Keep your writing career expectations in check

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways.

In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about what success and failure is, said it depended on the person’s expectation around writing, and highlighted the fact that even if people are happy with their work, society or those in our social bubbles can bring our writer confidence down by forcing on us their often unrealistic and unreasonable expectations about what a writer should be. So in the final episode of this season, I want to deconstruct some of these interactions and hopefully inspire you to take pride in your writing and to have the confidence to stand up for yourself when you feel wronged in any way.

Define what success means to you and stick to your beliefs

As we discussed before, the meaning of success is different for everyone. Yet there are many misconceptions about being a writer that are weaved into the fabric of our society and can make you feel inadequate if you don’t meet them.

Most of those are unrealistic or even undesirable by most writers, yet people who are not writers continue to peddle these ideas like they are the be-all and end-all for anyone who puts pen to paper more than they do.

A few examples are, “I don’t see your name in the bookstore, you must not be very popular’, or ‘you have no agent so your writing must be pretty bad’, or ‘I don’t see you rolling around in money, you must be struggling to find copywriting clients’. I’ve personally heard some of those, and more, mainly from well-meaning friends and family, wanting to set me on a right path to success.

My favorite one of all is when I tell people I’m a writer, and they ask me what I do for a real job. It used to annoy me, because while my office job is in fact real, my writing doesn’t feel any more ethereal to me. In both instances, I spend time and effort on something.

But this is the way our society is, it places big value on monetary gain and while I believe writers do and must make money from their words, for many money is a by-product of their passion, and not the inherent reason why they’re writing. To put it simply, there’s much easier jobs to pursue than writing.

So as you’re faced with a person who diminishes your passion or your efforts, decide whether it’s worth telling them the details of what you do and why they’ve misunderstood what is important about being a writer to you. And if you think it’s a lost cause and there’s no need to explain, agree to disagree and don’t dwell on their jabs at your lifestyle.

Trust both yourself and trust the industry

This, however, doesn’t mean you should dismiss every single criticism you receive about your writing life. No matter what stage of your writing career you’re at, there will be like-minded people around you with something to say. Their opinions will sometimes be in contrast with yours, and sometimes they might force you into an internal conflict between your head and your heart.

 For example, if you write a novel and submit it to an editor, who then comes back and says the novel has major issues and you have to go back to the drawing board. No one likes to hear that and it can be easy to dismiss. But think about where a person with vast experience is coming from.

As opposed to the people from my first point, they do not only know what writing is like, they probably know more than you. So in cases like that, you have to really listen. You need to strike the difficult balance between trusting yourself and trusting industry professionals of any kind to know what could be better for your career.

Each decision like that will be different but what I urge you to do here is to always take the time to think about your next step. Never blindly trust someone to choose a path for you but similarly don’t shut everyone out and miss an opportunity to grow because you’re too rigid in your beliefs. Well-meaning people will try to steer you in a direction they feel is best for you. It’s up to you to take stock of your personal situation and see if this is where your writing career can flourish.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

The book to which you owe listening to this podcast. The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming romance thriller, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. It’s 25% off and if you preorder now, you can join me in my preorder giveaway and win some gift cards, books and tea.

All details can be found on my website www.laineydelaroque.com/books. The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.

Embrace your journey and don’t get swayed by others

Now that we’ve talked about how you should decide on what success looks like for your writing life, next it’s time to embrace your personal journey. This means coming to terms with the fact that things will happen the way things will happen. You can steer them in a direction you would like them to go but you will never be able to replicate another writer’s journey. Even if you follow their steps fully, the conditions you will be doing it in will be different, and most important of all, you are not them. You have your own unique strengths and limitations and that will shape how your career progresses.

From right now, decide what you’re seeking and how much you want to put yourself out there. Any writing shared in any shape or form, can lead to negative feedback. So if you feel ready to tackle that, brace yourself and learn from any teachable opportunity. If not, that’s fine too, write for yourself and people close to you.

There is no rush to reach milestones, despite what non-writers might say. You don’t need to be a bestseller, a published author, or indeed known to anyone for writing to bring you joy and for you to take pride in your work. All creative journeys are different and there’s no hurry to be first. Considering writing and storytelling are pretty much as old as time, no one can be first anymore. We’re all on the road of creativity and I think there is something really inspiring and humbling in that.

Reflect often and with an open mind

And while we’re talking humbling things, there’s nothing more humbling than returning often to the roots of why you do what you do. It’s important to not let others put value on your work, your time and your practice as a whole. This is a task for you only and I suggest you set yourself a timeframe for when you’re going to look back and see if there’s anything that’s changed in your beliefs, if you’ve strayed from your creative morals and if there’s any room for conscious improvement.

I try to do it every 6 months, and if I miss it because I’ve been bad, I do it at least once per year. Reflection is a beneficial tool in anyone’s self-improvement toolbox. People tend to think a lot about what they did wrong when they reflect but that’s not all there’s to it.

A study in reflection and change argued that “reflection is […] not entirely a tool for uncovering and rectifying deficiencies in performance or practice, but a process of discovery of strengths and successes, and an opportunity to both celebrate those, and to confirm and plan for continuation in that same path.”

So when you next reflect, don’t forget to acknowledge what you did great and to think about how you can ensure continued success, whatever that means to you. 

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

And on that very positive note, I end the fourth season of the Pen Garden. I hope you feel more confident about what you’re doing with your writing. The gist is this: “If it makes you happy and you’re not hurting anyone, you’re doing great and you’re a successful writer.” So keep writing, keep learning and keep growing. I believe in you.

On the topic of flourishing writers, last week I briefly talked about changes coming to The Pen Garden. I introduced a new offering which gave writers the opportunity to apply for free beta reading. It is still open for applications. So if you are about to finish a draft and you’re looking for a beta reader, go check it out for details and accessthe application form. Applications close on the 15th of January.

Now that The Pen Garden has grown too and has expanded to offer beta reading, it means that the schedule changes I hinted at last year are indeed happening. In brief, a season of the podcast will alternate with a round of beta reading. So season five will come out in early April. The reason why I think this is a good idea is because I feel like I’ve imparted all of the writing wisdom I have collected so far. I don’t want this to be a space where I ramble aimlessly, I want to give people content informed both by science and my own journey to inspire them to look into theirs and create a more mindful, productive writing practice. So while I collect more experience and interesting research on creativity, I will be helping authors grow by beta reading their words. I hope you support my choice and remain with me throughout this adventure.

If you haven’t joined my newsletter yet, you’re missing out. I’ve now sent my first few ones and I’m really enjoying the process. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. They all feature a cute animal and a book recommendation which can improve either your mental health or your productivity as a writer. Feedback about the newsletters has been really positive so far, so after you finish this episode, go sign up. And if you think they can be improved, email me and I promise that I will do my best.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    Keep your writing career expectations in check What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3:

 

 

 

Set realistic writing goals for 2021

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways.

Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable writing goals. Some of you may call them writing resolutions and may well be setting some pretty ambitious ones as we speak. But hold off for the next ten-fifteen minutes and listen to the following tips, tricks and ideas. This episode will help you evaluate your practice and set up your yearly writing objectives with your personal situation in mind, and hopefully prevent you from burning out or feeling like you’ve failed in the coming year.

Begin with a vision

Many people set unrealistic goals because they pull them out of the hat of their wishful thinking. It would be great if I could publish a novel every month in 2021 but it only takes a second to remember I work two jobs, have this podcast and love to engage in the occasional Netflix show or computer game. Sometimes I even spend time with friends, global pandemic allowing. So this mix of activities doesn’t lend itself to a realistic novel-a-month timeline. But let’s say I did have the time for it, why do I want to produce so much? Am I chasing money? Am I trying to work hard this year so next year is easier? Will this churning out of novels make me happy? Basically, if I don’t know what my vision for my writing practice is for this year, goals are pretty much meaningless. So, to set a realistic objective, one needs to start at the beginning.

