We often tell writers to stop and reflect on how their writing practice is going, so this week we decided to do a little reflection of our own. We wanted to see if we could spot any recurring themes in the thousands of questions we answer and the coaching advice we give out. It seems there are.
After combing through the discussion threads in every sprint, and seeking out themes in our writing bootcamps over the past two years, we've come up with the five pieces of coaching advice we say the most.
We often say that stepping away from the writing and taking a head-clearing break is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your concentration. But it's also important to consider how you take a break.
In When - a brilliant book that draws on research from psychology, biology and economics to highlight the hidden patterns of your day - Daniel Pink says that there are certain things you can do to make your break as beneficial as possible so you come back to writing feeling refreshed.
His research finds that the ingredients of a perfect break are:
Something beats nothing. If you can take only a two-minute break, do it.
Moving beats stationary. Get away from your desk.
Social beats solo. A break is more restorative if you take it with somebody else (as long as you can choose who to spend it with).
Outdoors beats inside. The replenishing effects of nature are spectacular.
Make it a REAL break. Don’t talk about work and no, you can't take your phone :)
"The rules you were given were the rules that worked for the person who created them, and the more different you are from that person, the worse they’re going to work for you.”
- Ellen J Lander
📚 What we're reading
Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink
Stephen King once advised “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Reading is the gateway to writing – it was certainly the case for Cathy Rentzenbrink whose memoir-through-books starts as a child in Cornwall dreaming of Narnia. She tells her story, sharing the books that accompanied the ups and downs of her life. It is a love letter to literature and how reading can save us at the most difficult times.
Rentzenbrink worked in bookselling, publishing, for a literacy charity supporting adults to read in settings from libraries to prisons, before becoming an acclaimed writer of memoir and fiction.
Dear Reader is out in paperback and we can't wait to read Rentzenbrink's forthcoming book Write It All Down - a must-read for aspiring life writers. Do check out her website, socials and newsletter for comfort and joy in the reading and writing life.
😍 5 things we love
#1. Punctuation peeves: If your like me and nothing annoys you more than poor grammar (do you see what I did there?) check out this thread of the top typos that annoy editors.
#2. Going public: Bodybuilding habits guru James Clear is writing his next book in public. Currently a 600 page Googledoc, he's looking for help with the edit. Now that's what I call accountability! More here.
#3. Me, me, me! If you find the idea of self-promotion around your new book a thoroughly excruciating concept (or perhaps that's just us Brits?) read this and make it a slightly less painful experience.
#4. Not harsh writing advice: In this article, the excellent Nicole Donut talks about how to deal with periods in your writing life where you lack motivation to get going again.
#5. Getting back on the horse: I came across this classic article while researching our book - Margaret Atwood is particularly fascinating! 7 writers reflect on how they cope with failure. Read the article.
📚 Books, beautiful books
In honour of the UK's Libraries Week last week, we thought we'd share a pic of this cute-as-a-button little library in Mableton, Georgia in the US. Pic comes from the archives of the excellent Accidentally Wes Anderson. Check out their libraries collection here.
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Breakthroughs & Blocks is an email newsletter from writing productivity coaches Bec Evans and Chris Smith, co-founders of Prolifiko.