Do Negative Thoughts Give You Writer’s Block? 5 Ways To Cut Loose

picture of man with sword to cut through writer's blockDo you find yourself struggling to write?

Sometimes, negative thoughts make it difficult for us to write.

As writers, part of our job seems to be to struggle against ourselves.

But it doesn’t have to be so hard.

You can’t avoid the struggle, but it doesn’t have to paralyze you from doing the work you love.

You can fight these negative thoughts – and writer’s block – using a few proven techniques.

The key is to learn how your mind works.

Dr. David D. Burns, in his book Ten Days to Self Esteem, writes: “When you feel upset, the thoughts that make you feel bad are often illogical and distorted, even though these thoughts may seem as real as the skin on your hand. In other words, when you feel lousy, you are nearly always fooling yourself about something, even though you aren’t aware of this.”

Here are five patterns of distorted thinking that cause writer’s block, and how to fix them. The catch is that you have to write them down. The solutions will work only if you do the exercises with pen and paper.

 

#1. All-or-nothing thinking

 

All-or-nothing thinking is when you paint the world in black or white.

You may get a rejection letter and think, “I’ll never be a writer.”

You falsely believe that either you’re a writer, or you’re a hack. There is no in-between.

To beat all-or-nothing thinking, use counter-examples. A counter-example is an example that disproves your all-or-nothing statement.

We use them when we point out the flaws in a person’s statement.

 

Example

Angela finished her novel six months ago. The rejection letters have been piling up.

Today, she received another one. She feels defeated and wants to give up.

“I’m a loser,” she thinks.

 

To blast through her distorted all-or-nothing thinking, Angela starts writing counter-examples like:

- I’m the mother of two lovely children

- I exercise every day

- I show up and write, and I enjoy it

- I got an email from someone who loved a short story I wrote

By writing down examples of how she isn’t a loser, Angela feels better. Counter-examples help dissolve the absolute nature of all-or-nothing thoughts.

 

The next time you feel down in the dumps, identify the thought, and write at least five counter-examples.

 

#2. Emotional reasoning

 

When you feel sad, you tend to think sad thoughts.

Feel like a loser and you’re more likely to act like a loser.

But your feelings don’t make something true.

They don’t make you a loser; they merely make you feel like one.

In his book, Dr. Burns writes: “Your emotions result more from the way you view things than from what happens to you. That simple idea can help you change the way you think and feel.”

To deal with emotional reasoning, ask yourself: What would I have to believe in order to feel this way?

Then write the pros and cons of having that belief. This will reveal how the belief is helping you, and whether or not you want to keep it.

 

Example

Stephen feels frustrated with a story he’s working on.

He asks himself: What would I have to believe to feel this way?

The answer: I would have to believe that I will never be a writer. No one wants my writing, which means I should give up.

Stephen then grabs and pen and paper and makes a list of the pros and cons of having this belief.

prosandcons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen takes a deep breath and reviews his list. The negatives of this belief clearly outweigh the positives, so he’s better off not believing this.

He doesn’t feel so bad anymore. The feeling is still there, but it’s less strong.

 

#3. Shoulds / Have-to’s / Musts

 

Any should, have-to, or must will bring up resistance to moving forward.

You may want to do the task, but deep down, you may be disconnected from the why.

The solution is to reconnect to why you’re doing what you’re doing.

What are you trying to accomplish?

 

Example

Danielle is surfing the web, thinking, “I should be writing. I have to write if I’m going to amount to anything.” 

She writes:

What am I trying to accomplish by writing? I want to write because I love writing. Somewhere along the way I’ve lost that joy. I think it’s because I put too much pressure on myself to write like Hemingway. 

Why do I love writing? Because it feels right. It’s hard to explain. I love the challenge of it. And it makes my heart sing.

Why do I love the challenge? I don’t know. It feels like something I was put on this planet to do. I love it. Even writing this, I’m already feeling lighter. I’m getting in touch with the feeling I used to have.

 

When you do this exercise, keep writing. Keep digging deeper to find your why.

 

#4. Dwelling on the negative

 

When you dwell on the negative, you zoom in on what’s wrong.

You forget about what’s going right in your life.

