The 3 Pillars of Writerly Progress
No. 112 | By Christine Carron
Writers want to make progress. I’d also like to believe that all writers would like to suffer less while achieving said progress, but I know that some writers believe that suffering during the making of the work somehow makes the work itself more legitimate. Perhaps that is true. I don’t know. I’m not even sure how you could prove such a position. But, true or not, I am pretty sure those particular writers would not be down with Goodjelly’s Vision:
A world where all writers delight in their creative process.
I, as you might imagine, am quite down with Goodjelly’s Vision. I mean, can you imagine? Being in pure delight—i.e., in extreme satisfaction—with your writing process? No suffering required?
If you had to call it right now: on a spectrum with despair on one end and delight on the other—where are you trending? If not in the vicinity of delight, what would it take for you to get there, or at least move in that direction? What would have to be in place for delight to take hold?
I realize these are not common questions for writers to consider. But why aren’t they?
The belief that the writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard was the belief that led to the creation of Goodjelly. Years of applying process improvement thinking in the corporate world and on my own writing journey fueled that belief. It took me until this month, however—two years after I created Goodjelly—to articulate the vision of not only of what the writing adventure doesn’t have to be, i.e., so hard, but what it could be: replete with delight.
I know. Bold. I’m sticking with it.
For anyone else to believe such a notion, however, we have to go back to one of the questions I asked above. What would have to be in place for you, or any writer, to believe that delighting in your creative process is a smart strategy?
The answer to that is: Progress.
No one is going to be in extreme satisfaction with their creative process if that process is failing to get them the progress that they want to make. But if delighting in your creative process helps you get easier, more consistent, more confident progress, you would be game, right? Willing to ditch some of the suffering and despair?
If so, then the key questions are: what does delight require? How does one get to easy, consistent, confident progress?
My answers are baked into Goodjelly’s mission statement. At Goodjelly, we:
Help writers take charge of their writing adventure using smart process, grounded power, and inner kindness.
It’s the three concepts at the end of the mission statement—Smart Process, Grounded Power, and Inner Kindness—that, in my experience, are the foundational pillars of creative progress. Ready to dive in?
Pillar #1: Smart Process
Smart Process is about how you get all your writing work done. That, of course, includes your writing, but it also includes whatever you need to do to get your writing completed and out into the world.
For example, with Smart Process, researching agents to query is as relevant to your progress as churning out pages. Or, if taking time to meditate before you write helps your creative flow, then meditation is part of your Smart Process.
Indeed a key aspect of Smart Process is simply embracing your process. What helps you get your work done, is what helps you get your work done. Period. Embrace that.
If you currently aren’t sure what helps you get your writing work done, then decide to get curious. Ask yourself—without spinning up your Inner Critic: What is working well with my creative process? What parts of my process aren’t helping me to make the progress I want to make?
Engaging in this way about your process leads us to another key aspect of Smart Process. It is a way of thinking. Of problem-solving.
What is—or is not—working about how I am managing my time? How I am organizing my work? How I am managing my mindset? My revision process? My drafting process? The way I critique other writers’ work? The way I receive critiques? How I am showing up in my critique group? How I set and maintain boundaries? How I keep my brain rested, nourished, and ready to tackle my next creative task?
Bottom line? Every corner and crevice of your creative process will benefit from Smart Process thinking.
Pillar #2: Grounded Power
Grounded Power is about agency, about remembering that you are in charge of your writing adventure. There is a lot that is out of our control on this journey, but all too often we end up giving away our power.
We may give it away to a rejection letter, believing that one person’s opinion is the “truth.” We may give it away to a writing myth that doesn’t serve us, such as “you must write daily to be a real writer.” We may give it away by not setting appropriate boundaries. Or letting our Inner Critic chip away at our confidence. Or doom-scrolling social media instead of taking the quiet, centering break that will allow us to return refreshed and clear-headed to our writing project. We may . . .
You get the idea.
When you take charge of your writing journey in a grounded, healthy way, everything gets easier. Less fraught. Less overwhelming. All because you are functioning from a place of knowing that you actually matter on this wild adventure.
When I think about Grounded Power, a Brené Brown quote always comes to mind: “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand your sacred ground.”
The second pillar of writing progress invites you to not only stand your sacred ground, but to move forward with that same sense of self-respect: I matter. My writing matters. My writing progress matters.
Yes, indeed, it does.
Pillar #3: Inner Kindness
In a perfect world, I would make Inner Kindness the first pillar, but I never start there. Or, actually, I always start there—kindness is built into all of Goodjelly’s processes—but I never ask the writers who work with me to start there.
I designed The Jam Experience, for example, to give writers early quick wins using process improvement techniques. Smart Process builds confidence. Then I weave in Grounded Power, as agency builds safety. Only when confidence and safety are established, do we start going directly at Inner Kindness.
I purposely ease into Inner Kindness in my programs, as our culture breeds in us an inherent skepticism of kindness. It’s soft. Weak. Suspect. Nice in theory but not an effective strategy to get our writing done. We are bombarded with messages telling us so.
Feeling a bit beat up from a harsh critique? Get a thick skin. Struggling to make progress? Get your butt in a chair and write. Got a first draft done? No celebration allowed, because all first drafts are “sh*tty.”
If I were to start with Inner Kindness in the face of all that messaging, it would slow the writers progress. Their learning. Kindness? How will that help me? I thought I was going to learn how to work harder and smarter.
The reality is that harshness and cynicism slows—or even blocks—progress. Luckily, more and more research is proving that kindness is indeed a smart and strategic move. But I won’t be changing the design of The Jam Experience any time soon. Or the length of the program.
The Jam Experience is a seven-week program not because it is filled with hours upon hours of lessons. Indeed, the specific lesson that covers the overview of the main macro-level “jam” process lasts all of six minutes.
The program is as long as it is, because it is a program of practice and integration. Integrating Smart Process, Grounded Power, and Inner Kindness in particular into your writing process—i.e., really experiencing the positive impact kindness has on cold, hard progress—takes time. But, oh, is it time well spent.
Embrace the Possibility of Delight
Smart Process. Grounded Power. Inner Kindness.
You now know Goodjelly’s strategic framework, our mission, for helping writers unleash writing progress. That means you also now know the foundational pillars that will help you shift out of despair and into delight on your writing adventure. Sweet!
Happy day. Happy writing. Happy jamming. You’ve got this!