NOTE: This is an "Epic Post." Which means it's really long. Which means it's also really, really useful. So if you don't have time to read now, be sure to save it and come back later!
A few years ago, I heard about a piece of software called Scrivener, which was getting some buzz as a great tool for helping people write books. It wasn't very expensive—about $40. So I bought it, installed it, and tinkered with the tutorials.
I had to admit, it was pretty cool. Having the ability to put all these different file types into the same "environment," to be able to organize what I was writing by moving around virtual index cards, and then compiling what I created into whatever format I wanted—it was cool. Better than cool, I could definitely see how it would change everything for my writing career. I could see, instantly and without doubt, that Scrivener could make me the kind of writer I was born to be. It was a powerful tool that could reshape my career.
So I ignored it for about five years.
I have no idea why. Or, actually, I have some idea why. The thing about Scrivener is that it's a really, really powerful piece of software. And that makes it really, really intimidating. There's a steep learning curve—there's so much to learn, and so many possibilities and directions you can go. There's just so much.
Years after buying a copy of it, and tinkering with it from time to time, and after using Microsoft Word to write my first couple of books, I started getting serious about my writing business. I started listening to podcasts, reading blog posts and books, talking to people in the industry. And at that time, I heard "Scrivener" said so frequently I thought maybe everyone was on the take. I knew the software, knew how powerful and useful it could (potentially) be, but I couldn't quite get my head around the fact that so many people were already using it. So I started tinkering with it again.
And again, I hit that steep learning curve. I did the tutorials, and then joined a Google+ group that provided a community who could answer questions for me. And eventually I stumbled across the Learn Scrivener Fast course produced by Joseph Michael Nicoletti—aka "the Scrivener Coach."
And that changed everything.
Now that I had a go-to guide for using this go-to software, I approached it with more zeal and more confidence. And I can say, without doubt or irony, that it was the best thing I could have done for my writing career at that time. Thanks to Scrivener, I was able to create a process for writing and publishing a book in just 30 days, which is now one of my platforms. I was able to collaborate with my partner Nick Thacker, which led to us forming a business together. And I was able to finally build a system for organizing and improving my life, by developing a daily writing habit that involves affirmations, journaling, blog posts, and the continuing habit of personal development and growth.
That process and workflow is making all the difference in my life and in my business. And so I wanted to share it with you, so maybe you could benefit from it too.
Get Scrivener and the Learn Scrivener Fast Course, help a Wordslinger
If you haven't already, I encourage you to purchase both Scrivener and the Learn Scrivener Fast course. You can get Scrivener for about $40, for whatever computer operating system you prefer. You can get into the Learn Scrivener Fast course, and have access to it for a lifetime, for under $200.
If you buy them through there, I get an affiliate fee (thanks!). It doesn't change your price at all—you pay the same as you would anywhere else. It just helps me subsidize the work I do, so it's greatly appreciated.
Now, all that said, here's my process for using Scrivener to develop and improve a daily writing habit that can shape your life and your career.
Create your Daily Writing Environment (DWE)
Once you have Scrivener installed, and you've started familiarizing yourself with how it works, the first step for using it to develop a daily writing habit is to create your Daily Writing Environment (DWE). This is different from the environment in which you'd write a book using the software. Instead of thinking in terms of chapters and scenes/sections, you'll be thinking in terms of tasks.
My own DWE looks like this:
You can see from this screenshot that I'm working in the Draft folder. I could rename that to anything I want (and probably will, now that I think about it). Typically, if you're producing a book or some other document for print or publication, you create it in this folder and then compile it to whatever format you like when you're done. Since this is more about developing a daily writing habit, you don't have to worry about the compiling part. We're using Scrivener purely for it's organizational power.
My DWE starts with my Mission Statements. These are one-time statements I wrote at the beginning, and occasionally refine. I re-read them periodically to remind me of my goals and my purpose—the why of what I do.
Here's one of my personal Mission Statements:
My mission statement: My mission is to be a successful and wealthy full-time author.
I actually have three mission statements—one for each of the three aspects of my life: God, Relationships, and Career. You could simply have one mission statement that covers everything, if you prefer. The important part is to actually spend time defining what it is you're trying to accomplish with what you do with your life and your work.
The next section is for my Personal Definitions. I literally take every word from my Mission Statements and define them, one by one and in my own words. This helps me to be clear on exactly what I mean by what I've written. Again, this is a one-time thing that I occasionally update and refine.
For the mission statement above, I broke out every word and defined it in my own terms. I also wrote an affirmation using this mission statement as my guide (more on this in a bit).
My Gratitude Journal is a daily list of things I'm grateful for. I use this format:
Friday, 13 March 2015
I am grateful for Scrivener, which gives me a way to write and improve every day.
