Let's Raise Our Glasses: Here's to All the Goals We're NOT Pursuing This Year!

This year's batch of resolution-making is as much about the goals we AREN'T pursuing as it is about the ones we are. Choice is where the magic happens for 2017. | lucyflint.com

It's impossible for me not to think about goals during the first month of the year. It's as fun as jumping on the whole back-to-school train in September!

And I'm not the only one who geeks out over these festivals of productivity, right? ;)

Only trouble is, it's incredibly easy for me to go overboard when it comes to New Year's Resolutions. As in: waaaaaaaay overboard.

Y'all know this about me already: Plans and goals go right to my head.

So when January 1 rolls around, I itch to get my hands on some graph paper and just plan the snot out of the next twelve months. I mean... come on. That's what graph paper was invented for!

And this is why I'm so proud of myself right now.

Because I spent some serious time sifting through my priorities and I narrowed my list of would-be goals to three.

JUST THREE. That's like superhuman restraint for me! 

Because usually I'll decide that there are, oh, about eight sections of my life that need overhauling, like yesterday, and then I'll brainstorm a dozen goals for each section (just to be safe!). And I'll narrow them down to maybe three or five or eight per section.

And then I'll come up with targets I need to hit to make those goals work, so now I have an army of sub-goals, and before long, they'll have multiplied into more fierce little ambitions than I can count, let alone track, let alone work toward. 

But I'll make a massive tracking chart thing anyway, and right at that point all my giddiness will burn out and I'll just sit there choking on overwhelm, staring at my perfect chart.

At which point I'll decide to go binge-watch moody British mysteries until springtime.

Yeah. A hundred percent. That's the usual goal-making process for me, if I'm not very, very careful.

And that's why choosing only three (amazing, exciting, challenging) goals for this year is practically an act of heroism.

I didn't do it alone, though. I had high-quality help in the form of two books: Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, and The Accidental Creative, by Todd Henry (which I fell in love with this fall).

Two super-excellent books for defining what matters in your life as a creative, and then doing it. 

The practice of Essentialism is all about focusing on doing less but better. Stripping things down to their essentials and then putting all your energy behind them. (Guess where the name comes from!) After falling head-over-heels for Deep Work and the power of mega-focus, I was ready to dive into Essentialist thinking.

Confession: Left to my own devices, I'm a die-hard Non-essentialist. In McKeown's terms, this means that I'm focusing on "the undisciplined pursuit of more."

In practice, this is a lifestyle of piling on commitments, scattering focus and energy everywhere, and saying yes to everything. And, oh yeah, feeling overwhelmed and like I can't make any progress.

It looks like sitting in front of a big chart of 73 goals with zero energy left to pursue them.

A lifestyle of Essentialism, on the other hand, relies on powerful decisions.

I love how McKeown takes his time with definitions in the book: He points out that the word decision comes out of the Latin for "to cut," or "to kill."

Meaning? When we decide on something, when we choose it, we're killing a different decision. We're cutting ourselves off from a different route. We are actively choosing to NOT do something else.

It's not a "pick both!" situation, even if that's how I try to make it play out. I want to ask, How can I do everything? How can I pick all the things I like? Everything I want, and right now?

But the real, amazing power of a decision comes from the fact that, when you pick one thing, and also pick to NOT do the other thing, you've freed up the resources and time and energy and attention and creativity that would have gone to that second thing.

Which means that your chosen path has gotten a lot stronger. You can do it far better than if you insisted on trying to do more things.

See where we're going with this? 

It's worth really wrapping your mind around this. Because if you're like me, it's so easy to believe that we have endless energy, plenty of time, no worries, we don't have to rule anything out! 

No matter how many times we prove that that's simply not true.

Anyone with me on this? 

It is so much better, more truthful, and less stressful, to take a deep breath and gather the focus to make an actual decision. The kind of decision that cuts something off, that kills the other option.

THIS thing. NOT that thing.

McKeown makes a compelling case, and he totally sold me on Essentialism. And I'm working to mend my scattershot ways!

(There's a lot more to his work than just that, and it's really good! But that's the section I used as I planned my goals. Definitely check out the book for yourself!

The idea of focusing on only three goals came to me while I was reviewing the notes I took from The Accidental Creative, which is a book about developing a sustainable rhythm to support your creativity. (SO. GOOD.)

One of Todd Henry's concepts is The Big 3, which is just "the three things I need to gain creative traction on right now. They aren't necessarily my biggest projects, though they often are. ... The Big 3 is a constant reminder of where I need to dedicate my creative bandwidth."

For Henry's purposes, the Big 3 can be updated whenever necessary. They can shift from week to week, depending on the progress you make. They're always what you're mulling over, and working to move forward on.

For me, three felt like a magic number. Just enough breadth to dodge boredom, but not so much variety that I lose my grip on what's essential.

I figured: why not have a Big 3 for the year? Aka, my Resolutions?? 

So I did it. I made a master list of projects and ideas and things that I care about, and then I weeded them out, one by one, until I focused in on my Big Three. 

Three super powerful goals. Two are work-related, and the third one is personal. Each of them is a game changer, no wait, a life changer for me.  

I made sure they were each fairly clear: measurable, and not just subjective. And then I did all my happy-nerd planning: I looked at where I'd need to be by the end of each month, in order to check off all three by the end of the year.

Each one is a VERY big stretch for me, but at the same time, each one is also truly doable. ... So long as I don't listen to fear, focus on my faults, and spend the year curled up in a corner!

Three mega-exciting goals.

And by not choosing those other seventy ideas, I'm aware of just how huge my attention span is, and how much energy I have, since I'm not spreading it around as much. 

What's also surprising is how respected I feel.

These are challenging things that I'm aiming for, but by not adding a dozen more goals on top of them, I feel like Boss-Me is being pretty reasonable toward Working-Me. I'm not thwarting myself from the outset, burying the important goals in a landslide of other attempts and commitments and initiatives.

So: they're actually possible. They will truly happen.

Which is why I seriously can't stop grinning. My heart's beating faster. But I'm not overwhelmed either. Challenged, yes. Overwhelmed? Well, no.

Because I can wrap my mind around each of these three things—there's only three, after all! And I have enough space and resources to seriously make them happen.

One, like I said, is personal. But what are my other two? Well, I definitely and absolutely and no-matter-what-ably am publishing my first book this year.

For SURE.

The date might change, but it is happening, and my current best estimate for publication is July 1. That is what I'm committing my schedule and my focus to. 

The other work-related goal is just as big and exciting: I'm committing to sell 1000 copies of that first book in the first six months of publication. WHOA. That's a big, exciting, time-to-put-my-big-girl-pants-on kind of goal! 

No chance that I'm going to be bored this year, haha! 

... So. Where are you at, my lionhearted friend, with the January goal-making and resolution seeking? 

Let me encourage you to pick very few. Just a few goals that are exciting for you, that are extra-important, that are worthy of the bulk of your time and focus and heart.

That would change your world a little—or, oh, even a lot.

(And no, sorry, a dozen goals isn't a few. I get it, and I feel you, but no.)

Challenge yourself to try for just a few big things. Try three. Three is such a great number.

And then feel the rush of empowerment as you line up what you would need to meet that goal.

What kinds of things you would do, in order to make it inescapable that you will hit your goals. Like, no question. Of course they are going to happen. They are definitely going to work out.

And, scary empowering question, what kinds of things will you not do, in order to make each of your goals a reality? 

Because it isn't just about setting up a killer action plan. It's about making sure that the time, energy, resources, excitement, and courage are all lined up and available for you from the start.

And then: make the daring, brave commitment to yourself that these things are your Most Important. They are your Essentials, your Big 3.

And if something else comes up, if there are obstacles, if you wake up and stop feeling like it: These goals still win

That's the power: You're deciding in advance they will happen.

You're calculating the trade-offs in advance. You're invested. You're not chasing after all the other pretty ideas on purpose, so that you have the resources and energy you need.

Focusing on these things is worth it.

So what are your Big 3? What's on your plate this year?

