"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

5 Mental Strategies to Help Complete Writing Projects

I'm so excited to welcome back to Pen & Prosper, author and inspiration coach, Nina Amir. Today she shares expert tips on how to accomplish more of your creative goals with less stress.
And it gets even better: Nina has just released a book to help us to make our creative dreams a reality with the launching of  "Creative Visualization for Writers."
Please feel free to ask questions or provide feedback in the comments section.

You’ve got a list of writing projects you need to complete, but nothing’s happening. You can’t seem to focus your attention on any of one of them for any length of time, and the closer your deadlines loom, the slower you work.

You need to be productive, but you just can’t seem to get the words flowing. What’s stopping your flow, and what can you do to churn out the work with ease?

Sometimes a dislike of deadlines can stop you from writing. The pressure leaves you feeling unmotivated rather than motivated. Other times the problem lies in your head—you are focused on negative thoughts, such as I’m not good enough or smart enough to write this particular article, this piece is too difficult, or I just don’t know how to start (or finish). And sometimes not being able to write makes no sense at all…there seems to be no reason why you can’t be productive.

So how do you get your fingers moving and the project finished quickly?

Try these 5 mental strategies to help you become a productive writer on demand.

1. What’s Your Payoff?
Writing has a payoff for you. So does not writing. If the payoff for not writing is stronger than the payoff for writing, you won’t write.

For example, if you’ve gotten negative feedback from an editor previously, your payoff for not writing is that you avoid her criticism of your work. If you have received a big fat check from an editor previously, your payoff for writing is that you can submit your work and earn some good money for your efforts.

Maybe your payoff for not writing is that you don’t have to face your “I don’t know what to write about” thoughts and feelings. Or your payoff for writing could be that you earn another byline and move closer to your dream of becoming a professional writer.

You send out a query letter to an agent because your desire to get traditionally published (the positive payoff). You don’t send out a query letter to an agent because this allows you to avoid feeling rejected or like a failure (the negative payoff).

Make a list of your payoffs for not writing and for writing.

Each time you sit down to write, remind yourself of what you gain when you complete your project. Focus your mind on the positive payoffs.

2. Know Your “Big Why”
Do you know why you want to write the essay, article, blog, or book that you can’t seem to produce? What do you (or did you) hope to accomplish?

Your answer to that question indicates your reason, purpose, mission, or calling. It’s your Big Why.

If you don’t know your purpose, mission or calling, it is time to find it. That reason keeps you writing day in and day out, no matter what. Your Big Why doesn’t allow you to give up or fail. A Big Why gives you a reason to write and to bring your ideas and career to life.

You could have a Big Why for a particular project that is different than the Big Why related to your writing career. In each case, though, the reason you want to produce the work will help you complete it.

Describe the Big Why for your career and the project at hand, if different. Out of that description, create a purpose statement. For example, I want to write this articles because it will give me expert status in the subject area and promote my forthcoming book. Post that statement on your computer and, whenever you get stuck and find yourself not producing work, read it.

3. Use Your Imagination
When you are stuck and can’t write, you may be imagining negative outcomes from your efforts rather than positive ones. This type of thinking stops you from discovering solutions and answers that help your productivity and creativity.

To counteract this issue, use your imagination—but not directly on your writing project. Instead, imagine what it would look and feel like to produce your best-ever work. Close your eyes and imagine the final product and your experience of producing it.

When you get stuck, creatively visualize the project as successfully completed. This will turn your negative focus to a positive one, which will help you get in the flow.

If you think this is a crazy idea, think again. Runners, and other types of athletes, imagine themselves crossing the finish line as well as moving through a difficult part of a race. Our unconscious minds don’t know the difference between visualization and physically doing something.

You can imagine yourself writing—words flowing fast and furious, getting a letter of acceptance from an editor or agent, or the article or blog post successfully published. With the end in mind, you’re more likely to get there.

4. Define “Done”
Sometimes finishing a project seems impossible. It’s difficult to know when it is officially “done.”
You might even find yourself continually feeling like you need to do more research, write another section or chapter, or tear it all up and start over.

That’s why it’s important for each writing project to define “done.” Of course, “done” can be a difficult—and subjective—call. If you know in advance what “done” looks like, you are more likely to attach your work to an email and hit send.

Write down the criteria that would qualify your project as complete. Make it a regular practice to evaluate your work against this list. When you’ve checked them all off, “ship” that work!

5. Chunk it Down
Overwhelm often keeps the fingers from moving along the keyboard easily and producing useable sentences and paragraphs. It’s that big-picture view of your project that makes you freeze up. You might think, It’s too big a project! I can’t do it. I don’t know where to start.

The solution to this problem is a simple one: Chunk the big project down into smaller projects or pieces.

Every magazine article, blog posts or chapter consists of smaller sections. Think subheadings…These divide up your work.
Also, every project has different tasks, like research, writing, interviewing, editing, fact checking, etc.

To get yourself writing, think of your project like a rock. Break off little chunks you can tackle individually. For instance, write one section. Do the necessary research. Set up your interviews.

Approached in this manner, your project is just a bunch of smaller projects—pebbles—each one much more easily completed than the whole. But as you complete each one, you move closer to producing the whole.

I like to think of these chunks as short-term goals. The long-germ goal is to finish the whole project. The short-term goal is, for example, to write the introductory paragraph.

Consider your project. Make a list of three to five action items. Tackle each one at a time.
When you can’t write, the problem is not always what you think. Deal with the real problem—your mind, and you’ll see an increase in productivity.

About the Author

Nina Amir is an Amazon bestselling author of such books as How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual and Creative Visualization for Writers (October 2016). She is known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach because she helps writers, bloggers and other creative people combine their passion and purpose so they move from idea to inspired action and Achieve More Inspired Results. This helps them positively and meaningfully impact the world—with their words or other creations.

Nina is a hybrid author who has self-published 17 books and had as many as nine books on Amazon Top 100 lists and six on the same bestseller list (Authorship) at the same time.

As an Author Coach, Nina supports writers on the journey to successful authorship. Some of her clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She is the creator of a proprietary Author Training curriculum for writers and other coaches.

She is an international speaker and award-winning journalist and blogger as well as the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month and the Nonfiction Writers’ University.

Nina also is one of 300 elite Certified High Performance Coaches working around the world.

For more information, visit
www.ninaamir.com or www.booksbyninaamir.com.





  1. That is where I am in writing my first novel. I'm slugging away by taking one chapter at a time and writing it with what I know and believe about my character at this time. It is druggery right now, but I trust my persistence will pay off. I'm not discouraged, but willing to do the work required at this point.

    1. Try the methods above! It won't feel like drudgery while you are writing. And it shouldn't.

      Try to find ways to feel passionate and inspired by your novel!

  2. Thank you Jen for featuring Nina. Her advice sounds simple, but each point is completely true. When I visualize my words in print, I usually write better and am more successful at getting published. Having taught for decades, I taught my students and their parents about "chunk it" and small steps. Great advice here and a real motivation.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and feedback. It's nice to know you agree with these strategies.

    2. It was my pleasure, Lin. Thanks so much for taking the time to provide feedback here. :-)

  3. Nina,
    Thanks for the insight and great tips. Apparently you've spent some time in my head - your comments mirrored a few thoughts in recent months. Appreciate your wisdom and encouragement.

    Thank you for hosting Nina. This is timely (as most of your posts are). :)

    Happy writing,

    1. So glad this was timely for you, Karen! I hope the interview and book serve you.

    2. Thanks, Nina. I'm confident they will. :-)

  4. In a sales job I was in years ago it was very common to get rejections and negative feedback, so possibly a mental strategy that I used in sales can also be helpful for 'selling' writing.

    Because to not get discouraged by rejections or negative feedback, you might consider to think about it in an different way, and think something like;

    'For success I need (for example) about
    5 rejections to make 'a Sale''

    Than when you have a rejection you don't have to worry to much about it or feel bad about it, because than you only have 4 rejections to go for your success.

    Also negative feedback can actually be extremely valuable for possible future sales.