Reach your writing goals and make significant progress (and have fun!) by being more curious, creative, and productive. Ann provides practical tips and motivation for writers at all stages, keeping most episodes short and focused so writers only need a few minutes to collect ideas, inspiration, resources and recommendations to apply to their work. She incorporates interviews from publishing professionals to include additional insight. Tune in for solutions addressing anything from self-editing and goal-setting solutions to administrative and scheduling challenges. Subscribe for ongoing input for your writing life that's efficient and encouraging. More at annkroeker.com.
Embrace These 4 Key Roles for a Flourishing Writing Life
I was an English major with a creative writing emphasis. When I looked to my future, I saw myself writing.
Over the years I managed to build a writing career, but as an English major, I wasn’t prepared for the business aspects of writing.
Invoices, receipts, taxes? That was all foreign to me. Sharing my writing through speaking and social media? That’s not what I imagined when I launched my writing life.
I thought I’d be...writing.
But I had to understand and embrace the four key roles that lead to a flourishing writing career.
This is how I think of them:
These four roles in a corporate setting might be something like:
The Decider is like the CEO, the Chief Executive Officer. That’s the top dog, the visionary, the decision-maker.
The Delegator could be the COO, the Chief Operations Officer, the person who figures out how to run the business at a practical level.
The Doer could be the CWO, the Chief Writing Officer. This role, the CWO, doesn't exist in the business world, but we're inventing and elevating it for this discussion because it’s the reason our business exists. Like me, you launched this whole thing so you could write.
The Declarer is like the CMO, the Chief Marketing Officer: the person who ensures the message gets out.
At any given moment, a flourishing writer may be completing a task that falls under any one of these areas. Some of the tasks and roles don’t seem like the work of a writer, but they all support that core function.
When all four areas are addressed, a writer will start to build a profession, a career, and a sustainable writing life.
And it starts with the Decider.
THE DECIDER, THE CEO
The DECIDER—the boss, the CEO—is the person making high-level decisions about your writing career.
You fill this role.
You decide your author brand, your audience, your career path.
As the Decider, you determine a trajectory that aligns with your goals and values.
You decide if you’re in learning mode and need to gain more skills or more knowledge of the profession.You decide if you’ll focus the next quarter on submitting to literary magazines or developing a book proposal.You decide if you’ll pursue fiction or nonfiction, short-form or long-form.You decide if you’re ready to increase visibility online.
When those decisions are grappled with and made, you get to step into a second, practical role—that Delegator, the COO.
THE DELEGATOR, THE COO
The DELEGATOR-you, this COO, is the administrator, the project manager—the person who figures out who will be responsible for a task or activity.
When you’re the Delegator, you take those decisions and figure out the best way to pull them off.
If you decide, as the CEO, you need to learn, then the COO or this Delegator-you will research books, courses, and conferences and figure out which ones are best.
The Delegator looks into social media solutions and determines whether to hire someone to map out a marketing campaign or a designer to create images.
How Simple Systems Can Unlock Your Writing Productivity, with Kari Roberts
If you're like me, you struggle to carve out time to write...you wish you could uncomplicate life and get more done.
Good news! I have business coach and online business manager Kari Roberts on the show to help us think through simple systems that can unlock our writing productivity and creativity.
"It's like you're on a treadmill," she says. "You're running in place, but you're not going anywhere. So you're not really getting anything done."
Sound familiar? Kari knows our struggles and offers solutions. She says, "You might need to strategize or systematize other things so that you can make the space that you need to do the writing."
Kari Roberts is a business coach and online business manager for creative small business owners. She helps them figure out time management and systems that allow them to grow their business while still having enough time and energy for work, business, and home life. Her business advice has been featured on VoyageATL Magazine, The Rising Tide Society, The Speak to Scale Podcast, Creative at Heart Conference and more.
Kari is the host of Finding Freedom with Simple Systems Podcast and the creator and host of Overwhelmed to Organized the Summit. When she isn’t being a “serial helper” through one of her businesses she enjoys watching sports with her husband, walking in the park with her 2 dogs, listening to podcasts, sampling tasty bourbons, and catching up on reality TV.
Her approach to creating systems? "I like to go in and try to find: What's the simplest way. If we're trying to get X done, what's the simplest way to get to X. It may not be the fancy thing. It may not be with the shiny object. But if we can condense it and make it simple, then that can free up your time and free up your mental space so that you can get other things done."
Listen to the interview and you'll learn principles that may transform your approach to writing...and life.
Kari Roberts' websiteKari on InstagramFinding Freedom with Simple Systems PodcastGet your very own copy of Kari's Time-Blocking Schedule: HERESimple Systems Setup course
ANN KROEKER, WRITING COACH
Episode 239 Transcript
How Simple Systems Can Unlock Your Writing Productivity: Interview with Kari Roberts
Ann Kroeker (00:03): It's so hard to find time for writing, isn't it? It's hard to do all the things a writer needs to do these days. If only if only we had a simple system that we could set up to make the rest of our creative life flourish…I have business coach and online business manager Kari Roberts here today to help us think through simple systems we can set up to increase our writing productivity. I'm Ann Kroeker, writing coach. If you're new here, welcome. If you're a regular, welcome back. I'm sharing my best tips and training–skills and strategies—to help you improve your craft, pursue publishing, and achieve your writing goals. Be sure to subscribe for more content.
