Date Archives February 2020

How to spend less time procrastinating and more time writing – 4 steps to finally start writing

Are you under the Tantalus curse?

If you stroll around your day, tantalized by every little thing that stops you from writing, listen up. In this article, I’ll show you how to beat procrastination and finally start writing for good.

I’ll give you the magic potion to beat the Tantalus curse.

Tantalus was banished to the underworld by his father, Zeus, as a punishment. There, he waded in a pool of water, a branch ripe with fruit above his head.

When Tantalus reached for it, the fruit moved away. When he bent down to drink the water, it receded. He would never quench his thirst nor satisfy his hunger.

This was his curse: to always reach for things he desires but never grasp them.

Does it sound familiar? The ancient Greeks sure knew how to tell a story about the human condition.

We are constantly reaching for something: more money, more experiences, more knowledge, more status, more stuff.

But what does it have in common with procrastination?

I want to challenge you to view this story from another angle: What would have happened to Tantalus if he had just stopped reaching?

He was already in hell. He was dead. And dead people don’t need any food or water. Why did he always keep reaching for these things, things he didn’t really need?

The real curse is not that Tantalus spends all eternity reaching for things just out of reach, but his obliviousness to the truth that he doesn’t need those things.

The real moral of the story is that Tantalus was blind to the fact that he didn’t need those things after all.

That is the problem with procrastination. We reach for things we don’t really need, but at this very moment, we are convinced that we do.

Thankfully, we’re neither in hell nor dead – a good start to take a step back, and be honest with yourself.

Before you get the magic potion and learn how to start writing, here are the four steps you need to take to stop procrastination.

Step #1 to start writing: Set aside dedicated time

‘If I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.’ Goethe

Let’s start with the obvious. If you wander through their day without even strategically planning a dedicated time for story writing, you’ll never write.

Researchers in Great Britain found that one simple act raises the success rate to 91%. One that takes less than a minute.

The implementation intention.

It describes is a plan you make beforehand of when and where to act.

All you need to do is write down the following sentence:

„I will write at [TIME] in [LOCATION].“

Sounds incredible? It’s research!

You need to set aside a time and location to write. Many beginner writers just rely on finding the time somewhere in the day. It won’t happen.

Instead, use the technique of Timeboxing and create a weekly calendar where you dedicate your time to writing in a very strategic way.

If you don’t commit to writing, don’t write down the exact time and place you want to write, you’ll never write. Simple as that.

But when you’re like most writers, you’ve set aside the time. Full of story writing ideas, you sit down at your desk… only to start googling stuff you need to research for a book.

The mundane suddenly is fascinating. Whatsapp messages start coming in. Important emails. Your stomach grumbles. How could you concentrate when you’re hungry?

The clock ticks.

The page remains blank. White as a cute baby butt.

Step #2 to start writing: Acknowledge the resistance

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in 1863, ‘Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.’

You thought of a polar bear, didn’t you?

What’s more interesting: Research found that those who are allowed to think of the polar bear think less about it than those who don’t.

Flight attendants on long flights have less craving to smoke than those with a flight stop-over. What does this tell us?

How we look at things matters.

The more we try to flee from the resistance, the more it will drive us to procrastination. Instead, we need to acknowledge that there is this uncomfortable feeling.

Bricker’s study had helped thousands of people quit smoking. In this study, he suggests the following steps that can also be applied to writing:

1. Notice the sensation.
2. Write it down.

Also, acknowledge that resistance is normal. In his book War of Art, Steven Pressfield even says that resistance is a good sign.

„Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

After acknowledging resistance and the fact that it’s normal, there is another step that will give you power over it: Understanding.

Step #3 to start writing: Understand the deep-seated issue – What’s your discomfort?

Procrastination is a flight reaction.

Your brain would do anything to avoid discomfort. So it flees to distraction. It pushes away the uncomfortable sensation the blank page evokes.

But where does this discomfort come from?

It can be a deeper-seated issue. Insecurities about your skills. Financial worries. Family crisis.

Don’t be afraid to look deeper into the root of your resistance, because you might find things you need to deal with in order to resolve it.

