Your Writing Life - Part 1

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"Why Is Writing so Hard?!"


There’s more to a writing life than simply sitting down at your desk and writing. 

But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. 

You can make steady progress and it can feel a lot easier than we often make it seem.

Why Should You Believe Me?

I’m Julie Duffy and I’ve been helping writers become more productive, more creative and more fulfilled since 1998, the past 10 years of that as the host of the StoryADay May challenge and community, which is regularly picked as picked one of Writer’s Digests 101 Best Websites for Writers.

During that time I’ve met a lot of people who want to be more successful in their writing life, but are struggling to find the right next steps for them.

In This Series

Spend the next few days with me, exploring the framework I’ve uncovered for building a satisfying writing practice so that you can begin to make meaningful progress in your writing and start bringing your stories to a world that is hungry for connection.

I call it the I, WRITER Framework.

What Type of (Frustrated) Writer Are You?

Ten years ago I was at home with young children–who I adored–but with no family nearby, I was busy, busy, busy…always thinking “I will get to my writing tomorrow”. 

Sound familiar?


 For you, it might be work, or other types of caregiving, or the demands of your friends or some other factor pulling you away from your creative calling, but I know you know what I was feeling back then: it feels like losing part of yourself.



Or maybe you’re one of those people who has figured out how to prioritize time for writing in your life.. And yet you feel a little stagnant, like you’re not making measurable progress quickly enough. 

Or maybe you’ve signed up for a challenge like StoryADay or NaNoWriMo and you’ve realized it’s all just a bit too unstructured for you. You know you do better with a curriculum, but you don’t know where to find one that fits you like a glove.

That’s what I want to talk to you about in this series. 

Making It Easier

There is a structure for creating a life that includes 

  • writing, and 
  • making measurable progress towards your goals, and 
  • becoming more productive, more creative and more fulfilled

And doing it in a way where each action builds on the last until you have an integrated writing practice that fits your life and your goals.

HOPING  that we’re going to figure out this writing thing one day doesn’t get us there.

Putting a plan and framework in place, does.

Stories From Their Lives 

I’ve been talking to some of the writers in the StoryADay community about this and I’m going to be sharing more about their journeys in this series, to prove to you that whoever you are, and whereever you live, you can be a writer.

I’ll introduce you to Janine who struggled to write consistently and used this framework to discover what it is that she really wanted to be writing, and how to give herself permission to do that.

You’ll meet Safiya who said it ‘opened up a whole new venue’ for her writing that she hadn’t known existed.

And Neha who learned to appreciate her writing as a cyclic activity with different times for different tasks throughout the year and accelerating her progress because of it.

And I’ll introduce to you Jeff who moved from being paralyzed by the idea that his writing wasn’t good enough, to learning to love the process and who’s writing every day now.

Think You Hate Rules? 

When I talk about a framework or a structure many creative people bristle. 

(A wise friend of mine told me, “Artists never follow the rules. They just go and invent the better way.”)

Rules  can feel restrictive and we worried about getting bored.

But what I”m talking about is the underlying structure of a successful creative life.I want to show you a framework that supports you while you get to dress it up any way you like. 

On The Shoulders Of Giants

When Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the sublime works of art in the western world, he didn’t waste time with ladders or experiment with paint brushes on long poles. 

No, he used a technique that has been in use since Neolothic times: scaffolding. 

Michaelangelo erected a framework and quickly scaled it to stand on a stabilized board 60 feet in the air. It let him get as quickly as possible to the important part of the work, the creative work. He didn’t have to invent the whole process. And it didn’t seem to stifle his creativity noticeably.

Building The I, WRITER Framework

I looked back over 10 years of working with writers who have stayed in this game for the long haul. I’ve pulled out the common elements of their practice and the I, WRITER framework lays them out like scaffolding that you can use to support and stabilize your creative ascent.

I want to show you how to make writing easy. 

Not effortless. 

But fulfilling rather than frustrating.

Why Is Writing (Sometimes) So Hard?

Let’s talk about what writing is. Because it’s not just ‘writing’.

  • First, you have to be able to string words into compelling sentences. That tends to be what people picture when you talk about being a writer: someone at their desk, spinning sentences into gold.
  • Before you get there though, you need imagination, ideas, inspiration for characters who’ll bring those ideas to life. And the techniques to do that in words.
  • Before that, you need to build time and space into your life to allow those ideas to develop
  • You need to write the imperfect first draft 
  • You’ll need to develop the skills and knowledge to improve your writing through editing & revision, taking feedback and learning to trust our gut. 
  • Then we need to learn how to share those stories whether we’re sending them to friends, self-publishing or pursuing traditional publishing. 
  • We have to connect with others in the writing world and the reading world
  • And we have to do it all over again for the next project.

That’s a lot more than simply traipsing to our desks and churning out deathless prose! Are we still surprised that it’s hard to make progress in our writing?

And all of it takes time and effort. It also courage and persistence and willpower, things that are easier to access when you have a support system in place.

Now that you can see that writing is a complex process of decisions and tasks and new skills, do you feel a little better about the fact that you haven’t got further, faster?
Julie Duffy

Seeing The Forest AND The Trees

I’m not telling you this to overwhelm you.

In fact, In the next part of this series I’m going to teach you the whole I. WRITER framework so you can begin to think about your writing life as a manageable endeavour.

Each of the letters in I, WRITER stand for part of the process:

I, WRITER Framework

| Imagine | Write | Refine | Improve | Triumph | Engage | Repeat |

In Part II of this free class I’ll show you how you can use this framework to isolate the areas of your writing that need attention at any given moment, and, crucially, block out the non-essentials, so you can focus on making progress, and meeting your personal writing goals. 

I’ll show you how you can use the framework to clarify everything from mindset to idea generation to engaging with the wider world, and staying consistent over the long haul. 

You can also use it during the writing process, to stay laser-focused on the correct part of the process for the stage your project’s in, so that you can more quickly draft, revise and share your stories.

I’ll also tell you about an experiment I began earlier this year that transformed my writing life and the lives of many people in the StoryADay Community. I wonder if you’ll be as surprised as I was, when I saw the results.

Tell Me How You Feel

But before we get to that, I want to hear from you.

Are you already a fan of structure and routine and if so, what works best for you? 

Are you resistant to the idea of following a framework in your writing life? 

What does that bring up for you?

Either way I’d love it if you’d leave a comment telling me what comes up for you when I talk about ditching blind hope and putting in place a plan for your writing.

Leave a comment and I’ll see you back here soon. 

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

10 thoughts on “Your Writing Life”

  1. Thank you Julia,
    I struggle in a place of wanting and needing structure, especially coming from a background of theater design and implementation, where structure is important for the creative work to make sense and flow. My difficulty is in disciplining myself to create and maintain a structure now that it’s just me writing, I’m free to write whatever I want, and there are no hard deadlines such as an “opening night.” I’m not sure how to take that structure I thrived in and use it in my desired writing life.
    Another area where I need to work is to take many of the ideas I have whirling in my head and settle on what most wants to be written.
    I’m looking forward to learning more.

    1. Julie, I’m sorry I got your name wrong in this comment. I forgot to proofread my comment before hitting “send”.

  2. Hi Julie,
    I have really enjoyed the structure and ideas that you have helped me to implement. I engaged with SWAGR for the month of November and it was going well until last week. I had an appointment with a neurosurgeon as a follow-up to a back injury in August. To my surprise, he has scheduled me for surgery for tomorrow! Needless to say, my writing activities had to be put on hold yet again while I prepared my family and life for surgical recovery. I’m glad you came out with this series now. It will give me something to watch while I’m recuperating. I’m going to at least try to remain engaged by reading, watching/listening, and possibly revising what I wrote before all of this took place. One day at a time I will get back to it. I hope I’m ready for the next I-Writer course.

  3. Hi Julie, thank you for such an inspiring video. I’ve joined in your storyaday challenges over the past couple of years and you have given me the nudge I needed. Also your SWAG community really spurs me on. I think I am ‘ a completer’ so it works well for me.
    My problem is I have to ‘steal’ time for my writing because in our house i am deemed as selfish by choosing to put it first. I think my hubby is suffering depression but will not get help. That is not your problem though but that is the reality I have to work with so it takes double the effort to get to my desk( which only exists in the corner of a bedroom, thanks to you!). You can guess I need ideas to fit into short bursts of time. Also I struggle using all that time productively because i have to constantly remind myself where I got to. Sorry if this sounds like a letter to an agony Aunt . It’s not meant to but just to set the scene for the challenge I need help with. Thank you for getting to the end of this. X

    1. Oh yes, this is the thing that is the hardest part of writing: the mindset, the permission and it’s so much harder when we have others who pull on our time and energy. And so often it’s a woman in that situation. (“A Room of one’s own”, eh?)

      So I celebrate any writing you do. I suspect it’s going to be useful for you to make those short bursts intensely focused on the process more than the product. Ideally as you become more fulfilled it’ll become clearer to your husband that your writing is a net-gain for him, but I understand his issues cloud things. Sending you much love.

  4. Hi Julie,
    I didn’t like the “restrictions” of structure – or so I thought… I free flowed my first 80k manuscript then had to spend weeks trying to sort glitches in the timeline or plot and now I write an outline, even if it’s a fairly loose one with just the major developments. I have had to abandon book one and I’m rewriting it now with an outline of sorts. I need to be more disciplined and focus on getting the outline in place before I start writing…
    Thanks for the site and the emails – I’m learning loads

  5. I have been thinking about making a pre writing check list, as I know they work in other areas – even pilots and surgeons use them now!
    So I’m in!

  6. I am a Head of Department of English, spending all my time on work, creating lesson to encourage my students and teachers to be creative. In the back is my own desire to write.

    I loved doing the I-Writer course with you this summer. It got me excited and forced me to finish pieces and write in ways I hadn’t considered I could do. I want to have time in my days to dedicate to this.

    Teaching is so all consuming. I love my job. I’m lucky to love my job. I just need to set aside time for this.
    Thank you for your emails. They remind me that I love to write.

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Copyright 2010-2020 Julie Duffy

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Find out more about the StoryADay


The only qualification to be a ‘Superstar” is a desire to write and support your fellow writers.

A supportive group of committed writers, who meet virtually, support each other’s efforts, and inspire each other.

Registration for 2024 open now-June 8, 2024

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