crap. And that’s okay.
I’m going to repeat the process and move to the editing part or maybe continue writing another book.
I realized that it’s not about the achievements I’ve unlocked but the process itself, which is a humbling experience. The writing life is not a race, it’s a marathon.
To create is not to sell or just capitalize; to create is to give life to the art – to writing itself.
Are you participating this year’s writing marathon #nanowrimo2017 or working on a book project? Feel free to share your thoughts in comment sections.