I recently returned from teaching a pitching workshop in Hungary, working with a group of talented and ambitious writers eager to share their stories. There's a lot of fresh thinking coming from this part of the world – and I always enjoy being around people with such enthusiasm and commitment. They're doing what they really want to do, which leads me to my first item:
1: Are You Living Your Goal?
Here's possibly the most important question you can ask yourself about reaching your dream, whatever it may be: Does the way I spend my time reflect my professed goal? If, for instance, your cherished goal is to write a novel or screenplay, how much time are you actually spending on that? If not much (or none), why? You may reply, "I just have too many other things to do." But that means that every one of those things is more important to you than your writing goal. Is that really true? Is watching TV more important? Is keeping your kitchen spotless more important?
Action: Apply this question to every major activity you do, and I suspect you'll find ways to liberate time for what will, in the longer run, give you the most joy and satisfaction in life.
2: Do You Have Too Many Ideas?
The Economist (October 11, 2007) features a special report on whether and how innovation can go from being an art to a science. Many experts agree that generating new ideas is the easy part; acting on the right ones is more difficult: "The more ideas a firm comes up with, the more important it is for bosses to decide early on which of them to kill off." The same thing happens on an individual level – I love having ideas, but can only act on a few of them at a time without spreading myself too thin – perhaps you can relate.
Action: If you find yourself having too many ideas to act on, don't respond by stopping the flow of ideas. Jot down all the ideas that come to you. Then set aside a period once a week or once a month when you put yourself in the frame of mind of a constructive critic and go through all the ideas and decide which ones might enhance something to which you are already committed, which ones might be good choices for implementation when you are done with your current commitments, and the rest. Don't throw away the rest; review them once every few months – something that doesn't seem like a good idea now may be a great one later on.
3: Rejection in Perspective
Jack Canfield, co-creator of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books, has an interesting take on rejection namely, that it doesn't make sense to treat it as a type of loss. The following example deals with writers, but the principle applies to any kind of rejection:
Let's say you send your book manuscript to a publisher. The publisher sends it back. Canfield points out, you didn't have a book deal before you approached the publisher, and you still don't have one. You haven't lost a thing. And you have the freedom to go on to the next publisher, where the outcome may be different. But if it's not, you still haven't lost anything.
I think that's a really liberating way to think of rejection.
By the way, Canfield and his co-author, Mark Victor Hansen, had 130 rejections for the first "Chicken Soup" book! It went on to sell 8 million copies and serve as the foundation for the best-selling series of non-fiction books in history. (If you want more of Canfield's insights, see his book, "The Success Principles.")
Action: If fear of rejection has stopped you from trying something, how does looking at it this way change your perspective? Is it time to give it a try?
My newest book, "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London & Boston, makes a great present for yourself or a loved one who has always wanted to write but didn't know how to start. It covers the process all the way from overcoming your fears, to coming up with ideas, to structuring your book or script, creating characters and selling what you write. You can get it now at many bookstores or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.
4: When Deadlines Have You in a Panic
Time management coach Mark Forster www.markfoster.net writes in his e-bulletin, "It may be due to unforeseen circumstances or just to our own bad planning or procrastination, but we all sometimes get to the point where we have so much work to do that we have no idea where to begin. We are seized with paralysis – we can't start on anything because of all the other things pressing on us. Of course doing nothing makes the problem even worse. So we get into a vicious circle: we can't act because of our sense of panic; the fact that we're not acting makes the situation worse – and therefore our panic increases." Hmm, I think we've all been there a few times
Action: In his book, "Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play," Mark Foster recommends writing down a list of everything that you have to do and then grading it "must do," "should do," or "could do." Concentrate on the "must do's" and you will quickly increase your sense of control so that you get out of the vicious circle. Secondly, ask yourself which task you're resisting the most, and then do it. Chances are it will free you to do the rest. And, finally, don't let perfectionism overwhelm you – figure out what constitutes "good enough" and do that.
5: The 60-Second Book Review
The book: Get Out of Your Own Way
The author: Robert K. Cooper, Ph.D.
Publisher: Crown Business, 2006
The Premise: Most of us accept the primitive instincts of our brains: comfort, avoiding risk and confrontation, and sticking with habits that were effective in the past. But we can learn to interrupt these patterns by focusing on more helpful ways of thinking and being.
Three Key Ideas from the Book:
* It's not how busy you are or how fast you're moving, it's how effectively you are advancing in the right direction.
* It's not how good you are at copying others; it's how bold you are at unlocking potential and applying it in new ways.
* To make sure you're advancing, figure out ways to measure your progress and keep track of it.
The Verdict: Backed up by lots of research, this is a very good guide to noticing how the more conservative parts of your brain may be holding you back and how to overrule them and forge ahead.
6: And a quote to consider:
"Vision without execution is a hallucination." Thomas Edison
Until next time, Jurgen
PS: If you haven't looked at my blog recently, you've missed posts on staying motivated, finding inspiration in unusual places, what you don't need for a creative environment, a link to an audio interview I did on how stress can kill creativity (and what to do about it), and lots more. Why not check it out now, and sign up for email notification of new posts? It's all here: www.timetowrite.blogs.com
PPS: You may also want to have a look at our Web sites, www.TimetoWrite.com, www.yourwritingcoach.com and www.BrainstormNet.com, and my two newest books, "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, and "Do Something Different," published by Virgin Books.