What is going to consistently win your focus and excitement, week after week this year, until it's done?

Ooooh. That's the kind of amazing attitude and bold commitment that's gonna get things done.


Want more resources? If you eat this kind of stuff up, definitely check out the book The One Thing, because it's also really helpful with questions of focus and purpose and what's essential. 

Also, there's my new favorite podcast (!!!!!), which is The Life Coach School Podcast, by Brooke Castillo. Seriously, y'all, the more I listen to it, the more I am CONVINCED that it is essential listening for every writer who is trying to publish and sell her work. For everyone who has to manage their own thoughts and goals and emotions and attitude: it is a MUST LISTEN. It just gives you such incredible tools for motivating yourself!

Definitely check out her episode on goal making, her episode on self doubt, and her episode on what you want to create in your life. They will rock your world, and get you thinking of how to tackle huge wonderful things in your life!!

Buckle up, 2017!

Five Ways to Spark Energy and Excitement for Your Work-in-Progress!

Enthusiasm is our best best friend when it comes to staying the course with our writing. So how can we boost our enthusiasm? I've got five super fun ways right here. | lucyflint.com

Welcome back to the Strength Building Series! So far, we've talked about what strength even means (because the wrong definition is the first step to sabotaging it). And then we focused in on building strength of imagination (because imagination is central to everything we do!).

And today—I'm really excited. Which is appropriate. Because today we're talking about how to increase our enthusiasm for our work.

I know! I know! I'm gonna have to simmer down so much to even write this thing...

Ahem. Okay. Being sensible. 

So, first thing: why even bring up enthusiasm? Why is this a place where we need to build strength?

To find the answer, think back for a sec to our Self-Care Series, when we talked all things Julia Cameron.

And one of the more mind-blowing things that she pointed out was: when it comes to sustainable momentum in our work, enthusiasm trumps discipline.

Yeah. It's still incredible. 

And that shifted my focus from "How can I be more disciplined?" to "How can I be more enthusiastic?" Which is a pretty huge course correction.

Building enthusiasm. It's essential for the kind of work we want to do.

... And before anyone gets worried that I'm about to base all our hard work on a mere feeling, let's refresh on Julia Cameron's definition of enthusiasm. She says: 

Enthusiasm is not an emotional state. It is a spiritual commitment, a loving surrender to our creative process, a loving recognition of all the creativity around us. ... 
     Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work. ... It is joy, not duty, that makes for a lasting bond.

Okay. If that was waaay more mushy-sounding than you really care for on a Thursday, let's look at it like this:

The way Cameron is using enthusiasm isn't about "how we feel right now." 

It's about 1) commitment, 2) openness, 3) creativity, 4) process, 5) play, 6) joy and 7) yes, okay, love.

Which is why, to build enthusiasm, we're going to dive into the work itself (commitment!). No matter where we're at in it (process!). 

We're going to mess around (creativity!) and try new things (openness!). And yes, it's going to be playful. It's going to be about enjoying what we're making. And even, dare I say it, loving it.

Sound good? Sound ... fun? 

Here are my five favorite ways to build playfulness and enthusiasm for my work-in-progress.

Check them out, stay open, and don't worry about "doing it right." Just dive in and give these a try.

1) Embrace the Souvenir Method.

... I was about to say "this is one of my favorite things to do with a piece I'm working on!" and then I realized I'd just be saying this about everything I'm talking about today.

So I figured I'd spare you the repetition...

AND YET IT'S TRUE!

The souvenir method is a gorgeous little way to keep your mind and heart centered in your story. Plus it's fun.

.... Annnnd it gives you a rush.

Okay. Here's what you do: 

First, get your mindset. 

This is super important to remember: You're going to be visiting your draft-in-process as if it's a place. As if you're an explorer. You're going to be looking for souvenirs: things to take out of context and bring to a new place.

In other words: You are not about to spiral into a critique-festival. You're not going to indulge in beating yourself up. You will not, even for a moment, whisper to yourself that your draft is "crap." Okay? 

This isn't about judging what's there. Not at all. This can be done with the messiest, crappiest drafts, I promise you. (Because I definitely have.)

Pick up your draft. You can start from any place. From the beginning if you like, or any chapter at all.

And read. Read slowly. Let yourself explore. 

Read like you're looking at something new. Switch off your editing brain, and just experience the story.

While you're doing that, keep your eyes open for any line, any sentence, any phrase, that seems to especially capture the feel of a particular moment of your story. 

Such as:

  • a passage that pinpoints a vital aspect of the setting
  • a line of dialogue that shows off your protagonist's snarkiness
  • an exchange or moment between two characters that hints at the truth of their relationship
  • a key moment in the rise of the conflict
  • any moment that sums up a character's personality 

Don't think perfection here. Think "candid snapshot."

You're looking for moments that get the feel of your story, even more than the accuracy. 

And—even more importantly—you're looking for bits and phrases and scraps that mean something to you. 

You're looking for the sentences that register in your writerly heart. The little "aha!" feeling when a phrase resonates especially. 

Another reader might look at what you've chosen and see a bunch of scraps of sentences, bits of paragraphs.

But when you read it through, you hopefully hear your protagonist's voice, or sense a moment between the two love interests, or feel the prickle of anxiety before a major plot point.

Go for resonance and atmosphere more than just "yes, this sums up the passage well."

Does that make sense?

Personally, I copy and paste what I've chosen into its own document. I play around with the formatting: I put little separators between each passage.

Sometimes I'll have three sentences from a section, and other times I'll just have lifted one little phrase. If one of the clips needs a brief note to remind me of context, I throw that in as well.

When I'm done, I have about a page or so of moments from my story that set my mind and heart ringing. Moments that, when I read them together, as a whole, re-immerse me into my story. 

Which is oh-so helpful for those times when I've been away from the work, and am trying to find my way back in. 

2) Create a Gallery of Nouns.

This is one that I've used recently. It's fun and seemingly simplistic... but it's been part of my post-summer re-entry to my novel, and has helped so much!

Here's what I did: While rereading my draft so far, I paused every few pages, and doodled one of the nouns that had been mentioned in the story. 

That's it.

So, as I read, I made little silly sketches of things like: the cat a character dreamed about, the spider my main character chased from her room, the row of herbs on her mom's windowsill. 

I gave each little drawing a label: "Olivia's splendid lemon cake," "a gorgeous straw hat for the beach," "the mailbox with one postcard inside." 

And then I went through and colored everything in.

I didn't care that the drawings didn't look perfect—they were meant to just be light-hearted, quick, and fun. And when I sat back, I had a kind of visual catalogue of my story so far.

Images that stood in for character moments, points of tension, or just part of the opening setting that my characters will miss later in the story, when they're far away.

What's valuable about this technique is how playful and simple it can be. But it slyly involves our ability to visualize our own story, and to translate it into another art form: a doodle, a sketch, a selection of colors.

And there's something pretty magical about being able to see bits of your story laid out on a page. 

3) Let Music Be the Food of Story.

If you've been a long-time reader, you've heard me mention this a time or three. But that's because it's my all-time favorite!!

And I'm especially smitten with it because this simple tool, more than anything else, saved my connection to my story over a long, difficult summer.

Because of some tough circumstances, I had to let weeks go by without drafting, yet I stayed open and connected to my novel idea. How?

With a playlist of music.

I've slowly built a playlist of songs that remind me of key moments in my trilogy. These aren't soundtracks, by the way. The playlist isn't focused on instrumental songs.

It's a compilation of pieces that somehow link me to a character as a whole, to a character's backstory, to a moment of the plot, to a key relationship, to a story transition... the possibilities are, of course, endless!

The lyrics don't have to be 100% applicable to my story moment. If a handful of key lines resonate, that's good enough for me.

It turns out that it's the atmosphere and the mood of the song that's absolutely pivotal.

It's hard to just talk about music, so here are three examples from my playlist: 

Example 1: Scarlett Johansson singing "Before My Time."

Yes, it's from a movie about ice. But on my playlist, it's linked to the moment we meet an old resistance leader. When she comes on stage for the first time, she's tired of hoping, and tired of trying for change. 

Some of the lyrics are spot-on for her character, but I especially love the weariness in ScarJo's voice and the lament of the violin. I can practically feel my character when I hear this. SO perfect.

Example 2: Lana Del Rey's wonderfully depressing "Once Upon a Dream."

It's a more chilling version of a familiar song from kidhood... which is why it's spot on for my playlist. In my mind, this song references a fairly evil character who creeps around within, yup, dreams. And he's just focused his attention on my protagonist.

He's tricked her once before into believing he could be helpful, so the lyrics in the song even hint a smidge at the character's backstory and their history together.

There's also a kind of fatal inevitability in the song that I love... It helps me remember how trapped my protagonist feels in this moment, and how high the stakes are for her. Oooh. So good. 

Example 3: Of Monsters and Men's live version of "King and Lionheart."

It's more simple and haunting than their original version, and it's one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands. *high five*

It's also totally perfect for late in the trilogy, when my protagonist has been through a lot. She and her ragged friends are working alongside a king, and they're all gearing up for a climax that's sure to be very, very messy.

But the feel of this song and a fair amount of the lyrics are just exactly right. And honestly? I still get chills listening to this song, thinking of my main character. 

Whew! So. Those are some that have worked for me. 

The main thing to remember is that you're looking more for atmosphere and mood than for lyrics. A few spot-on lyrics are excellent, of course, but it's the feel of the song that seals it. 

So, see what you think. Basically, you'll know it when you hear it.

When it hits just right, I feel this incredible expansive rush, where I can see my characters in my mind, and—more importantly—feel what they are feeling, and hear what they are thinking.

I sense their weariness, or their uncertainty and fear, or their dogged hope. 

I can't say this enough: building a playlist is RIDICULOUSLY FUN.

It feels like procrastinating, but let me say it again: nothing saved my work this summer more than this. You can totally justify the time, in other words. ;)

Once you have a playlist—even if it's just a handful of songs—you have gold.

Play it in the car, listen to it while you cook, dance to it, take walks with it. And when you hear the songs, send your heart and your mind right into the center of your story.

You don't have to do any hard-core plotting (although I've definitely discovered plot this way). You don't have to jot down notes, or expand characterization (although, again, that has happened along the way for me).

You don't have to be "productive" with this tool at all. The biggest and best gift that it gives is a connection to the emotional and mental climate of your work.

It keeps it real and breathing and lively in your mind. 

And when that's true, allllllll good things can follow. 

4) Give It the Big Screen Treatment.

If the above strategies have been at all up your alley, don't stop there! This next idea can feel a little more tricky, but once you get the hang of it, it is pure fun and super helpful.

It also might keep you from sleeping, if you choose to do this right before bed. (So. Many. Times. I get all story-giddy and lie awake for hours. You've been warned.)

So: I love to dream up trailers for my book. As if it were a huge summer blockbuster.

I do this all in my head: I slowly fade in to some kind of panoramic story-view. Introduce characters in a moment, a glance, a funny line. 

And then I try to zoom in on the most tantalizing moments. The funniest lines, the jaw-dropping cliff-hangers, the moments of loss. You know. The way a good trailer does.

I cut from one moment to the next to the next in my mind. I imagine stirring epic music, or heart-stopping silence. Even a little slo mo, when it feels right.

... Basically I just have a blast. That's it in a nutshell.

And each time I do this, the resulting "trailer" looks different. 

What's glorious about this is how it, again, forces you to get visual about your story.

But also, it helps you focus on what movie trailers do best: excitement, intrigue, resonance. It helps you connect with the emotional points of your story. 

When I'm mired in too much thinking about structure and plot, and when my work starts to feel tedious, I retreat to this strategy. I pull up IMDb and watch a bunch of movie trailers.

And then, comfortable with the whole movie-trailer genre again, I close my eyes and dream up my own.

Seriously, my friends, when you start to get the hang of it, this can inspire enthusiasm like nothing else.

5) Believe In Where It Could Go.

Okay. This final enthusiasm-builder might sound more than a little goofy. BUT I've read this advice from several other writers (James Scott Bell and Heather Sellers for a start), and so I had to give it a try.

... And when I did, I couldn't stop smiling. 

Here it is: Make up endorsements for your work-in-progress, from authors you admire.

Yes really!

(IMMEDIATE DISCLAIMER: Don't, for the love of pete, publish them or pretend that they are real or everyone gets into trouble. Okay. Just had to say that. Common sense. Right. Okay.) 

Anyway: Write that kind of endorsement that would just thrill you. What you'd dream of them saying.

Write endorsements that emphasize those key parts of the story that they most loved. Everything that you're aspiring to in your work.

Type the endorsements onto a mock title page, and print it off. Hang it in your work area, or put it somewhere else where you can see it. 

Read them often. Smile.

... This isn't about getting our hopes up, or setting our hearts on something perhaps won't happen. Dream endorsements are a long shot, sure. 

But the strength of this tool is a lot like the strength in affirmations. When we state the direction we're heading in, it helps us change course. Saying out loud what we want can keep us on track.

Plus, if these "endorsements" make you smile... then why not? 

The main point is: they are a fun way to help you remember your goal. Your vision for the story.

The fact that, all this work, all these words, all these hours, are going into a craft you're making to give other people an experience.

Maybe you're trying to make them laugh. Or make 'em cry. (In a good way.)

Maybe you want to whisk them off to strange lands for strange adventures. Or maybe you're trying to open their eyes to what's in their backyard.

You want them to think. You want them to feel

Write little blurbs for yourself that point you in that direction: that help you remember you're inventing an experience. It's about a heart, about emotions.

This little endorsement-writing trick can seem so small, so silly.

But it can lift us above the daily grind, just when we need it most, and set our focus back on the big picture.


And there you have it! Five ways to strengthen your enthusiasm and stay playful with your work-in-progress.

All five of these have been absolutely key at different points in my writing life. They have cheered me, excited me, steadied me, and brought my stories back from near-death.

Pretty dang exciting, frankly. 

Which ones have you tried before? What will you try next?

Do you have any favorite ways to stoke writerly enthusiasm? Pass 'em along!! We all need plenty of good tools for this!

Dare to Transform Your Writing Life with This One Strategy

If I had started doing this sooner, my whole writing career would look different!! But better late than never. All you need? A little time and a little courage. But the rewards? Huge. Do you have the guts to try? | lucyflint.com

When I officially launched this blog last March, one of the toughest decisions to make was the title for the blog.

If you've started a blog, or website, or similar project, you get this, right? Sum up all your hopes and dreams for the project in one teeny phrase

I knew some of what I was looking for: I wanted it to be happy. I wanted to talk about the kind of writing life I had just started to explore—what I most wanted to grow into.

I tried everything. For a long while, this blog was almost subtitled, "Pursuing the Merry & Wild Writing Life."

I loved the idea of an unusually joyful approach to writing. Merry, for sure!

And I also liked not fitting so neatly into a box, not being so darned meek and quiet about our writer selves. Being fierce in our creativity. More than a little wild.

Merry & Wild. Close. But not quite there.

When I hit on the term lionheart, I knew my blog had met its destiny.

Because when I say lionheart, I don't just mean "courageous person" (although of course that's part of it). The word has absorbed a host of other senses, elements, and ideas.

And so when I say I aim to be a Lionhearted Writer, it's shorthand for all the traits I'm aiming at.

The entire bag of tricks that make up my exact ideal way to be a writer.

... And since I'm obsessed with definitions, I thought maybe it's time to lay that definition out completely.

For the month of May, we're going to explore everything that goes into being that kind of writer. 

It's the anatomy of a lionheart! 

And just so we're clear: When I say lionheart, I of course mean you, me, and the hundreds of other writers who are reading this post. There are a lot of us.

Get ready for some roaring.


So! Lionhearted writers! Let's do this! Let's break it down!

Where to start? With something really quiet, small, and incredibly powerful.