I am grateful for coffee, nectar of life, which gives me the fuel and motivation to do everything I need to do.
I go on like this for a full page before moving on to the next item. I believe it's important to show gratitude for everything in your life—it helps you be aware of all the good that's happening around you, and that makes it easier for you to spot opportunities, attract good people to your life, and generally just keep yourself focused on being a decent and good human being.
Plus, when you're stuck for anything else to write about each day, just going on about a cup of coffee or the ability to remember all of the lyrics to "The Facts of Life" theme song can help jar loose your creative super powers. And you get to smile about it.
Notice, by the way, that I put the date and time of the entry right at the top. I do this on every entry I write for every section of my Daily Writing Environment. I prefer the day/month/year format, but you can do this any way you like. I do this so that I can track my progress, gauge the time during which I'm most productive, and generally just "keep score." It helps me keep to it every day when I know I can look back and see the gaps.
Today I Will
The Today I Will section is almost like a daily To Do list. Again, I use the time/date format I mention above. And again, I write until I fill one entire page. Entries generally look like this:
Friday, 13 March 2015
Today I will write a blog post about using Scrivener to promote a daily writing habit.
Today I will interview Jennifer for the Wordslinger Podcast.
Today I will exercise for 30 minutes.
This helps me get my day straight—sort of a bit of pre-planning. I don't go into details, I don't get too heavy with explanations. I just list out things that I want to accomplish in the day, stating them as a commitment.
Today I Am
Similarly, the Today I Am section is where I write a list of qualities and characteristics and personal goals that I want to be part of my character.
Friday, 13 March 2015
Today I am intelligent and wise.
Today I am kind and loving.
Today I am a skilled and confident writer.
After a page of these, you're going to feel like a friggin' rock star. Because this is all about you proclaiming to yourself and to God and the universe at large exactly what traits you value most, and which you want to make a definitive part of who you are. So you end up creating a list of who you want to be today, which makes it easier to actually be that person. It's kind of easy to motivate yourself to write every day when part of that writing is about building yourself up.
The next three sections are my daily Affirmations. These are positive statements I write fifteen times each. For example, my daily author affirmation looks like this:
Friday, 13 March 2015
- I, Kevin Tumlinson, am a wealthy and successful full-time author.
- I, Kevin Tumlinson, am a wealthy and successful full-time author.
- I, Kevin Tumlinson, am ... you get the idea ...
This affirmation comes directly from one of my Mission Statements. That's important, because it's a daily reminder of my "why." And writing it fifteen times is automatic, not requiring much mental muscle. This is also important, because it kicks your writing brain into gear, gets you past the notion that this is something "hard," and lets you feel a sense of accomplishment. You did something—which is infinitely better than doing nothing.
I have three affirmations in the list above. The other two are personal goals I have for my business. Writing those 15 times a day means reminding myself of what I'm trying to accomplish. It keeps me focused on my goals, while also continuing to loosen and strengthen those writing habit muscles.
Don't overload your affirmations. I add one every now and then, and then take one away when I've accomplished or even failed to accomplish a goal. Don't hold failure against yourself either—be happy about it! You have this work that shows it was something you focused on. It gave you something to write about every single day. Be glad for that, and set a new goal and a new affirmation to write.
I try to limit my daily affirmations to three at the most. You might start with just one.
My Personal Journals are where the writing really, truly kicks in. So far we've done a bit of one-line creative writing, and some rote and repetitive writing. In a journal, you get to really stretch your legs and start running.
Journaling is an amazing way to start and/or finish every day. Writing about what you experienced each day (or the day before), and what it means to you, has a lot of advantages.
Journaling helps you:
- Become more attentive, as you remember that you'll need something to write about each day
- Refine your writing skill and timing, by giving you the ever-valuable gift of "practice"
- Track your progress as you grow as a writer and in your business, as well as in your personal life
- Work through problems, anxiety, and grief, letting you step outside of it and gain a wider perspective, which can help you find solutions, a sense of peace, and bit of catharsis
There are tons more benefits. I could write a post entirely on journaling, and still not cover everything. But it's enough for me to say that I fully believe there is just no better tool for improving your writing than journaling every day.
Well, almost no better tool. There's one that might be neck-and-neck with journaling as my favorite way to beef up writing skills ...
I use Scrivener for guiding my daily Blog Posts (including this one). Similar to Journaling, blogging lets you get a running start into daily writing. All the benefits I listed above apply to blogging as well. The key difference is that you will share your blog publicly.
There are a lot of reasons to do this, and a lot of benefits that come from it.
For starters, blogging every day means you're building content for your audience. It makes you more discoverable, as Google and other search engines crawl your site and catalog key words. This is known in marketing circles as a key component of search engine optimization, or SEO.
Blogging also helps you build credibility as an authority. Your know-how and expertise are right there for anyone to read. If you concentrate on writing about things that will benefit your audience, it will grow your influence tremendously.
And, maybe the best benefit of the bunch, writing a blog helps you define and refine your expertise and your authority. You discover who you are, what you know and believe, any gaps or missing knowledge, and what your voice and brand sound and look like. Writing daily is a crucible for burning away everything that isn't a pure expression of your life and your career.
So writing a daily blog is a great way to improve your business while also improving your writing skills in general.
Don't fret too much about how time consuming it will be to write a blog post every day. Not every post has to be "epic." In fact, it's better to scatter the epic posts among smaller, shorter, easier-to-digest posts.
Seth Godin blogs every day, but on most days those posts are no more than a sentence or a paragraph. The quantity of what he's posting isn't nearly as important as the quality. In your own blogging, you should start by writing some key thought every day—something that you genuinely feel will add value for your ideal reader. Write from the heart. Write from what you know. But definitely write something every single day.
The Daily Blogging Guide
If you need a little nudge, try this daily writing guide. You don't have to write to this schedule every time—feel free to jump the tracks whenever you like. But if you're stuck for anything else, use this to give yourself a daily topic:
- Sunday: Inspiration — Post a quote, a photo, or a link to an article or video that inspires you, and write a few words about it.
- Monday: Observation — Write about trends you've noticed in your industry, about themes you're picking up on in the news, or about anything you've observed in the world around you that might be interesting to your audience. This has the bonus of keeping you sharp and attentive when you're out and about in the world.
- Tuesday: News & Announcements — Got anything exciting happening in your business? Attending any events? About to sit in on a free webinar you think your audience would appreciate? Share the good news!
- Wednesday: Give Back — Your readers deserve a little treat every now and then. Offer a contest or giveaway, give them a limited-time link to get a discount on your products or services, or give away a free ebook or PDF.
- Thursday: Interaction — Pose a question for your audience to answer. Set up a short survey using Surveymonkey, or just post an image that asks something open-ended and write your own answer while asking your readers to write theirs. Set up an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) for a set time of the day and answer any questions your readers ask, publishing the questions and answers to your blog.
- Friday: Think Tank — Got an idea for a business or product or book? Why not open it up to discussion? Write about your idea, and ask your audience to weigh in with thoughts and questions. This usually falls under the term "market research," and can be really valuable. It's also a great way to make your audience feel like they're part of what you're building, and that helps build trust and loyalty.
- Saturday: Inside Peek — What is life like around your office? What's your process like? Do you have photos or videos that are less business and more personal, but might be fun for your readers? Give your audience an inside look at who you are away from the keyboard. You'll build more and better relationships because you become more relatable.
Feel free to mix and match on all of that. You can write on any topic on any given day. It's meant to be a primer, not the engine. Take these and use them to help you get into the daily habit of writing, and to get past "writer's block" if it strikes.
The final section of my Daily Writing Environment is my Vision Board. You've probably heard of these. Most people make them on poster board or magnet boards, and hang them on their walls. I may do that someday, too. But I thought it would be great to use Scrivener's ability with images and it's split-screen feature to create a Vision Board that sits within view the whole time I'm in my DWE.
Here's what mine looks like:
The images have meaning for me. They're personal. I have images that remind me of the audience I want to build, the wealth I want to generate, the home and office I want to have, and the body and health I want to cultivate. Having these images up and visible the whole time I work helps me keep my "why" in focus.
So that's it. That's my Daily Writing Environment, using the features and strengths of Scrivener keep me focused on developing and nurturing my daily writing habit. When I leave the DWE, I personally jump right back into Scrivener for writing a book or guest blog post, or developing a course or a talk. My workflow for those projects isn't altogether different from what I've outlined here. It's just more focused on the task itself. Affirmations become chapters, vision boards become source material.
Better writing leads to better business. Communication is the key to success regardless of what you do for a living. So spending time creating your own DWE will pay huge dividends for your career and for your life. Scrivener makes it much easier to to this and keep on track for daily improvement.
Go peruse my Resources page and pick up your copy of Scrivener today. Get into Joseph Michael Nicoletti's Learn Scrivener Fast course to ... er ... learn Scrivener Fast. But more important—absolutely vital to your success—do something. Go write every day. You will not regret it. You'll only grow from it.
If you need a little help ...
Talk to me. I work with clients all the time, showing them this process and more, to help them get into a daily writing habit that can add rocket fuel to their business or career while improving their lives.
Contact me today to set up a consulting and coaching session, and I'd be thrilled to help you become a stronger, better writer.