What I’m learning about the creative process

This week, I simply want to take you behind the scenes into my creative practices, and what I’ve been working on. Every day, I sit here in this private studio, and what I share below is what I am earning about the creative process. But first, here is a studio tour video:

Okay, here is what I’ve been working on:

Writing My Next Book

I’ve been working on my next book for a couple years now. Last year, I took a break from writing it, and a few months back, I started again. To do so, I put two simple parameters in place to ensure I got started and kept going:

  1. I set a simple goal for each day. In the programs and mastermind I run, I call these “micro-actions.” They are the smallest step to just get started and keep going. For writing the book, I do it in 15 minute increments each day. I have found that is a small enough period of time to squeeze it in to even super busy days. And long enough to push the book forward each day.
  2. I have an accountability partner who is also working on her next book. Each day, we check in via simple messages to each other of how many minutes we wrote. So a typical day looks like this: “Wrote 16 minutes.” That’s it. No explanation, no excuses.

These two simple tactics have helped me take the book from totally stuck to momentum. I can’t even tell you how good that feels.

What is the book about? I’m viewing it as the prequel to Be the Gateway. This is a book about how to take your creative vision from just barely dabbling with it, to getting it done.

I’ve had drafts of this book written for years. I have started again from scratch, I think, three times. This most recent version includes dozens of ideas that I have been stress testing with writers every day in my mastermind group. I could not be more excited about how it is coming together.

I Moved My Podcast From Monthly to Weekly

I launched my podcast, The Creative Shift, in January 2015 as a way to share the research I was doing for a book I was writing. Wow, I’m just realizing it is the book I talked about above. So that book has been in the works for more than four years.

In each episode, I share an interview with a writer, artist, or creator who inspires me. We talk about the risks they have taken as they pursued their creative vision.

I had always looked at the podcast as something I do just for myself — it is an opportunity to reach out to someone and have a long and deep conversation about the creative process.

Last December I realized that I love doing it so much, that I need to double down. So I took it from monthly to weekly. That has brought so much joy to my life, because it means I have 4x the number of inspiring conversations each month. In the process I have met some a-maz-ing people.

I just shared my hourlong conversation with bestselling author Chuck Wendig this week: “Chuck Wendig on Owning Your Voice and Choosing the Path of Your Career as a Writer.”

I Launched a New Series of Programs

For a couple of years, I had completely stopped offering online courses about how to develop your author platform, engage with readers, and launch your books.


Because I found that it is difficult for people to make progress with information alone. Many online courses pummel writers with dozens of videos, lessons, and downloads. The result? The writer struggles alone, overwhelmed, unable to take a single step forward.

This year, I tried something new, and the results have just been astounding. The new 4-6 week programs I have been launching are setup so that each week, I give direct feedback to each and every writer.

I show up. I see them. I give personalized feedback. Together, they make progress.

With online courses, I found that people would sign up, do some work, get overwhelmed, and never finish. I’ve seen people share different stats that indicated the same thing: 10% of people finished the course. Or 30%. Or 50%.

But with these new programs I have been launching, the success rate is somewhere close to 100%. People show up. They take actions. They make progress.

More than that though, I get to become immersed in their creative journey. Nothing gives me more joy than that. Okay, my family gives me more joy than that. But this is second place.

For 1,320 Days in a Row, I Showed Up in the Mastermind I Run

Back in 2012, I launched my first mastermind group for writers. It was a fun experiment to bring a small group of writers together to provide accountability, feedback, and a support system to push their creative work ahead.

Then in 2015 I launched quarterly mastermind groups that I call the Creative Shift Mastermind.

Every single day, I show up in that group. On weekdays, I share a brand new video that answers questions and helps each person in the group establish their creative process and reach their goals. On weekends and holidays, I show up there as well.

The Mastermind has defined so much of my life in the past few years. It’s like showing up to a virtual co-working space each day with a small group of inspiring writers and creators, and then — together — getting the work done.

