When we follow coaches or experts, we subconsciously assume they have it all figured out. If they’re teaching something, they must know better than we do, right?
Of course, sometimes this is true. Hopefully they have studied and researched the topic, and what they’re teaching is sound and accurate (please spend time getting to know what kind of expert they are). And other times, they’re just trying to figure it out too. Often, it’s a bit of both.
When I’m writing to you, I don’t take the authority lightly. I’m conscious of people looking for answers, and I know many of you will take what I write and try to put it into practice, so I make sure what I recommend is vetted. However, mostly my goal is to bring to light struggles you might be experiencing and give you permission to try on a new perspective. Today is one of those times.
Countless people have asked me how I manage to publish articles so consistently and how I write so fast; they have the assumption that my writing time goes smoothly without obstacles, and I have it all figured out. In reality, it’s a little messier than that. I want to show you the behind-the-scenes of my imperfect writing practice so you can start to own your own practice, mess and all.
If you’d like to know more about why I write consistently and what benefits there are to regular blogging, you can revisit an older article I wrote here called The Pros and Cons of Weekly Blogging.
And if you don’t write articles but you have a practice of creating regular content, all of this applies to you, too.
My goal is to write a meaningful article most Mondays and send it to my email list. Sounds simple enough, right?
The truth is, I haven’t written an article in a month because life happens.
Here’s how it really goes down.
I Account for Time Off and Holidays
I used to try to publish an article each Monday no matter what. To make that happen I had to frequently write more than one article a week so I would have some saved up, and that was completely unsustainable. I also noticed that I enjoyed writing about what was present for me and those resonated more deeply with my readers, so writing them ahead and not sending them was doing a disservice to my audience.
Now I just plan for nothing to go out on the weeks I can’t write. If there’s a holiday or I’m on vacation, I just don’t write and that’s okay. I’m human and so are my readers. If missing a week is enough to make them dislike me, then so be it. My guess is that most people don’t even notice. Most importantly, planning ahead to miss weeks just saves me so much guilt and mental energy, so it’s the right decision for me.
And this past month? I was sick for four consecutive weeks. On three of those weeks I tried to write and it turned out gibberish. Instead, I sent a quick email to my list without an article, and I moved on with my rest and recovery. Like I said, life happens, and when you are a solopreneur, you need to make decisions about what’s important on any given day.
Procrastination is Real!
Almost every week I spend a fair amount of time procrastinating before I write my article. It’s like there is something physically restraining my arms and chest when I try to write (but magically it goes away if I’m checking email, scrolling Facebook, or looking up children’s swimming lessons…hmmm…). I usually try to convince myself I don’t need to write that week and make all sorts of excuses for it. Even this week, when I haven’t written an article for four weeks and I’m feeling perfectly fine, I didn’t start writing this until 11am. All that to say, despite the procrastination and the self-talk, most of the time I still manage to get the article done. The task expands to fit the time allotted, and when crunch time comes, I get it done.
Even once I’ve started writing and I get into the flow of it, I still need to take breaks. Usually when I’m about 80% done something comes over me and I need to procrastinate even more to avoid finishing it. I might even tell myself that I’ll finish the article next week, but I usually just get back to it and send the darn thing.
There are all sorts of reasons why this may happen to someone, and I’ve written a whole article about procrastination here if you’re curious to explore it more deeply. For me, I just know it’s part of my process now. Maybe one day I’ll look at breaking it, but for now it’s working just fine.
I Know My Rhythms
Over the years I’ve learned some things about myself that make writing easier. Most importantly, I know that if I don’t write Monday morning it’s exponentially harder for me to write at another time. Mondays seem to be like a fresh start, and there aren’t as many people trying to book time with me. And when I succeed at publishing an article on a Monday morning, it really feels like I’ve accomplished something big already in the week.
Systems Make it Easier
I have lots of systems in place to make my writing process much easier. It also means I have fewer decisions to make when the time comes to sit down to write. Here’s the list:
- I have Monday mornings from 9am-12pm blocked off in my calendar every week so my writing time is protected
- On Thursdays, I have a reminder in my calendar to decide the topic for the following week, so I don’t have to make yet another decision Monday morning
- Sometimes on Thursdays I do a post on Facebook and LinkedIn announcing what topic I’ll be writing about the following week. It’s a great way to have people join my list, but it also holds me accountable to writing.
- I like to include links to previous articles in my articles, so I use Asana to keep track of everything I’ve written previously. That makes populating the links much easier.
- I like to change my workspace and write somewhere different, like the kitchen table or outside. The change of scenery helps me focus on the creative task rather than the day-to-day tasks of my business. This only works if there aren’t other noises or distractions, though!
(just hit my second procrastination point…be right back…)
Keep it Simple
And then, ultimately, the writing must be done. I open a blank document, usually write the title first (but don’t overthink it), and just go for it. It’s much easier if I made notes the Thursday before, but I don’t always. I don’t do a ton of research for my articles since I usually write about experiences (mine or my clients) so that saves me a lot of time. When I’m done writing I proofread a few times, fill in the links to other articles, and copy it into an email to send my list. After the email is sent, I breathe a big sigh of relief, then go have lunch. That’s about it!
As you can see, this is a wildly imperfect process with lots of twists and turns. As with most things, there isn’t one “best way” to do something, so it’s up to us to find what works for us. I’m proud that this is my 63rd article in less than two years, and I know even if I don’t write every week I’m building an important body of work, one article at a time.
Looking for an alternative to the mainstream business advice you read online? Stephanie gives you practical guidance to do business on your own terms. No nonsense, thorough, and immediately useful, these weekly emails cut to the chase of what you really need to succeed without compromising your values or working yourself into the ground. To get articles and behind-the-scenes business insights delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to her weekly Permission Slips here.