The lionhearted writer trusts herself.

What?! Trust?

Yes. 

It seems like a little thing, but the more I think about it—oh, is it valuable!

Let's back up: Recently my younger sister and I were talking about Brené Brown, and how she's the coolest ever, and how we're both diving into the material she's created, and how much we loooooooove it.

My sister recommended her talk on trust, which I hadn't seen yet. And when I did, I was blown away.*

I loved the talk. (And as soon as you have twenty-four minutes available for awesomeness, you should go listen to it!) She defines trust, the elements that go into it, how it's built, how it's destroyed. 

But the thing that made my eyes open twice as wide, and start talking back excitedly to my computer screen, and then tell everyone else about it—was right at the end.

When she talked about applying all those trust-building skills to yourself

Are we trustworthy to ourselves? Do we honor our boundaries and do what we say we will? Do we take good care of our more vulnerable secrets, do we treat ourselves with generosity? 

I started applying that to myself, of course, with general life stuff. But then I asked another big question:

Do I trust myself as a writer?

For the first eight years or so of writing full time, I was the poster child for NOT trusting myself.

I essentially treated my creativity, my writing impulses, and my time, with utmost distrust and suspicion.

I worked in a panic. (Just to be clear, this is a very unpleasant way to work. Please don't do this.)

Of course I didn't trust myself! I didn't even want to. I was too new at this, too ignorant, so (I thought) how could I have anything in myself worth trusting? 

I had too much to learn, and not enough time for it. And I never wanted to give myself time to learn. Ever.

I had no faith in my instincts about how I needed to work. Instead, I was terrified that I wasn't challenging myself enough, so I pushed super hard—then burned out.

Scraped myself back together and pushed to burnout again. 

Um. It wasn't a healthy cycle.

All I had to show for it—after years—was a bunch of bruises, a total lack of faith in myself, and a lot of that time (which I was so scared about wasting) gone.

Now I think that if I had taken the time to actually listen to what I deep-down knew I neededtrusted it, and acted on it, I'd have a whole different story! 

Here is what I know: It is scary hard to trust yourself.

Especially when you're new at this... but I'm guessing it's going to be hard for a while longer than that. (Heck, right now, I probably trust myself 65% of the time. HUGE for me, but definitely not to 100 yet!)

It is hard to get really quiet and still and ask yourself: Okay. What do I need next? It's even harder to believe that the answer is a good one!

And it's hard to not just freak out all the time.

But no matter how uncertain it feels, I promise that it is worth building trust with yourself.

And I don't mean the screaming, freaking out, panicking part of you. (That part needs a hug and then a whole bunch of chocolate chip cookies and then a fuzzy blanket. But its screamed suggestions probably don't need to be followed.)

The truth that I've been stepping into lately, is that I understand a heck of a lot about how I need to work, what I need to be saying, and how I need to say it. 

The same thing is true of you. (Even if you're brand new to this!)

There's a part of you that does understand how you work. And even might hold some clues about how you work best

If you really pay attention to it, you can start to understand from that clever part of you: where your best material lies, and what you most need to learn

That part of you.

Find it. And then clear space, time, noise, and listen. 

I'm serious. Get a notebook, take some deep breaths, and just ask that deeper, wiser, word-loving part of you: What do I most need in my writing life right now? 

New resources, or time to play? A creative date where you go and wander and don't have to talk to anyone?

A different project? A crazy-fun class? A group? Or alone time?

Just listen in. Listen deep and listen long.

Find those gut instincts, and then trust them.

Show up for that part of yourself. It's something we all need—including me, for sure—to do more often.

... Oooh, what if once a week, we took fifteen minutes for this. Listening, writing down notes, just checking in.

And then, we acted on the good stuff that bubbled up about the direction of our writing.

Wouldn't that transform your approach to your work? What you work on? How you approach social media, marketing, all of that?

Again, I'm not talking about the million lists that all of our busy brains could frantically generate.

We're seeking that deeper, intuitive understanding.

If you're more extrovert style, I love and respect you: do this in your marvelous extrovert way. Maybe you'll want to grab a close friend who gets this kind of writing/creative lifestyle, and talk it through.

But however this looks for you, find a way to give your instincts a lot more trust. Let them make the call. Steer by them for a while.

That could be the key to a transformational amount of amazingness.


* Yep, I only just realized that Brené Brown's talk is called The Anatomy of Trust, though somewhere in my head that must've stuck. ... Which is probably why "The Anatomy of a Lionheart" struck me as a great series title!

Haha! Thanks, Brené Brown!!

I'm Not Super Interested in My Writing Process Feeling Like a Slog, Are You?

I was running out of steam this week, and thought I had to just keep plowing. Oh wait: that's not how I roll any more. Here's the new way to become a writing machine. (It's so much more fun, btw.) | lucyflint.com

How's your writing going, lionhearts? 

I've been back to my novel-in-progress in a big way over the last week. Words! Paragraphs! Chapters! It's been grand.

Plus, thanks to Monday's pep talk, I'm embracing the fact that it's gonna sound like a crappy first draft. No worries about quality.

So I thought that I'd keep chugging along, giving 90 percent of my energy to the words, bearing with the sloppiness of the drafting process

And then my word-making engine started making funny sounds. And acting weird.

Spluttering, coughing, jerking around. It kept stalling and puttering and cutting out.

I couldn't figure out what was wrong at first.

These chapters have been outlined—enough and not too much—so I knew what I was writing.

It's an exciting part of the story, too: the aunt and the niece are bickering, the baby has gone missing, and they've fallen into another world. 

Lots of tension! Intriguing settings! Plenty to do!

But I kept wearing out. I had the ideas, but my brain felt like taffy. Stretched too thin—shredding to wisps. The ideas weren't turning into real images, real moments, real words.  

What's a writer with a mega-steep deadline to do? 

Thrash about? Fight it out? Get all the words down with blood and sweat and tears?

Ha! If you've been around here for five minutes, you know by now: that's not how I roll. Not anymore.

So what, then? The deadline is tight and certain. How do I get these words moving again?

It took an evening of soul-searching, but I realized the answer was staring me in the face. 

I've come back to this draft after a ton of chaos. My brain has been full of problems to solve, of logistics and nurturing other people and getting plenty of vitamin C.

And I haven't done the oh-so-necessary spelunking in the wonderful dark caves of the imagination.

I haven't been feeding my story-making side at all.

Whoops.

So today's quote comes from Elizabeth Berg. It's marvelously straightforward, and precisely what I need:

"Find out what works as a literary stimulant for you, and use it shamelessly."

Obviously, this isn't shocking news. One of the words most often on our writerly lips is inspiration after all.

So the reason I love this quote is that it gives permission.

Use it shamelessly.

No guilt when you're off inspiration-seeking! No mixed feelings about nurturing the imagination!

"Find out what works as a literary stimulant for you, and use it shamelessly." -- Elizabeth Berg ... If you were looking for permission to drop everything and go out in search of what most inspires you: This is it. | lucyflint.com

I need to hear this.

Because sometimes, I misdiagnose.

I feel like I must be procrastinating when I'm off seeking inspiration. Like I'm putting off the real work of the words on the page—which of course is important! Super important! 

But we have to remember that our stories come from a dance between the two: we refuel the place that comes up with the words. And then we write what bubbles up. 

Refuel, write, repeat.

And yes, if you're chewing on that idea of putting 90 percent of your energy to the words on the page, this active refueling can make up part of that. Especially if you keep running dry, like I was.

When we're operating from a place of rich, deep fuel, it's easier to fall into our story and stay there.

It is, dare I say it, easy to write.

And that's what I want to get back to. 

So I'm making a list of all my tricks. All of 'em! It's shocking, actually, how I had totally forgotten them.

(Terrifying to be out of that habit!)

I grabbed a book of poems and stuck it by my bed to read just before drifting off to sleep. 

I'm spending time listening to songs that inspire me, watching movie trailers that whip my imagination into a frenzy, and browsing concept design on Pinterest

And then, that most potent strategy of all, I'm actively dropping my mind straight into my book. Swapping realities. 

Whew! I'm so out of practice! 

But this is what saves my writerly bacon. 

This is what gets the book written, without all that anguish.

This is what even makes the writing fun. It turns the work into an adventure—instead of another day pushing numbers into a graph. This many words and that many chapters by these dates.

We're not accountants.

(And I love accountants. No offense, number lovers!)

But we are writers. We've got to get a little gooey sometimes. We're supposed to.

We need to know what works for us, what stimulates stories in us, and then we have to give ourselves permission to go after that. 

It's the job. (And it's actually a lot of fun!)

Happy spelunking.


Where do your story ideas lurk? What feeds your gooey, story-making side? Please do share in the comments!! We could all use a few more strategies! (And nothing is too weird. I promise.)

We're Playing for Keeps: A Lifelong Love of Writing

This is your last batch of prompts for the Fall In Love with Your Writing Life series...

Can you believe it??

Our last batch of prompts for falling in love with the writing life: We're looking long term and feeling all the warm fuzzy feelings. It's a beautiful thing. | lucyflint.com

One of the best joys of the writing life is that you can't ever be disqualified from it.

You can do this for the rest of your life. There is no aging out.

It's something you get to do forever: look at the world around you, look at the world inside you, and make stories out of it.

How freaking amazing is that? 

For these last few days, we're just going to camp out there, and get plenty happy about it.

If you feel like bringing some champagne along, do so.

Let's go.


February 25: Write a letter.

When we're working hard, we obviously focus on what writing goals are immediately in front of us. I've got some plans when it comes to 2016 and 2017, and I bet you do too. 

Most of my plans, though, are about production. Publication. Projects launched. New projects proposed.

All very exciting. My fingertips get all tingly when I think about it.

But for today, we're gonna think about goals in a different way.

Namely: What kind of a writer's heart do you want to aim for?

What kind of perspective? How might your approach to writing shift? 

What kind of writer do you hope to be? 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: One more letter to write. You up for it? 

Let's do a bit of thinking first. Get an idea of the kind of writer you want to be—what kind of writer's heart, what kind of writer's spirit?

What issues will you take a stand against, in your work? What causes will you give to?

Who will you dignify? Who will you write for? What kinds of worlds will you give voice to?

I know it's hard to dream in this direction, but I think it's worth our time to explore a bit.

... My best example of this is more of a cautionary tale: When I was wrapping up my English degree and getting all prepared (read: anxious) for a writing life, I met with a full-time writer who was about 8-10 years older than I was. 

I was full of questions. I was a little desperate and nervous and excited.

Here's what I remember about her: She was the most bitter and discouraging writer I've ever met. 

It was a miserable chat.

I walked away from that with no useable advice but this (and it's a biggie): I don't want to end up like her.

I don't want to wind up bitter. I don't want to trade in my peace of mind and happiness and joy. No matter what the publication game looks like, I want to stick with this for the love.

See what I mean?

So what does that look like for you?

When you have a sense of the kinds of virtues and values you want to embody, draft a letter. 

It doesn't have to be long. But try and capture that idea of You, the Writer, ten or twenty or fifty years further down the road.

Oh, and this time, you're writing the letter to yourself. In the future. 

(I know it's weird, but hey: a lot of our readers live in the future. When you think of it like that, no big deal.)

Start by saying something like: Dear Future Writer-Me, This is who I think you are...

And basically, sketch it out. Who is this future writer that's you?

(Personally, I'm dreaming of a future Lucy who is totally perfectionism-free, who has great writing stamina but also knows how to rest and enjoy the rest of her life, who gives courage to kids in story form, who...


February 26: A movie date!

I don't care if it's cheesy: I get so happy when watching a movie that features writing. 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Tonight, watch a movie that has something to do with writing, books, readers, or the writing life. 

Why? Because it's fun!

And that's all the reason we need around here, right?

My perennial favorites are Stranger than FictionMidnight in Paris, The Help, and Finding Neverland. Oh! And then Dan in Real Life when they meet in a bookstore... 

(If you have a killer recommendation, by all means let us know in the comments. I need to find some new ones!)

Tonight isn't about writing anything down.

Just watch. Have some fun.


February 27: Celebrate.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Today, sit in your writing space, or take a journal somewhere else that's peaceful, and just think about this:

You and the writing life—you're committed. 

You are going to spend the rest of your lives learning about each other. This is the long haul! 

There is so much more to the writing life than any of us can explore in a handful of decades.

More to learn about novels, about structure and form. More ways to break the rules.

There are more subjects to explore than any of us could cover... and an infinite number of subjects to invent!

That is a pretty amazing deal.

We're never going to be bored! Ever!

We get to keep the writing life. That's freaking fantastic.

Oh, and then there's you. You're pretty dang incredible yourself.

I'm just saying: The writing life got someone really special in you.

It will spend the rest of your life finding ways to spin everything you think and see and wonder about into words, into sentences, into strings of dialogue.

Bits of you will show up in characters and subplots. Parts of your thinking and your experiences will wind up in readers' brains, their ways of speaking. 

You'll be all over the place!

... If you feel like it, you can write about this. Or not.

You can also just sit there in the quiet and know that this is a life-long love.  

You have each other. And that's beautiful.

So pour yourself a toast, or throw a little party, or just sit there in the stillness.

However it looks to you, take a moment and really celebrate.


February 28: Stay close to your reading life, too.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: It's Sunday! You know what to do. Find yourself a patch of sunlight and a truly lovely book.

And fall into reading. 

The fact that we're lifelong writers means that we're lifelong readers. We're always learning, always absorbing.

Always wandering through other writer's brains, and taking snapshots of the scenery in there.

A reading life. It's one of the happiest, most connected ways to be.

And it's ours! To keep! Forever!


Thanks to Leap Day, we have one more prompt in the series, my friends!

(It thrills me to no end that we have a February 29 this year!! Trying to be dignified about that ... but failing. Leap years are cool.)

Anyway, check back on Monday for one last Love-Your-Writing-Life prompt.

Til then: happy dreaming!

Are You Ready To Amaze Yourself? (Exploring Possibilities and Loving Writing. ... You Know. The Usual.)

These three prompts are gonna knock us out of any little ruts we've been in.

Instead, we'll practice being writers who see dazzling possibilities in the information we read, the places we go, and the projects we dream up.

It's going to be a lovely ride... 

Get your goggles on and let's get started!

We're investigating three simple ways to strike out in new directions with our imaginations and our words. Loving your writing life through new possibilities? Heck yes. Join us over at lucyflint.com

February 22: Be a sleuth.

I know, I know. I've already gone on record about my massive love affair with the reference section, and how it's like taking superpower pills for my imagination.

But it is so freaking worth it to make this a regular part of our writing lives!

So just go with me on this.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Pick up a reference book you don't normally grab.

Maybe something medical, or a botany index. A random chunk of the encyclopedia, or one of the incredible hyper-specific volumes in the reference section of your local library. 

Flip through it for fifteen minutes. And just write down everything that delights you.

This isn't RESEARCH. This isn't looking for FACTS.

This is about being exposed to and charmed by words and phrases and sentences that you aren't around all the time.

This is about wandering around, wearing your imagination's heart on your sleeve, and falling hard for the strangest and loveliest bits of information you come across. 

Go ahead. Let yourself geek out a bit.

(My latest delight? I just found out about the tradition of night climbing in Cambridge. Those photographs!! Swoon!)


February 23: Be a spy.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Go somewhere where you don't normally think of writing, exactly. Someplace that isn't overtly literary...

But bring the writing life with you.

Maybe you're sitting at the bar of a restaurant and watching the chefs zip around the kitchen.

Or maybe you're in a concert hall, an art museum, a church service, or a graveyard.

Wherever calls you most: Go.

And while you're there, imagine you're a literary spy. 

You're an emissary, a representative of the writing life.

Study everything, like you've just fallen into a novel. Like you could spin a story out of this moment, this place.

Bring a blank notebook and jot down phrases, notes on the atmosphere, or even just a single word that seems to sum it all up. Catch the juiciest bits of dialogue you overhear.

You don't have to write much. It can be just a few notes and scribblings... or it can be a huge, lyrical, epic poem.

But try to enter that place of having a writer's eyes in a "non-writing" place.

And just see what happens.


February 24: Be extravagant.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Start a dozen little projects today. Writing projects.

You and your writing life. Put your heads together, and dream. 

Yes, really.

Yes, even if you already have plenty of unused ideas floating around. (What's a few more, lionheart?)

These new ideas don't have to be more than one sentence, or even one word. 

Invent a series of books together. Maybe it's four novels, or sixteen quick chapter books for kids, or an epic saga cycle of five huge fantasy books.

Maybe it's a whole detective series based on the amazing bits of info you picked up on Monday, and the place you visited yesterday.

If this makes you feel crazy, just shake it off. Have a light touch. No sweat. This isn't "for real." You're not committed to any of this. It's just for fun.

This is like talking about the dream plans for a future house, or places you want to travel, or all the kids you want to have.

This is just about entertaining possibilities. 

So lean into it.

Suggest titles. Dream up the most off-the-wall protagonist ever.

Write a sentence or five for each of the ideas.

Or, just come up with a huge list of pretend character names.

Or invent the cities and empires that will rise and fall at your command. Make maps. 

Goof off together. Try to come up with bigger concepts, the more impossible the better.

Dream huge dreams, you and your writing life, together.

Give each other the moon, the world, a whole solar system. 

Dazzle yourself with the possibilities.

Isn't this dangerous? Nah. You can come back down to earth later, and have a renewed appreciation for the sweetness of your current work-in-progress. It's a wonderful thing after all.

... Or, wait. Yes. Yes, it is dangerous, incredibly so. We're playing with ideas, after all. It might as well be dynamite.

You might be laying the imaginative tracks that you will sail down in a year or two, on your way to becoming one of the most inventive writers of your generation. 

You daring lionheart, you!


We're coming down to the end of the month! Can you believe it??

Come back on Thursday for your last batch of writing life prompts... 

And in the meantime, happy dreaming!

What Happens to You If You Actually *Enjoy* Writing?

Welcome to Week Three of the Fall In Love with Your Writing Life series! I can't believe that we're this far along already!

Can I just say, y'all are troopers. You are amazing.

I'm so proud of all the lionhearts who dove into this challenge, and I hope that you're feeling a little weak in the knees about your writing life!

And there's more fun up ahead! It's just going to get better! (Have I mentioned that I'm still super excited?? I have so many exclamation points I haven't used yet...)

This week is all about enjoyment. About a writing life that is marked by joy, pleasure, and fun. 

Why be grim and tense about writing if we really don't have to be? Right?

Yeah. That's why we're here.

So let's dive in!

That old mentality that says writing must be grim and excruciating? Pffft. The old school isn't always best. Let's shift that paradigm. What would happen to you if you actually *enjoyed* writing?? Come find out. | lucyflint.com

February 15: Take dancing lessons.

Today, we're talking about dancing.

And not in my usual, dance-your-writing-anxieties-out way. (Although that's still a good idea. By all means, let loose.)

I'm talking about dancing with your writing life.

And before that gets any weirder than it already sounds, what I mean is:

Write some poetry.

... I just figured we'd all freak out if I led with the "poetry" thing. So try to think of it like dancing lessons. I promise it will help.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Yes. Really. You. Poetry.

In particular, I'd love, love, love it if you wrote a haiku. (Or two. Or seven.)

What's the point of taking dancing lessons in a relationship?

It's about spending time with each other, learning a skill that brings you (literally) closer, and doing something beautiful together—or, actually, doing something silly. 

Yes, you'll totally step on each other's feet. Yes, you might look ridiculous. But that's great!

It's a wonderful reminder that the point of dancing with someone you love isn't about doing it perfectly, or even about doing it right.

The point is: enjoying each other's company. 

So, if this exercise makes you laugh, bonus points for you.

If you throw all kinds of words at the haiku but they just sound lame, bonus points for you!

And if you try this and find that you love it, then bonus points for you.

Get my point? It isn't about being a haiku master. It isn't about creating award-winning poetry.

It's about doing a dance with language. About putting your feet here and then there and then there, a little awkwardly, a little out of rhythm, but practicing at it—simply because those are the steps of the tango, the foxtrot.

Or the haiku.

A haiku is a three-line poem, and the length of the line is governed by syllables. Five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, five in the third. And that's it!

Here's a more detailed explanation... but seriously, just dive in for ten minutes and have fun. Let the syllables fly.

Forget about perfection: this is about enjoying your time together.


February 16: Contemplate.

Sometimes the mark of a really great relationship is that you can sit there in silence together.

Is that really the prompt for today? 

Yes! Yes it is! 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Free yourself from the need to be demonstrably productive. Just for fifteen minutes. 

Can you sit in your writing area, and just practice feeling happy and peaceful there?

Think about enjoying the space, the feel of it. The ghosts of the words you've written here. The nebulous stories that you will write someday.

... If the idea of fifteen minutes of doing nothing makes you break into a rash, I get it. No worries: you can doodle on some scrap paper.

Or maybe scrawl a sentence... but try to write slowly.

Make a list of nouns you like, but in really, really slow motion. Like you're drawing the letters for the first time.

Or invent a word even longer and funnier than Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Maybe you do that. 

Or maybe you don't: And you just sit there, feeling open and available to the writing life, but without demanding anything back from it.

Is this a little weird? That's okay. It's just fifteen minutes. After this, we can all get back to optimizing and producing and tallying and researching and media-ing. 

But I love to take the pressure of being productive out of the equation, just for a bit. 

And let the life of words and writing mean more than just "getting this project finished."

Maybe, for these fifteen minutes at least, the writing life is a way of being. A direction. A type of feeling, and considering, and dreaming. 

What if the writing life wasn't a career at all, but instead it was a life that loved stories and language? 

What if all the books and blogs and essays were simply the by-products of a very happy marriage between a person and words? 

Hmm.

If nothing else appeals, try spending your fifteen minutes contemplating that.


February 17: Get a little fancied up.

I love the freedom of working from home. Of being comfortable. Of wearing whatever.

But sometimes—I gotta be honest—my whole style statement can be summed up as "Didn't actually think about it."

(Fair enough. I'm working on figuring out the intersection between being extremely comfortable and having a legitimate style choice. At which point, I'll discover my dream writing uniform. One day, folks!! One day!)

There's this funny correlation between what I'm wearing and how I feel about my work.

It isn't necessarily dramatic. But it creeps in now and then.

And, if I'm in sloppy clothes, I can start feeling like my whole posture toward my work is, "I honestly don't care."

It can feel demeaning. I start saying, "Why bother."

Suddenly I feel a lot less like writing and a lot more like, say, polishing off a package of Oreos. (Let's be real.)

On the other hand: when I dress up—and I mean just a smidge, just a bit, just a little—it sets an intention.

It sends me a message about my work: I care about this. This matters to me. And I'm bringing my best.

That's how we want to show up to our work. And that's what we want the writing life to see from us.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Dress up a little for your writing today.

This isn't about being uncomfortable, or hiding yourself, or being less like you. Not at all!

It just means leaning into the work a little bit. Bringing a little sparkle. Doing something a little extra.

And that can look however you want it to.

Maybe this means just wearing some lip gloss, or maybe you're writing in a party dress today.

When I want to take things up a notch, I pull out this perfume. It's called Paper. (I promised you I was a nerd, right?)

It smells like the sweetness of—no kidding—paper.

*swoon*

When I feel like I'm having a drab writing day, sometimes I change my clothes, do something halfway decent to my hair, spritz this on, and then get back to work.

It doesn't make me an instant genius, but it does make me feel much more confident about what I'm writing and why.


I hope you have an incredibly yummy and fun week with your writing! Check back on Thursday for four more ways to dive deeper into joy and love in your writing life. 

Want to revisit the older prompts? Here are the first four posts in the series: one, two, three, four.

Happy writing!

This Is the Better Way to Dress Up: Imagining the Writer You Want to Be

Daydreaming a rosy-hued future writing life? Cool. Me too. Here's why that's *not* embarrassing (and how it will help you focus!). | lucyflint.com

So HERE'S an embarrassing question. It's Monday, and hopefully you have some coffee or some such thing, and hopefully you won't reach through your screen and wallop me for being so nosy. 

Besides, I'll even answer it first. 

Embarrassing question: When you daydream about your future as a writer, what does that look like? 

Not the humble, Twitter-acceptable version of "oh, I'm going to just keep growing and learning and eventually publish." (Even though that's all great.) 

I mean, what does it really look like?

In my daydreamed future, I'm usually living in an airy little bungalow--a ridiculously charming and cozy place, crowded with books (in the places where it isn't being airy, I guess). 

The bungalow was purchased with money made from selling books. (Probably a very small bungalow in that case. But nevertheless.)

I'm busy as a bee in my office, churning out one book after the next, creating books for a series that has mega fans.

MEGA. As in, readers dressing up as my characters, or naming children after them, or having themed weddings based on the books. 

(Ahem. Daydreams are allowed to be silly and totally unreasonable. It's their job.)

Daydreamed-Lucy is always full of ideas, always scribbling, and then maybe jaunting about getting coffee and meeting friends at a bookstore, and...

Yeah.

Happy, cheery, energetic writer, who writes, writes, writes, in the midst of a happy, cheery life.

Especially: Making an actual living with my writing. (Also consuming enormous amounts of baked goods and caffeine.)

That's what I dream up. 

And I usually dream it up when I'm not doing a lot of writing. 

I take refuge in this little daydream whenever life gets crowded and my writing habit slips. Or when I'm sick for a while and have a hard time working (I'm looking at you, epic sinus infection of September!!).

So, your turn: What do you daydream about, when you imagine your writerly future? 

(Nothing is too silly, too far-fetched, or too grandiose. I promise.)

What do you imagine? 

Got an idea? The general gist of your dreamed-up future?

Okay. Good. Here's what I want us to do:

In honor of the week of Everyone Dressing Up, aka, Halloween, let's think of what it would be like if that writing life became yours this week.

If you and I could put on our dreamed writing lives, if we could become that kind of writer by Saturday night, as easily as my neighborhood kids become ghosts, princesses, and the Avengers ... If we could do that, what would it look like?

I promise that this really is a practical question. I promise I'm not just being silly.

Because behind my dreams of the snug cheery bungalow and the brioche and the ever-intensifying caffeine addiction, there's something extremely concrete and real. Something that illuminates a goal that I can, shockingly enough, forget I have sometimes.

I want to make a living from writing and selling incredibly good books. Books that readers just LOVE.

Sometimes, I forget that.

Sometimes, I must think I'm aiming to be a binge watcher for Netflix, or a cookbook tester and reviewer, or professional Pinner of knitted goods. 

Because honestly, sometimes that's what my behavior looks like. That's what I get more enthusiastic about some days. 

And THAT, my friends, is why these slightly-embarassing, future-writer daydreams are so dang helpful! They aren't as foolish and time-wasting as I sometimes think. They don't have to be dismissed outright. 

They actually show us what it is that we'd really like to aim for. They point us where we need to go.

Time for an empowering quote? Sure. Here's one from Henry David Thoreau:

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost;
that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

HIGH FIVE, Thoreau. I am so with you. 

What does it look like, to put the foundations under your daydream?

For a little more illumination, here's some extremely practical insight from Heather Sellers. (Yes, yes, I quote her all the time, but she has saved my writerly skin so often, I can't help it!)

In Chapter After Chaptershe tells about her writing friend Rachel, who was writing her first novel in spite of an intense day job.

Sellers writes: "She wanted to become a full-time, well-paid writer, so she hired herself (without pay) and did what full-time, well-paid writers do: Write. A lot."

Makes sense, right? Pretty straightforward. Even simple.

But something clicked in me when I first read that. It was exactly what I needed to hear, to start putting the foundations under my castles in the air. 

What kinds of habits could you adopt now, to become that writer of your daydreams? 

Another way to say all this (and something that Austin Kleon writes about): Fake it 'til you make it.

Not the bad kind of faking. This is the good stuff. As Kleon puts it: "You have to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and you have to start doing the work you want to be doing."

YES. Right? Let's do that.

Let's practice being the kind of writer we most desperately want to be. The writer of our dreams. Let's practice being that.

And you know what happens? We get to become that.

So what are you dreaming about? And what will you be practicing this week?

Let's treat our daydreams--even the silliest ones!--with the seriousness that they really do deserve. Let's honor them by practicing those behaviors.

By dressing for the job we want to have.

For me, this means:

  • Digging deep into revisions, building a solid story, fixing the structure, going crazy-awesome on the characters. If I want a trilogy that will inspire mass devotion, it needs to be the best dang thing I can muster! Editing without flinching. Game on.
     
  • Learning from the pros. I've been reading excellent books from Steven Pressfield (this and this), Rachel Aaron (this might change EVERYTHING for you!), and the amazing Joanna Penn
     
  • READING MORE FICTION! Ack! It keeps falling through the cracks, so I am scheduling it. An hour a day. (The schedule is legit. This is going to happen.)
     
  • Staying nice. It's all too easy for me to get wild-eyed and rabid when it comes to productivity and not screwing up. But that daydreamed version of me is happy as she is writing. Not glowering at everyone and hating everything. So I gotta remember to be a kind boss.
     
  • Drinking coffee. (DONE.)

How about you, lionheart? What's your list? How can you be a little more like that Future Writer You this week? 

Put on those habits. Just dress right on up in them. Act like that writer you want to be this week. 

(It's a waaaaay cooler costume than Iron Man. And it looks excellent on you. Just sayin'.)

This Is How You and I Are Gonna Remake the World

We're gonna dive in and do this well; we're gonna fling ourselves into a fictitious universe and write our way out. Here's some courage for that crazy road. | lucyflint.com

It takes an incredible amount of focus, energy, and determination to fling your brain into a fictitious universe. 

I mean... think about it. We are creating a different reality and then trying to jump into it

That takes some work. Right?  A ton of focus, courage, boldness, willingness, and all the imagination power you can muster.

Also? It's Monday. 

So let's get a pep talk from a bunch of other creatives, other world-jumpers. 

Below are thirty of my favorite quotes for the writing journey. Quotes for this mysterious, shadowy, reality-jumping side of the writing life.

Think of it as a big shot of caffeine for all of us who are chasing our stories.

Woo hoo!


One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. -- Annie Dillard

Don't be so afraid of giving yourself away, either, for if you write, you must. And if you can't face that, better not write. -- Katherine Anne Porter

To write truly good stories, stories that will satisfy you as well as your readers, you must do something no writing teacher, no book, no guidelines, can help you with. You must take risks. Knowing your craft can help you tell a story. But only by taking risks can you make art. -- Marion Dane Bauer

Good writing comes from writers on the edge. -- Ralph Keyes

You have to write your own book. The one only you can write. No one else. This takes fearlessness, but the exciting good news is doing the book teaches you the fearlessness you need. -- Heather Sellers

We have to be braver. ... Quotes for the writing journey on lucyflint.com

You have it inside you to fight this fight. Write, think about what you write, then write some more. -- James Scott Bell

Always attempt the impossible to improve your work. -- Bette Davis, note to self

Sometimes the mind needs to come at things sideways. -- Jeff VanderMeer

Write. Write badly, write beautifully, write at night. Stay up way too late, ruin your skin, forget to shave, grow your hair long at your age, and write and write and write and write. Make a mess. Don't clean it up. Do it your way. ... This is your book. -- Heather Sellers

I believe that solitude, perhaps more than anything, breeds creativity, breeds originality. -- Elizabeth Berg

I am learning to see loneliness as a seed that, when planted deep enough, can grow into writing that goes back out into the world. -- Kathleen Norris

You find yourself writing your way out of loneliness, writing your own company. -- Barbara Abercrombie

The uncharted path is the only road to something new. -- Scott Belsky

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. -- Rudyard Kipling

I get ready every night. I pack for the trip. I load my dream mind, hoping I will wake in the morning inspired, clear, and refreshed. I read good books. I have my journal by my bed. Every night, I'm getting ready for my writing morning. I point myself that way.  -- Heather Sellers

The primary purpose of imagery is not to entertain but to awaken in the reader his or her own sense of wonder. -- Tom Robbins

How all good writing is built. ... Quotes for the mysterious, shadowy side of writing on lucyflint.com

I don't know anything when I start. The only thing I know is that I'm starting. -- Richard Bausch

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. -- E.L. Doctorow

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Writers steer by wonder and desire. -- Heather Sellers

All writing is dreaming. -- Jorge Luis Borges

The impulse for much writing is homesickness. You are trying to get back home. -- Joan Didion

Embrace passion as a daily practice. -- Donald Maass

You must have a belief in your vision and voice that is nothing short of fierce. -- Betsy Lerner

Be Careless, Reckless! Be a Lion! Be a Pirate! When You Write. -- Brenda Ueland

There is so much about the process of writing that is mysterious to me, but this one thing I've found to be true: writing begets writing. -- Dorianne Laux

Be the fearless, shadowy, wild writer that you are. ... Thirty quotes for the mysterious, shadowy side of writing on lucyflint.com

Yes! Yes! THAT!

... And here's the last one, which is a long, granddaddy of a quote, but here we go anyway because it's lovely:

    If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.
     You must write every single day of your life.
     ... I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime.
     I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you.
     May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories. ...
     Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world. 
-- Ray Bradbury


There it is, my lovelies. The best kind of sustenance for this journey we're on. 

Your turn: Any favorite quotes that help you be a reality-jumper? a dweller in a fictitious time and place? 

Which of the above quotes will you be using to dive into your alternate reality this week? 

Happy dreaming, my friends! Happy writing, lionhearts.

Six Ways to Keep Working When You're Sick

What happens when you're in the midst of your work-in-progress, and sick happens?? Here is a handful of ways to keep working. | lucyflint.com

I've read a number of interviews with successful authors, who say that they keep RIGHT ON WORKING when they're sick. Apparently the thinking is: What, I have the flu? Pfft. There's this NOVEL I need to write. Let's DRAFT. And off they go.

Man. I applaud that. But that is not my experience when I'm sick.

As timing would have it, I'm sick at the moment. Some kind of stomach bug thingie that I'm not especially enjoying. (And I can't tell you how funny I think it is that this hit right after my #30DaysNoWhining challenge started on Monday!)

So. I'm not whining. (I promise!) I'm just making sure my lunch stays in place and my cookies don't get tossed. So far, so good.

But it got me thinking about writing when sick. (Which, can we all say, is SO MUCH EASIER than traveling when sick. How many terrible stories are there about getting sick on the road. Yiiiiikes.)

I'm not all tough when it comes to working while being sick. Really. I wish I was rah-rah-rah about it, but I'm pretty much a softie.

That said, I still have a few questions for myself when those germs show up. I'll push through for a bit, but then I start asking myself: How can I step back from this hardworking pace, and yet still feed my work? How can I take a break--and, you know, get HEALTHY--but then re-enter my writing work in a good way?

My immune system is not completely super, so I've had a lot of chances to explore these questions. And at this point, when I don't feel so good, I have a good list of habits to help my work along while I rest. 

#1: Put your daydreams to work. 

Being sick has two qualities that are pretty great for writers: 1) most people will leave you alone when you get the word out, and 2) your brain is floating around in a dreamy state.

This is like a perfect recipe for daydreaming.

I think of intentional daydreaming like making a smoothie: put a few good ingredients together in a blender, and flip it on.

So when you're sick and you're crawling back to bed, mentally grab about three things from your work-in-progress. Maybe: a setting you want to explore, or a relationship between characters, a scene or a plot point that you're stuck on, a beginning or ending that you want to rework.

Stick some paper by your bed, and then crawl under the covers and doze. Let your mind wander about. Take naps and wake up and sleep again. And every time you're awake, take your brain for a little walk around those story questions you have.

Honestly, you might surprise yourself with what you dream up. Keep feeding your subconscious during the day, and jot down notes as ideas float by. You can deepen so many parts of your work this way... and it's practically effortless!

#2: Mindmap your way to better ideas.

More focused than daydreaming, but still along those same lines: Being sick can be a great time to explore your ideas in a more concentrated way. 

I've heard again and again that if you want to do better brainstorming work, you need to put yourself physically in a different space. And if you're leaving your desk for your bed, swapping a screen for paper and pen--well, you're halfway there! 

If you're feeling up to it, prop some pillows behind yourself, grab a big pad of paper, and create a mind map of a project or two.

Thanks to the dreaminess of being sick, you have a chance to have a looser process, to let more air into your work, and to just think differently as you brainstorm.

Take that chance to pursue some new ideas and let your mind ramble around in new territory. (I'm only just getting interested in mind mapping... here's a quick explanation if you're new to the concept.)

#3: Create a mini writing retreat.

What's something you want to learn about in your writing, but you don't ever seem to have a chance? Grab that writing book you've been meaning to get to, or explore the writing website you found but haven't yet read.

Fill your feverish little noggin with writing articles and podcasts.

And hey--if you're sick RIGHT NOW, and this writing retreat thing appeals to you, there's an online writing conference happening, the Self-Publishing Success Summit, which is free for a limited time. I've caught a few interviews and am definitely enjoying it! Perfect timing for sick little me! (I don't know when it stops being free, so run check it out!)

#4: Fall into an excellent novel.

This is a great time to dive deep into a book. Declare a reading holiday! 

Pick up a novel that's like the one you're trying to write, and as you soak in the words, push yourself to think like a writer.

Pay attention to where the plot tightens up, to how the character relationships unfold, to whether you want to keep reading (in spite of being sick!), or where the tension slacks off and you'd rather nap.

Jot down page numbers for where the description is spot on, or that perfect way they opened Chapter 14. Make a few notes, so that when you're back at your desk, you can analyze that good writing.

(If you can't keep your eyes open: let a quality audio book send you to sleep. Fill your dreams with superb sentences.)

#5: Have yourself a movie festival.

Find a few movies about authors, or writing, or really--anything to do with books. (When I seriously can't work for one reason or another, it's still nice to give the writing life a big old hug. It helps remind me why I love this work... and that never hurts!) 

You could also dive into a handful of that kind of movie that reviewers call "visual feasts." (Or any other kind of feast, really!) Rewatch some quirky films that delight or inspire you. 

Have yourself an inspiration picnic, right there amid the tissues and cough drops. Get your imagination all revved up. Nourish the places that might have gone a little dry, while you were being so productive before. 

#6 Exercise your grace muscle by letting yourself off the hook.

Look. If you're really really sick, just put the work to one side. Let yourself sleep like crazy. Heal.

Because ultimately--and you know this if you've been around here a while--I'm all about taking good care of yourself as a person first, and as a writer second.

And honestly, illness is a good time for me to re-orient on this principle. 

Because when things are going super well, I can start believing this lie that says, if I check every box on schedule, I can have a perfect writing life.

And then when I get sick, I am tempted to believe that everything is ruined.

Well, frankly, it doesn't work like that. And I'm slowly learning that really good things can STILL happen, even when our plans wreck and our perfect little schedules hit a snag.

So give yourself a ton of grace. And maybe some balloons and flowers. Snuggle into bed. Your work will still be there when you get up. You'll find your way back into it. 

And no fellow lionheart will get all furious with you if you just take the time to get well. Okay? 

Okay then. 

On that note, I'm off to bed. And until I'm on my feet again, I'll be doing a bit of #3, #2, and #5.

What sounds good to you? What will you be up to?