Last Sunday my wife suggested that we go for a hike, and we convinced my son, Forrest, to come with us. Now, I like to go for walks, but I’m not big on “hikes.” I’ve had too many unpleasant experiences on them, from taking accidental detours that forced me to walk an extra 30 miles, to getting lost, and one time even getting shadowed by a curious mountain lion. But we decided to take an “easy” hike.

Really, my wife took a hike and Forrest and I just slogged along in her wake. We went to an unfamiliar trail and just walked up a road used only by mountain climbers and four-wheeling enthusiasts. Forrest was sweating a lot within a mile. I never did break a sweat. (I follow my wife on hikes an awful lot.) But even as we hit the two-mile marker, I still didn’t want to go.

Oh, sure, there was a part of me that wanted to be in shape, that wanted to hike, that wanted to climb a mountain. But it was only about 20% of me. The other 80% of me was an inert blob of fat that wanted to stay that way.

But I went for a hike. It felt good.  It wasn’t a huge hike—maybe four miles at most. We didn’t see anything cool, just climbed up rocky roads. But when I was done, I felt that I had accomplished something. And we even dragged our son along.

So often I hear of writers who can’t seem to “get started” on their writing in the morning. They want to do it, but not enough to do it by themselves. But I know of many authors who will get together for short retreats and bang out a chapter or short story on their computers in a few hours. I’ve done it myself.

Very often when we hear of people succumbing to peer pressure, it’s a bad thing. But it can also be a great power for good.

So how can you use peer pressure to your advantage?  Try setting some simple goals.

  1. Try renting a cabin or a hotel for a weekend with a couple of writing buddies. Don’t just give yourself permission to write during that time, make sure you spend a couple of mornings writing, and then spend some afternoons critiquing one another’s work.
  2. Join or start a writing group. This can be a group where you just do “sprints” together—writing at a certain time—or you can also do critiques. But make sure that it is a real “writing” group. Make a simple rule: if you don’t produce something, then you can’t come. You don’t want onlookers and bystanders and gossips. Make it clear that every writer in the group is required to produce.
  3. If your group is a critique group, then in your writing group, create a Sargent at Arms who sends text messages to other members a couple of days before your meetings, reminding them that, “Your ten pages are due by the end of the week.” In short, create a little pressure on yourself. If the goal is to write sprints, let you clock be the Sargent at Arms. When it says it’s time to write, everyone writes.
  4. Give yourselves awards for a job well done. For example, at the end of a meeting, applaud those in the group who wrote the most, wrote the most powerful passage, or did something unique and interesting.

If you do this for a year, writing just ten pages per week, you’ll probably finish a novel.  In that time, you’ll most likely go from an “unwilling writer” who is just dragged along by your peers to becoming a self-starter.

I know a lot of young writers who are producing a lot of good work.  I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that nearly all of them belong to writers groups and feel just a bit of peer pressure to keep their focus on writing.

***

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Added to the list last night Orson Scott Card, NYT Best-Selling author-Sep. 19th, 2020

L.E Modesitt, Best Selling Author at Tor-Sep. 1st, 2020
JC Kang, USA Best-Selling Author-Sep. 5th, 2020
Mike Anderle, Founder of 20Booksto50K-Sep. 8th,2020
Lazarus and Echo Chernik, Elite Commercial Artists-Sep. 12, 2020
Terry Brooks, 23 times NYT Best-Selling author- Sep. 15th, 2020
ML Wang, Best-Selling Author- Sep. 22th,2020

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the "Writing Epic Novels" live-online workshop starts next week. This workshop runs from september to january. This is the last chance to sign-up! Each week we will be looking at some of the greatest books of all times and dissecting how achieve their greatness. Then in january you will have assignments to help you start your own masterpiece. Sign up here: http://mystorydoctor.com/live-workshops-2/
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David Farland | Story Doctor
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