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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.

Auto-Correct Writer’s Block with Weekly Check-ins

“Part of what helps me stick with my writing is the chance to reset my commitments every week when I check-in with my writing buddies. If I fall off the wagon (in other words if I don’t do everything I committed to doing), I get back much sooner. It’s easier to get back into the groove because I’m only signing up for the coming week – not the rest of my life.” — Pam McAlister

In my Loft classes, my students and I made a weekly commitment for each of the Three Habits: Process, Product Time and Self-care. Each week’s check-in gave us an opportunity to notice, acknowledge and celebrate our successes and/or to notice and acknowledge what wasn’t working.

We got to auto-correct writer’s block or any other form of writer’s resistance before it got too big or too prolonged.

Part of the beauty of weekly commitments and check-ins is that they help us see when something needs adjustment. Without check-ins, you might have a vague sense of dissatisfaction for weeks, even months before you realize “You know, it’s been a long time since I did anything with my writing…”

Weekly check-ins give you as many “do overs” as you need to figure out what works for you and your writing life. When the week ends, you compare your commitments to what you actually did, consider how you feel in the moment, and then you look forward.

Step 1. State what you said you would do for Process, Product Time and Self-care last week.

Step 2. State what you actually did for Process, Product Time and Self-care last week. No long stories, no explanations, evaluations or judgment (positive or negative). Just the facts.

Step 3. Notice how you feel. Talk about your emotions, not your thoughts. (“I feel a did a good job” is what you think; “I’m proud” or “I feel content” or “I’m disappointed” is how you feel.)

Step 4a. If you did what you said you’d do, allow yourself to feel good about it, celebrate, reward yourself and continue building your momentum.

Step 4b. If you didn’t do what you said you’d do, you are now aware that something needs adjustment:

  • Maybe your commitments are too big for where you are as a writer right now and you need to change them. It’s better to commit to less and be successful than to commit to too much and feel like a failure. Give yourself small successes you can build on by gradually increasing your commitments.
  • Maybe your commitments are just too big. There are at least ten reasons I keep my Product Time commitment to 15 Magic Minutes.
  • Maybe you’re still establishing your writing habits and you need to give yourself more supportive structures like reminders on your calendar and bathroom mirror, phone calls and email reminders from a writing friend or a class like my Brain Science for Writers or Writing Habit.
  • Maybe your commitments conflict with the way your life is currently structured and scheduled. If so, you either need to change your commitments or change your lifestyle. Don’t keep promising yourself you’ll do something you won’t or can’t – you’ll destroy your trust in yourself and entrench your resistance.
  • Maybe something unexpected happened and the commitments that usually work couldn’t be reconciled with the unexpected. In this case, you don’t need to change anything. However, if the “unexpected” keeps happening week after week, you need to read and apply the previous bullet about changing your commitments or changing your lifestyle.

Step 5. Make new commitments for the coming week. Depending on what you discovered in Steps 3 and 4 and what you anticipate for the coming week, your new commitments will be a repeat or an adjustment of the previous week’s commitments. For example, when I go on vacation, I commit to show up for zero minutes of Product Time. When I get back, I feel good about doing 100% of my Product Time commitment, which makes it easier to get back to my usual routine.

Step 6. Do what you said you’d do. This is the heart of the matter. At some point, you have to do what you said you’d do just because you said you do it — no matter what!

In theory, you make your commitment doable and you do your commitment. In practice, a weekly check-in helps you recognize what a doable commitment looks like.

Next post: what’s even better than a weekly check-in?

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3 Comments on “Auto-Correct Writer’s Block with Weekly Check-ins”

  1. Sammi Soutar May 1, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    I was keeping a “to write or not to write” kind of journal. My entries often devolved into much hand wringing and self-psychoanalysis about why I wasn’t writing. I eventually got tired of the whining voice playing in my head and started writing again, one word at a time, 15 minutes at a stretch, little gold stars for getting things done. This sounds much better. Simpler, more streamlined, less self-flagellation.


    • rosannebane May 11, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

      Sammi, you know I’m always in favor of less self-flagellation, even no self-flagellation. 😉 Congrats on the gold stars!



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