Welcome back. I’m Julie Duffy, the host of StoryADay, and your guide through this series about getting more productive, more creative and more fulfilled as a writer, while building more ease into your writing life.
In part one I talked about what writing is and why we so often are frustrated and derailed, and why we so often fail to do the thing we claim to want to do which is writing.
I showed you how it’s a complex process requiring different skills on different days.
And I promised to take you through the framework that I’ve developed over the years, working with the writers in the story of a community and others that makes writing easy—not effortless. but something that you absolutely can do.
It’s been lovely to hear from so many of you and to have you share with such generosity and vulnerability, the things that work for you, and that stuck with you after going through that first lesson.
So, having looked at all the disparate pieces vying for our attention as we build our writing practices, in this part of the series I’m going to walk you through the framework I’ve uncovered to make it all just a bit more manageable.
I call it the I, WRITER Framework and it’s an acronym that I use to keep myself focused on the part of the work, the part of the process, I need to pay attention to on any given day, in any given project.
So are you ready to learn the framework that will support your writing practice whether you’re just starting out, or ready to go pro?
Let’s dig in.
I is for Imagine, something that’s important at every stage in your writing process, from generating ideas, to being able to see yourself as the kind of person whose stories will connect with readers. Ideas and inspiration are important parts of every stage of the writing process, but so is that mindset piece. Use the I or ‘imagine’ to propel yourself into the next task you have to do to progress on your writing journey.
W is for “Write”. Drafting, wordsmithing, whatever you want to call it, is the part most people think of when you say “I write”. When you’re working on drafting, you are working on producing your story. But there are skills and challenges in there, from giving yourself permission to get to your desk, to getting to ‘the end’. If you are actively writing, focus on that. Trying to edit and find a home for the story at the same time as you’re trying to create, is a recipe for frustration.
R is for Refine. At different stages of the writing life and of every project’s life, there are many things you can refine. You can decide to focus on refining whatever part of your process isn’t working smoothly yet. If your morning routine isn’t in place and you end up trying to do All The Things before you’re allowed to write, maybe you need to tweak that. If you’re writing regularly but are scattered over multiple genres and projects, is it time to focus on one for a while? If you are submitting stories and novels but in a piecemeal fashion, only when you’re feeling emotionally strong enough, could you refine that process, break it down into steps, make it rote?
I is for Improve. If you don’t yet have a sense of what’s good in your writing can you get into a critique group? If you know your novel is great but you aren’t getting any nibbles from agents, can you take some time to learn how to write a great query letter? If you have no idea how to interact with your raving fans, are there skills other people have that you could learn?
T is for Triumph. Celebrating every tiny win is important, from getting to our desks, to finishing stories (things which can happen every day) to signing contracts and cashing the check for your Netflix adaptation (which happen…um, less often). If that Netflix deal is your only benchmark of success then your writing life is going to be a pretty miserable existence.
When building habits it’s important not to neglect the reward component in the whole trigger, habit, reward cycle. And most of us do. So what celebrations can you build into every stage of your writing process to keep your lizard brain happy and basking on a nice warm rock? It can be as simple as giving yourself literal gold stars.. The anticipation of a previously-experienced dopamine hit is a powerful thing. It’s what keeps people gambling, and shopping, and checking their ‘likes’. So institute small, easy, portable, instant ways to celebrate every triumph.
E is for Engage. I know. A lot of us are introverts. But here’s what it took me 25 years to figure out; every part of the writing process is improved and made easier when you engage with the wider community. Whether it’s turning up at a writing sprint to sit in silence and write with other people, or whether you’re soliciting feedback on your writing, or whether you’re reaching out to readers, we benefit from the life experience and energy of the people around us. The good news is that readers and writers tend to have a lot in common with us. They’re not that scary. If you are trying to be a writer, alone, you are making it much harder. Take the word of a card-carrying introvert. We need to engage with other people.
R is for Repeat. Very little in your writing life happens just once. Sure, you learn to tell a particular story, once. But everything about the practice repeats, from gathering ideas, to brainstorming stories, to struggling with the first draft, and the third, to revision, research, celebrations, engagement…you’re going to do everything more than once. And the more you do a thing, the more your brain believes you’re going to survive it this time.
When I interview best-selling authors, they tell me every project has that moment when they think they’re not going to be able to pull it off this time. And, when asked how they get through it, they all say something like: I know I can do it because I’ve done it before.
Creativity is about doing new things, but repetition is part of the gig too. You can’t write one story and expect to be successful. The more you write the more creative you get, and the more your skills improve. The more you celebrate, the more your brain wants to work for those rewards, and the easier it becomes to write.
You don’t just work through these concepts once. As you grow, and try new things, you’ll spiral through these concepts over and over again in an ever increasing arc. In every project, in every stage of your writing life, you’ll find these same concepts.
Knowing that you don’t have to focus on All Of Writing on every day, is incredibly powerful. You can look at your goals and say ‘ok, this week I’m focused on getting this first draft written’. Maybe I’ll dial back on my engagement with other writers so I can get some work done (or conversely you may find you need to turn up at some writing sprints or reach out to an accountability buddy to get your drafts done).
You won’t be drafting while you’re working on refining a process or improving a skill. And that’s OK. Word count isn’t everything.
But you should always be reminding yourself to celebrate your triumphs.
Last time I promised to tell you about an experiment I began earlier their year and its surprising results.
First let me back up and say I am not best friends with routine. Ask anyone who loves me and they would freely tell you that I struggle to be on time, to keep track of my keys and that dog in that Pixar movie that was constantly being distracted by squirrels, might have been modeled on me.
So, when the pandemic hit, I did something really unusual for me: I committed to a routine. I started running writing sprints on Zoom every day of the week at 8:30 am. I thought I was doing it because the people in my writing community needed some normality, and hosting writing sprints on Zoom was an easy way for me to give back to the community.
…I was kind of terrified about the idea of committing to being there every morning.
As I mentioned, routine is not really my thing.
But I started turning up on March 18, 2020. Other writers started turning up. I started seeing the same people, day after day. And here we are eight months later and I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve told me that showing up for their writing at the same time every day has been the most powerful thing they’ve done for themselves and their writing in years.
That’s one example of how you can use a structure to build a writing process that brings you joy, even if the idea of structure and routine sounds a boring to you as it did to me.
But it’s not the only way.
Using the I WRITER Framework doesn’t have to be that rigid.
Next time I’m going to introduce you to more members of the StoryADay community and show you how the I WRITER framework helped cement a fulfilling writing practice for many of them as I took them through a six week program built on the framework
I will let you know right now that I’m going to be running that program, the I, WRITER Course again, soon, and I’m going to be running in real time, with an opportunity for you to engage with a small group of other writers who are committed to building a better writing practice.
The people who’ve been through it before, like Neha, have had amazing results and really embraced the identity and practice of being a writer, and it’s been thrilling to accompany them on that journey. I’m excited to welcome a new group of writers into that process.
But before we get to that, in the next part of this series I’m going to give you the entire outline of the curriculum, so you can build your own program if that makes the most sense for you.
You are a writer. You should be writing. The world needs your stories, but more than that, our lives are better when we’re doing the work that fulfils us, in a way that sustains our spirits..
So come back next time to see how the I, WRITER framework could give you six weeks of structure to support your writing practice.
And before that, I’d love to hear from you, in the comments: What resonated with you, from the I WRITER framework. Are there pieces you weren’t thinking about? Do you have questions about how you can tweak your writing practice to make it easier and more fulfilling. Leave a comment and let me know.