To get out of a negative funk, explore worst-case scenarios until you run out of steam.

This will help you let out the nervous, fearful energy that makes you focus incessantly on what could go wrong.

 

Example

 

Charlie is stuck with a story. And he’s blowing it out of proportion.

He decides to write down all his thoughts:

I’m a loser. I can’t write. If I were a good writer, I’d be able to come up with stories.

What’s the worst that could happen?

I’d end up on the street if I don’t write today. Really? No, I wouldn’t.

I’m being dramatic because I think that if I feel dejected, someone is going to come to my aid – just like my parents did when I was a child.

I notice that I don’t feel as bad about my writing.

So what if I’m stuck? Most writers spend some time on plateaus. What’s wrong with that?

I’m doing my best, and that’s enough.

 

Undoubtedly, you will write more than this. The important thing is to keep writing and get everything out on paper.

You may eventually start writing positive ideas, or you may not. It doesn’t matter, as long as you get all that anxious energy out.

 

#5. Letting life overwhelm you

 

Have you noticed that problems outside writing can stop you from writing?

The more worried I am, the less I can write.

Put another way: the more I think about my problems, the less space I have to focus on writing.

The solution isn’t to solve your problems, but to write them down, and brainstorm.

Getting them down on paper gets them out of your mind, which will calm you.

 

Example

 

Joshua’s been arguing with his wife because they’re tight on money. He feels the pressure to write something great.

He feels like he’s going insane with all the thoughts swirling in his head, so he grabs a pen and paper, and writes:

I need to make more money. But how?

What can I do right now?

I could write out those emails I’ve been meaning to send. I could ask Bruce to give me the promised introduction to that editor. I’ll put these on my to-do list and do them first thing tomorrow.

What about Betty?

We fought about money, and about my not being there for her.

She’s right. I need to spend more time with her and the kids. I spend too much time working. I’m trying to make money, but nothing’s happening.

I need to take a break, give myself time to recharge. And I need to establish priorities. 

 

This exercise is about exploring your problems and brainstorming solutions. As you write things down, your problems loosen their hold on your mind because you can see them on paper.

This is not a quick fix, but something you do consistently to explore what you action you can take right here, right now.

 

Our thoughts play tricks with us, but we can fight back.

To do this, you have to be willing to uncover the truth (with pen and paper). You have to be willing to unravel what stops you from putting words on paper.

These exercises can be used interchangeably, so feel free to mix and match. Use what feels right.

But above all, do them.

Pick one problem right now, and use one of the exercises to nix it. You owe it to yourself.

What do you do to break through writer’s block? Share your tips in the comments!

 

About the author:

Henri Junttila is the founder of Wake Up Cloud, where he shows you how to turn your passion into a thriving business. Grab his free special report, and check out his book How to Write Nonfiction eBooks: A Proven 17-Step Guide.

Image: Cutting through courtesy of Bigstockphoto

2 Amazing Ways To Revise Your Novel (And When To Use Them)

picture of woman pruningYou know you need to revise your novel, but where do you begin?

The complexity of a novel can be overwhelming.

50,000-150,000 words means you can’t keep everything in your head.

Flipping back and forth between hundreds of pages makes it hard to remember where you are. You can’t see the story’s structure.

Or can you?

Two methods allow you to actually see the structure of a story, regardless of its size.

 

#1. Shrunken Manuscript

 

Purely by accident, I invented the Darcy Pattison Shrunken Manuscript Technique. I was broke, but had agreed to review a manuscript for a friend.

In an attempt to be thrifty, I took a novel and shrank it to the fewest possible pages before printing. I single-spaced the manuscript, took out all white spaces at the beginning and end of chapters, and then shrank the font to 8pts.

Hard to read? Yes! But half the number of pages.

Suddenly, an amazing thing happened. I could see the story structure. A whole chapter took up only one page. Act 1 was a mere 5 pages. This was easy to see, understand, and evaluate for story structure.

Ideally, shrink the manuscript to about 30 pages, which will eventually lie on the floor in three neat rows of ten. For longer stories, try putting everything into columns, or shrink to 6pt font, since you won’t really be reading from this copy.

