Losing Steam? How to Keep the Momentum of a Project Going

steamtrain

Back in June, we hosted a workshop entitled “So You Have a Story, Now What?” in which we covered the steps to planning, starting, and finishing a book. It was one of those gorgeous Pacific Northwest summer days where the water on the Sound is still and dreamy and the sky is full of color—a great day and an inspiring environment, for sure. At the end of the workshop, participants wrote out their goals of what they would write about, how they would space out their writing, and when they would finish. I, like our participants, hit the ground running. However, today, five months later, it is much less of a run and more of a slow jaunt from the couch to the kitchen.

Losing steam is a common phenomenon. It happens with all sorts of long projects, whether it is a commitment to write a blog every two weeks, posting every day on your social media, or writing a book. The beginning stages and the finishing stages of a project are fun, but the daily grind is not always exciting. In fact, it can even be boring. This is dangerous because if you are bored and stuck in a rut, often the work you are producing is boring and stuck in a rut. If you are not inspired by your own work, you are more likely to quit and run out of steam.

One of the main reasons people lose steam is because they lose sight of their vision and start second-guessing themselves. I have just spent six months on this project and it’s not even that good of an idea. What was I thinking? No one wants to read this book! It’s not turning out exactly how I envisioned. Sometimes old vision is cast out of the way for new vision. This book isn’t a good idea anymore; I have an even better idea. In fact, I’ve been working on this project for a year and I’ve changed. I’m a different person and therefore I need to write a different book. And so, your life gets filled with half finished products.

Here are some tips to get you out of the mid-book slump:

Have a deadline. A book has a natural deadline. You must finish it so it can get it edited, printed, and onto shelves. There are going to be days, weeks, and or even months, where you are going to be running on low steam. The important thing is to stick to your writing goals and deadlines. Sit down at the desk and type whether you want to or not. (Read our blogs “What Gets Scheduled Is What Gets Done” and “8 Steps to creating Your Perfect Writing Environment.” 

However, other projects, such a blog, newsletters, or social media, are ongoing. With no end in sight, they can become mundane or repetitive. Set deadlines for yourself to revamp your process. Every six months, completely change your style, update your branding, or try something new. Create series that you can start and finish so your content always feels fresh.

Don’t be a perfectionist. If you feel like the thing you are working on right now is mediocre, it is easy to imagine that the next project will be better. Remember that a finished product in hand is better than a perfect project still in your head. Forget the idea of writing a perfect book (which, by the way, does not exist), and cling to the idea of getting better with each project.

Complete your goals (it’s addictive). You may have heard this before, it’s true: set small goals you can achieve along the way. Celebrate when you achieve those goals. As a writer, there is nothing more important than finishing your first book. Holding your book, fresh off the press, is one of the best feelings. Even if you’re not 100% excited about the book, now that one is finished, you will know the process and can write the next one.

Be accountable. Meet with a good friend, a writing coach, or an editor who will keep you on track. You can also publicly post your process. Many authors and artists do “100-Day Projects” where they post a photo of themselves writing or drawing for 100 days. This gives not only builds your online presence, but creates accountability.

Remind yourself why you started. Why are you writing this book? Who are you writing this book for? Most of our authors have a message they want to tell. We encourage our authors to have a specific person they are writing to. Imagine that person and remind yourself why you are writing to him or her. Get back into the field. If you are writing about at-risk teens but have spent the past month behind a desk writing, spend a day with the kids. If you are writing a book about an engineering process, go build something. Recreate the excitement you had when you began writing.

Be around creative people. Surround yourself with go-getters. When you see and talk with others who are working hard to achieve their goals, they can be an inspiration to you. If everyone around you is complacent, it will take a lot of energy to put your nose to the grindstone. But if you surround yourself with people of vision who work hard, you can ride off their momentum.

The goal is to enjoy your project and ride the train of vision and excitement all the way to the end. If you are feeling discouraged or worn down, take some time to recast your vision. Then get back to writing and finish your book!

This post written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor.

Ditching Your Inner Perfectionist

typewriter-14625648655rG

Ah, procrastination. The bane of many of us. Even people who are usually “drivers” can have a tendency to procrastinate when it’s a task they find overwhelming . . . or when they think they can’t do it perfectly.

This frequently shows up when a person has to write something, particularly if he or she doesn’t consider himself/herself a “writer” by calling or profession. In our work, we meet an incredible number of intelligent, competent people who are actually very good writers, but who experience problems accomplishing writing tasks, whether it’s a university paper, a blog post, important correspondence, or the book they’ve always wanted to write (or finish). Some of their problems include:

  • procrastinating and avoiding getting started
  • doing vast amounts of research but not putting it into actual writing
  • drafting, re-drafting, and re-re-drafting but never getting to a finished product

Does this describe you? If so, it’s likely your problem isn’t just simple laziness or bad time management or lack of skills—so what is going on?