What writer do you aspire to be? Where would you like to see yourself as a writer in five or ten years? Boil down the answers to those questions in one sentence and you have your vision. It should encapsulate your writing dream and excite you for the future. If it doesn’t, think some more and tweak it.

Some examples are: “to earn a living by being a full-time copywriter, well-established in the business and consulting industries” or “to supplement my existing income by publishing a fantasy trilogy” or even “to consistently find magazines and anthologies to publish my poetry and bring joy to others through my witty sentences”.

Whatever it is, it needs to reflect your aspirations. And after you have your vision, you can more confidently set your goals and targets for 2021. Keep your vision sentence close by throughout the year and read it often. If you find your dream has changed, don’t be afraid to alter it and revisit your writing goals.

New Year’s writing resolutions – at your own risk

I’ve been really careful not to use resolutions and goals as the same thing, because they aren’t. A resolution is a “firm decision to do or not to do something” while a goal is an “object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result”. I don’t do resolutions because I believe they often come from a place of self-judgment, of negativity.

If we move away from writing for a bit, lots of people want to get fitter in the New Year, to drop eating sugar, to stop smoking, etc, etc. And by themselves these are not harmful aspirations. But they come with the expectations that from January 1st, one will change suddenly, find their lost motivation, and let their old self which they dislike stay in the past year. But this kind of thinking does a disservice to everyone who struggles with addiction, body image issues, mental health and many other problems which require ongoing effort to keep at bay. And for many people, it’s simply a promise to themselves which they will not keep, betraying their trust in their own motivation and abilities.

So there’s no need to make a resolution. Set achievable goals and objectives instead. I want to leave you with something you can start using straight away, so here is a tool which is used a lot in business but writers and anyone doing personal development can benefit from it too. It’s called SMART. SMART is an acronym which helps you be realistic in your planning.

So when setting this year’s writing goals, try to make them SMART – Specific (or simple), Measurable (or meaningful), Achievable, Relevant (or reasonable) and Timely (or time bound). Here is how to use the SMART tool as a whole. Making sure your goals meet all SMART criteria means you will be properly evaluating all aspects of your writing and personal life which could affect your writing practice. As a starting point, don’t forget to think about how your health, your social bubbles and your knowledge of previous barriers like procrastination, may impact on any of your writing aspirations for the year.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

The book to which you owe listening to this podcast. The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming romance thriller, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. It’s 25% off and if you preorder now, you can join me in my preorder giveaway and win some gift cards, books and tea.

All details can be found on my website www.laineydelaroque.com/books. The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.

Cultivate a ‘growth mindset’

A year is a long time. Lots can happen in these 52 weeks and even if you set the best, most personalized objectives, things will throw you off balance. I know most of us have learned this hard lesson already, 2020 after all had curve-ball after curve-ball for everyone. The only way to be prepared about these inevitable difficulties is to train ourselves to grow from every experience, positive or negative.

In the book ‘Mindset – The Psychology of Success’, Dr Carol Dweck discusses the power of one’s mindset when reaching for success and achievement. She makes a clear distinction of two ways we can approach thinking about our skills and results – with a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. […] It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.” In contrast, the “growth mindset” is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.” This idea fosters a passion for learning and a more resilient mind, allowing you to spring back up from things that others can view as failures.

If you want to explore the science and strategies behind the growth mindset further, make sure you take a look at Dr Dweck’s book. There is also some further reading which I found really thought-provoking: it lists the 10 habits resilient people have and how to adopt them in our own lives.

Try the life of a stoic

And while on the topic of introducing habits, we need to look no further than the philosophy of Stoicism to see the benefits of living a life of purposeful routine. Epictetus said that “Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily.” It leaves a lot less to chance – meaning less unpleasant surprises and less chances to feel like you’ve failed in your practice, provided you’ve set SMART goals for yourself.

The Stoic life centred around habits and routines — practices in which they engaged daily, from their waking moments until going to sleep, that provided the structure necessary for a day lived well.” These practices can be incorporated in your writing life and add structure, purpose and a feeling of well-earned achievement.

The Stoics’ idea was to live life to the fullest, and there is much we can learn from them, particularly in our anxious, stressed, constantly turned-on society. I recommend you read the article which inspired this point – How to Structure Your Day Like a Stoic – and maybe give some of their ideas a try. They promote self-reflection and growth, as well as useful practices which will enrich your writing life and open the door to more creative inspiration.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Beginning a new year leaves a lot of us buzzing with excitement and eagerness to write more, write better, be altogether better creative people. But before you make any grand promises for the state of your creative practice, take a step back, evaluate, look at how you did last year. Set realistic goals for your personal situation and try to adopt a ‘growth mindset’ to build resilience. Use psychology to harness your renewed energy and maybe try out a new routine or revamp your old one with new elements.

And I’m no different, I will be doing exactly the same thing. My first book is coming out in February so I’m trying not to get swept up in unrealistic dreaming and goal-setting. I’ve also looked at how the Pen Garden can be improved, expanded, so the hinted changes to the format from last episode are indeed happening. The Pen Garden is growing, and I’m happy to announce that there is new beta reading service offer. It is free and open for applications. So if you are about to finish a draft and you’re looking for a beta reader, go check it out for details and access the application form. Applications close on the 15th of January.

Next week, for the final episode of the Success & Failure season, I will look into how to manage unreasonable outside and personal expectations when it comes to your writing practice. Being a member of our society and a writer means that people have reactions to us writers that are not always helpful. So I will discuss that and leave you with some practical advice on how to handle such remarks while still being happy and proud you’re a writer true to your aspirations and situation.

If you haven’t joined my newsletter yet, you’re missing out. I’ve now sent my first few ones and I’m really enjoying the process. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. They all feature a cute animal and a book recommendation which can improve either your mental health or your productivity as a writer. Feedback about the newsletters has been really positive so far, so after you finish this episode, go sign up. And if you think they can be improved, email me and I promise that I will do my best.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    Keep your writing career expectations in check What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3:

 

 

 

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways.

We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle a sensitive topic – receiving criticism. In this episode, I will discuss why criticism is important, and how to spot when a negative review might be useless to you. Then, on the mental health side of things, I will look into how to process feedback while still maintaining your feeling of self-worth.

Feedback is good for you

Most writers have heard or know that feedback is important. Some beginners however are only happy when they receive compliments as feedback and either get discouraged when they get critiqued, or offended. So I wanted to very briefly summarize why getting any sort of feedback, positive, negative and everything in between, is a useful tool in your writer’s journey.

An article by Haley Grant identifies three main benefits to receiving feedback on your written work. Feedback is crucial because it improves learning, enhances relationships and promotes growth. Receiving comments in relation to your writing helps you see your work from a different perspective. Writers are often too close to their words and it’s wise to listen to critique – this way the piece will be streamlined and much improved. Relationships between writers and those who read their writing, be it clients, customers or fellow writers, are really important. When a writer listens to reader feedback, readers feel seen and listened to. They feel a part of the creative journey and are thus more engaged. And finally, feedback is essential because it keeps a writer from going stagnant. It helps creative people who are willing to listen to focus their energy on self-improvement, analysis and self-reflection. Nurturing these skills is not only important for your writing journey but also for your growth as an individual in world which increasingly places value on authenticity.

