Want to write? Invest in yourself.

I meet so many people who say they want to write a book, or at the very least, have a regular writing practice. Yet, they struggle to make it happen. Creating, developing, and maintaining a writing practice take intention and attention. Making a few tweaks to your thinking might make all the difference.

Think of it as an investment in yourself.

In my workshops and classes and when working with clients, I always say that honoring our impulse to write and create is an act of self-love.

I believe that impulse to create is our life force wanting to move and flow, and when we stifle it, we experience dis-ease on mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual levels.

So, how do you invest in yourself?

Privilege your writing practice in your mind.

Make it as important to your day as all the responsibilities you make time for on a regular basis. Instead of thinking I’ll get to my writing after I’ve taken care of X, Y, and Z, think I’m going to write XX days each week (for XX hours or XX pages).

Give it space in your day, on your calendar, and in your home.

Mark it on your calendar and treat it with the same respect you would a doctor’s appointment for yourself, for one of your kids, or for your pet. Or for a meeting at work. You’d remember it, you’d plan the rest of your day around it, and you’d show up for it.

If you aren’t able to designate a spot in your home as your private, personal writing space where no one else is allowed, find a time when the people you live with are out of the house or asleep. If you really want to write, you can give up an hour or two of TV or social media a few days each week.

Get a new writer’s notebook.

Think of this notebook as a place for you to jot down your ideas and thoughts—about your writing—that drift in and out of your brain as you go about your day, as you’re drifting off to sleep, or when you first wake up in the morning. If you’re a journaler, you can keep doing that, but in a separate notebook. A writer’s notebook and a journal are two different things.

Tell people.

Let people who are close to you know that you’ve made a decision to privilege your writing. Tell them what you need from them to make it happen. Time? Space? Quiet? Respect?

Read.

As Annie Proulx has said, “Reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” Read books in the same vein as the one you want to write. Read books that are different from the one you want to write. Read short fiction. Read non-fiction. Read novels. Read poetry. There’s something to learn from them all.

View yourself as a writer.

Instead of seeing yourself as a parent or an employee at a company or organization who wants to write, see yourself as a writer who happens to also be a parent and/or work another job. And if you’ve yet to be published, it doesn’t make you less legit than people who have been published. If it helps, use a mantra. Say I am a writer over and over in your thoughts throughout the day. Or writing is not a luxury. Or writing is an act of self-love. You’ll start to believe it.

So much of the act of writing—the act of getting the words on the page—is all in the mind. When we can think about writing differently, we can show up for it and give the creative impulse inside us the respect it deserves.

What can you do to move your writing practice further up your list of “Important Things To Do”?

Sending you mad writing mojo…

How to Start Your Own Writing Group: 5 Considerations to Ensure Success

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

I gave up on writing groups many years ago because I was rarely part of any that felt like the right fit for me. I had no patience for poorly run groups that met irregularly, got too big and didn’t allow for ample time for feedback, didn’t have clear parameters, and allowed egos to offer suggestions free-for-all style.

But after years of writing in isolation, all the while recognizing the value in and power of giving our stories breath by sharing them with others, I reached out to a lovely friend of mine about starting a writing group of our own.

She loved the idea, so we did it. But before we officially formed the group, we met and discussed five considerations to ensure our group’s success.

Feel free to use these when forming your own writing group.

  1. Setting the group’s parameters.
    1. How large will your group be? We agreed on no more than four people to allow for ample time for feedback for each person. We also agreed the remaining two slots would be filled by invitation – one from each of us – rather than putting out a general call for members.
    2. When and how often do you want the group to meet?
      1. We formed a weekly group to create a consistent incentive for us to produce new pages on a regular basis.
      2. We decided on a two-hour meeting to allow for a full half-hour for each member’s feedback.
    3. Where will you meet? We started our group during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we’re meeting online, with the understanding that when it’s safe to be circulating again, we’ll meet in person once each month at a wine bar or some other luscious or nurturing space to add a little fun and self-care to the mix.
    4. Will your group have a name? To encourage a sense of unity, we created a group name. We’re the Storytellers Writing Group because we wanted our focus to be on fiction and memoir.
  2. Set the group’s objectives.
    1. What do you want the group to accomplish? We’ve deemed support and compassionate, constructive critique as the most important objectives for our group. To clarify what that will look like, we created a Mission Statement for the group.
    2. What values do you want the group to represent? We felt compassion and kindness were two of the most important values for our group. We believe we can support each other and provide valuable feedback while maintaining positivity and lifting each other up.
  3. Establish clarity 
    1. How will feedback be delivered? We created a Feedback Request Form for, which allows us to indicate the kind of feedback we want with each submission: meaning-focused (E.g. does it make sense?), positive feedback (E.g. what’s working well?), form-focused (E.g.. is it well-organized?, does the story lag?), and experienced-focused (E.g. how does it make you feel?), as well as how we receive the feedback (E.g. within the document submitted or on a separate comment sheet, in addition to our verbal discussing during the meeting).
    2. Will there be page limits on submissions? We agreed on a weekly submission of around 10 pages (with wiggle room to allow for both low- and high-production weeks).
    3. How and when will pages be submitted? We submit our pages by email every Monday prior to the Thursday meeting of that week.
    4. What’s the format of each meeting? We start the two hours off with a brief check-in followed by about 30 minutes for each member’s feedback.
  4. Be open to change.
    1. How often will you check in and re-evaluate? We are open to our Feedback Request Form and the overall format and functioning of the group shifting and changing as time passes, all in the interest of maintaining an integrous environment in which to support each other’s writing practices and moving ourselves and each other toward submitting our work for publication.
  5. Maintain transparency and respect.
    1. What tone do you want the group to have? Compassion, kindness, and professionalism are important to us. We hold the group sacred with the understanding that anything discussed in the group stays in the group.
    2. How will you handle missed meetings and re-scheduling? We understand that life happens and respect the fact that one of us may need to meet later than planned, may occasionally need to miss a meeting, or that the group may need to skip a week or reschedule. But the overarching intention is to maintain consistency. We want to feel we can depend on each other.

Creating a writing group is much like creating any kind of relationship. Introductions are made, intentions are stated, and trust is built over time.

Sharing our work is an act of vulnerability, one that ought not be taken lightly. Take care in creating your group. Hold it to the utmost level of integrity because it will have an impact on your practice, on your work, and ultimately, on your success.


I’d love to hear about your experiences with writing groups. Please leave a comment below about what has worked and what hasn’t. I’m always interested in improving and sharing insights.

And as always… sending you mad writing mojo.

Happy writing,

Johnnie
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