Learn How to Jam

Bulk Up Your Writing Defensive Moves


No. 148 | By Christine Carron

In high school, I was both the varsity football team’s water girl and the drum major of the marching band. Fulfilling those roles required me to make quick changes behind the scoreboard both before and after halftimes. Despite my past proximity to the game, I am far from a football expert. But I do know enough to make today’s metaphor work. 

On a football field, there is offense and defense. On the writing adventure we need both as well. The journey requires both action and protection. Action, or offense, is the work we do to make our writing dreams come true. Protection, or defense, of our confidence, our creativity, and our delight on the writing adventure is equally important. 

Much writing productivity advice ignores, or at least minimizes, the protection part—in my opinion—over focusing on offense instead. That style of advice encourages and even lauds force marching our writing dreams into existence, no matter the cost to our confidence, our creative wellbeing, and our overall sense of satisfaction—which is what delight is all about.

A Solid Defense Enables Our Writerly Offense

The wild bit is when we sacrifice those aspects of our writing adventure, it pretty much guarantees that we will be less productive. Why? Because confidence, and creating in a way that aligns with our nature, and cultivating delight are all fuel for action, i.e., a good offense.

Consider these quotes from the New York Times article Practical Ways to Improve Your Confidence (and Why You Should) by Eric Ravenscraft, on the importance of confidence alone:

  • According to Charlie Houpert, the author of “Charisma on Command”  . . . confidence doesn’t just make you feel better, it also helps you take risks to make tangible improvements to your life.
  • The “Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology” puts it another way: “If the person lacks confidence, again there will be no action.”
  • Self-confidence doesn’t magically make you better at what you do, but it does prime you to take the risks necessary to achieve your goals.

So let’s set ourselves up for a solid writerly offense by getting down to some solid defense.

Slow Down

One of the first things I invite writers to do to be more productive is to slow down. Stepping out of “do” mode on a regular basis is smart process for managing your writing work. It allows you to assess where you are. If new data has come in that merits a plan adjustment. If the process you currently are utilizing to get all your writerly work done is effective, etc.

Slowing down is also highly useful from a mindset perspective. It grants you the spaciousness to step back and look at your relationships with yourself, with your creativity, and with others. 

With that distance—and a compassionate witnessing—you can assess if all those relationships are mutually supportive, or not. If they are, awesome. Carry on. If not, then action is needed to renegotiate the tone and terms of the ones that are not working in a way that serves all involved, including you.

When you slow down, you are able to ground yourself both from a work management and a mindset management perspective, and that creates a powerful writing defense. Indeed, slowing down is the keystone step to becoming unshakeable. And unstoppable. 

Practice Inner Generosity

Inner Generosity is a key defensive move that will empower you beyond measure. This is all about how you treat and talk to yourself. Are you kind to yourself? Do you treat yourself, and all the parts of yourself, well? Including, gulp, your Inner Critic?

Oprah Winfrey once said, “You teach people how to treat you.”

Iyanla Vanzant took that idea even further. “You set the standards for how you will be treated. People will treat you the exact way you treat yourself.”

Most of us, of course, don’t want to be teaching others to treat us as our Inner Critics treat us. That said, if our approach to handling our Inner Critic is to attempt to annihilate it, or even just silence it, that sends a message to others as well. We are modeling that at least one part of us deserves to be attacked, to be harmed, to be made to feel like it shouldn’t even exist.


What do you think it would mean to your experience of yourself and to the standards you set for how others treat you on the writing adventure, if instead you maintained fierce kindness toward any part of yourself that confounds you, confuses you, or even criticizes you?

This is a foundational move in the Goodjelly approach to writing productivity. And I can tell you from personal experience, and from the experience of the writers that I work with, that the impact is powerful. Life changing even.

I am not suggesting that you roll over and let these parts take you down with them. 

I am asserting that there is an empowered and kind way to handle the parts of you—the ones that you may currently perceive as icky and prickly—that does not require you to be at war with yourself. That process starts with Inner Generosity.

Inner Generosity is the bold first step to embracing all of who you are. When you acknowledge the worthiness of all your Whitmanesque multitudes, it is inevitable that your inner environment will change for the better. 

When it does, you will have set a powerful new standard for how others on the writing adventure will treat you, as well. Inner Generosity is a defensive power move for sure.

Learn How to Manage All Your Writerly Work

This one is pure Goodjelly process smarts. If you want more confidence on the writing adventure, learn how to effectively manage all your writerly work. So much writing productivity advice is hyper focused on getting words on the page.

Obviously, getting words on the page is critically important. Even so, there is way more to acing the writing adventure than just churning out words.

Knowing how to manage all your writerly work is a game changer. If you find yourself struggling, ask yourself what would help you move forward. Maybe it’s churning out pages. But it also could be going to the library and doing additional research. Or mapping out the plot of your story or the structure of your book. Or maybe it's reading about and practicing an aspect of craft. Or going for a walk. Or going out on an Artist’s Date. Or even taking a day off from your writing.

In Goodjelly land, all of the above is legit writerly work and, depending on the situation, will help you get your writing done with greater ease and speed, i.e., be more productive. No harshness, criticism, suffering, despair, or force marching yourself toward your writing dreams required. Welcome to the revolution . . . 

Plays to Protect

Slowing down, practicing Inner Generosity, and managing all your writerly work are three powerful moves to add to your writerly defensive playbook, i.e., your writerly protection plan. And remember, boosting your defensive skills empowers your writerly offense, giving you the courage and confidence to take consistent action toward making your writing dreams come true. Game on!