Not all criticism is constructive

Now that we’ve established that feedback of all kinds helps you grow, let’s talk about the fact that not all criticism of you and your writing is constructive. Sometimes people are mean for no reason related to you and there’s nothing you can do to improve following their comments.

To illustrate my point, I will give you a bit of homework. Go to a book’s Amazon or Goodreads page, any book, and look at a few five-star reviews. Then filter all reviews and look at the one-star ones. Notice how many of the points made there relate to the reader and not the writer.

One of the books I was amazed by recently, and which made it into my sparse list of five-star reads, was The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I love it because it was a beautifully written fantasy book which was thought-provoking as much as it was entertaining. But here is a one-star review of it:

‘This book weighs 1119 grams…I have a 1 kilo limit so my books don’t knock me out if I fall asleep reading them 🙂 Also it takes itself so fekkin seriously and lately I’m into writers who make me laugh along the way.’

This is the worst review a writer can get – it doesn’t say anything about the writing, or the plot, and only speaks about the reader. It also fails to inform other readers about why this book would or wouldn’t be for them. The size of the book and its tone are obvious from the listings and the blurb, and delivered in much less aggravating way.

So I ask you, for the sake of your mental health and your writer journey, evaluate criticism first before you take it to heart. Think whether you have found the correct audience – maybe it’s not your writing but the way you market and advertise your work. Maybe the time for it is a bit wrong. Whatever it is, try to understand the underlying reason for negative feedback received, and if you can’t find out, it’s more than likely that it’s an issue with the reviewer and not you. Let it go and move on to other constructive comments.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

The book to which you owe listening to this podcast. The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming romance thriller, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. It’s 25% off and if you preorder now, you can join me in my preorder giveaway and win some gift cards, books and tea.

All details can be found on my website www.laineydelaroque.com/books. The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.

Unattach your self-worth from your achievements (or lack thereof)

Many people, not only writers, believe that consistent achievement in life makes them a worthy member of society. If they’re contributing to the greater good somehow, they know their existence is not meaningless. They think if they pursue socially defined life goals like marriage, having children, earning big money, receiving peer acclaim, they would be happy, fulfilled, and most importantly, worthy.

But what does it mean to be a worthy human, or a worthy creator? Does having a mental health illness which prevents you from consistently writing make you less of a writer? Or is an obscure poet who loves their craft less worthy than a best-selling author who doesn’t enjoy writing too much anymore? Is there an issue in any of those scenarios when it comes to worthiness?

I, and many more around the globe, argue that people are intrinsically worthy of their life and aspirations. If you’ve ever compared yourself to other people and felt lacking and less worthy of success than them, maybe it’s time to unattach your self-worth from your achievements, or lack thereof. 

In a Ted Talk about Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth, Dr. Adia Gooden makes a clear distinction between self-esteem and self-worth: “Our self-esteem is derived from our abilities, accomplishments, social positions and things we believe and we can achieve. We can bolster our self-esteem by improving our skills or performance, and our self-esteem goes up and down depending on how we’re doing in various aspects of our lives.

“In contrast, unconditional self-worth is distinct from our abilities and accomplishments. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others; it’s not something that we can have more or less of. Unconditional self-worth is the sense that you deserve to be alive, to be loved and cared for. To take up space.”

Cultivate unconditional self-worth

So, to bring this back to writing, how do we cultivate unconditional self-worth when it comes to our creative selves? How do we reconcile the difficult emotions which come with receiving rejection, negative feedback, sometimes downright hate for the work we’ve poured our hearts and souls into? Dr. Gooden suggests four ways, which might not always be easy but can be very beneficial if adopted with patience and care.

  1. Forgive yourself

“Many of us struggle to feel worthy, because we are angry with ourselves about past mistakes.[…] To forgive yourself, reflect on the circumstances that led to past mistakes, acknowledge the pain you experienced and identify what you learned from the situation. Then say to yourself “I forgive you” — in an honest and kind way.”

Writers can regret their reactions to negative feedback or blame themselves for a book’s bad sales record. Let go of the baggage that blame carries, and try harder the next time you’re in a similar situation.

  1. Practice self-acceptance

“Many of us struggle with low self-worth because we think there’s something wrong with us and we refuse to accept ourselves the way we are. We receive so many messages that we are not OK the way we are. […] See if you can let go of the thoughts you have about how the way you think, feel or look should be different. Instead, focus on the things you like about yourself. Over time, begin to embrace your quirks.”

These quirks are probably what will set you apart from other writers, they are going to be the small things that readers love about your characters and plots. You’re a writer because you have something to say, a story to tell which only you can tell. So embrace that and celebrate it.

  1. Be there for yourself

“When life gets rough, many of us engage in harsh self-criticism — which only leaves us feeling worse. What we need most when we are going through a difficult time is for someone to say ‘I see you. I see how badly you’re hurting. I’m here.’ We can do this for ourselves. The next time you experience emotional pain, acknowledge how you were feeling and offer yourself some comfort.”

So don’t bash yourself for the next bad review you receive. Don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s only natural for you to get it, that you’re not a good writer after all. Recognize that you’re hurt— there’s nothing wrong with that— and tend to yourself before you address the feedback. Come to it from a place of inner strength and understanding.

  1. Connect with supportive people

“Low self-worth can leave us feeling isolated and alone. When we think there’s something wrong with us, we tend to pull away from our relationships, and this isolation only exacerbates our feelings of unworthiness. Connecting to people who are supportive helps us to get in touch with our humanity and our sense of worth.”

So reach out to your writer friends, your communities of writers who undoubtedly also get bad reviews and bad days. Share your pain and allow yourself to believe that what they tell you is true. Let them uplift you as you would uplift them in their time of need. Other writers are not only there for you when you need inspiration as I said in season 3, they’re also there to support you when being a writer is not as nice as it sounds.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Feedback is important. Writers learn from it, improve their writing craft and use it to build long-lasting relationships with fellow authors and readers. Not all feedback is constructive, so it’s best to let some negative comments go and not let them affect your feeling of self-worth. Your writing achievements do not determine whether you’re a worthy writer, you are by default because you enjoy your creative journey and have a story to tell. Cultivating unconditional self-worth can help you maintain good mental health which is invaluable for any writer’s creative practice.

Next week The Pen Garden will have an unexpected break because I won’t have access to my recording equipment and didn’t have the organizational prowess to pre-record an episode. But I’m sure you’ll all be fine during the holiday season – resting, writing and reflecting on this difficult year. So the next episode will come on 5th January. Its topic will be very timely – focusing on how to set achievable, personalized writing goals. It is the best episode to listen to before you decide on your New Year’s writing resolutions.

If you haven’t joined my newsletter yet, you’re missing out. I’ve now sent my first few ones and I’m really enjoying the process. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. They all feature a cute animal and a book recommendation which can improve either your mental health or your productivity as a writer. Feedback about the newsletters has been really positive so far, so after you finish this episode, go sign up. And if you think they can be improved, email me and I promise that I will do my best.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    Keep your writing career expectations in check What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3:

 

 

 

Success and your writing routine

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways.

In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be disruptive and how to pre-empt any issues and establish a routine which will stand the test of change.

Success and depression

Firstly, we need to discuss why success can have a negative impact on our lives. A great article by Forbes writer Alice Walton looks at why the most-successful people get depressed. In theory, they have it all, so what do they have to be unhappy about?

She identified six research-backed reasons for it. Some of these definitely apply to the successful writer too, while others are more corporate.

The fact that we perceive successful people unlike us, the regular people, adds up to two of the reasons Alice puts in her article. Successful people may feel detached from their former selves, leaving them with a fractured identity if the success is too sudden, or they can be less resilient because they’ve always had privilege propel them forward. Difficult times will get those people down easier than when their self-made counterparts experience them.