But if you are the fortunate human who lives in the most prosperous day of age, and still resistance snatches you, know this: We are wired for this. You might never find this place of full and complete satisfaction, at least not for long.

# Your hardwiring

„Studies have found people are more likely to recall unhappy moments in their childhood, even if they would describe their upbringing as generally happy.“ – Bir Eyal, Indistractable

Somehow, we tend to stick to the bad memories, forgetting the good ones. This is called negativity bias. Yes, it has a name.

As does our tendency to keep thinking about bad experiences, over and over again. *He said this mean thing about me, and they didn’t accept my proposal…* and on it goes. The term for this is rumination.

But the worst of all is Hedonic Adaptation.

Did you know that people who won the lottery report that things they have previously enjoyed now lost their appeal?

Hedonic Adaptation describes the tendency to return to the base level of satisfaction, no matter what happens to us in life. Don’t throw your hand up in frustration and curse the gods yet.

It’s a good thing.

This way, we are always motivated to strive for more. Be better. Discover new things. If not for Hedonic Adaptation, we would still live in caves and poop into the mud.

Use your hardwiring for motivation. Instead of fleeing, understand the root of your discomfort. If you can, deal with it. If not, use it to become a better writer.

As the eighteenth-century English writer Samuel Johnson put it, ‘My life is one long escape from myself.’

He totally got us.

Step #4 to start writing: Find new ways

One of the hardwiring problems I didn’t mention above is a huge source of discomfort.

Boredom.

Contrary to the assumption that we flee when we encounter the unknown, boredom can actually trigger a much stronger discomfort.

Knowing what and how is about to happen. Doing a monotonous task.

You might not think of writing this way, but your fear and resistance might actually come from boredom.

The best way to start fighting procrastination is seeing the task in a completely different light.

Remember what we established above? How we look at things matters.

Instead of seeing the labor, the countless hours of insecurity, see the fun in writing. Allow yourself to experiment.

Find the novelty in your process.

You could write in another place – on a cruise ship or in a meadow; use dictation while taking a walk, or write your story completely out of order, or do collaborative writing. Bring in new weird characters and open yourself to story writing ideas that seem bonkers.

Just spice the process up. Do interesting things. Change up the scenery, and see writing as an adventure, not a task you must complete with iron discipline.

Finding new ways will help you avoid the discomfort of boredom and instead see the novelty in writing.


So here are the fours steps again:

#1 Make time for writing
#2 Acknowledge the resistance
#3 Understand where it’s coming from
#4 Find new ways to approach writing

So what’s the magic potion to beat the Tantalus curse? To stop procrastinating and reaching for things we don’t really need?

The potion is the 10-minute-rule.

When you feel resistance coming, distraction crawling your way, and feel the urge to succumb to something that will distract you from writing, give it ten minutes.

Allow yourself to indulge in whatever you want to – but only in 10 minutes. Because once resistance appears, and you still press on, relieved by the sense that you will be able to do it later (in only 10 minutes), you’ll likely forget about the distraction.

So when you sit down, feel the urge to procrastinate, acknowledge it for what it is and give it ten minutes to subside.

Unlike Tantalus, you have better things to do than to reach for the emptiness. You are a writer. Trust the passion for your work to pull you towards writing.

What are your strategies to beat procrastination? Share them in the comments below!

What creatives need to know about fitness – with Dr. Darian Parker PhD

Welcome to another episode of the Story Artist podcast, and this is actually a special episode or an “inbetweeniesode” as I like to call them because it’s not a regular episode where I will tell you something about storytelling, and this is also not an episode that goes out on YouTube in video, but it’s an interview.

And I decided to do some interviews over the course of this year to talk about different topics and get to know new people from all the different industries. I have some amazing guests for you, a guests who will talk about investment and money, about editing and writing.

And today we have Dr. Darian Parker who will talk to you about exercise, fitness, and sports. And I think it’s an amazing episode, especially for the beginning of the year, because at this time we’re really motivated to do something. I just want to encourage you to stay motivated throughout the whole year.

This is why I decided to release this episode at the beginning of the year. Because I think we can channel this motivational energy, this starting energy, and turn it into something bigger. It turns into a habit that will last for us for a lifetime.

And everybody who’s already active and exercising, don’t skip this episode because I do fitness regularly three to four times a week. I lift weights for three or four years already, and I really do it regularly. Even when I became pregnant, I tried to stay active and lift weights during pregnancy and get back to it as soon as I could, as soon as my health allowed it.

And I still gained so much from this episode. It motivated me to push myself in the gym to get better, to do better. And it helped me to understand on a deeper level what exercise and sports do to our mind as creatives and how important it is. And it gave me the motivation to stay focused on exercise.

Even if sometimes it feels like I have to do so much, I have to write, I have to meet my deadlines, and I cannot exercise, but it’s so important and we have to prioritize it in order for us to feel good, to be more creative, to be more productive.

And I hope you enjoy this episode. Please don’t forget to rate the show on the app you’re listening to it. It will really help us spread the news about the show. If you like it, if you enjoy it, leave an honest review.

And now let’s jump straight into the interview.

Dr. Darian Parker has a Ph.D. in sports education leadership, is also a certified personal trainer in the fitness and wellness business for 18 years. While business is very important, what’s even more important is the human being behind the business, which I really love. 

Darian is also the host of Dr. D’s Social Network, a podcast on free form conversations about health, wellness, fitness, psychology, beer, social media and everything in between.

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The minimalistic guide to copywriting – 6 secrets to tell a story that spreads like wildfire, with minimum effort

You hate marketing.

All writers are the same. We love to tell stories. We love the process of story writing. We love to elaborate and fill this blank page. The white, empty space drives us nuts.

But marketing is the dirty, ugly word nobody wants to whisper in the artistic gathering. The sound of it cuts our ear like a dagger.

MARKETING.

URGHH.

Let me propose an outrageous notion: If you combine marketing and storytelling, you become indestructible.

You can either ignore the power at your hands and remain in the dark forest of marketing-haters. They will never be read, by the way. Or you embrace this notion and ask instead:

How can I use this power?

The answer is: Copywriting.

Combine the power of writing with the force of marketing. Out come stories that are too wonderful to resist.

What’s the snag? – Be brief.

Are you exhaling with frustration yet? Good.

Being brief is a skill that will come in handy with every piece of writing.

How to convey all the depth and the meaning into only one paragraph? Trim it down to several sentences?

The secret is not trimming and cutting. It’s focusing on the right things. Telling a story with the right tools.

There are countless guides on copywriting out there. But I wanted to write one that is directed at you – the storyteller.

The one who is wondering about all the book marketing strategies: how the hack she can write a short book description, amazing email copy or a sales page that blows away the reader.

Who is eager to tell stories rather than sell.

Who needs a minimalistic guide – a checklist every time you edit a piece of copywriting.

I’ve got you covered. Here are 6 secrets and a printable PDF checklist to tell a story with minimum space.

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Copywriting secret Nr. 1: Concentrate on feelings

The problem with short writing is that we’re focused on conveying information; bring in plot points, exposition, data on why you should buy the product or read this book.

We think the information is necessary. But is it?

People don’t buy with their brains. They buy with their hearts.

Instead of focusing on conveying as much information as possible, determine the feeling you want your reader to experience. The atmosphere you want to create with this story.

If you start writing a book description, ask yourself what you felt when you write this book? When you edited it? – This is the same feeling you want to convey to your reader.

When writing copy, focus on feelings instead of information. Keep in mind the target – the feeling you want your reader to get when he reads those words. Focus on this feeling. Narrow everything down to it; your choice of words, your syntax, the way you build the story.

When editing, be honest about whether you managed to convey this feeling, and if not, ask yourself how you can make it more powerful.

Focus on the feeling rather than information.

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Copywriting secret Nr. 2: Build relatable hooks

Build your text like a pyramid.

Every beat is a hook.

The title is the first one – the most powerful hook of all.

The first sentence is the second one – as powerful, to get your reader into the story.

Then follows the next paragraphs and so on.

Every piece, every paragraph, has to be a hook. It has to raise a question that guides your reader through the story, and as you answer one, you immediately raise another.

But there’s another element to the hook that needs to be head-on: relatability.

You cannot hook the reader with confusion. With a story they neither understand nor care about.

Hooks make the audience want to know more. Find out the answer.

Here are some viral headlines that use this principle:

No, You Don’t Need to be Great at Everything – and Why You Shouldn’t Even Try
How To Write A Great Article – The Easy Way
How To Create A Blog In 5 Minutes
Struggling For A Blog Post Headline? 50+ Viral Headline Examples

Numbers do well in headlines because they are relatable and easy to grasp. Questions that propose outrageous ideas are great. The „how-to“ phrase instantly tells the reader what it’s all about. It’s relatable.

Here’s an example of a bad headline:

The yellow frog and other phenomena.

It might raise a question. But it tells me nothing about who it’s for, what it’s about. It doesn’t hook me; just causes confusion.

The same goes for the book title. Don’t just put it out there – a title that tells the reader nothing about the story. Give it a long hard thought: How can I make the title more clear? More of a powerful hook? How can I make it appealing to genre readers?

Make your copy a story that is a combination of hooks, questions and answers, that you build like a pyramid.

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Copywriting secret Nr. 3: Make it about the reader

You are not the hero.

The reader is.

Too many copywriting texts revolve around the author – his struggles, his victories, his story. But a good copy revolves around the reader.

There is a very simple test: Do you use the word „you“ more often than you use the word „I“?

Make the text all about the reader’s benefit.

If it’s a fiction copy (book description), define your hero and make him relatable. Again, it’s all about the reader. Make him understand the hero straightaway, root for him, identify with the situation, sympathize.

Make your reader the hero of the story.

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Copywriting secret Nr.4: Make your story unique

The secret to uniqueness is surprise.

A twist.

Here are some examples:

  • The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury. (13)
  • How do you save someone who’s already dead? (Solomon Creed)
  • Jaws in Space (Alien)

Those taglines have two elements: They introduce the premise and then build in an impossible twist. Something we can understand before we go: Whoa, I didn’t see this coming!

What’s special about your story? How is your book, product or blog post different from all the others out there?

Discover what makes your story irresistible. And sell it with a twist.

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Copywriting secret Nr.5: Structure the hero’s journey

The hero’s journey is a monomyth. A template that fits the main stories and tales that shaped our cultures.

“A mythological image that has to be explained to the brain is not working.”
― Joseph Campbell

Campbell stresses that the myth of the hero’s journey is so deeply embedded in our human DNA that it needs to explanation. It can be used to structure your stories in a manner that will appeal to readers.

It can also be used in copywriting.

Start in his ordinary world. In the world your reader is in – and call him to adventure. Have you noticed that I did exactly this at the beginning of this article?

I started in your world – the disdain for marketing. And then called you to adventure: to use the power of copywriting.

Then you go on with trials and battles. If you propose answers to those battles, you always raise new challenges.

End with new life. A new-found revelation, outlook or skill the reader can use now (or will be able to if he buys your product). Offer a reward that is combined with a CTA.

Structure your copy according to the stages of the hero’s journey. You don’t need to use all of them (there are 17), but the most important ones.

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Copywriting secret Nr.6: Trim down unnecessary words and long sentences

White space is your friend.

When you’re finished with your copy, edit it.

Did you hear me? Edit it. Several times.

Be sure to trim down all of the fill words and trite expressions. No popular sayings. No words that your text could do without. Rewrite sentences to be shorter. More precise.

Work with language.

Copy always profits from short, precise language. Think again about secret #1, the sentiments you want to evoke, and trim your language to achieve exactly that.

The short sentence, all alone in a paragraph (like a did in the paragraph above), is your trump card.

Use it.


Copywriting is hard. But so is writing a book.

You are a storyteller, and this is what you were meant to do; be it in 100.000 words or in 100.

If you use those 6 secrets and get your hands dirty, start writing copy regularly instead of avoiding it, you’ll become invincible.

Remember: Copywriting is the combination of marketing and storytelling. Its power is immense.

Master the skill. And see your stories spread like wildfire.

Download your printable PDF-Checklist that you can use every time you write copy.