For the past two weeks I have participated in something called a Write-a-thon, specifically Stella Orange's Shut Up And Write-a-thon. What is a write-a-thon you ask? It is a place where people can come together and write. You get to choose for how long – 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, it's up to you. As Stella always says, it is “challenge by choice” and “everything is optional.” We were to simply write, without judgement, without worrying about what people (including ourselves) might think, without editing as we go.
In the first session Stella even encouraged us to burn what we wrote. She encouraged us throughout the 10 days with videos about things she experienced as a writer and some of the challenges we might encounter such as the voice she entitled the “Mean Wolf”.
Stella told us that “The goal is to get what you came for – that one insight you need to move forward as a consistent, effective, and unmistakeably human communicator who’s on a mission to help other people improve their lives.”
She encouraged us by saying: “At the end of the day, we can’t always control how people respond to our posts, emails, videos, presentations, webinars and in-person talks for our business. But I still believe we have the power to create and ‘call in’ great clients with our words, stories, tone, and energy… but this takes practice.
It takes effort.
It takes discipline.
It takes showing up.
And you know what?
All that happens a lot more easily when you surround yourself with other smart and competent people who are right there by your side, shoulder to shoulder, having that adventure right along with you. There is power in community.”
And you know what, this is absolutely true. During these 10 days I connected with other members of the Write-A-Thon on Facebook. We shared our thoughts, our feelings, our hard times and we encouraged each other, applauded each other, and empathized with each other. This made it easier to follow through. It also helped me to be consistent and develop the discipline needed to carry on each day. Stella let us know that we didn't have to be perfect and if we didn't show up to write for any reason that it was okay and we were not to beat ourselves up about it. We were just to show up when we could and do the work that we could do that day.
Each day we grabbed our notebooks and pens, found our quiet spot and wrote. I had a notebook I used exclusively for this. I had participated in a Write-A-Thon back in October and I used the same book. One of the things I am going to do to reflect is to go back to the October writings to see what is the same and what is different.
The experience in communicating with the “Mean Wolf” in our lives brought up a lot for me. I found myself listening and really processing what was being said, but then the next day the wolf pack began attacking me and I was forced to find some sticks of hope and encouragement that I could set on fire to keep them away.
The exercise of a write-a-thon is to help us find our own voice. To stop listening to all the voices outside of us that tell us what we should or shouldn't do. To truly understand ourselves and what we want for our business and for our ideal clients.
Stella gave us a list of Disciplines to help us as we begin our daily writing. These are extremely important. Here they are:
The 18 Shut Up And Write Disciplines
1. No beating yourself up
2. Ground and center
3. What do I need before I write?”
4. Make writing pleasurable
5. Slow down
6. “What can I get done with the time I have?”
7. Set a timer
8. Routine, not mood
9. Focus on the project in front of you
10. Grab a buddy
11. Listen for the dialogue
12. Celebrate all progress
13. “What’s the lesson for me here?”
14. Talk it out first
15. Celebrate failure
16. Make write time decision-making time
17. “How am I feeding the mean wolf and how can I stop?”
18. Learn one thing
So, what did I learn from this Write-A-Thon
1. I learned that Stella is an amazing coach. She teaches what she knows and she shares her troubles as well as her triumphs, her defeats and her victories.
2. I learned that it helps to have at least one other person who is encouraging you in your writing journey, who will comment on your efforts, giving positive and/or constructive feedback on how it affected them.
3. I learned that I need to weed out the non-helpful messages and write out some positive things I can say to myself to stay upbeat whenever the Mean Wolf or the wolf pack show up. Pep Talk 20 had lots of good info.
4. I learned that routine, not mood, is important. That it takes discipline to sit down and make it happen. That is one of the benefits of the Write-A-Thon. As Maria Gamb put it – “Your success as an entrepreneur depends entirely on your ability to take action on that which you cannot see.” Ben Nicholas said “If you wait for inspiration, you'll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street.”
5. I learned that I can do it. I can sit down and write and make things happen. I was inspired to go to work on my blog and to find and/or create blog posts til the end of March.
Thanks Stella Orange.