It may be time to ditch your inner perfectionist.

Some people set extremely high standards for themselves, which can be a good thing in certain arenas. These people are successful; they accomplish a lot. But high standards can also make us so self-critical that it seems as though nothing we write, or could write, is ever good enough. So we either put it off, or we do it over and over and over and never feel like we get it right.

Now,  aiming for excellence is admirable! But what we’re talking about here is perfectionism, which can become unrealistic and get in the way of accomplishing what we need to accomplish—particularly when it comes to writing.

How to Get Past Perfectionism in Your Writing

It is a huge temptation, if you have perfectionist tendencies, to edit while you write instead of waiting till you’re finished. For example, that sentence you just wrote needs a “little bit” of tweaking—there, it is perfect. The last two paragraphs could be switched around and you definitely noticed a few spelling mistakes. So, you put the pen down or use the arrow key to page-up and edit what you have just written—and you do it again, and again, and again.

Stop! Don’t write and edit at the same time. Finish writing. Get all your thoughts out (with no self-critique along the way) and then start editing.

Simultaneously writing and editing slows down the writing process and disrupts your flow. Writing the first draft of your book (or paper or blog) is a big picture process. The most important thing to do is get the ideas in your head down on paper. Every time you stop to edit your work while you are writing, you are switching gears from the big picture side of your brain to the side that focuses on minute details. Flipping between those two sides of the brain takes time and energy—save that for later!

Here are some ideas for getting your thoughts down, for “getting into the flow”:

  1. Create a conducive writing environment. Try to have:
    • solitude
    • freedom from distractions (turn off your phone, email, tv, Facebook, etc. If you want to listen to music, choose instrumental.)
    • comfortable room temperature (not too cold or too hot)
    • things around you that inspire you (sights, sounds, smells, etc.)
    • proper hydration, nutrition, and rest
  1. Cultivate the power of habit. Go back to the same place regularly, like a favorite desk, chair, view, etc. Try to choose the same time every day. After a while, your subconscious will come to associate that time and place with writing, and will cooperate by performing accordingly.
  1. Value practicality over perfection. Especially if what you’re writing is for the purpose of function instead of art (which is why most of us have the need to write), ask yourself, Which is better, something or nothing? If you’re writing a paper, a blog post, correspondence, or some kind of book or curricular resource for your work, the goal is to communicate, not write the great American novel. (If you really are writing the great American novel, we’ll deal with that in another post!) Famous author George Orwell once said, “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” (Great advice, and by the way, he did write great novels, too!)
  1. Consider working with a developmental editor who can help you organize your thoughts and create a “big picture” writing structure within which to work. This can help alleviate the overwhelmedness and break down your task into smaller, more manageable chunks.

After you get your thoughts out, you will need to hone them, so your inner perfectionist will eventually get at least a hearing (although a limited one, if you’re ever going to really finish!). In our next blog, we’ll deal with how to move from big-picture mode down to editing-the-details mode. But for now, just tell your inner perfectionist to take a little vacation while you get your writing done!

This post  was a joint effort between Arlyn Lawrence and Kerry Wade, who enjoy combining their talents as writers/editors to help our Inspira clients complete and publish writing projects of all kinds! 

For the Love of Words: Kerry

Kerry

This is the third in our series of “What Inspires You to Write?” featuring members of our Inspira team. This week we hear from Assistant Editor (and certified world traveler) Kerry Wade:

For many people, writing is a means to an end. They have a message, idea, or story they want share with the world, and writing is their vehicle to do so. For me, writing can be an end in and of itself.

I love the world of words; or perhaps it is better to say the worlds that words can create. I am inspired by creative descriptions and phrases. If you were to look through my journal, you would discover it is not at all linear or cohesive. It does not detail the A to B to C of my day. Instead, it contains descriptions of flower petals and snippets of phrases torn out of conversations. I love perfectly paired words. Give me an exotic metaphor and I am good to go.

Most of my own writing is poetry, as it is the perfect medium for a lover of metaphors. It allows me to play with words without needing a context or a plot to house them. But there is something I love even more: helping others write. I am most energized and excited when someone comes to me with a great story and I am able to be a sounding wall for ideas to make it better.

As I went through the typical post-college “What do I do now?” phase, I realized that my favorite part of my writing classes was working collaboratively with other writers. I cherished the moments when we sat around a table in the library and threw out title ideas or pointed out character flaws. I got to use my love of playing with words to help others! That realization led me to what I do now, working as an editor for Inspira. While we don’t always get to sit around a table thinking of the perfect way to phrase a sentence (sometimes we do!), we get to help people take their ideas and form them into something beautiful.

So, when I am not snatching metaphors out of the air or throwing around title ideas, where do I get my motivation to return to my computer day after day? Although everyone’s sources of inspiration are different, here are a few of mine:

  • Good writing/art: Nothing makes me want to write more than reading a really good book. There are a few authors that keep I always on my shelf. I know that I can pick them up whenever I need some motivating and they will provide a breath of fresh inspiration. The same goes with good art of any kind. I believe excellence inspires excellence.
  • Passionate people: There is nothing more inspiring than someone pursuing their dreams and working hard to make them a reality.
  • Travel: I love the way it forces me to break all my routines, get out of my comfort zone, and do things I’ve never done before. I swear I work better when I have a ticket sitting in my inbox. When I know I will be traveling in the near future, I don’t mind curling up with my computer all day and writing.
  • Organization: After talking about breaking routines, I am going to come back and say that routine and organization are a Godsend. I cannot even begin to still my mind enough to write if my desk is a mess or my day is not detailed in my planner. (Although, I have to be careful not to use organization as a means of “productive” procrastination.)
  • Peace: Writing and editing take focus. If my mind is frazzled, my writing suffers. When I operate out of a place of peace, I am able to easily enter into that place of focus and flow. (Sometimes this means I have to take time to deal with the internal or external lack of peace in my life before I can write.) My ideal writing environment includes soft music, a nice smelling candle, and a cup of tea. While these things don’t create peace, they help usher it in.

What inspires you to write?

Writing Workshop Success!

Writingworkshop-2

It was a day of recognizing dreams and putting them into action. For our Inspira team, hosting a writing workshop has been a long-time dream that finally became a reality. With tested principle and strategies, we have brought over two dozen books into print. We wanted a way to make that expertise available to authors who are not quite ready for the full menu of our services, but wanted some tools to get started on a dream of their own: writing a book.

Writingworkshop-4

Last Saturday, we hosted part one, “So, You Have a Story: Now What?” Wanting to honor our name, Inspira, we chose the beautiful and inspirational Gig Harbor Marina as our workshop location. While it wasn’t exactly sunny, the sky was clear and the harbor view was the perfect backdrop for our participants to get inspired.

“This workshop will be a success,” Arlyn began, “if each of you leave feeling inspired to write a book and equipped with the tools to do so.”

Writingworkshop-5

One thing we think is unique about Inspira is that while all our clients are authors, they are not all necessarily writers. We believe that each client, workshop participant, and person (that means you, too!) has a unique message to share, and a unique sphere of influence with which to share it. We specifically reach out to those who may not be writers, but have a powerful message that deserves to be in print. This workshop’s participants included fiction writers, businessmen and women, faith leaders, and community leaders with wisdom and stories to share.

The workshop covered how to establish your book’s objectives (this is key!), developing a plot (fiction) or outline (non-fiction), getting your ideas flowing, titling, the components of good writing, and how to refine your manuscript. It was a full day! Many people came into the room doubting their abilities, and/or felt overwhelmed at different moments throughout the day. We were able to assure them: this is a normal part of the writing process! Fear, uncertainty, and doubt come with the territory. Successful authors make peace with this and just keep writing!

Writingworkshop-7

Writingworkshop-8

In the afternoon we took a break for lunch at JW’s Trolley for some fish and chips (the best food to fuel a writer!) Then, refreshed by the ocean breeze, it was time to put pens to paper, and write. The silence was filled with pens scratching and keyboards clacking, and an atmosphere of excitement grew in the room. As the participants shared what they had written, there was a palpable sense of “we can do this.” It is a beautiful thing to have a room full of people passionate about their dreams. However, it is even more beautiful to have a room full of people actively pursuing their dreams, equipped with the confidence and know-how to do so. “Thank you for such an encouraging and practical workshop,” said one participant. “I am excited to see these dreams in print!”

At the end of the workshop, each and every person said they felt inspired and equipped to make their dream a reality. With our criteria met, we consider the workshop a success!

We invite you to join us for part two, “Steps to Publishing Your Manuscript” on Saturday, September 24th at the Gig Harbor Marina. Visit https://inspiralit.com/workshop/ for more information.  

Post by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor

Fathering the Future

DADSBanquet-1

Last Saturday, several of our Inspira team had the honor of attending the 14th Annual “D.A.D.S.” Fatherhood Banquet and the launch of our client Marvin Charles’ new book, Becoming Dads: A Mission to Restore Absent Fathers.

Marvin is the founder and executive director of D.A.D.S., a community based organization dedicated to walking with men in supportive community, and helping them navigate the relational and legal barriers that separate them from their children and families. Over the past ten years, Marvin and Jeanett Charles, along with their team at D.A.D.S., have worked with 3,222 men to bring them back to their families!

DADSBAnquet-4

Becoming DADS: The Mission to Restore Absent Fathers tells Marvin’s own powerful story of redemption and restoration, providing absentee fathers with a message of hope and a vision for the future, as well as practical support and resources. Through this book, he hopes to educate people on what the real issues are that compromise families and energize the cycle of abandonment and fatherlessness.

The theme of this year’s D.A.D.S. fundraising banquet was “Fathering the Future.” The banquet honored fathers who have taken the steps necessary to provide a future for their families. The men who took the stage shared their stories of their own fatherlessness, addictions, and court battles. All of these men chose to stand up to the cycles of hurt and pain in their communities, turn their lives around, and give back to their children.

DADSBanquet-3

“D.A.D.S. provided me with hope again,” said one father. “They listened and educated me. They heard my story with an open heart; they understood my emotions. They took my hand and walked step by step with me, shared tears with me, and celebrated my joys and victory.”  At the end of the banquet, the full house of committed D.A.D.S. supporters gave a record $200,070—nearly half the organization’s budget for the year!

The keynote speaker for the evening was Jeff Kemp (another past Inspira client). Jeff is a former NFL quarterback and is the author of Facing the Blitz: Three Keys for Turning Trials into Triumphs (published by Bethany House). He used the biblical story of Gideon to describe the mission of D.A.D.S. Just like God called Gideon a brave man of valor when he was still in the winepress, D.A.D.S. speaks identity and purpose over men before they recognize it themselves.

After the banquet, Marvin hosted a book signing for Becoming DADS. It was exciting to see this book in the hands of people who care passionately about this cause. We can’t wait to see the continuing impact of Marvin’s story, this book, and D.A.D.S!

DADSBanquet-2

To order and find out more about the book Becoming Dads, visit Marvin’s website at http://www.marvinlcharles.com. Learn more about the work of D.A.D.S. at http://www.aboutdads.org.

Post by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor 

Available March 24th – “Facing the Blitz” by Jeff Kemp

FTB-Hcover-Cropped

It was a joy and a privilege for me to serve as developmental editor with Jeff Kemp (Family Life Vice President and former NFL Quarterback) in the writing of his book, Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs, released March 24th by Bethany House Publishers. It is available at your local bookstore, bethanyhouse.com or by calling 1-800-877-2665.

About Facing the Blitz:

In football, a “blitz” is an all-out attack. Defenses use them to force the quarterback into a mistake and create mayhem and destruction. But by its nature the blitz also creates an opportunity for the quarterback and his team. What looks like the worst play can become the best.

During a life “blitz,” when everything seems like it’s collapsing–financially, relationally, spiritually, or physically–if you take initiative you can do more than just survive. You can grow, succeed, and advance. In Facing the Blitz, Jeff Kemp shares lessons he’s learned through all kinds of life blitzes, both personal and professional. Readers will discover how triumph is about transformation and being others-oriented; having the right mind-set can turn unnecessary fear and misery into courage and joy.

What people are saying about Facing the Blitz:

“This book will make a difference in your life. You’ll want to read, digest, and reread it. I hope you share it with friends to help them through their own difficulties and to strengthen their important teams, from family to business to sports.”
– TONY DUNGY, Former NFL Coach, author of Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance

“Jeff Kemp’s Facing the Blitz is a game-changer for every man. Suit up and read this book–it’s game time!”
–DR. DENNIS RAINEY, President and CEO, FamilyLife

Facing the Blitz is a gem full of wisdom and hope and practical advice for anyone who fears suffering and difficulty. It’s easy to read, remember, and use. Amazing!”
– PAT LENCIONI, president, The Table Group; bestselling author of The Advantage and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

“Having battled stage III cancer and living daily with chronic pain, I know something about turning trials into triumphs. And Facing the Blitz demonstrates that Jeff Kemp knows about it, too. With remarkable clarity, stellar illustrations, and time-honored wisdom, Jeff leads the reader past the pitfalls of defeat and depression into a broad, spacious place of hard-won contentment and, yes, even joy. Every follower of God wants to face his trials with grace, and the outstanding book you hold in your hands is indeed your guide!”
– JONI EARECKSON TADA, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

“Former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp knows well that blitzes can knock you flat on your back–but if you’re prepared, you can beat the blitz for a huge play. In Facing the Blitz, Kemp transforms this on-field knowledge into real-life wisdom, teaching you how to beat the blitzes in your life and turn them into victories.”
– WILLIAM BENNETT, former U.S. Secretary of Education and host of the nationally syndicated talk show Morning in America

Facing the Blitz is not for spectators. It’s for any of us on the field of reality, in the game of life. …This book shines the light on the way of hope and growth, and will make a positive impact on other people.”
– DR. TONY EVANS, president, the Urban Alternative; author, Kingdom Man; senior pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship