Getting Started with the WRITER Code
“Aargh!” to “Ahhh!” – Make Success Inevitable
Persistent Progress – The Easy Way
Mind The GAP
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Welcome to the StoryADay WRITER Code Masterclass.
Whether you’re just coming back to your writing after a long time away or whether you’re already writing and want to build a life where your writing is a priority, you’re in the right place, you can stop worrying about writing or feeling guilty or wondering if you’re really cut out for thiswriting thing.
Stick with me over the next few days and I’ll introduce you to the WRITER Code, a process for becoming more productive, more creative, and enjoying the whole process of writing. Not just for a quick burst here and there, but for life.
I’m Julie Duffy, the founder and director of StoryADay and I’ve been helping writers for over 10 years through the StoryADay challenges, my weekly writing prompts, my articles with Writer’s Digest, who love StoryADay so much that it’s been on their 101 Best Websites for Writers list of for years, I’ve been helping people through my partner projects with NaNoWriMo, my columns with WriterUnboxed.com and other online sites.
I’ve been working directly with authors since 1998, most recently in the StoryADay Superstars coaching group, founded in 2018.
In that time ‘my’ writers have built rewarding writing practices, had their first (and 500th) stories published, signed publishing deals with traditional publishers and released their own books as independent authors.
I want that life of creative freedom and reward for you.
Life keeps coming at us, keeps changing, keeps challenging us. Writing is how we make sense of it, how we endure.
You should be writing.
You deserve to be writing.
It’s easy for me to say that. It’s harder for me to make you believe that and to feel your right to write.
But that’s exactly what I’m going to try write do over the next few days.
When you really believe that writing is an essential part of your story, it makes everything easier from making time to write, to doing the writing, to—believe it or not—everything else that goes on in your life, outside the writing.
Your day job seems easier when you’re writing is going well…,
But the reverse is not necessarily true.
So let’s get you believing that you’re a writer and acting on that knowledge.
And you don’t have to figure out how to make that happen alone.
So are you ready for an introduction to the WRITER Code, the system I use to build lives that not only include writing, but have creative expression at their heart?
Grab a pen. You’re going to want to take notes.
If you’re anything like me, there have been times when your writing life looked like this:
How do I know so much about you?
Because this is how it goes for everyone, who wants to write. There are times when everything flows and there are times when it crushes to a halt.
The trick is to put systems in place to shorten the gap between the periods of productivity and the periods of sloth.
We do need time away from our work.
We do need to live our lives and gather material.
There are parts of the writing process that don’t involve adding to our word count.
All of this is important.
I struggled for years to balance these pieces. But for the past few years, myself, and a bunch of the StoryADay community, —I call them my Superstars and I’ll be telling you more about how you can join us soon— we’ve discovered that
And I didn’t want to keep it a secret how we’re doing it.
So I sat down and codified what we do.
That’s what I’m bringing you this week.
The WRITER Code is an acronym.
It contains the process that I’ve used to write five novels, hundreds of short stories over the past decade+, all while raising a family, running a business, and a happy marriage.
All of those good things in life take time, effort, and attention.
Building a writing practice that will bring you both pleasure in the moment and happiness for the longterm will also take some time and effort.
And a plan.
The WRITER Code breaks down the steps of becoming a writer into these parts.
It seems like there most obvious and simple thing, but there’s one powerful step I’m going to lead you through today that will make becoming a writer so much easier.
Once you’re writing regularly , you need to refine your process, your practice, the actualwriting, your goals… so much work to do here. And I’ll be talking about this step all through the StoryADay challenge coming up next month, all through the year.
of course, it’s not enough just to simply write, at some point, you’re going to have to start improving your writing.
You’re going to feel dissatisfied with what you’ve written and it’s massively important at this point, not to give up.
You’re going to be tempted, but your dissatisfaction with your own writing is an important signpost. It tells you what you need to focus on next: improving
(This is something that we focus on in the Superstars Group, with critique weeks and workshops.)
When you know that this is simply part of the process, you’ll start to feel more free in your first drafts. It helps with breaking writer’s blocks to know that you’ve got time later on to improve your first drafts.
And then the next two steps in the WRITER Code will help you persist in all your efforts to write and not give into the temptation to quit when it gets hard.
Celebrating every win strengthens your whole writing practice, whether it’s patting yourself on the back for sitting down at a time that you put on your calendar for writing or buying champagne for everyone when you sign your first contract, it’s imperative to celebrate every tiny win in your writing career.
Our brains remember. Whether you’re experiencing good or bad emotions, your brain tries to protect you from pain or prod you into repeating whatever was pleasurable.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather feel good.
So every time I do something good for my writing, I take the time to celebrate.
I’ve built lots of this positive feedback into the StoryADay ecosystem before I even discovered that it’s actually a scientifically approved method for building good habits.
But because our emotions are treacherous, relying only on yourself makes consistency and progress difficult.
And that is why the E of the WRITER Code stands for Engage.
Writing can be a solitary activity, but being a writer can’t.
It’s too hard.
It’s too different from what normal people do.
We need other people who get it, to lift us up on days when it’s tough and to celebrate with us on days when it’s going well.
And to remind us that it’s okay to be weird because our kind of weird saves the world.
It’s all very well to write one story, but to make progress, to build real satisfaction into your writing process, you have to repeat every step in the WRITER Code.
Think of it as a spiral path. Every time you go through these steps, you widen the path, your abilities grow. You face new versions of old challenges, but this framework will help you tackle every one of them.
So I’ve given you the skeleton of the WRITER Code and I’m sure all kinds of neurons are firing in your brain now, and you’re feeling high, emotional and, and going, “Yeah! I’m going to sign up for StoryADay and I’m going to learn more about the WRITER Code and I’m going to write all month and my life is going to be better and I’m going to be happier and I’m never, ever going to look back and ‘woohoo!’)
Those emotions are great.
I want you to hang on to them, but “writing”– that step 1– is hard, right?
So in Lesson 2 of this masterclass, I’ll lead you through one way you can always write and finish a story whenever you want.
And after that, I’m going to talk to you about how you can keep that momentum going, how you keep your motivation high and how you come out of all of this with a writing practice that you love.
But for today, I have two challenges for you, things that will put “writer” at the center of your identity and make it easier for you to jump into your first story or your five-hundredth.
James Clear writes in his book, Atomic Habits, that the best way to begin being successful at something is to claim the identity of a person who does that thing.
So if you declare to the world that you’re a writer, your subconscious will begin to support you in doing the things a writer does, like
If you’re one of those people who recently answered my survey about your biggest writing challenge with some variation of ‘mindset’, ‘motivation’, ‘getting the work done’ or ‘procrastination’, this part is especially important for you.
Task 1: As soon as you’re finished with this lesson, I want you to open up your email settings (this could also be your personal social media profile or some other place where you talk about yourself semi-publicly)
Add an email signature to all of your outgoing, personal emails.
Here’s what it should say: [your name, writer].
It’s going to feel weird and scary and maybe you’re going to giggle or feel like a fraud, but you’re not.
You’re a writer.
By claiming the identity you will signal to your brain that is time to start living up to that by taking the steps a writer might take.
Right after you finish with this lesson and changing your email signature, download the StoryADay Story Sparks Tracker.
Pick the style that works best for you. Fold it up, put it in your pocket, stick it on the fridge door, whatever you need to do, and then spend the next few days collecting five Story Sparks a day.
These aren’t story ideas or plots or fully fledged character arcs. They’re just little details that you notice about the world around you that might be able to use the story.
Even if you’re stuck in a studio apartment 24 hours a day, you can find Story Sparks .What is the fabric of your couch feeling like under your fingers? How does the dishwasher smell when you open it? How does your cat move? What can you hear in a supposedly silent building? Even when you turn off all the electronics? How does a fresh Apple taste or a movie piece of bread? What is that really idiosyncratic phrase that your Auntie Marian always used to use? Where is the first place you’ll go for dinner the next time you get a chance and why?
Don’t worry about what you’re going to do with them yet.
Just collect the kinds of details that flesh out stories capture them.
Five Story Sparks a day for a week will give you 35 writerly details you can use in stories during StoryADay May or anytime you want to write.
And more than that, you’ll be walking through the world as a writer, which will reinforce your own identity as a writer.
Will you add writer to your email signature and start collecting Story Sparks? I’d love it. If you would put a comment down there and let me know that yes, you’re going to do it.
Of course. It’s not the whole story.
Just calling yourself a writer doesn’t mean that you’re writing in a thing.
And that part is where you’ll encounter your next set of challenges.
So in Lesson 2 of this masterclass, I’m going to take you through a powerful tool that will help you begin to practice and repeat the W part of the WRITER code: my favorite quick method for starting a story and getting to the end any time, every time.
It’s a method that I’ve been using to help people for years. I get delighted emails from writers who’ve used this method to surprise themselves by writing their first complete story in years, or to write a story that flowed easily.
Sometimes I hear from people who’ve used it to write the first draft of the story that’s now about to be published.
It’s not magic.
And it does take a bit of effort.
But I’m going to lead you through it step by step in the next part of this masterclass, so that you can be a writer who writes today, not ‘some day’; so that you can be a writer who enjoys the process of writing instead of second-guessing themselves until they get blocked.
So until then, do me a favor, take on the two challenges I set to change your email signature and start collecting stories sparks, then leave a comment and tell me how it felt
Oh, one more thing.
You know that friend who’s always saying that they want to start writing? Why not send them over here to this page and invite them to join you on this journey to becoming a writer who writes?
Remember you don’t have to do it alone.
Then watch your inbox for Lesson 2 of the, WRITER Code masterclass and keep writing.
Let me know how you’re feeling about my challenges and if you’ll take me up on them….leave a comment below: