If you’re one of our esteemed Dojo readers, you may be wondering why we haven’t published anything here for the past couple weeks.
The truth is… I have no good answer to that. I (Sepy) screwed up. I know it, my colleagues know it, now you know it too.
I could let my small defeat get the best of me. I could continue making excuses. I could let two weeks turn to three and let weeks turn to months. I could further disappoint myself, my peers and my tribe of REALTORS® who read The Dojo every week.
I could, but I won’t.
Instead, I’m going to do what I always do when I have a writing slump. I’m going to write. Because I love to write. Because I can’t not write.
Writing to me, however, is not simply the act of putting ink to paper or finger to key.
Writing is a process, it’s an art and a form of expression. And thus for me it is also a ritual. I know many writers, and they all have their unique writing rituals… their artistic process. No matter if they are writing a fantasy novel or a real estate blog entry… *wink nudge*
If you’re a REALTOR® who has ever found themselves in a blogging slump, I want you to know that it’s totally normal. Just because you haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks or even a few months doesn’t mean your blog is dead.
We talk a lot about why blogging is important for your real estate business and how to earn relevant leads and ‘Google juice’ with your writing. We oughta balance that out with more talk about the realities of writing and maintaining a real estate blog.
That’s just what this article will do.
Just below, I’m going to share something with you that I’ve never shared with anyone. I’m going to tell you all about my many writing rituals. The little things that I do that make me the writer I am.
I invite you to use some or all of these rituals in concert next time you’re writing, or to build upon them with rituals of your own.
The following 9 habits have helped me get out of many a writing funk time and time again. They have encouraged me to get back to blogging by making the whole process fun and exciting. I hope they will do the same for you.
1) 2 Minute Free Writing
When it’s been awhile since I’ve written I can get writer’s block. Which is really just a fancy way to say “I’m trying to perfect my writing before I’ve even written anything.” In times like these I need to remind myself that we all know how to write – we just choose not to because we’re scared of what may come out. So I practice a little exercise I learned in high school from my 11th grade English teacher called “Free Writing“. This exercise helps shed that fear, and makes me think I might actually be a poet. So here’s what I do:
I will set a 2 minute timer on my phone, grab a pen and paper, hit start on the timer and start writing everything that comes into my mind. No pauses, no breaks, no thinking. In fact no lifting your pen or your eyes from the paper for 60 seconds. You just write until the timer goes off. NO STOPPING. At the end of the 120 seconds, you may have written something totally beautiful and poetic, or a page full of nonsense, or both. It doesn’t have to make sense. You’re the only person who sees it. You can tear the page up and toss it in the recycling after you’re done.
Now you’ve done some mental “stretching” and you’ve reminded yourself that writing is something that can be effortless. You’re warm, confident and ready to start writing your blog article/book/thesis/etc. You could also do this exercise with a keyboard and screen – I find the act of physically writing to be more rewarding personally.
2) Get Organized
No matter if you write in bed or on the porch. In your office or your garage, your couch or the coffee shop down the road. Get organized. I do most of my writing at my desk, and some of it at various public places. Wherever I write from, I make sure the area around me is clear and uncluttered. Not to say that I am a particularly neat and tidy person. I just grab my notebooks, papers, sunglasses, headphones, calculators, wallet etc off of my desk and drop it on the ground behind me or on the dining room table. Temporarily of course.
I believe in organized chaos when I’m working in general. Some people would look at my workspace and think it’s madness, but I guarantee there is method to my madness. However, when I am writing my desk is pristine. Nothing but my computer, keyboard & mouse, a notepad, a pen, and a couple other trinkets. I even Windex the glass desk top to make sure it’s spotless.
Since I tend to write on the computer, I make sure the window I’m writing in is full screen. I’ll hide all my browsers and or browser tabs. I’ll turn off all my notifications and other distractions. That way I’m not looking at anything but where I’m writing.
3) Dress For The Occasion
Writing is a dynamic activity, and can catch you in different moods. I like to embellish and embody those moods with my attire. This weird little ritual helps me accentuate my writing. It’s like a dynamic writing uniform; it constantly changes but it reminds me that it’s time to write.
Some days my “writing uniform” consists of Levi’s and a button up patterned dress shirt. Sometimes I’ll go for a t-shirt with something ironic on it and a cool pair of shorts. Other days it’s just me taking my shirt off and writing half naked (if I’m at home). Or if the mood is right I’ll throw on my Alpaca wool booties and my Merino wool long johns and my favourite knitted sweater. When I started writing this article yesterday, I was looking sharp! As I’m finishing it today, I’m in fitness mode with my Under Armour shorts and an old tank-top that I wear to yoga.
I personally couldn’t write while wearing a suit and tie, or uncomfortable shoes. Being comfortable, feeling good and listening to your mood will play an important role in your enjoyment of writing, and thus your success with it.
4) Walk, Walk, Walk
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
I’m blessed to have two amazing dogs that continuously remind me that they would rather be outside. So no matter what, I’m walking throughout the day. This comes particularly in handy when I need to get in the zone for some serious blogging. I usually go out for a quick 15-30 minute walk with the dogs before I sit down and get to writing. I also take more 15-30 minute breaks during my writing session (usually at 2 hour increments.)
Your writing sessions may not last as long as mine. You may only write for 2 hours at a time, in which case I would recommend sticking to a walk right before. Take 10, 20, 30 minutes or more outside in the sun or the rain, putting your right foot in front of your left one, then your left in front of your right; breathing in the fresh Canadian air. You won’t believe what a difference this little ritual will make for your writing and creativity. And for your life and health in general!
