4 Great Reasons Writers Should Spend Time Offline

Why Writers should spend time offlineThe internet has seriously changed the writing game and most of it is for the better. I can’t even imagine trying to write a book without Google (actually, I can and researching is painful). It’s also been an awesome way connect with other writers (like all of you!). But I think we all know it has it’s downsides too. Unplugging and making a point to spend time offline and away from your phone isn’t a new idea. In fact, this article from Good Housekeeping talks about the positive effects time offline can have on your health, relationships, and creativity!

Let’s take a look at four reasons time offline it’s particularly important for writers.

1) Too much input interferes with output

A friend said this to me once and she’s right. All that input from social media/news/everything else makes it harder to figure out what YOU think about an experience, situation, or the world in general, which means it’s hard to generate creative output that’s uniquely your own. Two massive elements to writing are your voice and your perspective. That’s the basis of every art form. The world keeps changing and you keep growing. Which means how you think about the world is going to consistently evolve. It’s hard to constantly develop and write your own thoughts if you spend most of your time taking in other people’s ideas. When you spend time offline, you’re giving yourself the time and space to develop your own thinking.

2) Get away from distraction/time suck

Let’s face it. The internet can be a wealth of information. It can also be a massive distraction. You jump online to look up that ONE thing and four hours later you’ve watched more pointless YouTube videos than you care to admit and spent too long scrolling Twitter. Obviously, I speak from experience. Sometimes mindless internet browsing can lead you to some cool places, but if you’re losing writing time, it’s a problem. Maybe you can’t log off for too long (for one reason or another) but if you find that you’re losing a ridiculous amount of production time to the internet, a weekend offline can really help. Focus solely on your project, read a book, or do any other offline activity. It feels like checking our phones and the internet has become a default setting for a lot of us. When you spend time offline and away from technology, it can go a long way in breaking that habit, which can make it easier to keep from getting distracted.

3) Refuel your creativity

If you’re not online, there are so many other things you could be doing to refuel your creativity. Read, catch a movie or TV show (without checking your phone or paying attention to two screens at once), spend time outside, visit with family/friends, or do whatever offline activity that helps stimulate your creativity. Really take in those experiences. These are the things we write about. And if you find yourself early to an event, don’t pull out your phone to kill time. Look around and make it a point to notice something. Think about what makes the fighting siblings in the corner so relatable or why the “lonely” person at the table by herself looks anything but lonely. When you unplug like this, you start to pay more attention to the world and to your own thoughts. All of that can be a serious boost to your creativity.

4) Get away from demands

It’s hard to focus on your work when people keep asking you for things–even if those ‘things’ are just a response. In the real world, we can close a door to keep these requests out. But the internet and technology have made us all more accessible. In most cases, this is good. It’s nice that we don’t have to wait a week for a letter to reach its destination, be read, and receive a response. But the downside is, there is always a door open for people to reach us. If you keep checking your phone or the internet and seeing texts/emails/social media post that requires an answer or attention, it makes it really difficult to get some work done. In the past, I would constantly find myself putting my work aside to tend to these messages. Unplugging, silencing my phone, and walking away from online messages for a period of time (sometimes just a few hours, sometimes for an entire week) has been really great for my productivity and general sanity. I completely recommend it.

Final thoughts

I’ve found it really helpful to take regular breaks from social media–even if I don’t break from the world entirely I like to shoot for at least one day a week, and a few times a year I’ll take an entire week away. When I come back from my breaks I notice I’m more balanced and more focused on my work. If you give it a try, let me know if you notice any difference!

I hope this inspires you to try to spend time offline!

Now it’s your turn: Do you unplug? If you do, what’s your strategy? If you don’t, what’s makes it hard for you to do? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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How to Redefine Failure in Your Writing Life

Redefining failureFailure and the fear of failure are always hot topics of conversation. This is true for writers too.

‘Failure’ has several dictionary definitions. According to Merriam-Webster, one of those definitions is a “lack of success.”

Truthfully, I think the dictionary is wrong. I don’t believe a lack of success constitutes a failure–especially when it comes to writing.

But before we can talk about what failure is, we need to talk about what failure isn’t:

1) Failure is not rejection.

You will get rejected. It does not mean you are a bad writer or your book is bad! It means that you haven’t found the best people for you and your book yet. Or it could mean that you’re not quite ready yet. Either way “yet “is the operative word. If you keep submitting, you will find someone who is right for you, and if you keep writing you will get better.

Furthermore, if you wrote a book that you love, that you had fun writing, and that you’re proud of, then you have already found a level of success. This can be said about every step forward. If you have a book that’s complete enough to query: success! If you write a query letter that gets you requests: success! Even if those requests don’t get you an agent, it’s a success to have made it that far. This is true all the way up the ladder. It’s like unlocking a level in a video game; just because you haven’t beaten the game yet, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate overcoming a challenging level. It’s an accomplishment and no one can take that away from you.

With that said, it’s okay (and normal!) to be disappointed by rejection, but you shouldn’t decide that means you’re a failure.

2) Failure is not dislike/disapproval.

Writing is subjective. Not everyone is going to like what you write. I’m sure this is something you’ve heard before. But I want to talk specifically about disapproval from “people who know what they’re talking about.”

These people could be teachers, editors, agents, librarians, or any writing ‘expert’ or ‘insider.’ When we seek or get feedback from these people, it’s ridiculously tempting to add extra emphasis to what they tell us. After all, they supposedly know what they’re talking about. In most cases, this is probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re right if they say your work is no good. It also doesn’t mean you are wasting your time or setting yourself up for failure if you keep going.

Every book is not for every reader. Everybody has different tastes. If you’ve written a fantasy and your expert reader doesn’t like fantasy, then they’re not your best source for feedback–no matter how impressive their resume is. It takes a very special skill set to be able to read a book with elements you don’t like and see its strengths. Not everyone can do it. Listen to feedback from readers who like the kind of book you’re trying to write and can tell you how to make your book better. Trust them. Keep moving forward.

3) Failure is not changing your mind.

Maybe you’ve never written a book before and halfway into your first draft you realize you are enjoying absolutely nothing about the experience. You’re not a failure if you decide not finishing that book. You learned what you don’t like and you’re smart for not forcing yourself into something you don’t enjoy.

You shouldn’t feel locked into a goal that you’re no longer enjoying simply because you don’t want to be a failure. When you set that goal, you had different expectations. And you possibly didn’t know yourself as well when you started working toward your old goal. If you waste time on that type of goal, it means you’re missing out on working towards something that would actually make you happy. Learning what you don’t want brings you a step closer to what you do want, which puts your on the path to success. Anything that gets you closer to success can’t possibly be considered failing.

So, what is failure?

Giving up.

Really. That’s it.

Think about it–how many times do you hear writers/actors/musicians tell their success stories and share how close they came to walking away from all of it? They were one decision away from failing to meet their goals, but instead, they kept going. Now they have a success story to tell.

The key to not failing is to keep learning and to keep trying. Keep showing up. Just because something hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean that it won’t. The only way success becomes impossible is when you take yourself out of the running. This isn’t just true for writing. It’s true in every aspect of life.

If you haven’t given up yet, you haven’t failed. In fact, you’re in the process of succeeding.

That’s all for this one!

Now it’s your turn: Where can you find success in your writing life? How have you succeeded so far? Tell me all about it in the comments below. You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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How to Set Achievable Writing Goals: 7 Writing Tips

I get a lot of questions about how to manage writing time. That question has an involved answer, but I think it starts with learning to set manageable writing goals.

When I first started writing, I was a serious binge writer. I would write 150 pages in ten days and then nothing for months at a time. My writing was unreliable and I didn’t like it. So in an effort to be more consistent, I started to create daily, weekly, and monthly writing goals.

Here are some things I did (and some things I’ve learned to do) to create manageable writing goals that help me make it to “The End”.

1) Prioritize consistency and progress

This should really be your overarching goal. When I first started goal setting, I set my goals too high and found them hard to meet. I was focused on how quickly I could finish my book instead of how much I could reasonably get done.

With that in mind, I would recommend putting your focus on building a habit and moving your project forward and nothing more. If you keep moving forward, you will finish your project! This will also help turn writing into a lifestyle.

I will also say that it’s better to write a little bit on a regular basis than a lot every so often. What a “regular basis” means is entirely up to you, but I would recommend at least one day a week if you’re just starting out. Once that becomes a habit, you can add another day per week as you see fit.

2) Break your goals into manageable steps

If you focus on your Big Writing Goal, the project might feel overwhelming. So, start with your big goal, and then break it down into as many steps as possible. Let’s say you decide you want to write a book in a year. Then start to break that goal down. What do you need to have accomplished by the end of each month to help you reach that goal? What about by the end of each week? And the end of each day?

Once you have your goal broken down, your day-to-day focus should be on meeting your daily goal only. Trust that if you do this, you will eventually reach your Big Writing Goal.

Side note: This doesn’t mean you have to plan your entire year in one shot. I tend to know what I want to accomplish by the end of the year, and at the end of each month, but I take my weeks one month at a time and my days one week at a time. If that makes sense.

3) Be realistic with your time

It’s easy to get ambitious and set some high goals right out of the gate–at least, it was for me. Challenging yourself is fantastic, but if you don’t have the time set aside to meet these goals, you’re setting yourself up for a struggle from the start. Before you put any expectations on yourself, take a minute to look at the time you currently have available and/or how you can rearrange your schedule to gain some writing time.

If you can only get 15 minutes on your lunch break that fine! You can make that work! But if you decide you want to write 1,000 words a day and you only have those 15 minutes to do it, there’s a good chance you’re going to find yourself frustrated really quickly. Be realistic with yourself about the time you’re planning to put into writing and try to set goals that can fit within that time frame.

4) Start small

It’s okay to start with really small goals. This is key if setting and meeting goals is either new to you or has been a problem in the past. Maybe 100-500 words a day? Or 1-5 pages a day? Or, if you’re brainstorming, plan one chapter a day–whatever small manageable goal feels right to you.

Setting goals this small may almost seem pointless but I promise it’s not! It helps you build a habit. If you meet your goal on days 1, 2, and 3, you’re more likely to use that momentum to show up for day 4, right? It puts you in a position to succeed. It puts you just a little bit closer to a finished project. That’s something to celebrate. And once you get into the habit of writing on a regular basis, you may find that you get faster, and can add to your goals. Or you might find your success has you motivated to carve out more writing time.

Basically, you can always find ways to increase your goals later if you want to, but first, it’s important to know what it feels like to meet your goals on a regular basis. That’s how books/stories/movies/plays get written.

5) Adapt if you keep falling short or ending up with extra time

Don’t be afraid to change your goals if they aren’t working for you! I think some writers get discouraged when they don’t meet the goals they set for themselves and give up. But they shouldn’t! And you shouldn’t either! If you find that you are continually failing to meet your goals, change your goals! Make them a little (or a lot) smaller. Once you know what’s “too much,” you’ll have a better idea of what might be just right for you.

On the other hand, you may have undershot your goals if you find yourself with extra time on your hands. I think it’s okay if finish early from time to time–everyone deserves to clock out early on occasion–but if you find yourself with roughly the same amount of time leftover on a fairly regular basis, you may want to think about upping your goal.

Every writer is different, so don’t set your goals based on a friend’s progress or success. Base them on your own.

6) Try adding stretch goals

If you’re like me and you consistently find yourself overestimating your goals, you might want to come up with two sets of goals for each day/week/month. First, a set of easily attainable goals–goals that you should have no trouble accomplishing. Then add some stretch goals. These are goals that would make you really happy if you met them, but you know it’s okay if you don’t. Then you can use any stretch goals you don’t meet as a starting point for your next day/week/month.

Personally, I find this approach to be the best of both worlds. It keeps me on track and realistic, while still challenging me to get done as much as possible.

7) Cut yourself a break if things don’t go as planned

Maybe a chapter needed more attention than you thought, or maybe your kid was sick one day and stayed home from school. Sometimes life, or writing itself, interferes with our goals. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, set new goals for tomorrow and keep moving forward until you reach THE END. After all, that’s the whole reason we set these goals in the first place.

I hope this helps you set killer writing goals!

For more goal setting tips, check out this article from Fast Company.

Now it’s your turn: Do you set writing goals? How do you manage them? If you don’t set goals, are your thinking of starting? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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