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EPISODE 68: Setting Yourself Up For Writing Success

by Jan 11, 2022Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Creating a designated workspace
  • Leaning into the energy of the day
  • Listening to your body
  • Investing in long term success

As writers, not every day is created equal—some days you feel clear headed, capable, and motivated, and other days you struggle to get anything done.

So, how do you minimize the days that lack creativity and spark, and experience more days where writing flows? Writing can be challenging {especially when it’s your job to show up and write every day!} but there are ways to prepare your mind, your body, and your environment to support your success.

 

Here’s a few tips to help set yourself up for writing success: 

  • Create a designated workspace. For some writers, it’s a traditional desk, but for others it’s a kitchen table or dinette. Consider investing in a lap desk if you like to work from the couch, or a standing desk to support your neck and back. Take stock of the things you need to be productive {notepad, pens, remote mouse, etc.} and keep them all in one place.
  • Lean into the mood of the day. Some days will be gloomy and cold, so try lighting a candle and making some hot tea. If the mood of the day is sunshine and blue skies, take a walk or work from a table outside. Embracing the energy of the day can help you make the best of your own creative drive.
  • Do what makes you feel good. Getting dressed {even if you’re just ditching the PJ’s for comfy joggers} and ready in the morning can help you shift into more productive energy as you sit down at your workspace to write. Being dressed for the day also allows you to more readily take a break to run errands, take video meetings, or do a quick workout. 
  • Listen to your body. Another important part of feeling good physically is listening to your body—have you eaten? Are you hydrated? Do you need some caffeine? Tuning into your physical needs can help you be more productive creatively.
  • Invest in your long term success. Identify factors in your environment that could be improved {is it finally time for a new desk chair?} and make a plan to invest in equipment or training that will help you be more successful. For example, if you’re most productive and creative in the evenings, but that’s when your kids are home and need attention, you might consider investing in time management training, or maybe even extra childcare support a few nights a week.
  • Be kind to yourself. It’s impossible to do it all—especially all the time. Give yourself grace on those gloomy, slow days and recognize that any writing you’re able to accomplish is a start! {For more tips on overcoming writer’s block, check out Episode 66: How to Fight Writer’s Block on a Deadline}.

 

Homework:

  • Assess your ideal day and ideal week. See what incremental changes you can make towards that. 
  • Join the Polaris Writer Lounge for more tips, insights, and advice for {and from!} fellow writers. 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Maggie:
Hello everyone. And welcome back to another episode of Brand Your Voice Podcast. You may be hearing a different voice today. That would be mine. This is Maggie, one of the mentors here at North Star reporting back in for duty on the podcast and am here with Marie.

Marie:
Hello. Yeah. Excited to chat about this with you, Maggie. Thank you for coming back on and rep your excellent appearances on the podcast.

Maggie:
Always a pleasure.

Marie:
Yeah, so today's episode was actually your idea. You got excited about this topic and I'm looking forward to digging into it too. And, you know what we've been talking about over the last two weeks with Madeline being here, we've been talking about things like, what do you do when you run into writer's block, but you're like running against a deadline or what do you do when you're feeling long term creative burnout? And so what we wanna do today is kind of flip it around to maybe the more positive side of things that you can do just day to day in your writing to help set yourself up for maybe not having that writer's block in the first place, or at least just making sure that you know, take care of your body and your mind and your space that you're in so that, you know, you can have fun with your writing.

Maggie:
Absolutely. Yeah. And when I was thinking about this topic, I was like, well, what does that look like? A successful day of writing? And to me, it, I just kind of realize that there's sort of, I wouldn't even say a rhythm, but there are some days that are just good. Like, I feel excited. I feel motivated. I feel very clearheaded. I'm less distracted to that sort of thing. And I'm able to, you know, work through whatever tasks I have on my plate in a way that feel like a little bit more graceful than let's say the other days where you could just take all of those things I said, and just flip 'em around. Like I'm not motivated. I don't feel very excited about it. I'm having trouble completing even some of the simpler tasks that I typically do. And so to me, what it looks like to set yourself up for, you know, like a day of successful writing is maybe just to realize what you can do in your environment and your schedule, et cetera, that maybe swings the balance a little bit more in favor of the better days than the bad ones.

Marie:
Yes, exactly. Cause I mean, they may still happen. I mean, things happen, you know, there's days when you don't feel well or there's something huge going on in your life, that's very distracting or you're moving or like there's any number of reasons why there are days when it's challenging to you sit down and write. But yeah. What, what could you do to make it easier on those days that are challenging and what can you do just in general. So, yeah. One of the things that you were pointing to Maggie was the importance of having like a designated area, like a physical space to be in. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Maggie:
Yeah. So, you know, especially like in the last few months I have been moving and not having a designated workspace or one that, you know, like it's just changing every few weeks and I kind of, it underlined the importance of this element to me. I like work really well when I have a large table where I spread out all of my stuff and it's not super cluttered. So that's a really important element for me. And to be able to, you know, especially if you have like a smaller space like I do, a designated spot. Because I am in my living room right now, but I'm also at my work desk, you know, and this is where I sit down and do a lot of my actual day in and day out work. And so I think that that's really important, but I did like make a little asteroids and say that I think that you know, for the people, there are some people who will, this will resonate with, if you like to occasionally work from the couch or your bed. I think also having a lap desk is essential for days when you just wanna be comfortable.

Marie:
Yeah. And also like as comfy as it can be to sit on your bed with your computer, I dunno about you. But the back of my neck starts to kind of ache after a while. So just having the lap desk also just makes it slightly less non-ergonomic. I don't say it's ergonomic, but like less awful.

Maggie:
Yeah. I mean, and that's another thing, right? Like all of those kind of tools that make it more comfortable to do your writing. Like, I definitely am a huge fan of like, like a remote, a wireless mouse rather, and like having the laptop on a rise, that's pretty critical for the help of my neck.

Marie:
Yeah, for sure. And do you have those things handy? Like there's actually one client that we work with that you and I were just talking about Maggie, but sometimes there's images and things like that, that go into the blog posts. And so I find that if I don't have a way to right click and also, by the way, my right clicker is broken on my actual laptop. Like if I don't have a wireless mouse, I can't actually do anything for her. I'm just like, this is not a good environment for me, I just start getting frustrated with the tech.

Maggie:
Yeah. Oh yeah.

Marie:
Going back to a place too, like a designated area. So I wanna say that this can be done even really challenging ways. So for years I lived full time in an RV and my deepest desire during that time was for a door. Because at first it was myself and my ex and we basically had like a bedroom that was literally just the size of a queen size bed. Like there was no space for anything else. And also there were like cabinets above it. So you couldn't even sit up in bed. So that was kind of like right out. And then otherwise there was just like the big room that was living, dining, kitchen, everything. And so it was challenging because if we would both get on calls at once or, you know, if he's on a call I like to have quiet when I write and so it was really hard for me to focus when I'm hearing like words and I'm trying to type words and they're different words from each other. So we ended up switching to an RV that actually had a door.
Yeah. So in the morning I would get up first and I would sit at the little dinette table area, and that was my desk. And I would work usually until the afternoon when he would start having meetings. And so at that point, then I would retreat into the bedroom and have a little lap desk. So I had two designated places, but at least I had a place, I had a door I could close, and this is me living in, I don't know, a hundred square feet or some something, maybe 200, it was small, you know, but like you can do it, even if you're in a tiny place, even if you share it with other people.

Maggie:
Yeah. That's some real, like problem solving. Did you ever set up a desk outside? Was that also an option?

Marie:
Yeah. Sometimes, I have like a really dim computer screen though. And so I could, if it was sunny out, I had trouble seeing my screen. But yes, I would do that too. Sometimes I would go sit on the picnic table or camp chair or whatever and I think that's perfect, right. Because I still do that. If it's a nice day out, sometimes I will still go out in the backyard. And now that I have, you know, a house, but like you could do the same thing, even in RV, even literally working out of your car. You could, you know, living in your car, literally you can roll down the window, you know? Enjoy the day.

Maggie:
Yeah. Which actually is something else that I kind of noted when I was thinking up how I set myself up for writing successes. Something that I heard a while ago that I really love is to lean into the mood of the day. And so, that's a perfect example. Like if it's a nice day outside, I love, you know, like all the sunshine I could get. So, in the past I have had a little desk that I would set up outside. That's an option or today, where I am, it's pretty gloomy, unusually gloomy and a little bit cold outside. So I have candles lit, I'm drinking my tea. I think there's something to that for me that really helps me get my work done instead of sort of fighting whatever the atmosphere of the day is, whether that's internal or external is to kinda just lean into it and make it work for you on that day.

Marie:
Yeah, for sure. And also, if you're somebody who experienced seasonal effective disorder too, do you have a light lamp? Like, are there things, sometimes you kind of have to fight the gloom at some point because you're feeling that it could actually impact your wellbeing. So yeah. Are there tools that you have that could help with that? If it's something where like, this truly is affecting your wellbeing, as opposed to just one random off day that happens to be gloomy. I mean, that's living in the Southwest this is unusual for us.

Maggie:
Yeah. Yeah. It's like, it makes it a little bit more enjoyable too, when it's sort of not the norm.

Marie:
Right? Exactly. Yeah. And I think at the same to, right, like don't fight your body, right? Like if your body is telling you I'm hungry, I'm thirsty. I need caffeine. I need to exercise whatever it is like that, you know, sometimes if you're like, well, once I finish this thing, I'll go exercise. But maybe that thing you need the energy from having exercised to be more productive and happy doing that writing project. So sometimes it's not to say like, yeah, procrastinate your way to victory, but sometimes, you know, if you, if you really do need something, like don't fight your body on that.

Maggie:
Yeah, I would agree. And I think that, like you just said that if you're able to give yourself the stuff that you need, you're probably gonna be in a much better, more productive sort of clearheaded state when you do return to your work. And so it'll probably take less time and it will feel like less of a burden, right?

Marie:
Yeah, exactly. Cause even if it's not something that takes last time, even if you get into the creative flow and it takes you longer, like if you're having fun doing it, you're probably gonna wrap up in the end of the day. Not as resentful of the time you spent working that day, you know?

Maggie:
Yeah. Because you were able to strike that balance too, is like, you got some of the stuff done that makes you feel good and you like your body and your head and that sort of thing. But you also were able to check some things off your to-do list.

Marie:
Totally.

Maggie:
Which is pretty perfect.

Marie:
Yes. So in our current era, you know, also people talk about like work from home. It's like the pyjama chic, and there's actually nothing wrong with that. But yeah, like how do you feel about just being comfortable at your desk? Like, how do you take that? Is there like a too far to take that?

Maggie:
Well, you know, going back to our previous brief, touching upon ergonomics and that sort of thing, I feel like it's very important to have a comfortable chair. Right, to be physically comfortable in your workspace is pretty helpful, at least for me, because if I'm distracted because oh my back hurts or the way my wrist is sitting on my keyboard hurts and it's no fun. But at least for me, like beyond the actual setup, I mean, I'm always comfortable with my clothes and that sort of thing, but I really like getting fully ready for the day. Something about that makes me just feel like a little boost of confidence, a little bit more prepared, like, oh, do I need to step outside and walk to coffee shop? Do I need that? Like, I'm ready. Like I'm in action. I'm not in my pyjamas still. So that's something that like kinda moves me from sort of like low key morning mode into I'm ready to get some stuff done mode.

Marie:
I love that. Yeah. I'm thinking about myself and how do I like address myself? And I think what I do is I actually take a look at my calendar for the day and I see do I have meetings today? Do I have specifically meetings with clients if I have client meetings or in meetings with external people? I will almost basically dress as if I'm going into casual sort of business casual office. If it is a day where I can just like hunker down and get a lot of work done. And if I have meetings, it's probably just with internal people within the company. Those are days when I might wear a t-shirt or something, you know, warmer if I need to, but like something cozy, you know. And for me, that kind of is part of that mood of the day thing. I think actually, cuz it's like, if I'm in my leggings then that means it's like a get a bunch of writing done for clients. If I'm in like slacks or you know, like nice jeans or something like that, then it's like, oh no, this is like a, you know, be on display kinda day.

Maggie:
Totally, yeah. It is part of that for sure. And I think that that is also a good sort of segway into, you know, like the times of days that you are most productive. Like do you like to have a long sort of languishing morning because you're like way more productive between 3:00 PM and 10:00 PM? Or is it like the total opposite? Like you need to put on your sweatpants at 3:00 PM. That's how I am.

Marie:
3:00 PM Is the worst hour. Let me just tell yah.

Maggie:
Two to four I'm not thinking clearly.

Marie:
No, not good. It's like whenever I have brain fog and then I look at the clock and I'm like, well, that's why like.

Maggie:
Yeah. We're getting scary close to 2:00 PM too.

Marie:
I know.

Marie:
I know. Also like what's the rhythm of your week? Like an ideal week for you? So right now, the way my calendar's kind of set up is like my Mondays usually it's kind of prepare everything for the week and get a lot done. And then Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I didn't have a lot of meetings and then Thursday it's like, okay, mop up all the stuff that you didn't get done. Cause you had so many meetings, and then if I can I take off Friday- often I can't. But even if I'm working at least I know I don't have meetings, no one really expects me to be around so I can get a lot of like focused work done on that day and maybe still be able to cut out by 2:00 PM a little early. So that's a rhythm that works for me because then it allows me to feel like I kind of have like a two and a half day weekend.
So I mean, chances are probably I could just spread out my time evenly over five days and just do that. But instead there's something about kind of work myself to the bone on Monday and then just let it like slip off, taper off a little bit each day and then I have a weekend to rest and then I'm like ready to put it in again on Monday, you know, like that's a really what works for me. It probably doesn't work for everybody, but like you can play around with your week and time blocking things like meetings.

Maggie:
Yeah. I really like that too. And I think I don't think too often about how I schedule out my week, but I really think that there's something to that. And I wonder if, you know, kind of doing a lot of the work on Monday is similar to that rule about making your bed first thing in the morning. It's like you accomplished something early enough in the day of the week that you feel good, like moving into the rest of it, right?

Marie:
Yeah. I'm like, totally. It's like a psychology thing. I'm experimenting on myself in terms of, you know, how can I wig myself out into this. But you're right. No, I think that's right. Like it does feel like I did accomplish a lot on Monday. Therefore even if things drop off a bit during the week, like I know that I took care of the most important things. That's also something to you, right? Like take a, if you take a look at your to-do list, I tend to say like, well, what are the hardest things? Or what are the most important things? Usually what are the most important things? If I can get those done the things that are less important, if I have to push them, you know, the business isn't gonna break because at least I took care of these sales calls and this deliverable that was due, you know, these like really important things. Yeah brainstorming this program for four months from now, like, okay, I could punt that for another week.

Maggie:
Yeah. And on that topic, I've definite you know, like I prioritize my to-dos, but instead of writing to do Monday, you know, at the top of my notebook, I always just write Monday goals, you know? So it's like, if I get it done, that's great. Like a gold star for Maggie, but you know, like if it doesn't get done, then it's not the end of the world.

Marie:
Yeah. I love that. I love that shift that because at the end of the day, like not everything on your to-do list is actually all that important.

Maggie:
Yeah, exactly.

Marie:
Yeah. I mean, I think we had a few of the things on here, you know, around kind of your environment, like what do you need in terms of your environment to set you up for success in terms of your environment, right? Like, is there music that you like, are you really annoyed by your barking dog? Can you give your dog a toy to play with so that they aren't barking? Or, make sure that you're kid, they has like a favorite puzzle or game or something like that so that they can maybe be entertained or maybe your partner can take them for a little bit or... I think you were mentioning like somebody you know had an interesting solution for that with a child.

Maggie:
Yeah. I have a good friend that wrote a book several years ago when her daughters were younger and she would schedule her writing time to align with the time that she could hire her babysitter to come over. And she wouldn't, she wouldn't leave the house. She would still be in the same space, you know, but she'd just go into a room and shut the door and that was her writing time. And so I think that, you know, I think that that's necessary sometimes to carve out that much designated time and plan for it.

Marie:
Right. I know that can be really challenging. I mean, obviously there's an expense involved in that or, I know parents have expressed to me, it can be really challenging when maybe they work best in the like- [Dog barks] okay Mitchel yeah. Maybe they work best like six to 11:00 PM, but that's right when they need to be present for their children. And the time that they actually have to work is when their children are at school, which is not six to 11:00 PM. [Dog barks] I'm sorry, one moment. But I know that is something that can be challenging. So obviously it's like, we do the best we can. Right. And that's why maybe some of these other little hacks about candles or going outside other things like that may be able to help a little bit. Let me go grab my dog.

Maggie:
Yeah. And I'll just continue on and say too, that I think that what Marie was saying is a really good point about, sometimes we just do the best with what we have and what we can make work. And, you know, the stress of being hard on yourself is just added stress. Right. Which is not good for anybody's creativity, productivity, general mood. So, you know, hopefully just being kind to yourself is also a viable option for most of us.

Marie:
Yeah. That's a perfect note to leave it on Maggie. So I think homework for you is take a look at, and you may wanna write this down, what is an ideal work day for you or an ideal work week for you? You're probably not gonna get every single thing on that list, but that may help you generate some ideas of ways you could get closer to it, things that you could do, maybe you do go ahead and buy that chair, or you go ahead and light that candle or make sure that you have snacks. Like, for a long time, I really wanted a she-shed in the backyard so that I could have a writing place, but I was like, well, I obviously have to have a mini fridge in there cuz I wanna be able to have cold drinks. So that I can like just reach over if I'm thirsty and take care of my thirst while I'm writing, I have to go all the way back into the house, like horrors!

Maggie:
Yeah. I, think that you just hit on something that we can't fail to mention is that you have to have many different beverages surrounding your laptop. That's that's key.

Marie:
Yeah. How many cups would you say you typically accumulate by the end of the day?

Maggie:
Oh, by the end of the day. Probably thirty.

Marie:
Yeah. I'm at two right now and it's, 1:30 PM so I'm right on track.

Maggie:
Yeah, absolutely.

Marie:
Cool. Well, thank you so much, Maggie. It's been fun to chat about this with you and I hope for everybody who's listening this has been helpful.

Maggie:
Yeah. Likewise, me too.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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