5) Put Some Sounds On
This is one of the most important writing rituals I have. Then again, music is one of the most important aspects of my life. There is practically always music playing around me. What I listen to for leisure, however, is vastly different from what I listen to while I work or while I write.
This is a highly personal ritual. You may work best in complete silence, and I respect that. Although if you have never tried writing with some classical music in the background, I highly recommend giving it an honest effort. Classical music by composers such as Tchaikovsky, Bach, Chopin, Mozart, and others is extremely mentally stimulating and can spike your productivity.
[-_-]~~ Ninja Tip: Put your headphones on for extra focus.
Another highly productive genre would be Ambient sounds. You may not recognize this as music. In fact an Ambient playlist isn’t one that you would necessarily listen to while sitting in traffic (maybe it is!) Sounds of crashing waves, of trickling rivers, of birds chirping and wind rustling the leaves of tall trees… these are all ambient sounds that have been known to boost productivity and stimulate your creative juices. In fact, there is a great app that you may have heard of which can combine all of these sounds and more to create your perfect ambient soundtrack for writing. The app is called: Noisli
There are many other genres of music that can help you write and be more creative. I am currently listening to a playlist on Spotify called “Coding Programming Hacking Slashing – Music I Listen To While Writing Code“, which is full of all kinds of stimulating tracks. If I’m not listening to classical music or ambient sounds, I’m probably listening to a playlist like this. Electronic music with a higher BPM that is pretty much completely instrumental… I would recommend staying away from anything with many lyrics while trying to write. Lyrics can be extremely distracting and frustrating.
6) Snack + Sip
As I write this, I have some fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar next to me for dipping. I also just walked over to the fridge and dug a fork into a jar of sauerkraut before plunging said fork into my mouth. I then grabbed a couple of strawberries to chomp into as I walked back to my desk. I’m a snacker, and as a snacker I can’t write without access to food. If there’s nothing in the fridge, I’ll go to the grocery store before sitting down to write an article.
Not only does the act of snacking while I write make writing that much more enjoyable, it also keeps my body sustained and my mind enriched. But reader beware, not all writing snacks are created equal. If I were you, I would avoid foods that can make you feel heavy or tired. Pass on the potato chips and tortellini alfredo when you’re trying to be creative. You know your body better than I do. Listen closely and don’t let yourself fall into a food coma because you’re over snacking. I’m no dietitian and I’m not going to preach good eating habits. I simply know what works for me when I’m writing.
In addition to snacking, sipping is important. I have a water bottle that I refill 10 times a day at least. Regardless of what I’m doing. Writing is no exception. A hydrated brain is a happy brain. If you’re drinking coffee, or tea, gatorade or some other tasty beverage while you’re writing, that’s great in moderation. Make sure you drink 3 X water for every 1 X tasty beverage. And stay away from overly sugary sips, like energy drinks or soda pop. The crash is not worth the instant rush.
7) Change Your Environment
I started writing this article yesterday from a cool café in Gastown called Coffeebar. I needed to get out of this two week funk, and one of the rituals I employed to do so yesterday was changing my environment. While I may usually write our Dojo articles from the luxury of my North Vancouver office (aka the desk in my living room), yesterday I hopped on a bus to downtown Vancouver for a change of scenery. It really worked, as it always has.
There is something about taking yourself out of your normal environment that can be quite inspiring. Repetition and routine have their benefits, but eccentricity and irregularity can be equally, if not more beneficial – especially when it comes to re-sparking your creativity. Walk to the beach with your laptop. Drive up to the mountain with a pen and pad. Go sit on your porch or at the local café.
There is so much out in the world that can inspire us to write. We must actively pursue inspiration – at least I know I must.
8) Do Some Push-Ups
Push-ups, squats, dancing, planking… I personally like to get the blood rushing through my body before and while I write. Sitting in a chair and typing can be extremely exhausting, physically and mentally. I like to get up at least once an hour and do something active. It doesn’t have to be push-ups. It could be jumping jacks. You could just wave your arms around and spin in a circle like a crazy person. Whatever gets your heart beating.
By the time you sit back down, you should be breathing a little bit heavily. Your heart rate should be higher than it was. You might even have some sweat forming on your forehead. I’m not saying that my writing ritual involves full blown workouts. Just quick 30 second bursts of being physical. Getting the blood and pheremones flowing will help you think more clearly and execute your writing with more focus.
In fact, this ritual applies to any work that requires you to sit down for great lengths of time. How long have you been sitting down for? Is it time for some push ups?
9) Read + Be Inspired
No matter what you’re writing about, there is at least one other person who is writing about the same thing. A big part of my writing ritual involves reading. Sometimes I default to my favourite writers and blogs. Other times I go to my favourite real estate blogs. Some days I might get lucky and discover someone new and fresh who I appreciate and who inspires me.
Yesterday just before I started writing this (just after I got settled in and organized at Coffeebar) I was doing some reading and landed upon a writer’s website. This was a writer that I’d never heard of before, his name is Jeff Goins. He indirectly helped me inspire the direction of this article with the words published on his blog. Within 20 minutes of sitting down, I already had a mental framework for this article that you’re reading now.
If you’re writing real estate blog posts, look around to your peers in the community you serve and other communities around you; but don’t stop there. There are millions of books and blogs and magazines and other written works by best sellers and unknown writers alike that can inspire you. Take the time and read a little bit each day if you intend to write.
That’s just one of my crazy rituals anyways ;)
Thanks for reading, and sorry for the down time! Let me know if you have any questions for me about today’s piece, or about blogging in general.
Until next time, Ninjas [-_-]~~