It’s weird to think of it in terms of numbers — 1,320 days in a row — because I mostly think of faces when I consider the Mastermind. The people who have allowed me into their lives and their creative process each day.

I can only say: thank you.

Being in the Trenches with Private Clients

I work with private clients to truly immerse myself in their goals and challenges to establish their author platform, launch their books, and reach related goals to their writing.

Sometimes I am able to share a glimpse of that work via case studies like I did last week.

When I work with a writer like this, I consider myself a co-pilot in their career. It is my job to understand their goals and their challenges and not just give advice, but help them through. Of course, there are no guarantees, but I have found that having a partner in the process can really change everything. For me, it is a total joy to not just give advice, but to be in the trenches doing the work with writers in this manner.

14 Years of Weekly Blogging & Email Newsletters

Every week, I have clicked “publish” on my blog and email newsletter. It’s so much a part of my life, I can’t imagine not doing it.

Honestly, I love the deadline. The opportunity — and pressure — to create something new each week, and click “publish.”

This very post is being written on Friday morning, just before I send it out to thousands of people. I woke up just after 4am, stared at a blank page, and by 8am, I will be sending it out. I feel alive writing this, and that is the joy of creating.

I love stretching the creative muscle in this manner. To see the newsletter and blog not as a way to create, to publish, and to connect.

I take this so seriously. I know that it is a privilege to be allowed into people’s inboxes. I don’t take that responsibility lightly.

Showing Up in Writing Communities

This week I did an hourlong live video presentation for Romance Writers of America. I talked about (surprise, surprise) how to connect with readers with — and without — social media. The writers asked such amazing questions in the Q&A at the end. It was a wonderful experience.

This weekend, I’m giving a presentation at a large conference for writers in Manhattan. And in the past couple of months, I’ve been able to present to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writers’ Institute, I’ve done monthly podcasts for The Alliance of Independent Authors, and shown up on podcasts such as Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula.

It always astounds me at the hard work it is for each of these groups to bring together a community of writers. This too is an an incredible privilege to show up with these writers.

Deep Dives into Creative Growth with Collaborators

I have two standing calls on my calendar each week. Each call is essentially a 1-on-1 mastermind, where we keep each other accountable to our creative goals, we brainstorm ideas, get feedback, and work through business challenges.

One of those calls is with Jennie Nash. She and I have had these weekly calls for years now, I can’t even remember how long. Every week, we hop on the phone for an hour to an hour and a half. We split the call down the middle, and when it begins, there isn’t really any chit chat. It is “Do you want to go first or should I?” We come prepared to discuss specific issues and ideas that we are working on.

The other call is with Lori Richmond. We cover a similar similar range of themes, and the call is run the same way: we are here to work.

What’s amazing about my collaboration with Lori is that it came out of a failure. I had previously interviewed her for my podcast and we stayed in touch. Last year I had this idea to run an in-person workshop in New York City. I invited her to be a part of it, and we spent months developing this ambitious program. Honestly, it was amazing.

Except, it totally flopped.

I think we needed at least 6 people to sign up in order for it to be viable, and we didn’t get that. So the event was canceled. I wrote about what I learned from that process of failing here.

While planning the event, Lori and I met weekly via Skype. When the event didn’t work out, we said, “Why don’t we keep meeting to discuss our other creative goals and challenges?”

This has been a huuuuuuge success. It’s amazing what can come out of a failure.

My Other Daily Creative Practices

Beyond everything above, I have been continuing with my total obsession to finally learn how to play the guitar. My daily guitar practice routine is now up to an hour a day. I track this in a spreadsheet, last month I practiced for 1,975 minutes.

I also continue to study the lives of inspiring creators. This is the wall I stare at in front of my desk:

All day, I meditate on the creative process.

What you see above is really one thing: simple creative practices. Each day, each week, each month, simply showing up.

It’s amazing to see what it all adds up to.

What have you learned in establishing simple creative practices for your goals?