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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Is Your Writing Blocked by Trivia?

Not exactly what I mean by clearly defined goal...

Not exactly what I meant by a clearly defined goal…

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”  – Robert Heinlein

Even when you have a clearly defined goal, resistance can push you away from the writing. Goals are vital, but by themselves, they are not enough to eliminate daily acts of trivia and other expressions of resistance.

Each goal must be accompanied by a list of actions you will take to achieve the goal. These actions must be specific, you must know what you’re going to do and how.

If the writing project is large or something you haven’t done before, you can’t foresee everything you’ll need to do and how you’ll do it. That’s okay – the action list (or Action Map) doesn’t have to be exhaustive, it just needs to give you a place to get a toehold and make a start.

You need traction to take action.

The actions must also be simple and small enough that you can take the action in one day. You may need to repeat the action tens, even hundreds, of times to achieve the goal; that’s okay. But the action must be small enough that you can do it at least once on any given day.

“Write a novel” is a goal; “draft for 15 minutes” is an action. You need both.

“Vision (aka goal) without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel A. Barker

You can’t write a novel in a day. But you can draft for 15 minutes on any given day. If you repeat that small, specific action (and add other actions like “revise for 15 minutes” or “research topic x”) eventually you’ll achieve the goal of writing a novel if the daily action is focused on a larger vision; random writing for 15 minutes a day is unlikely to become a novel.

If you lose sight of where you’re want to go and what you can do today to get there, you will revert to performing daily trivia. When you start spending time on trivia or experience other symptoms of resistance, remember (or define) your writing goal. Then identify what action you can take today to further that goal. Break an action into smaller and smaller steps until you say “Well, I can do that today.”

What small action step can you take toward a writing goal that matters to you? You can go back to performing acts of daily trivia after you do that – if you still want to.

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