Successful people often work a lot and without taking too many breaks – this doesn’t allow them time to focus on the small things in life which normally bring joy and are natural anti-depressants. The industry culture and competition can also wear a person down to the point of depression, something which is less common in writing circles but still could be an issue depending on how writers see their peers.

Finally, the values of successful people can change, and they might find themselves in an environment they no longer want to be a part of. Which is terrifying, and can happen to anyone. Do any of these apply to your writing career so far? Let me know after this episode.

Avoid the dark side

A lot has been said in the media about the dark side of success. The evidence that succeeding is not just rose petals and prosecco is very obvious when one looks at child musician and actor stars. As these people grow up, they frequently pick up a number of unhelpful or downright damaging behaviors.

Are writers safe from that? Writing is, in its essence, something that requires a lot of practice so children authors who become bestsellers are rare. If you encounter success as an adult are you then safe from its disruptive touch? Children celebrities grow up under pressure and many have a skewed view of their worth because so much importance has been placed on their achievements. Unlike children, however, the pressures successful adults receive are not only external.

Writer Jeff Goins, speaking about his experience with success on his blog, argues that fear of losing what one’s gained and a desire to appease consumers is what sets a person on a dark path ultimately leading to their loss of creative self. When he reached what he thought was his success and he had a chance to ask himself why he was doing it all, the answers surprised him. He was doing it because of three reasons:

  • People expected it and he didn’t want to disappoint them.
  • He felt like this is what he had to do to succeed.
  • He was too afraid of being ignored or irrelevant to try something new.

And for many of us these immediately sound like the wrong reasons. But the key here is writers are often oblivious to their own ways, their own fears and the mental obstacles they set for themselves. It takes courage to stop for a second and evaluate your practice. Jeff Goins managed to avoid a full-scale descent into the dark side of success and I know you can too.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

The book to which you owe listening to this podcast. The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming romance thriller, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. It’s 25% off and if you preorder now, you can join me in my preorder giveaway and win some gift cards, books and tea.

All details can be found on my website www.laineydelaroque.com/books. The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.

Change spares no one

If you think perceived success pitfalls are for those of us who are just starting out with our writing careers, you’re wrong. Success, as we established, is a change in circumstances, and change spares no one.

Bestselling author Lorraine Mace faced a new challenge when she was signed on by one of the top-five publishers. It was the launch of her fourth book in a series, and she had gotten used to the marketing strategies of her previous small publishers. Part of her promotion plan was holding a book signing event in a bookshop.

Here is how she describes her initial feelings in Writer’s Magazine: “I was excited about the idea of taking over a book shop for the launch, but it didn’t take long for the doubts to kick in: what if no nobody turned up? […] What do people eat at these things? I asked the bookshop owner, but she only added to my anxiety. […] By the time it was necessary to make a decision about the drinks, I could barely think straight.”

This sounds exactly like the stress and anxiety that comes from new-found responsibility. And then unfortunately for her mental health, a series of things led to a lot of people canceling their attendance, leaving her fearful that all her nightmares would come true. This couldn’t have been easy, but she went through it anyway and ended up having a successful launch with lots of people who hadn’t indicated they were coming.

In the end, it was her willingness to push through no matter what that made her event a success. That attitude is closely linked to adaptability and grit, skills we established in the last episode were crucial to successful writers.

Your rough action plan

So let’s say I’ve convinced you that achieving whatever you perceive as success is not all fizzy drinks and rainbows. What can you do to prepare mentally for the time your hard work pays off? Or what to do if you’re already stressing out about it and kind of lost in your career because you’ve achieved great things but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore?

Well. This won’t come as a surprise – you need to take a deep breath and then a longer moment to evaluate your practice. Why are you writing? What are you writing and for whom? These all have to align with your current goals and aspirations – and if you’re not clear on those, don’t worry, we’ll tackle that issue in episode 4 of this season.

Consider if you have taken too many new responsibilities that are negatively impacting on your previous commitments. Be realistic about your time – you’re a writer and if social media, marketing or other activities keep you from writing, you’re going to become unhappy in no time. Decide what the main things are for you, and don’t neglect them – anything else can be a bonus for when you have some free time.

And last but not least, remember that you’re only human. Don’t get sucked in a fairytale – burnt-out writers stressing about life each day might be interesting to watch in films and series, but in reality, being one is not fun – and not sustainable.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Before I discuss how to set proper goals for a successful writing career, I will look at the other side of the success-failure coin. Next Tuesday, in episode 3, I will talk about how to accept criticism and avoid the mental health traps that rejection and critical feedback inevitably bring. Writers of any kind will encounter this at some point in their practice, be it from agents, editors, clients, readers or even family members and friends. Learning how not to be discouraged is immensely useful both for your writing life but also for your overall mental health too.   

If you haven’t joined my newsletter yet, you’re missing out. I’ve now sent my first few ones and I’m really enjoying the process. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. They all feature a cute animal and a book recommendation which can improve either your mental health or your productivity as a writer. Feedback about the newsletters has been really positive so far, so after you finish this episode, go sign up. And if you think they can be improved, email me and I promise that I will do my best.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    Keep your writing career expectations in check What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3:

 

 

 

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways.

Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact your writing routine. I’ve asked writers about what they perceive as success and failure and their answers were eye-opening. Listen on to find out why these two seemingly opposing things can affect a writer’s mental health in unexpected ways and how the pandemic has contributed to lowering many writers’ self-esteem.

Success and failure

Maybe you’re listening to this hoping to hear how to be a successful writer, or how to avoid failure. But I can’t tell you that, and beware of anyone who claims they can define this for you and get you there. How writers, and people as a whole, view success and failure is deeply personal. For some, success might be selling a million copies of a book, for others it can be research being noticed by a renowned scholar. It could be writing every day for a period of time, or sharing a piece with loved ones after dinner. I wanted to explore what writers believe success to be, so I asked around a few writing communities.

Most of them put great emphasis on tenacity and determination. Author and blogger Eden Gruger argues what makes a writer successful is their “perseverance, [to be able to] put words on a page even when life is really challenging. Which […] can be a lot of the time.

Others say success is for a writer to not ignore their true self and write because there’s no alternative, because of that compulsive passion within many of us. The answers all circled around the same idea of putting words on a page and focusing on bettering your writing craft always and without excuse. I was interested to find no one mentioned money or fame.

Many writers avoided giving their opinion on what constitutes failure in your writing practice. A few brave ones mentioned that stopping to write renders a writer unsuccessful. Going from their definitions of success, it’s pretty much impossible to fail at being a writer, because if you stop writing for a time, it’s a hiatus, you can go back to it when you’re ready, on the path to success once again. And if you stop forever, you’re not really a failed writer, you’re simply choosing to step away from being one.

A reaction to change

If you are wondering why I’m looking at success and failure together, it’s because they’re two sides of the same coin. And for many creatives, when you put something out in the world, it’s like the flip of a coin – there’s so many variables, it’s hard to predict results.

What is almost certain though, is that if you hit is big, or receive a disappointing response to your work, your resolve to continue working the way you were will be tested. Perceived success and failure brings about change and throws people’s routines off. They’re either celebrating or wallowing in despair. No matter which, they’re not being their most productive selves.

