Writer’s workshop focuses on productivity, achieving goals

Many thanks

to all who attended our inaugural Last Saturday Author Success Mastermind Meetup Group today!

A fine group of writers got together on April 26 for the inaugural Last Saturday Author Success Mastermind Group meeting (what a mouthful!)  Above is Charlie, shown with his new book, Sarah, Bernie, Mica, and, not shown, Susan and Laurel.

The purpose is to help each other achieve success as authors. We thought about, wrote down and then discussed our goals and dreams. And we all have some cool, worthy goals!  It was really fun sharing them! We talked about the importance of setting a time frame for goals. And we talked about some of the obstacles we’re experience to achieving our writing goals. Here are some of the obstacles to writing we discussed.

•Procrastination and fear 
Fear immobilizes, triggering procrastination. Fear is often caused by thinking too big–getting overwhelmed in the face of a big task.

To prevent fear triggering procrastination, break big tasks into very small, doable pieces, and start out only doing one little task a day.

For example, one author’s goal was “finish three chapters by the end of the summer.” Let’s break this goal down into friendly, bite-sized pieces. First figure out how many words should be in each chapter. Suppose your book outline has 20 chapters, and you’re aiming for a 75,000-word book. That comes out to 3,750 words per chapter.  Thus  3 chapters amounts to 11,250 words. Between May 1 and August 31, there are 4 months, or 16 weeks.  Suppose your writing life goal is to write 5 days a week, 2 hours per day – a total of 10 hours per week. That’s 160 hours to get the job done. Now take 11,250 and divide by 160 = 70.3 words per hour: That is your target productivity goal.

So, to achieve your 4-month, end-of-summer goal, you want to write at least 70 words x 10 hours = 705 words per week.

Now that doesn’t seem so scary, does it?!

*Staying focused, with lots of research and material to include

One suggestion: it helps to picture in your mind exactly who you’re writing for — picture and keep just one, single individual reader in mind, that you’re writing to. Imagine them asking questions and following what you’re writing.

Any other suggestions on this one?
Keeping from getting distracted

That’s a tough one for me, too. One thing I make sure to do is turn off email.  Decide when you want to be answering email. I find that my best writing time of day is morning. That’s when I’m most fresh. So I like to be cautious not to get drawn off-couse first thing in the day. That’s usually a recipe for a lost day, goal-wise.

So in the morning I prefer to do just a quick check for important emails, and then schedule a longer more indepth check and response time in late afternoon, when my brain’s not so sharp for writing anyway. So set a timer for 5 minutes in the morning when checking email. First scan down the list looking only for VIPs to reply to. Immediately respond. If the timer has not gone off yet, then start deleting junk. When the timer goes off, QUIT your email software IMMEDIATELY to come back to it mid-afternoon for a 30 minute email check session. Use a snooze button! Later in the day, again, set a timer.

Anyone have any ideas for addressing other kinds of distractions?
•Finding a good place to write 

If you don’t have peace at home, Starbucks or other coffee shops was recommended. Buddying up with a writer friend — which we’re planning to do with this group, to create coaching diads, by the way — was suggested as a good way to prevent theft, if you have to get up to use the rest room. Sarah has worked at Starbucks for several years and has witnessed quite a few incidents of laptop theft, particularly in Chicago. And everybody loved the idea of going on a writer’s retreat! (More to come on this idea!)

Any other ideas for finding a good place to write?
•Getting organized

Another challenging obstacle. For me, I know that when my organizational system breaks down and I get behind on my filing, I absolutely tend to move into that fear/overwhelm/procrastination space.  The answer again is to break the task down into very tiny pieces, and only do one a day, acknowledge your success by checking off the task on a to-do list, and don’t be hard on yourself. This will keep the fear at bay!

Any other suggestions?

Creating a work schedule and staying on task without external forces pulling us off course. 

Deadlines are always very motivating. That’s why this group exists, to give each other deadlines and accountability!
The financial challenge of supporting our writing habit.

Yes, that most definitely is a challenge! We learned at the meetup that Starbucks has healthcare benefits for part-time work at 20 hours a week. Apple does as well.

All in all, I think its safe to say for everyone there that we all left feeling very upbeat and energized, looking forward to our next meeting!


Our mission over the next month: pick up a copy and read The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less and Create More Success, by Sage Cohen. It’s an excellent book with great advice for productivity. NOTE: I’m a hardcore book lover, but I have to say, if your eyes are more than 40 years old I recommend the Kindle version over the ridiculously pint-sized Writer’s Digest paperback version. Typeset in 9-point text, it is uncomfortably small and annoying!

Everyone took home a folder containing Sage Cohen’s fun goal-setting exercise called “Paradise X4.” The idea is based on a statistic that most people only achieve 25% of their goal. Therefore, the idea is, if you set your sights at four times greater than Paradise, you will arrive at Paradise! So the worksheet has a number of different parameters and angles on setting writing goals.

Let me know if you’d like the Paradise X4 worksheet, and I’ll email it to you or pop one in the mail!

Hope you can make it to the next Last Saturday Author Success Mastermind Group meeting (gosh that’s a mouthful) which will be on the last Saturday in May, which is May 31, the Saturday AFTER Memorial Day, from 10:30 am-Noon. Please put it on your calendar to join us!

Until then, have a super-productive month of May, as writers! I for one look forward to hearing about your progress!