If all else fails, evaluate the manuscript in two chunks of about 30 shrunken pages each.

First, mark the scenes or pages you are evaluating with dark markers. (Yellow highlighters don’t show up at a distance.) For example, you might mark the places where the villain and protagonist are in direct conflict, whether it’s just a couple of paragraphs, a scene, or an entire chapter.

Then, lay the pages on the floor or on a large cabinet or table. Stand back to look over the story and evaluate.

You can clearly see the frequency, duration, and location of protagonist-villian interaction. If these interactions are not appropriate for your book, you can plan an effective revision.

S&BShrunkenMss

For my middle grade novel, SAUCY AND BUBBA: A Hansel and Gretel Tale, I shrank the manuscript, and marked places where Krissy, the stepmother, interacts directly with Saucy, the protagonist. Because of story events, Saucy and Bubba run away from home, which means there are no direct interactions in the story’s middle, except for a brief phone call. Acts 1 and 3 are full of interactions, though, so this is a successful structure for this story.

 

#2. Spreadsheet Plotting

 

The second method of evaluating a novel for revision involves Spreadsheet Plotting.

Here, you use your favorite spreadsheet software to create a chart that summarizes your story. Create columns with labels such as: character name, setting, main plot, subplot, #words, and so on. Include whatever categories fit your needs. For example, mystery writers may want to include a column for clues.

Next, create rows for either scenes or chapters, depending on how deep you want to delve. Fill the information into the grid.

In this version of spreadsheet plotting, I used columns for Act#, Headline (short blurb for chapter), Day (time of year), POV, Setting, Action, and Emotion. Create columns to fit your genre of writing.

In this version of spreadsheet plotting, I used columns for Act#, Headline (short blurb for chapter), Day (time of year), POV, Setting, Action, and Emotion. Create columns to fit your genre of writing.

 

You decide what information goes into a column. In the main plot column, for example, you may simply indicate Act 1, Act 2, or Act 3, or you may be more specific.

For example, my novel The Hero’s Journey has clearly defined steps: ordinary world, call to adventure, meeting with mentor, crossing the first threshold, tests/allies/enemies, approach to the inmost cave, supreme ordeal, reward, the road back, resurrection, and return with elixir.

When your grid is ready, you can sort your novel according to any of the columns you’ve created.

I sorted the Spreadsheet Plotting by setting. You can see that 3 of the Act 1 scenes are at Home, and 16 of the Act 2 scenes are at Home. However, there are no Act 3 scenes at Home. Is this right or wrong? Only the author can decide.

I sorted the Spreadsheet Plotting by setting. You can see that 3 of the Act 1 scenes are at Home, and 16 of the Act 2 scenes are at Home. However, there are no Act 3 scenes at Home. Is this right or wrong? Only the author can decide.

 

Caution: Be sure to use consistent language, especially the first word in the entry, so the sort works well. If you write “kitchen scene” in one place, but “baking cookies” in another, the sort won’t catch that the cookies are baked in the kitchen.

 

Shrunken Manuscript vs. Spreadsheet Plotting

 

Both shrunken manuscripts and spreadsheet plotting reduce a novel to a manageable level.

At-a-glance analysis is simple in either method. However, each method has its strengths and weaknesses.

Because a shrunken manuscript uses a tiny font, it is hard to read the text. That’s usually alright, because you don’t need to read it; you only need to know what happened in a certain section. However, the tiny font does cause a problem for some people. You can alleviate this by leaving chapter titles or other key identifiers in a large font.

 

The advantage of a shrunken manuscript is that it shows proportions.

Let’s assume you marked your five strongest chapters with a bright X. (Five chapters works well for up to about 40,000 words; after that, mark another strong chapter for each 10,000 words.)

When you evaluate the novel, check to see which marked section is longer or shorter. In other words, you’re evaluating the proportions, or how long each event occurs.

I often find that an author marks the final chapter as a strong chapter. Good! The climax is usually the final chapter, and it should be strong.

But too often, that final chapter is only 3-4 pages long, compared to other chapters of 10-15 pages each. This means the chapter happens too quickly; it isn’t strong enough.

Climaxes should take up an extended space in a novel, creating a big scene that drastically changes the characters’ lives. Shortchanging the climax means a flat ending and a reader who feels cheated. This common mistake is easily seen in a shrunken manuscript.

 

The advantage of spreadsheet plotting is the ability of a spreadsheet program to sort.

You can click on any column and sort it into ABC order. Let’s assume you have scenes that take place in twelve different settings, but the most emotional setting is your mother’s kitchen.

By sorting, you can see where in your story’s structure kitchen scenes occur. If only one scene occurs in the kitchen, perhaps the emotional content is weak.

If ten different settings occur only once in the novel while the kitchen setting is repeated often, the story may be drowning in kitchen (emotions) and lack variety in setting.

 

Spreadsheet plotting can give you information on proportion, with a column for word count; but it isn’t visual enough.

A shrunken manuscript can be sorted using color-coding, perhaps using purple to mark scenes in the kitchen and red to X scenes in the garden. But it’s clumsy compared to sorting a spreadsheet column.

In other words, these are complementary tools that tell you something about your story.

Use the two methods in conjunction as you revise your novel, because the biggest advantage of both techniques is shrinking your novel to a manageable size that allows you to see the story at a glance.

When you want a simple count of how many times an event takes place in a certain setting, use Spreadsheet Plotting. Try this technique to evaluate POV, chapter length, or emotions.

When you want to see proportions, use a Shrunken Manuscript. It tells you not just where an event happens, but how much space it takes up.

When would you use one technique over the other? Let us know in the comments!

 

About the author: 

Writer and writing teacher Darcy Pattison blogs at Fiction Notes, one of Write to Done’s Top 10 Blogs for Writers. Download her free e-book After the First Draft at Fiction Notes. Tweet Darcy @FictionNotes.

Image: Pruning courtesy of Bigstockphoto

How To Build A Writer Platform With No Time, No Credentials And No Book

picture of woman building a platformAre you a writer who is overwhelmed by the rapidly changing industry?

The more adventurous among you are ready for the challenge of building a writer platform and growing your community – but have absolutely no idea where to start.

Some of you find it slightly horrifying that you are required to write and hock your wares, but are prepared to do the work, however distasteful it is.

And a few of you are gnashing your teeth, insisting it was much better in the “good ol’ days” when writers were expected to write – and someone else handled the smarmy promotional bits.

Looking around, you feel a bit deflated. You see authors with several books out, who have all manner of credentials to their name, and platforms as big as those of a rockstar. How can a newbie writer compete?

 

You have a huge advantage over other writers

 

Right now, at this very moment, you have a massive lead over many others, whether they are just starting out, or have already been published.

Do you know what it is?

Timing.

The fact that you are aware of the importance of a platform before you’ve even written your first book is big. And if you actually start working on your platform now, growing your audience and influence as you write – before the book deal, before the launch–  your “competition” becomes irrelevant.

 

Obscurity is the disease, your platform is the cure

 

Your biggest problem is not other writers or other comparable books in your genre; it’s obscurity.

People can’t read a book they’ve never heard of. People won’t buy a book they don’t know exists.

This problem isn’t exclusive to writers. Anybody with something to share – a product, an idea, a message – needs to find a way to get it in front of the people who care.

How you do that varies, but all your actions taken together form the act of building a platform.

Your writer platform, in essence, is the variety of ways you use to connect to – and engage with – the ideal readership that is receptive to your work.

It’s also the amount of influence you wield, the level of visibility and authority you’ve gained, and the depth of your connection with your readers.

Rather than thinking of your platform as a stage from which you talk at your audience, think of your platform as a bridge – a way to connect or close the gap between you and your fans. A way to talk with them.

[Tweet this idea: Tweet this! Your platform is not a stage; it’s a bridge that connects you to your readers. ]

By starting early, you give yourself the time to develop an authentic two-way connection with your growing fan base. You also give yourself the opportunity to establish a strong foundation on which to build your writing career.

 

With no time and nothing to offer, how can I build my platform?

 

Let’s address your specific concerns.

 

#1. No Time

 

Starting something new always requires more time, more energy and more upfront effort than doing the same old thing. Anybody who has learned to drive a car, started a new job, or had a baby has experienced this.