Writers’ desire for things to remain within their control and their comfort zone is not surprising.  A study on people’s resistance to change asked students to abstain from a habit and record their daily experiences for 3 weeks. Most of the students found that challenging in many different ways. Some found they set themselves up for failure by focusing on a big, difficult to reach goal; others self-sabotaged by putting themselves in situations where the cues for their habits were screaming at them and they had to work way harder to resist them; others found “ the actual amount of difficulty that a person encounters when implementing a change could be vastly different from the level of difficulty estimated by others”, meaning the people around you might not understand how difficult it is for you to go through with the change. All these barriers make people resistant to change.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Before I continue with the stories of a couple of fellow writers, I want to plug the book to which you owe listening to this podcast. The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming romance thriller, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. It’s 25% off and if you preorder now, you can join me in my preorder giveaway.

All details can be found on my website www.laineydelaroque.com/books. The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.

Success and failure in the time of a pandemic

Unsurprisingly, when I asked writers about success and failure, there were those who referred to how the pandemic had affected them. It’s hard to imagine what the world was like when one could plan ahead comfortably, and rely on their surroundings to be predictable.

With chaos comes uncertainty, anxiety and inevitably, change. That same change that people fight against for the sake of known comfort. And I’m not judging anyone’s response to the difficulties of current times here, I’m only saying it’s unsurprising many people have slipped into unhelpful habits to cope. I’m one of those people too.

Here’s how Writer Jerry Greif shares his experience of writing and the pandemic: “I am finding that a general environment less engaged, less motivated, less focused is quite prevalent, understandable, right now. It’s reciprocal, I perceive and I contribute to it. Without an author partner […] I languish, doddle and develop more convincing (to me) distractions and excuses. I have two books well on their way developmentally and they currently are proficiently collecting dust. One is on pandemics and Covid for kids. Couldn’t be more appropriate and timely!

To Jerry I want to say that his book on the pandemics will be relevant for years to come so he shouldn’t feel too bad about being distracted by an international health crisis. Now is not the time to be harsh and punish ourselves for diminished productivity. From episode 1 of this season, which focused on self-care, I’ve been advocating for writers to treat themselves with respect and kindness, and take time to rest and replenish their creative energies.

While we’re in the middle of the pandemic, it’s difficult to see the big picture. Writers feel they’ve failed if they haven’t written anything during these turbulent, stressful months. But the truth is, this too will pass. And writers will write again. So be gentle with yourself and take it easy, one day at a time – if you can write, great, put pen to paper, if not – you’re not failing at being a writer, you’re just taking a much needed break to take care of the other parts of your being.

Author and Activist Victoria Noe shared her story to motivate those of us who think the pandemic is doom and gloom. Here’s what she said: “I think the thing that has enabled me to achieve what success I have is a willingness to adapt and learn – to be open to change. This is my fourth career, so I’m used to making big transitions. When all of my speaking engagements for the year were canceled in March, I had to regroup, because that was the major focus of my year. I was not resistant to change or to learning new skills. So success to me is a constant willingness to grow.

So, to sum up, while it is pretty much doom and gloom, there’s always opportunities for those who are prepared to be flexible and to embrace a little bit of discomfort to welcome change. The ability to pivot after a rough time is crucial to develop. Especially after we’ve established the path of a successful writer is one of perseverance and grit.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Overall, success is in the eye of the beholder. Writer Terri Thomas commented that “the basis of mental health and success depends on a persons personal definition of success. If its defined by other people or by the expectations of society, then the person may feel failure and never see their accomplishments as success.

And I fully agree with that. Which is why in the last episode of this season I’m looking at exactly how to manage those external pressures and expectations and how not get discouraged while on the journey of being a writer.

But before that, next Tuesday (15th December), I will teach you how to deal with growth and success, whatever that means to you. It can introduce new stresses and unexpected time black holes in your writing practice, so reestablishing your routine and keeping your focus on the important things is crucial.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter – sign up form available on the right (or bottom if you’re on mobile). Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. As a bonus, all of them feature a cute animal and a book recommendation. So no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    Keep your writing career expectations in check What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3:

 

 

 

SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!

 

What’s this Season about?

Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you.

Learn How success and failure can shape your routine

In this season I will look at writer success and failure, as perceived by writers themselves, and help you understand how these two seemingly opposing things can both change the way you view your writing practice. They can both wreak havoc in whatever writing routine you’ve established so I’m going to examine them through the lens of mental health and productivity, and leave you with some tips to manage the change when it inevitably happens.

In the next five episodes, you will learn about:

  • writing practice highs and lows, and how they impact your writing routine. I’ve asked writers about what they perceive as success and failure and their answers were eye-opening.
  • how to deal with success, whatever that means to you. It can introduce new stresses and unexpected time black holes in your writing practice, so reestablishing your routine and keeping your focus on the important things is important.
  • how to accept criticism and avoid the mental health traps that rejection and critical feedback inevitably bring. Writers of any kind will encounter this at some point in their practice, be it from agents, editors, clients, readers or even family members and friends. Learning how not to be discouraged is immensely useful both for your writing life but also for your overall mental health too.
  • how to avoid some of the writing goal-setting pitfalls by reassessing your aspirations as a writer and crafting a writing routine tailored to your personal situation.
  • how those around you affect what you perceive as success in writing, and how well-meaning peers can make you mistakenly believe that you’re failing. Evaluating the usefulness expectations friends and family have for us, as well as society as a whole, is something every writer should take some time to do.

Book ANNOUNCEMENT

The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming thriller romance, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.

Listen and Join The Conversation

Episodes come out weekly on Tuesdays, with episode 1 available to listen right now. After the end of this season, as before, there will be a reflection break, for me and for you guys. I’m currently considering a change in format which will come into the new year but more about that closer to the time.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter – sign up form available on the right (or bottom if you’re on mobile). Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. As a bonus, all of them feature a cute animal and a book recommendation. So no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque.

Episode 2 comes out next week

Join me on your favorite podcasting platform!

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    Keep your writing career expectations in check What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3:

 

 

 

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, for many, is the epitome of writing productivity. For anyone uninitiated, it’s a global challenge where writers attempt to write 50000 words in thirty days. The 50k is the base wordcount for what qualifies as a novel so, as the NaNoWriMo organization proudly states on their website, people “enter the month as elementary school teachers, mechanics, or stay-at-home parents. They leave novelists.”

But while this challenge is a great opportunity to become a better writer, meet new writers and feel a great sense of accomplishment, it can also create the perfect storm of self-imposed guilt, low writer self-esteem and eventually burnout. The idea for this episode came as I was preparing for my fifth NaNoWriMo. Out of the four NaNoWriMo I’ve participated in, I’ve technically only won once, felt really bad about it twice and did well with my writing and mental health once.

I recognized some unhelpful patterns in my thinking, some words I would say to myself that would hinder my progress. I call them mental health traps, because once you start thinking them, your mental health suffers and you’re trapped in an unproductive state.  So I wanted to make this special episode of the Pen Garden for all of you who are attempting NaNoWriMo this year and give you a chance at a strong start, particularly when it comes to your mental health. So here we go, let’s avoid all these traps together.

1. It’s too much, too fast

Maybe you’ve prepped for the whole of October. Maybe you haven’t touched anything but you’re super excited to begin. And then the 1st November rolls over and you start. Three days go by and suddenly, it dawns on you that you have 27 more days of this and you have no idea how you can make it. On the fourth day you begin your writing with dread, by the seventh you’ve convinced yourself there’s no way you can keep this up.

This scenario is quite common and there is nothing wrong with the people who face this. It is a trap because shows that the writer’s mind is not ready for the change in daily life which NaNoWriMo brings. People are naturally resistant to change because it’s more comfortable to stay within the boundaries of established routines and habits, be they good or bad. But research has shown that people can change their habits if they think about the change proactively and identify its benefits.

For NaNoWriMo, they are many and each can offer a unique boon to your writing practice – you get better at your craft, you meet new like-minded people, you have something big at the end that you can continue working on, you get plenty of inspiration and you also get a taste of what’s it like to have a high creative output every day. So make a mental list of all the good NaNoWriMo can do for you and ease yourself into it.

2. You don’t have time

‘When there’s a will, there’s a way’, people say and that is very true when it comes to finding a writing time. This is where NaNo Prep might really help you out but if you’ve not done it, no worries, you can still prep mentally for the time commitment at least. I guarantee you have some time to write, even if it’s not as much as you want.

Be both realistic and kind to yourself. Look at your daily life and identify any gaps where you could do some writing. Think about how you’re going to write – maybe if you’re often stuck waiting for something, you could knock out a couple hundred words on your phone, maybe you dictate to an app while you do housework you can’t avoid. Maybe you have lots of time but need structure – pick a time when you can sit down and relax enough to let the words flow. For this month, try to give up the idea of the perfect writing time and conditions – you’re working towards a massive goal so be creative.

I have a whole episode from season 2 about how to find your perfect writing time according to your personality, so go listen to it if that’s a known issue to you and you want some practical ideas for your normal writing practice.

3. There’s too much in the way

This follows on from the ‘Not enough time’ trap and it’s all about seeing the countless things that can prevent you from achieving your end goal. So break it down one by one and think realistically.

Do family and friends usually interrupt you when you write? Tell them about NaNo and its time constraint and ask them to respect the time you’re writing.

Do you procrastinate often? Use the time to refill your creative well and think about your story. Inspiration will flow after this and you will be writing in no time.

Do you have no good space? Be creative when you evaluate your surroundings – many things can be a desk and many things can do just as well as a laptop if you don’t have access to one.

Are the days too dark and cold and sad, leaving you uninspired? Put a scented candle on and some music. Get in the mood, allow your mind to wander.

There’s never going to be a perfect month where nothing is in the way so make the most of it now.

4. It’s impossible

I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few years and trust me, something at some point in this month will make you throw your hands in the air in frustration. In this moment, maybe you will even think the whole thing is impossible. But a feeling like that can crumble your motivation to bits. What is the point of continuing something which is impossible?

Well, in a pep-talk a few years back, author Maggie Stiefvater said “I love everything about that word, impossible, and I love everything about slapping the ‘im’ right off its smirking face.” Some of you might raise an eyebrow at that statement, thinking, that’s all bold and motivational but you can’t just change your thinking like that. And that’s true. But it’s important to acknowledge what you feel first, then to try and break it down into smaller, more possible chunks.

Maggie Stiefvater tells us what and why: “It’s going to feel like the writing is the impossible part. But all of the puzzles you’re going to face—plot holes, characterization woes, bad pacing, words ceasing to make any sort of logical sense—aren’t even really problems; this is just what the writing process looks like. So learn to love that process.”

5. You feel alone

This was me a few years ago – I would get up, go to work, then come back and start writing. I would get my words for the day done, update my NaNo dashboard and then go and share this with my boyfriend at the time. He’s not a writer so had a pretty muted response. And by muted I mean disappointing. I didn’t know any writers at the time and as an introvert, wasn’t keen to go out and look for anyone. Writing is a task you do alone, right? Well, maybe not, because after about ten days of uninspiring responses from family and friends, I got really unmotivated. I felt what I was doing was pointless. There was no one to share the joy with. There was definitely no one to share the difficulties with, either. I did win that year, but I was very lonely. And the words I produced then weren’t great – I hid them on a hard drive and forgot they ever existed. But in my next NaNoWriMo, I joined a local group and I never went back to the solitary writing idea.

If you don’t have any friends you’re doing NaNo with yet, don’t despair. Just listen to the official stats:

“In 2019:

  • 455,080 writers participated in our programs, including 104,350 students and educators in the Young Writers Program.
  • 966 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 669 regions on six continents.
  • 968 libraries, bookstores, and community centers opened their doors to novelists through the Come Write In program.”

So trust me when I say you’re not alone. Go to the Community Tab of your NaNoWriMo dashboard when you next log in and don’t leave until you’ve made a buddy or two.

6. You can’t silence the editor within

If you return to your writing every day, only to read the last sentence of yesterday’s work and feel like everything is garbage, your inner critic might have come out. There is a time and place for that part of you, and NaNoWriMo is not that. Writing 50k in a month is hard enough, editing as much is not feasible. So push away the part of you that wants to change and swap and hone, and focus on getting your idea written out of your head and onto the page. 

Author V.E. Schwab suggests to change your mindset about what you’re doing this month: “You’re writing a story, not a book.” She, like me, is a lover of metaphors so she gives a great one in her NaNoWriMo pep talk: “You’re not making a whole body. You’re making its bones. You don’t need the muscle, the sinew, the skin. You certainly don’t need the makeup or the clothes. You just need bones. Something to work with. Something to build on. Something to make better, make whole. And you know the general shape of this body. You’ve read books, you like stories; you might not know every minor bone in a hand, but you know the big ones, the skull, and the spine, and the ribs. So go and make a body. There will be time to make it pretty later. But what good is smooth skin without a skeleton beneath?”

7. Writer’s block I – you know what you want to write but can’t

I’m splitting writer’s block into two traps because it can feel different for different situations. If you’ve planned your story, know what you have to be doing but sit down to write and nothing comes, then there really is one way to break through – just keep soldiering on. I’m not often an advocate of forcing yourself to do things but this block is similar to when you’re running and just have the last stretch left. Yet you have no clue how you can do it. You can see the finish line but it feels like you can’t get there.

It’s the same when you hit a block like this – maybe you’ve lost faith in your story, maybe you’re not sure that scene is necessary, maybe you hate the words you have so far. Take a bit of time to reassess if you need to, and start typing. Leave the second-guessing for the editing stage. Writing month is for writing. So don’t overcomplicate it and put some words down.

8. Writer’s block II – you have no idea what to do next

The second scenario of writing block happens to pantsers and plantsers and sometimes to planners who decide to abandon their outlines and see where their story takes them. It’s exciting to write whatever comes to mind, joining the threads of your story on the page just as they join in your mind. But, what to do if you find yourself with no ideas one day?

Here’s what prolific fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson says about refilling your creative well: “One of the lessons I learned as a storyteller was how to refill the creative well while doing other activities. You can do it while driving, exercising, eating . . . anything that doesn’t take your full attention. During these times, many writers I know run through plots in their heads, feel out character personalities, think about conflicts. They make connections, overcoming blocks.

Personally, I’ve found this practice to be essential in promoting healthy writing habits. As a full-time writer, it can actually be harder to refill my creative well, as I’m working on my writing all of the time. One of the ways NaNo could help a writer is by training them to use off moments to delve, mentally, into their stories. Instead of turning on the television as you wash dishes, turn on some music and think through character interactions. Plan out what you’re going to write the next day.

Even if you don’t have much time to write every day, you can supercharge that time by planning out for hours what you’ll do. Teach yourself to think like a writer. It’s a habit you’ll find very useful.”

9. This year sucks

This is a super special 2020 mental health trap that we’ve unlocked collectively as humanity. The year has been horrible so far and no one really is at their best place mentally. We’re battling with difficult things like isolation, grief, illness and uncertainty.

 And maybe you’ve thought about NaNoWriMo and then decided that it’s just a bit too harsh to push yourself like that when you’re already in a gentle mental state. That’s absolutely valid. You know yourself best and if you believe taking part will impact negatively on your mental health and overall writing practice, please listen to your gut and take it easy. You can always give it a go next year.

Or if you’re still doing it but you feel kind of fragile about it all, practice some self-compassion and accept that you might not win this year, that the words might be less and the motivation – harder to find. That’s okay. Take part, write words, connect with people as much as you can. Read the pep talks and know you’re not on your own in this difficult year.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

NaNoWriMo is an amazing social phenomenon where masses of writers come together to attempt the same thing at the same time. Research has confirmed that “NaNoWriMo functions as a fandom, a participatory culture, an informal learning space, a writing group, and a community of practice. It encourages freewriting and positions participants as writers. The combination of intrinsic motivation, choice, and accomplishment provided by the NaNoWriMo challenge promotes participants’ feelings of self-efficacy and encourages persistence in a sustained writing project.” In three very non-scientific words, it is great.

So now that you know where things go wrong, go write. Be kind to yourself, don’t forget to eat and drink and refill your creative well from time to time. Respect your choice to do this and follow-through with your aspiration to get those 50000 words out of you. You will come out wiser, stronger and prouder at the end of November. And by December you’ll be a novelist. Connect with people, you’re definitely not alone. Share your progress and let’s do this together.

For anyone new here, The Pen Garden episodes come one a week on Tuesdays with a break every five episodes. There’s lots of episodes to listen to so when you have some spare time, go back and learn more about how to establish a good writing routine while maintaining good mental health. The next episode comes on Tuesday the 3rd of November and there I will look into how sleep, dreams and daydreams can inspire us. I’m very excited and hope you will join me.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. I will be tweeting my NaNo progress daily so come hang out with me on Twitter. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

This week, I will discuss a topic which all writers dread to think about – procrastination. It’s the enemy of productivity and inspiration and can leave pretty much anyone feeling like they can’t write. But it’s not all doom and gloom – I will teach you how to trick your brain into doing things that fuel your creativity while still indulging that need to procrastinate for a bit.

Procrastination is not laziness

Contrary to what some people believe, procrastination is not about laziness. Productivity is linked with our mental health and there are a number of reasons a person is not at the height of their creative output. One of those non-exclusive reasons is procrastination.

By definition, it is the voluntary delay of tasks which are undesirable in the specific moment despite known possible bad outcomes later down the line. I won’t dive deep into the reasons why we procrastinate, because there are a myriad or personal and mental health reasons which might be playing a part in any given person.

What I do want to share though are the findings of a recent study. The researchers discovered stress and anxiety and procrastination are linked. Anxiety, intrusive thoughts, stress, depression and any other negative emotions motivate procrastination. So approaching your writing productivity from a place of self-care is essential.

And I’m not saying you have to always be jolly and beat your anxiety. That’s unfortunately unrealistic and as I said in the first season of the Pen Garden, good mental health is a journey. So knowing that you might procrastinate after a bad episode is empowering – learning self-compassion is great because it allows you to ride your emotions, positive or negative, and then return to a place of order without disturbing your overall creative practice.

Positivity memes can help

Following that train of thought, we can help our procrastinating brains change their direction by essentially tricking them to be productive. And no, I don’t mean by forcing you to sit down to write or edit or do anything else that requires high degree of focus and mental stamina.

I’m talking about creative procrastination which I think is closely linked to fostering inspiration. In the last episode of this podcast I talked about the importance of keeping our minds open to new experiences and exercising our imaginations. Creative procrastination is an extension of that – it’s taking the time you need to work through the issues you have which prevent you from being productive, while sneakily refilling your creative well with new ideas.

A study found that looking at a few inspirational memes or videos online every day improves psychosocial well-being and motivational intentions. So hop on the positivity train and go look at memes.

My favourite place to go for this kind of motivation when I’m down is the YouTube channel Daily Dose Of Internet. The channel shares impressive and beautiful things from nature and science and brings back our trust in humanity by showing us every day people who do amazing things or are just nice to each other.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Last week I mentioned I’m working on a novel. Things have progressed a little and now I have a page dedicated to it. It has the blurb and some mood images. Go check out The Lavender Phantom on www.laineydelaroque.com/books and sign up to the newsletter for updates if you like crime thrillers with a strong female protagonist.

Creative procrastination for writers

If memes and social media aren’t your thing, don’t worry – there’s plenty of other ways to procrastinate creatively and dare I say, even productively. Stephen King says: ‘If you haven’t enough time to read, you haven’t enough time to write.’ So return to an old favorite and pick it apart. Why do you like this book? Can you figure out the author’s secret? Why are the characters so great? Do you find the plot twist satisfying? What can be improved? Can you see any errors? When you disassemble a book like this you can later return to your writing and see your own mistakes more clearly.

If you don’t want to take this approach I suggest listening instead of reading. Listen to a podcast just as you’re doing now or listen to an industry craft book about writing. No matter if you’re an academic writer or a novelist, or even a hobbyist, there is always something to improve. Whether that is maybe tension, maybe characterization, maybe just style and grammar- listening like this will help you think systematically through your problems and provide encouragement or a new way of looking at things.

If you want to get away from writing as a whole, just refill your creative will or feed your imagination. Go to an art gallery. Binge that show on Netflix that you’ve been putting off for a whole month. Or look at the world around you. Julia Cameron, in her book ‘The Artist’s Way’, recommends ‘Artist’s dates’ – ‘a once-weekly expedition to explore something that interests you alone. It might be something as simple as going for a walk on the beach and looking for shells. Something you’d enjoy, but something that will feed your imagination. This sparks whimsy. Artist’s Dates encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative works by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.’

Get away from writing for a bit

My final suggestion for this episode is to believe that creativity breeds creativity. When your writing doesn’t go as planned because you’re procrastinating, pick up an old or a new hobby to jumpstart your writing creativity. Enjoying a craft you’re not so invested in has its benefits – there are no looming deadlines or targets, no one expects any output from you.

Try to remember what drawing or coloring or playing in the sand was like when you were a kid – it was a joyous, freeing experience. By adulthood most of us treat creativity just as an indulgence unless the outcome of it is something useful. But to clear your head and find inner piece you need to let go of that constant need to produce products and just embrace your creative journey.

One practice I find very inspiring is the making of the Tibetan Sand Mandalas. If you haven’t heard of that, it’s a Tibetan Buddhist tradition which involves creating a mandala from colored sand and then destroying it upon completion.

This practice is meant to symbolize the transitory nature of life but as a creative person, I also find in it the joy of creation, freed from the need of approval from others or usefulness of the end results. It’s about doing the thing, not about what the thing will become and stay as. The mandalas are really beautiful.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Do you feel like the next time you procrastinate you will be sneakily productive, refilling your creativity? I’ve been trying it recently and it feels great to just relax with a film or a game and switch off a little without feeling guilty.

Next week on Tuesday, I will look into how sleep, dreams and daydreams can inspire us.

But before that, make sure you don’t miss the special episode on mental health when taking part in National Novel Writing Month. This Sunday, on the 1st of November, tune in to 9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them. It’s packed of useful stuff which can help you make the best start at the challenge and win it with your mental health intact.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

Theory of writing inspiration

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it is viewed as now and how can you fit this knowledge in your writing practice to empower your creativity. But before I get into that, I want to say that this week is special, because United States celebrates ‘National Friends of Library Week’. For people in the UK, that was two weeks ago. For everyone else, I’m sure you have one in your countries too – it’s a great way to celebrate one of the greatest social inventions as far as I’m concerned. Libraries are allowing many people access to books and that’s amazing. Go and show your local library some love. If there are any librarians listening, thanks you for your work you’re awesome. Now, let’s talk creative inspiration.

Vessel to the will of the divine

Inspiration has long been something mysterious for people, including the creative people themselves. Back in the olden days, when the divine was interwoven in many aspects of everyday life, for lack of other understanding, how creation took place in the mind of the artist was seen as a divine intervention.

An interesting work where this train of thought is recorded is in Plato’s Ion, a poetic dialogue from Ancient Greece where Plato and Socrates discuss how the poet does not have art, but merely inspiration. This is an important distinction because it’s argued the Muse (or God) is the one who gives power to the poet, who then inspires the actor who will perform. So the creativity does not come from within but from above, and the creative person is believed to be a vessel of some divine will.

This idea, I think, is easy to understand – if you try to think when you were inspired last, maybe you would say something inspired you; that something triggered another idea in your head and now you have this thing that wasn’t there before. Creative people are not great at explaining exactly what happens when inspiration strikes and many describe it as elusive. This is exactly why it has been linked for so long with supernatural intentions.

The Inspirational Triad

But that’s not good enough for the state of present day artists. We love owning our work, and it takes a lot of hard work to create and get it out – there’s no way we can let some deity take the credit for our efforts. A study examined how creative professionals feel about inspiration and found ‘The Inspirational Triad’ – ‘a threefold structure consisting of Altered Awareness, Energy, and Enabling Conditions’.

These three things are, briefly, what creative professionals feel they have to have in place for inspiration to strike. Altered awareness is when there is a change to consciousness associated with creativity – for example shifts in attention, sudden insights into an otherwise ordinary experience or even letting the mind wander free, unconstrained to explore new notions. This is the light bulb moment of creation.

Then inspiration is perceived to have energy, or I would call it strength of impact. This is the speed and intensity with which creatives go through feelings and charged emotions that go with their new ideas, the heightened motivation to create, and the increase in creative stamina and activity. This is the buzz of creation.

Finally, for all this to take place properly, there have to be enabling conditions. These could be for example social factors, like surrounding yourself with people who are an inspirational influence, or environments which allow the mind to wander freely without judgment. This is the actual moment of creation, when all comes together and pours out of you because there’s nothing to stop it.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Before I continue with why inspiration matters for writing and why knowing all this is beneficial, I want to name drop myself and say that I’ve said countless times I’m a writer but I haven’t so far shared what I’ve been working on.

Surprise – it’s a book.

I’m working on a romantic thriller and very soon it will be available for pre-order. Here’s a link to the blurb. It’s dark and atmospheric like Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House and packed with action like Alex Callister’s Winter Dark.

That’s it for now, I will let you know when it’s available to pre-order. In the meantime, share with me what you’re working on – I would love to support you and I always geek out when it comes to writing.

Inspiration vs. Effort

Many writers value their moments of inspiration but many, including myself, believe that inspiration is only a tiny part of the overall creative process. Thomas Edison, when talking about his work, said that “what it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration”.

But after doing the research for this episode, and thinking back about my own experience, effort only does not produce great work – that creative spark which we call inspiration is as vital as the work after.

Researchers say “effort is important to the creative process, but its role is different than that of inspiration. Whereas writers’ inspiration predicts the creativity of the product, writers’ effort predicts the technical merit of the product. Thus inspiration and effort are unique predictors of different aspects of product quality.

Moreover, screen capture data indicates that inspiration is involved in the automatic/generative aspects of the writing process (e.g., inspired writers produce more words and retain more of their original typing), whereas effort is related to controlled self-regulation (e.g., writers who exert effort delete more words and pause more to think.)”

Foster Inspiration

Now that we know inspiration is important, I want to leave you with a simple three-step action plan on how to ensure it doesn’t escape you. Inspiration can’t be forced but it can be fostered.

So, first step is to keep your mind open, exercise your imagination. One thing I really like to do when I’m somewhere waiting for example, I imagine myself or the building from above or from inside, I imagine what the person in front of me might be thinking about. Anything could be inspiring if you’re open to see it.

Second step is to make sure you have the time and place to capture your inspiration and work on it. You shouldn’t let that buzz fizzle away into oblivion. So have a notebook with you, or reach often for the notes app on your phone. If nothing else is to hand, tell a friend, two people remember things better than one.

Finally, the third step is to surround yourself with things that can inspire you. This means other writers, groups, places, items, media – anything that exercises your mind in a positive way. This step is well captured by the words of Nobel prize winning author Toni Morrison. She said: “Your life is already artful—waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.” So all we need to do is to open up ourselves to the experience of finding the art that awaits all around us.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

I want to leave you with some further reading and listening which will maybe help you be more inspired more regularly. For me, being able to foster inspiration is very important for my mental health because when I’m inspired, my focus shifts to creating, I’m buzzing with positive energy and tend to forget about the other problems of my daily existence for a bit. It’s a great feeling and of course if I can help more writers feel better for longer, I will do my best.

There’s a great article about all I talked about, together with more examples on the Harvard Business Review website, called Why Inspiration Matters. Go check it out.

Next week, I’ve picked a topic which all writers dread to think about – procrastination. It’s the enemy of productivity and inspiration and can leave pretty much anyone feeling like they can’t write. But it’s not all doom and gloom – I will teach you how to trick your brain into doing things that fuel your creativity while still indulging that need to procrastinate for a bit. Join me in the Pen Garden next Tuesday 27th October.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!

 

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In this season, there is going to be a secret bonus episode.

Learn about inspiration and capture it

Inspiration is mysterious for both creators and scientists but absolutely essential to the creative process. In this season I will try to de-mistify it and offer you some practices which might be useful if you want to foster inspiration in your writing routines. 

In the next five episodes, you will learn about:

  • the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it is viewed as now and how can you fit this knowledge in your writing practice to empower your creativity. I learned a lot while researching this episode so make sure you take a look – I bet there will be at least something new and unexpected there for you.
  • procrastination and how we can trick out procrastinating brains to be creatively productive. There I discuss what I call productive procrastination, or consuming inspiring media to ensure you are at the top of your game when your procrastination subsides.
  • dreams and their day cousins, the daydreams. Dreaming opens the door of our subconsciousness and lets us tap into the hidden depths of our creativity. Many of my writing ideas come from things my mind has shown me while I’ve been asleep so I can’t wait to delve into this topic and how it relates to inspiration.
  • how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how writing exercises can get you out of a slump and into a new dawn of creativity.
  • the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. There I will talk about the benefits of writing retreats, writing groups and writing friends and how their mere existence around you can be inspirational.

BONUS Episode ANNOUNCEMENT

On the 1st of November, many writers will be starting a massive undertaking. They will be trying to write a novel in 30 days. And that’s fantastic.

I’m of course talking about Nanowrimo. I have taken part in National Novel Writing Month four times so far and will take part this year again. It’s an amazing time which can leave you buzzing from all the words you’re putting down on the page every day, all the friends you’ve made, all the things you’ve learned. Or it can be extremely demoralizing as you try to reach the daily wordcount goal but the graph slips from its intended trajectory, leaving you feeling deflated and unmotivated.

The bonus episode will look into how you can be productive during this month and keep your mental health, optimizing your chances of winning Nanowrimo. And if you’re not participating, come listen anyway – there will be lots of useful suggestions which can help with the mental health side of writing, no matter what kind of a writer you are.

Listen and Join The Conversation

Episodes come out weekly on Tuesdays, with episode 1 available to listen right now. After each season, there will be a one-week reflection break, for me and for you guys, and then a new season will be available the Tuesday after the break. I will explain more about this in the final episode of this season.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy. If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque.

Episode 2 comes out next week

Join me on your favorite podcasting platform!

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2: