No. 116 | By Christine Carron
Here is the origin story of Goodjelly. I was at a Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators national conference in New York City and was sitting in the main ballroom between sessions, honoring my introvert soul by taking a decompression break. Most of the room had cleared out but there was a small group of writers within eavesdropping distance.
They were sharing about and supporting each other around various challenges they were facing on the writing adventure. What struck me was that none of the issues they were talking about were writing, craft, or story challenges.
They were totally resolvable work and mindset management issues. Unfortunately, because those writers didn’t have that frame of reference, they were struggling (and suffering) unnecessarily. A thought came into my head in that moment—the same thought that would eventually lead me to create Goodjelly: The writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard.
That thought remains the gravitational center of Goodjelly. It guides all my work with writers, and through that work, I've identified four key factors that impact the ease (or lack of ease) a writer experiences on the creative adventure. Factors that have nothing to do with talent, craft, or luck.
Savvy work planning skills are about your ability to create reality-based, values-driven, and kind plans to accomplish all your writing work.
Reality-based means that the plans take into account current capacity/skills and life context. Many writers make aggressive plans that, in the end, are more aspirational than achievable.
Values-driven means that the writing work is organized and prioritized in a way that aligns with how a writer likes to work—and is effective at working. Values-driven also means that the writer gives themselves permission and time to tackle the tasks that support their writing, along with getting the actual writing done.
Kind plans are just that. Some writers inadvertently use plans to bully progress. They'll assign rigid due dates to all tasks and put unrealistically high expectations on themselves. It's an attempt to micromanage their way to progress. That is not a kind planning approach. Often it backfires, leading to frustration at best, burnout at worst.
Savvy plans empower progress. No plan bullying required.
It occurred to me the other day that I don’t actually teach a lot of detailed time management techniques in The Jam Experience. Or, more precisely, I simply categorize differently what other productivity experts consider to be time management techniques. Techniques like prioritization, managing distractions, strategically using friction, etc.
In my view, time is time.
The way a writer (or anyone) manages their work and mindset is what allows them to get more (or less done) in a certain amount of time. So time isn’t what’s being managed.
When folks decide time management is what will solve their progress woes, things get dicey for time. Let’s say a writer makes an aggressive, unrealistic plan as discussed in Factor #1. Not surprisingly, such plans often fail, and time catches the blame. I didn’t have enough time. There is never enough time. If only I had more time.
Here’s the deal: Just having more time doesn’t resolve work or mindset issues, blocks, and inefficiencies.
That truth becomes particularly clear for writers who are able to adjust their schedule to allocate more time to their writing and then are puzzled why they are still struggling to make progress.
The solution is to honor and work with the time you have by getting better at managing your work and your mindset. Then your relationship with time will go from fraught to friendly, and poor time will stop unfairly catching heat for progress challenges.
The law of the instrument, also called the golden hammer, is a cognitive bias that highlights the over-reliance on a familiar tool. The associated saying is that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Many writers' work and mindset management toolkits are filled with . . . hammers. Hammers that are inner-critic driven. Hammers that assume work has to be forced, that art is a battle, and that all true artistry demands suffering. First drafts are sh*tty. You must write daily. Get your butt in the chair and write!
Uhm . . . okay.
Obviously, the worldview that writing must be rife with inner conflict has massive traction.
But what if it is built upon a cognitive bias? What if you could simply add more tools to your toolkit so that everything doesn’t have to be a nail? That you can collect more options and range in handling challenges.
In The Jam Experience, we are all about the tools all the time. Writers learn a powerful set of concept and process tools that transform their relationship with their work, with their art, and with their entire writing adventure.
To get started expanding your mindset and work management toolkit, simply open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the writing adventure can be easier. Then you will be well on your way to finding your hammers some much needed company. Wahoo!
The ability to meet yourself where you are, without judgment, is an essential move to process improving any aspect of your writing adventure: work management, mindset management—your craft skills, too.
Simply put, it’s easier to figure out the map to where you want to be (i.e., design a savvy process improvement plan,) if you have an clear-eyed understanding of where you currently are.
What can often happen, though, if we are not where we think we should be in context of our writing goals, is that we inner-critic rage all over ourselves. To stop that painful onslaught, we buckle down and make even harsher plans, rage against time, and hammer away to try to force ourselves where we want to be.
Yikes, right? (And, yes, totally been there, done that.)
Like all the other factors I’ve presented in this post, this one invites you to play with an approach that is counter to a lot of conditioning and advice that writers receive. This factor, in particular, is not a small ask. I get that. Inner judgment is a comfortable place for many of us.
When I work with writers, we ease into this factor, going at it indirectly at first. Interestingly when writers get stronger around the other factors—i.e., they have savvy plans, they are less stressed about time, and the have a broader array of work and mindset management tools at their disposal—then meeting themselves where they are becomes much less negative and/or overwhelming. Why?
Because they know how to create change from wherever they are. No matter what, they have the skills to figure out a way to move themselves forward with ease, confidence, and kindness. Superstars!
It took years from that original spark—the belief that the writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard—to launch Goodjelly. It was only recently that I was able to articulate that spark into Goodjelly’s vision: A world where all writers delight in their creative process. Delight, of course, means "extreme satisfaction," and the factors I’ve discussed today are highly relevant to that aim.
In the end, when you develop savvy planning skills, cultivate a healthy relationship with time, build a robust toolkit of work and mindset management techniques, and courageously meet yourself where you are—without judgment—you are actually creating space for delight. A highly worthy and worthwhile goal in my opinion. And you know what?
You’ve got this!