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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.

Boost Three Habits with a Writing Buddy: Guest Post by Katy Perry


Guest blogger Katy Perry enlisted a writing buddy to double the power of her writing habits

I loved having Katy Perry in my Loft classes. She not only gave the Three Habits “a try” as she writes, she embraced them and made them her own.

Katy came into class with an abundance of native talent and already honed craft skills. Her willingness to make, track and honor commitments brings her writing into the world in intriguing and powerful ways.

I would love to say that what keeps me writing is my passion for language and literature and the thrill of capturing just the right turn of phrase.

My passion and the thrill are enough on good days. But when resistance is high, what brings me back to my desk is good habits, the discipline to apply them and the faith that they will pay off.

I learned about Rosanne’s Three Habits two years ago. Impressed by their foundation in brain science, I decided to take a chance and try them out. I have been faithfully tracking Process, Product Time and Self-care ever since.

The 15 Magic Minutes helped me establish a routine as a writer. Whether I am writing on my own or within the framework of a class, the structure gives me tangible evidence that I am a working writer with an established writing practice.

The Three Habits have helped me make steady, consistent progress on my memoir. When the material gets tough, the 15 minute increments form building blocks I can lean on for support and momentum. Instead of walking away when drafting scenes becomes too difficult, I turn to research, planning or freewriting to meet my Product Time commitment.

I like to start my writing workday with Process. Listening to classical music or coloring (which I took up reluctantly at Rosanne’s suggestion—talk about resistance!) is calming and allows me a moment to set aside distractions and focus on the work ahead.

Thinking intentionally about Self-care has helped me identify habits that support my work as a writer. And giving myself credit for doing those things away from my desk motivates me to come back again the next day.

About a year ago, prompted by a class I took with Mary Carroll Moore, author of Your Book Starts Here, I added a writing buddy to my habits and gave myself an even stronger buffer against resistance.

One of our class discussions focused on the dangers of talking about our writing too much too soon, of letting our words out in the world prematurely.  Mary explained that she uses weekly e-mail check-ins with two trusted fellow writers to protect her new work.

Mary and her colleagues sometimes exchange work, but the primary purpose of their relationship is to be “accountability partners.” She encouraged us to think about writers we had met, in person or online, with whom we might begin such a partnership. (More about effective writing partnerships)

Miriam, a novelist in the class, and I e-mailed each other on Friday, February 3, 2017, and have done so every Friday since. Two great gifts emerged from this partnership.

First, articulating a few key goals helps me clarify what I want to do, what I can do, and what I need to do each week. Miriam and I tailor our goals to the particular challenges we face in any given week. They could be word count goals, research goals, or “show up and do whatever is possible” goals.

Every Friday we confide in one another about how, why and whether we reached our goals and about our plans for the coming week.

Secondly, I no longer write in isolation. Miriam and I are colleagues. We didn’t know one another well at first, but each of us regarded the other as a serious writer from the start. We honor our commitment to one another as professionals. We encourage, challenge, inspire and support one another, and we take pride in each other’s accomplishments.

A year into our partnership, Miriam completed a first draft of her novel. I dived deeply into research, have written many scenes and have completed the first and last chapters of my memoir.

Working with Miriam and keeping up with the Three Habits helps me fight the routine kind of resistance I encounter in an average week. The Habits and my accountability buddy also saved me when life threw a curveball that threatened to knock me out of the game completely.

When an old friend died unexpectedly, I faced serious procrastination. Dave and I had taught high school together. He was a gifted linguist who enjoyed vigorous debate on anything—from educational methods to politics to what makes a good beer. A passionate environmentalist, he rode his bike to work daily, even throughout our unforgiving Minnesota winters.

My colleagues and I loved Dave for his unique blend of high ethical standards and low bathroom humor. His students loved him because, as one said, “When you walked into his classroom, you didn’t have to check any part of yourself at the door.”

Another teacher volunteered to collect anecdotes and photos to include in a book for Dave’s daughter Molly. I wanted so much to contribute, to tell Molly what it meant to me to be Dave’s coworker and friend.

But when I sat before my blank computer screen every day, I froze. My sorrow battled my desire to write something beautiful for his daughter. Day after day, it seemed paralysis won. In hindsight, Rosanne tells me this wasn’t resistance; it was grief and I just wasn’t ready to write about Dave.

Eventually, I found the courage to take everything off of my Product Time list except Dave’s tribute. I reached around my sadness to tell Molly what made her dad such a great teacher and treasured friend.

Was my tribute perfect? Was it everything Dave deserved? Not by a long shot, but it was heartfelt and true. Writing it seasoned my grief with gratitude for the time I spent teaching, laughing and drinking beer with Dave.

Throughout this struggle, my writing partner Miriam and I continued our correspondence. Our routine kept me connected to the real world, even as I was sidelined by grief. Her compassionate support, along with my reliance on the trusty Three Habits, helped me get back to work.

Getting back to work is bringing me back to the joy of writing. I think Dave would be proud of me for that. I know Miriam is, and I am happy to say that I am too.

Katy Perry is a former teacher and education advocate who lives and writes in Minneapolis. She is currently working on a memoir. No relation to the pop star who shares her name, Katy confines her singing to the shower.

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