The Secret to Making Any Aspect of Your Writing Adventure Easier
No. 129 | By Christine Carron
I’ve been a process improvement consultant for decades. If you view process as dull and restrictive, you might think that sounds like a terribly boring career. Rest assured, I’ve found it fascinating. Here’s how I frame what I’ve been getting up to all these years: I get to help folks make it easier for them to do what they want to do.
What does that look like exactly? I get to sleuth out where their current processes are going awry. Is it a technical glitch, a communication glitch, a resource glitch, a prioritization glitch, or some combo of all of the above plus even more types of glitches? (Yes, I’ve been invited in to sort out some very snarled-up situations.)
Once the diagnosis is clear, the real fun begins, because then I get to help them redesign their processes. And that means, I get to help a person (or group) dial down their frustration and despair and crank up their flow and delight.
Now take all that process improvement know-how, turn it toward the writing adventure, and voilà: You’ve got Goodjelly.
In celebration of how much I love what I do, I’ve got some major process improvement tips for you this week. Wherever you have a glitch, a snarl, a frustration, a block, the process of process improvement (how meta!) will help you, glitch by glitch, redesign your writing adventure for more flow, productivity, and delight.
What is a process?
Here’s how I define process: A process is a thing we do to get something done. So we make a to-do list to get tasks done. We set-up and execute a morning routine to start off our day with greater focus, confidence, and flow. We set boundaries to protect our time and our peace of mind. And of course we have many writing processes with endless variations for achieving the same creativity and productivity ends.
For example, one writer might plan their plot in advance because that process approach gives them more freedom and flow while drafting. Another writer will absolutely not pre-plot because that process approach is what gives them more freedom and flow while drafting. Of course, our creative processes, can and will change over time as we develop as writers. But the bottom line is . . .
You’ve got Process (and Loads of Processes)
Often our processes are learned habits and behaviors. We may feel like this is just “us” or the “way it is.” That fixed perspective leaves us disempowered and with outdated patterns—i.e., patterns that are no longer serving us—running our writing adventure. A process improvement approach is a growth mindset perspective. It allows us to engage with and adjust those patterns to get different results. More desired results.
Sometimes writers tell me that they are not process-oriented. In my experience, we are all process-oriented, i.e., we are all doing things to get things done. We may just not be process aware. The things that we are doing are hidden away unexamined, as if they are locked in a box that has no key.
But there is a key: the process of process improvement.
If we aren’t getting the results we want, then we must use that key, open the box, bring our inner process workings to the surface, and start finessing them until all our processes are working in our favor in the here and now.
The Process of Process Improvement
Step #1: Make your process improvement list
Brainstorm a list of everything about your writing adventure that is frustrating you, annoying you, draining you, or simply not working in the way you want it to be working.
Basically, fill in the statement: "I wish _________."
- I wish it were easier for me to create Voice.
- I wish I could set better boundaries around my writing time.
- I wish I had a better handle on all my writing work.
- I wish I didn’t feel so overwhelmed by the critique process.
- I wish I felt more confident sharing my work-in-progress at workshops.
- I wish I had enough courage to say what is bothering me about how my critique group is functioning.
- I wish I could find a writing accountability partner.
- I wish I were better at querying.
- I wish I had an agent.
- I wish I didn’t find building an author platform so daunting.
- I wish I didn't feel so disheartened about my overall writing career progress.
- I wish my writing space was less cluttered.
- I wish I knew how to use Scrivener better.
Just let loose. Once you do, you may end up with a long list of irks, agitations, issues, wants and wishes. That’s totally fine. That’s the state of your writing adventure . . . for now—before you toss in some process improvement sparkle dust.
Step #2: Pick a process to redesign
Review your list and select one of the items to be your first process improvement focus. I recommend you do not select the gnarliest snarl to solve while you are learning this process improvement process. Tackle a less potent issues at first. Even the more minor issues on your list will still bring a big satisfaction boost when you get them redesigned and working more effectively. For illustrative purposes, let’s work with: I wish my writing space were less cluttered.
(Note: If clutter is highly potent for you, and it can be for some writers, obviously this wouldn't be a good one to start with.)
Step #3: Diagnose the situation
Here you dive into what is your current process and why. Perhaps you don’t have time to declutter. Perhaps you despise cleaning because your parents were neat freaks, and it is a point of pride that you are more relaxed when it comes to orderliness. Perhaps you fundamentally don’t get how to stay organized, I mean really, where is all this stuff supposed to go exactly?
Be curious. Be playful in your diagnosis. Don’t go into despair. Just own where you are and what the underpinnings of situation.
Step #4: Identify what you want
Now that you have a clearer picture of where you are and why, the next step is to imagine where you want to be. Sticking with our example: Is your goal to have perfect order, or something just less chaotic? What would it be like, feel like, to write in this ideal decluttered space?
Note: This step is not about forcing yourself to align with someone else's standard around a certain process, but really figuring out what YOU want. In this case, what does decluttered space really mean for you? Full-on Marie Kondo joy-sparking or something else?
Step #5: Design a new process
What you discover in steps #3 and #4 will drive the specifics of your new process. In the case of decluttering: What changes do you have to make to get to your version of a less cluttered writing space and then maintain the new easier order?
That may include taking some time to learn, i.e., reading decluttering books or taking a class. It may mean make a pact with yourself to put ten things away every time you enter your writing space until you have it cleared up. Or, if you want the space decluttered fast, you may decide that you want to block a chunk of time and go at it. Or you may decide you need to ask a friend to help. Or even hire someone to help you get over the initial decluttering hurdle.
Key focus here: design a new process that motivates you. Don’t design a process that makes you gag from the get-go.
Step #6: Test out the new process
A new process without action is just a nice idea. You’ve got to test drive that shiny new process. Give it a whirl and then . . .
Step #7: Assess the results
Once you tested out the new process a few times, you then assess the results. Is the process helping you achieve the change? Is it doing so in a way that feels reasonable for you to maintain?
Step #8: Celebrate
At this point, you want to pause to celebrate. Even if your process change was a total flop, you still have more data now. So it’s celebration worthy either way.
Case in point: Just a few months ago I implemented a process improvement in one of the Goodjelly programs. I was super excited about it and fully expected it would be beneficial to the participants and to the overall running of the program.
The change turned out to be a total process nightmare. It had too many unintended consequences that made it super clear it was a completely unsustainable process change. I ditched the process change after two weeks.
Even though the first attempt was arguably a total flop in execution, I still celebrated the process improvement attempt, because I was able to take my learning and update the process in the next round in a way that did achieve my goals.
Step #9: Maintain or Revise
If the process change was a success, then you keep practicing it with attention until it becomes your new normal—a new habit.
If it didn’t work, you take the new information you gathered with that attempt, and loop back to step #3. Perhaps the new data will allow you to refine your diagnosis. Perhaps it will help you refine what it is you want exactly.
Even if the diagnosis and the vision don’t change, it’s time make another process revision to test out. Soon enough, if you keep at it, you will have that process humming.
Process Improvement is a Power Skill for The Writing Adventure
There you have it. The core steps to make any aspect of your writing adventure easier. When you take this approach—i.e., you think like a process improvement consultant—you’ll look at blocks, frustrations, and challenges on the writing adventure differently.
Instead of being fixed, permanent irritations that you have to suffer through, you will see them as what they are: problems to be solved. Problems that are solvable. That is a much more empowering perspective to hold on the writing adventure. One that will allow you to redesign any aspect of your writing adventure for more confidence, productivity, and flow. Wahoo! You’ve got this!