So be prepared to accept and deal with the natural overwhelm and time expenditure that comes with establishing your new writing career.

Your work is worth it. Commit to it. Give it the time in your schedule that it deserves. What isn’t a priority doesn’t get done, so if you expect results, make sure you’re allotting time for the actions that will get you there.

Remember, your job is two-fold: create something brilliant, and then get it into the hands of the people who can recognize its brilliance. Just as you wouldn’t plan to open a restaurant without a chef, don’t write a book without a plan to help people read it.

Get ready to step outside your comfort zone and live there for a while. It will get easier, as most things do, but you’ll need to put in the time and effort first. Stop treating your writing like a side gig or it will remain so.

Share just how big your goals are. Don’t keep them a secret. Write them out, tell your family, friends and peers. You might be surprised at the support you get when they see your commitment.

The bottom line is: no time equals no career. It’s really that simple.

 

#2. No Credentials

 

Everybody has to start somewhere.

As with your writing, it’s only by doing that you get better, so instead of worrying about proving your credibility, focus on earning credibility by providing useful content to your audience.

[Tweet this idea: Tweet this! It’s not about proving your credibility, it’s about earning it. ]

Do this by getting to know your target audience inside and out. Discover what they need, want and value. What are their interests? Who are they influenced by?

Skip this step, and your job becomes much more difficult. Nail it, and you’ll never be at a loss for interesting, valuable content.

By providing content that your readers crave, you get people to buy into “brand you.” Your early supporters – those who see the diamond in the rough – often become invested (and sometimes pivotal) in your future success.

You have value, and what you do matters. Practice selling your value now – to yourself and to others. Know what you can bring to the table, and own it.

Start building relationships with other writers, bloggers and industry influencers. Add to the conversations on their blogs and on the social media platforms they’re active on. Share or review their work when appropriate. Take a minute to reach out and let them know you’re a fan of the work they’re doing. People will notice.

Your platform is where you can start building the relationships, the authority, the testimonials and even the “numbers” that endorse the quality of your work. So get started.

 

#3. No Book

 

“How do I build a writer platform when I don’t even have a book to sell yet?”

When writers ask me this question, I know I haven’t made something über clear: Your platform is about connection, not selling.

Selling more books, amplifying your message, extending your reach and influence – these are all positive, natural “consequences” of creating a strong platform, but it’s the connection that is the real asset.

Building relationships over time, earning trust and showing genuine interest in your community is what allows you to influence your audience’s actions (to purchase your book, to share your posts, to spread your ideas, and so on).

That’s why starting early is so important: trust can’t be rushed or expedited.

It is also why not having a book published yet is somewhat irrelevant. You need to be absolutely clear on what it is you have to share (define your author brand) and identify the group that will benefit from it the most (your ideal audience).

Another plus to creating this targeted community is that you can get valuable feedback and insights on your projects before you publish or present them to an agent.

You can gauge reader interest, gather feedback on works in progress, and ask questions to ensure you “get” your reader.

Should you incorporate every idea and bit of feedback into your writing?

Nope. It’s your work, you decide. But learning what your readers want, the words they use to ask for it, and even where they go to find it, will make marketing your book – when you do publish – infinitely easier.

 

Time to get started

 

It should be clear by now that all you need to build a writer platform is commitment, patience and perseverance.

And since there is a huge advantage in starting early, there’s no better time than now to take the plunge. Here’s how to start:

1. Know yourself and know your audience. Define your author brand. Do the research to identify your ideal reader. Who exactly are you trying to reach?

2. Set up your author website and start building your email list. For more on how to do this, check out Mary Jaksch’s course on how to Kickstart Your Blog.

3. Get social on social media. Determine where your target audience hangs out online, and be there.

If the horror of having to “sell” your own work hasn’t abated, here’s what you need to do: reframe your thoughts on platform, marketing and self-promotion.

At the core, you are simply finding ways to engage with people who are most inclined to love your work. It only gets icky when the effort and engagement isn’t genuine, so focus on relationships, not selling.

When you’re square with this, follow the advice above on getting started.

 

Over to you

 

If you’re still reading, but unconvinced that things are better now than they were in the “old days,” here’s my take: like it or not, the industry has changed.

Writers can choose to capitalize on these changes, and learn to approach their careers from both the creative and business sides.

Or they can continue to bemoan their circumstances and get left behind.

Which path will you choose? (Personally, I’ll take too much responsibility over too little control any day of the week.)

So don’t wait for perfect. Don’t wait for more time, more credentials or until your book is published. Don’t get lost in obscurity. Seize the advantage that starting early affords.

People deserve to experience the work that you create.

What has been your experience with building your writer platform? Share your tips and challenges in the comments!

 

About the author:

Kimberley Grabas is a writer and the founder of YourWriterPlatform.com, where she provides writers with the resources, tools and inspiration they need to build their platform, engage their fans and sell more books. Download her free eBook, The Quick Start Guide to Building Your Writer Platform.

Image: Building a bridge courtesy of Bigstockphoto

Scene Stealers: Change your POV (2)

picture of man opening envelopeWelcome to Scene Stealers, our series of writing prompts designed to flex your creative muscles.

We’re thrilled that so many of you are participating in our writing prompt series. (Read the other Scene Stealers here and add one of your own.)

 

How it works

 

  • We set the scene
  • You steal it, make it your own, and
  • Share your creation in the comments section of this post

Of course, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to share your work, but we hope you’ll do the exercise anyway.

 

The ground rules:

 

  • Your story must begin with the exact wording we provide.
  • Your story must be 350 words or less.
  • Your work must be original and not previously published.
  • WTD provides an encouraging and safe environment for writers to grow and learn from each other. We’d love you to comment on other people’s submissions in a friendly and supportive manner.
  • We reserve the right to delete any comments or entries we deem inappropriate and those that do not meet the specifications above.

 

This month’s installment Change Your POV allows you to exercise your writing muscles by writing a story in the rarely-used second-person POV. Remember, this is not a memoir, it’s a story.

 

Scene Stealer #20

You’re surprised when the usher hands you an envelope with your name on it. How would anyone know you’d be watching this movie here, now? You open the envelope. 

 

Now steal this and make it your own.

We can’t wait to read what you come up with, so please add your submission to the comments section of this post.

 

By Vinita Zutshi, Guest Post Editor at Write to Done. Vinita also blogs at Carefree Parenting.

Image: Surprise courtesy of Bigstockphoto

How To Complete Every Writing Project You Start: Become a Completion Addict

picture of woman thrilled at completing every writing project she starts

Have you begun a new writing project?

You had a brilliant idea and forged ahead with full enthusiasm.

But now?

You’re a third of the way in, and you’ve hit a wall.

The original spark that excited you has gone, leaving you facing pages (and pages) of boring, methodical work.

Wallowing in the doldrums, you suddenly hit upon another brilliant idea.

This new spark captures your attention, promising all the excitement and thrills your current project lacks.

You’re off again, starting a brand new project and leaving yet another work-in-progress in your wake.

Sound familiar?

It’s a cycle we’ve all repeated. Now it’s time to break the habit.

 

Idea Addiction

 

The problem is that we’re addicted to the intoxicating high of new ideas.

The initial rush we get when inspiration hits makes us feel intelligent, inspired, perhaps even invincible. We see where this new idea could take us, and how impressive the end result will be.

This high carries us through the initial planning and into the project, but it’s temporary. Sooner or later, the feeling peters out and we’re left facing the enormity of what we’ve started. Our mind begins looking for its next fix of exhilaration.

In order to move forward on a project, we have to transition from the intoxication of the initial idea into a calmer, longer-lasting positivity, which will carry us through to the finish.

 

Understanding the Addiction

 

To make the transition to an ongoing positivity, we first need to understand why we’re addicted to the high of inspiration.

As with all addictions, the high we crave disguises the emotional low we’re trying to avoid. Without the distraction of a fresh idea, we come face-to-face with our fears.

Fear paralyses us with a multitude of ‘what if’ scenarios:

  • What if my writing isn’t good enough?
  • What if this project turns out to be a flop?
  • What if my readers hate this?

To protect us from confronting these questions, our mind searches desperately for a way to return us to the euphoria that blocked the fear. Hey presto! We have a new idea.

But there’s another way to view the situation: Fear means we’re attempting something amazing – something that requires courage and an adventurous spirit. If there wasn’t an element of fear to this, would it be worth doing?

Acknowledging our fears and working through them goes a long way in helping us deal with Idea Addiction.

By learning how to channel the fear into your writing process and breaking your projects into small steps, you too can conquer your fears.

Of course, even after having moved past our fears, we may still be addicted to fresh inspiration. After all, an idea is full of potential, and having new ideas is essential to our writing.

But to finish our projects, we need to replace Idea Addiction with a new habit, the addiction to completion.

 

Replacing the Addiction

 

Our brains are constantly searching for feelings of positivity and success. A simple compliment from a friend not only improves our mood, but also motivates us to repeat our actions in an attempt replicate the experience.

If the brain feels good doing an action once, then it figures it should do the action again and again. (Anyone who has eaten chocolate will understand this concept.)

When you get a new idea, your brain is flooded with excitement and happiness. It naturally wants to repeat the process.

But to complete a project, we need to replace Idea Addiction with Completion Addiction.

Completion Addiction uses the euphoric high you feel at the end of a project as incentive to continue working on it.

Stop for a moment and remember the last time you completed a project.

Remember the jubilant feeling of success that continued for days. Did you dance with glee? Did you shout your news from the rooftops? Did you treat yourself to dinner and spoil yourself with dessert? Do you still think back with happiness, weeks – even months – later, as you recall your completed project?

This ‘fix’ is a deeper, more lasting bliss than the brief elation of a new idea. By using this completion high as motivation, you can train your brain to remain focused and energized as you work on your project.

How does this work in practice?

 

How to Train Your Brain

 

You can train your brain to seek the completion high by completing a project and savoring the feeling of accomplishment this completion brings.

You’re effectively showing yourself that this is an achievable and desirable high that you can seek again and again.

As with all brain training, this takes time and dedication. To start this training, you will need:

  • A small project you can complete relatively easily, perhaps a small e-book or short story.
  • A vision of your end-product and the route you’ll take to get there.
  • The determination to make it through the rough patches and the fears to reach the end of your project.

 

Armed with these, follow the process given below to train your brain for Completion Addiction.

1. Choose your small project. Pick something you’ve already started. If you’re in the middle of a big project, break it into smaller projects so you can ‘trick’ your brain into a completion high.

2. Commit to your project. Set yourself a deadline. Tell your friends and family what you’ve got planned. This accountability will keep you focused.

Envision this as a finished project. What will it look like? How will it be used?

3. Don’t envision fame. Envision satisfaction. Psych yourself up for the work ahead.

4. Make a list of the steps you need to tackle in order to complete this project. Keep the steps to a manageable size.

5. When you’re tempted by the high of a new idea, record the idea somewhere and return to your project. Keep envisioning your finished product and the satisfaction you’ll feel when it’s done.

6. Take note of the fears you face as you continue your project. Don’t hide from the fear, or push it away, but work through it. Treat each fear as a challenge to be overcome.

7. Breathe in the jubilant high of completion. When you finally finish your project, bask in that moment. Enjoy your accomplishment.

8. Carry the yearning for completion on to your next project.

 

You may need to repeat these steps several times before your brain gets addicted to completion, but using this technique will get you from write to done.

Once you learn how to complete every writing project you start, you will not only accomplish more, but also experience a calmness as you work.

With this new addiction in place, you’ll feel more in control of your goals and projects, instead of frantically jumping from one idea to another. You will also recognize and face your fears, a great way to keep them in check.

The high of new ideas and the fears we face will never go away. But with simple brain training, you can conquer your fears and bring each new idea to fruition.

How do you keep yourself focused and energized to complete your projects? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

About the author: 

Jessica Baverstock blogs at Creativity’s Workshop where her creativity writes in purple text. Her latest e-book Creativity on Demand covers how writers can access their creativity whenever and wherever they need inspiration.

Thanks to Bigstockphoto.com for image: Done!