Posts tagged writer's block
Write at Your Edge - The Art of Setting a Motivating Goal

I've been thinking a lot about goals lately, for a lot of different reasons.

For one thing, I'm taking a look at my own goals right now, because when I quit my day job a couple of weeks ago I told myself that I had a year to build a self sustaining writing and coaching business. And now that I'm lucky enough to get to do writing and coaching every day, all day, I'm so incredibly in love with life and I want to keep doing this FOREVER. Literally. If you're hoarding some secret elixir of life somewhere, I really need to get some from you because I need about another hundred years to do all of the things I want to do.

I'm taking a class right now that asks us to create what they call a BHAG - which stands for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. I have (naturally) flipped this to B-HAWGs - which stands for Big, Hairy-Ass Writing Goals. They feel a bit like being mooned by a troll. Or, maybe more like this:

Yes, you can conquer this hairy beast!

Yes, you can conquer this hairy beast!

One caution before we proceed. B-HAWGS and B-HAGS need to be treated with finesse and caution. If they are too big and too hairy, they can immerse us in overwhelm, fear, avoidance, and procrastination. But if they are too tiny, then we can just lie around on the couch with a drink in one hand, muttering, "I can squash you like a bug, any old time I want."

With that understood, let me ask you a question. Do you have a creative goal? Is it well-defined and time limited? Does it give you a little buzz of adrenaline when you think about it?

Here's a hint: if your goal has got the word "someday" in it, it's not a BHAG or a B-HAWG or really even a goal - it's just a wish.

These tend to sound like this:

Someday I'll write my novel.
Someday I'll quit my day job.
Someday I'll lose weight.
Someday I'll learn how to make candles
Someday I'll call my mother. (This one is for me, because I've been forgetting for like three days now and maybe I need to actually put it in my planner.)
I've got a book in me, somewhere...

If you are a nebulous goal setter, I challenge you to set yourself a real goal. Make it one that raises your blood pressure a little bit. Give it a timeline. Write it on a calendar. Say it out loud.

BUT - be careful not to make your goal TOO hairy.

Once you have a good, real, adrenaline inducing goal, fear might kick in. I maintain that a teeny tiny little bit of fear is motivating. But too much fear drives us into overwhelm and fear paralysis. So if you're stuck or blocked and you DO have a goal, take a minute to see if that needs to be tweaked.

Is it realistic? Are you being fair to yourself? Are you making allowances for other things going on in your life?

Maybe you've got a chronic illness or you have a change in your living situation and you can't accomplish as much right now as you used to be able to, or as you might be able to do a few months from now. Consider adjusting your goal to reflect what is realistically possible for you.

HINT: This changes with health, grief, family circumstances, and the weather. It's okay to tweak a goal when the situations change. As my good friend Wes used to say: "Drive as fast as the road conditions allow, always remembering that you are part of the road conditions."

What are YOUR road conditions? If you're in a place where it's foggy or snowing or the road is washed out, then you need to rethink the timing of your destination.

There's an art to setting a good creative goal - finding the edge that motivates you without shutting you down.

Listen to the podcast version here: Creativity Quest with Kerry Schafer, part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network

If you are a writer, and you want a B-HAWG of your own, I'd love to have you join an exclusive group for writers with serious, BHAWG goals for 2019: Write At Your Edge. (If you don't have a big scary goal yet but you want one, I can totally help with that! Email me to set up a goal setting coaching session, or wait and take the goal setting class I'm going to offer in January.)

Write at Your Edge offers support from me and other writers, weekly write ins, a monthly writer group, discounts to classes I'll be offering and more. Join Before January 1 to get the Intrepid Writer discounted rate and a special journal to help you on the way.

Virtual Write In

Hey, writers! Whether you’re engaged in the chaotic fun of nanowrimo or writing in a more - ahem - responsible manner, you’re invited to join me for a virtual write in!

How does this work? It’s really simple. Click the link to go to zoom (does require an easy, free download of the zoom software) at the designated time and you’ll find yourself in the zoom room with other writers. I try to open the room a few minutes before the hour so we can settle in and talk a bit, then I mute everybody and we go to work for an hour.

It’s a fun way to write with other writers and helps to fend off the temptation of checking Facebook a gazillion times or running of to do other things. It’s also useful to tell family and other well meaning competitors for your writing time that you have an appointment scheduled.

Times for this week are all listed on the graphic above.

Hope to see you there!

Additional instructions if you want to join by phone:

One tap mobile

+16699006833,,9875386377# US (San Jose)

+16468769923,,9875386377# US (New York)

Dial by your location

+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

+1 646 876 9923 US (New York)

Meeting ID: 987 538 6377

Find your local number:

About that annoying voice in your head

Quick - without stopping to think - what is your inner critic saying to you RIGHT NOW?

CHALLENGE: Stop what you're doing, grab a pen and a piece of paper and try this. It will take you all of a minute and you might be surprised.

1. Set your timer for one minute, but don't start it yet.

2. At the top of your paper write: "Internal Critic: You have permission to speak freely."

3. Start the timer and let your pen write down everything the critic is saying to you. Keep the pen moving without stopping to think. 

Ready? GO.

(Did you do the thing? No? I understand. If you're at all like me, you're busy. You're saying, "yeah, yeah. Who has time for stupid exercises? I'll get the gist by just reading."

But you won't. You'll get information, but you won't get the information that's hiding in your subconscious, and that is really important shit. If you really can't do the thing now, promise yourself you'll do it later.)

After you've let the Critic have the floor, add something like this at the bottom of your page:

I hear you. Thank you for sharing. Now please go do some yoga and, for the love of all things holy, chill out.

I hear you..png

The hearts are important, because the Inner Critic is really part of YOU. War with your self defeats the purpose and wastes energy. If you can't feel love (the kind you might summon up for a fractious toddler) you can act as if. If you really listen, you may find that the Critic wants you to be safe and not get hurt, so it is eternally trying to shut you down and keep you small. So thank it for the feedback, pat it on the head, and send it off to the spa.

Even though it is usually well intentioned, the Inner Critic is seriously misinformed and often behind the times. You know what mine told me this week?

"You're lazy," it said. For a minute I bought in. 

"Yeah, I know. I'm lazy." Heavy, sad sigh.

And then the cognitive dissonance kicked in. Wait. What?

I work a day job, run a coaching business, write books, take classes, and do a reasonable share of the household chores. I'm not exactly sitting around twiddling my thumbs. And yet, harbored in my subconscious, even after years of work on this sort of thing, there was this random, completely inaccurate belief.

I actually laughed out loud, (a real one, not an online LOL). And then I said to my critic, "You're delusional, my friend. Not sure where that one came from, but I'm not buying it. Not any more. Maybe I could be more productive or focused or make better use of my time. Lazy? I don't think so."

The belief has tried to sneak back in a couple of times, but I'm watching for it now and just shoo it away. When it goes, it takes with a bunch of guilt boogey men that have been hanging around. 

Complete the Challenge

(I know. I told you this would only take one minute. But you can do this part of the challenge in your head while you drive or do dishes or shower or whatever, so it doesn't count on the clock.)

Pick one of the negative things your critic said to you and explore it a little. Try to look at it in a friendly, detached sort of way.. Is it true? What evidence supports the truth of it? Is there evidence against it? If you were presenting this negative statement to an impartial judge, would there be enough evidence for a conviction?

Can you put a spin on it? Think of it differently? Does it have a positive side?

Laziness, for example, could be spun as an ability to relax, to slow down, to enjoy the luxuries and pleasures of life instead of racing the clock. See how it becomes a virtue instead of a fault?

What purpose does this attribute serve in your life?  If it isn't working for you, can you change one small thing--just a little tweak--that would make it into a quality that helps you?

As always, I'd love to hear how any of this works for you! Comment below, or email me.