Ann Kroeker (00:44): From time to time I invite guests on. So you can learn from their wisdom, like today's guest, Kari Roberts. Kari is a business coach and an online business manager for creative, small business owners. She helps them figure out time management and systems so that they're freed up to have enough time for work business and home life. Kari is the host of her own podcast, Finding Freedom with Simple Systems. And today she's going to talk about that as it applies to writing productivity. Kari,
Decoding Greatness: Discover the Fast Track to Writing Success
What if the stories we've been told about success are wrong?
What if you could unlock secrets that shave years off your writing journey?
In this interview, Ron Friedman demystifies the writing process and introduces a surprising path—a fast track, if you will. He says "it is the path by which so many writers and artists and inventors and entrepreneurs have succeeded."
What's the path?
To reverse engineer, we start with extraordinary projects and work backward to figure out how those writers pulled it off.
"By comparing the ordinary against the extraordinary," Ron says, "we can't help but identify the elements that make extraordinary work succeed, and thereby improve our skills."
With this book Decoding Greatness (June 2021), Ron hopes to offer "tools to not just execute at a higher level, but to embrace some of those dreams they've abandoned from their youth."
Listen to our conversation for practical insights you can apply right away. When you hear and implement his ideas, your approach to writing will never be the same.
You will, after all, learn the secret—the fast track—to writing success!
Decoding Greatness website Ron Friedman, PhD's websiteDecoding Greatness on Amazon (affiliate link)Decoding Greatness on BookShop (affiliate link)Learn from the Best: Copywork for GrownupsLearn from the Best: Imitate but Don't PlagiarizeGrow as a Writer: Surround Yourself with ExcellenceWhen You're Not the Writer Your Want to Be
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Do you view your writing life as a profession?
I watched the professor of my advanced poetry class open the lid of a metal box crammed with 3x5 cards. He wiggled out one of the worn cards covered with notes and held it up.
On this card was the title of one of his poems along with the date of the latest version. Below that he had written names of literary magazines where he’d submitted that poem, followed by their response.
“One poem per card,” he said.
He showed us how he tucked the card behind the month when he was supposed to hear back—a simple system to follow up with every submission.
He passed one of the cards around the room. I held it in my hand and studied the notes he’d scrawled on the front and back.
There was no magic to his system. It was not fancy or expensive. Yet, he was a respected, prolific poet on campus for a semester, showing us how it’s done.
When the last student finished looking at the sample card and handed it back to him, he slid it back in its spot.
I stared at that box.
I was in an advanced poetry class because I’d already had The Moment; that is, I’d already begun to think of myself as a writer.
The day of the box was different.
After class, I walked straight to the bookstore and bought a pack of 3x5 cards and a maroon plastic box with a hinged lid. Then I headed to my room where I started logging each of my poems on those cards: one card per poem.
While I’d had The Moment, this was different.
I walked into that bookstore because I'd experienced "The Shift."
What's "The Shift"? It's when I shifted from viewing the work as an assignment or hobby to something deeper, more serious.
It's when I committed.
Like that poet with his metal box packed with poems, I too was committing to the craft and to a lifetime of word-work.
It would still be several years before I made any money as a writer, but I saw myself differently.
I was a working poet. And because of this shift and the resulting commitment, I organized myself—however simply and humbly—with the intention of writing and submitting my work to publications.
Looking back, that plastic box seems like so much more than a storage container. It held my intentions, my resolution.
I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, but for me, the day I bought that little box was the day my life tilted in a new direction.
The professor gave us vision. We got a glimpse of who or what we could become. He nudged us to take a step forward.
And it worked. I was ready to send my work. I was ready to ship.
One card per poem.
One piece at a time.
I had to write the poem, record it, track it, and ship it.
Seth Godin recently released The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. On the first pages, he explains why he chose those three words in the subtitle. The first word, “shipping,” he says, is “because it doesn’t count if you don’t share it.”1
He included “creative”: “because you're not a cog in the system...you’re a creator.”2
And he added work “because it’s not a hobby. You might not get paid for it, not today, but you approach it as a professional...and the work is why you are here.”3
The Shift led to The Practice.
It’s fun to write with others!
About seven years ago, I partnered with Charity Singleton Craig to co-author On Being a Writer.
While working on the draft, we often pulled up one of our shared Google Docs to review our drafts and notes in real time. In this way, we wove together our stories and experiences with relative ease.
If we had a grade school report card at the end of the project, the teacher would have checked off “Plays nice with others.”
Writing is most often a solitary act. But sometimes we get an opportunity to write with others. These occasions may involve brief connections or extended collaboration. Quite often, they're just plain fun.
The Energy of the Inklings
Have you heard of the Inklings? They met weekly for beer and conversation, according to Diane Glyer in an article at the official C. S. Lewis website. While they didn't officially collaborate, like Charity and I did on our book, their discussions affected the shape and direction of countless projects.
Glyer writes in "C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings" that the men would gather, make tea, and begin pulling out drafts of their work. As one person read, "the others would settle down to listen, to encourage, to critique, to correct, to interrupt and argue and advise. They’d continue this way, reading aloud, energetically critiquing, until two or three in the morning.1
Years ago I craved that kind of creative community.
I even considered moving to a college town, thinking I'd be more likely to find a gathering like the Inklings there.
Find Your Creative Community
The good news is that it's easier than ever to find like-minded writers without moving to live near a university.
These days, I know writers who meet at cafes (or they did before 2020, and they'll start up again soon, I’m sure) to discuss technique or simply to write on separate projects in the same space. Some chai, a chat, then back to the works in progress.
Writers who contribute to anthologies feel part of a project-driven community.
Writing retreats are a fun way to power through personal goals with a posse of fellow writers. Churn out a few thousand words, then relax with others who appreciate your creative challenges.
Then there are in-person and online communities that write together, like:
silent or guided writing sessions via Zoom (in guided sessions, a moderator might offer writing prompts)silent or guided writing rooms on Clubhouse (these exist!)social media writing challenges that use a shared prompt or hashtag
Look for existing writing groups where you can jump into a writing challenge and meet new people, broadening your network as you make new friends.
Form Your Own Community
But don't forget you can create your own little gathering.
Do you know another writer? Someone with similar goals? Ask if they'd be a writing buddy. The two of you can text each other each day when you complete your daily word count goal.
Treat it like a short-term experiment at first, to test the waters. You never know? Perhaps you'll find another word nerd who sends you grammar memes and Hemingway quotes.
Generate Our Own Creative Energy
Diane Glyer said the Inklings "generated enormous creative energy."2 I love the sound of that, don't you?
We may not find a group as vibrant, educated, or British as the Inklings, but we can form our own gathering. We can generate our own creative energy.
Develop a Daily Writing Practice to Find Your Voice: Interview with Allison Fallon
I listened to Allison Fallon's The Power of Writing It Down while jogging through my neighborhood. Those weren't my best runs, because I kept pulling out my phone to thumb-type a great quote before picking up the pace again.
And yet they were fantastic runs, because Allison's words inspired me to re-establish a daily journaling practice.
On that first outing—with her voice in my ears—I listened through the first chapters and returned refreshed and motivated. Allison's invitation to "unlock your brain and reimagine your life" spurred me to set a timer and launch the first 20-minute personal writing session I'd attempted in a long time.
I continued the practice the following days and discovered I was indeed "getting limbic," as Allison calls it—I was slipping past the nagging to-do list items and scheduled tasks to explore feelings, memories, and struggles. Nothing dramatic transpired (yet), but I've found myself diving deeper and opening up on the page, in private, before the day presses in.
I'm not new to this practice, but I'd fallen out of the habit. I'm so grateful for Allison's convincing call to return to it and reap the benefits.
In this interview, Allison mentions Julia Cameron's Morning Pages, which reminded me of Writing Down the Bones and Natalie Goldberg's explanation of freewriting as a way to get to our "first thoughts." Allison makes a strong case for why and how a private writing practice like that feeds directly into our professional writing, whether through ideas or memories we unearth that can be woven into our work in progress, or through shifts in perspective that add depth and insight to our piece.
Will you join me in revisiting this simple but fruitful activity that can enliven and inform your writing pursuits and projects? I predict you'll begin to see how a daily writing practice will truly unlock your creativity.
And please enjoy my discussion with Allison Fallon. Allison is an award-winning author, sought-after public speaker, and nationally recognized writing coach. She has worked with thousands of people to realize their writing potential and become published authors. She's host of the podcast Find Your Voice, an excellent resource for writers, and author of The Power of Writing It Down: A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life.
On Allison's writing practice:
My daily writing practice happens for 30 minutes every morning, and it's me just sitting down and dumping out my first thoughts of the day. The great thing about this is it's a beautiful practice for absolutely anyone whether or not you want to be a published author. It can bring so much value and goodness into your life, regardless of what other kind of writing you do.
On mimicry as a way to learn writing:
There's something about being able to copy an author that we really admire, appreciate, and adore that helps us get into the groove of finding our own way to say it.
On the right to tell your own truth in your own voice:
Don't I have the right to share my own unique experience of what it was like to live in that household? Don't I have that right as much as he has that right? That's what it means to find your voice. It’s to be able to stand on both feet, to say, “This is how it was for me.” And even if it was different for you, that doesn't change the fact that this is what was true for me.
On how our brain's "catalog" stories and we reinforce those stories through repetition: