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S2/E1: Dear Writer, You Need to Quit by Becca Syme

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If you listened to Episode 036, you may be expecting an episode about the different kinds of edits. We’ll get to that soon, I promise. Just not this episode. Stay tuned!

I’m changing things up!

Starting today, I’m launching a 2020 challenge for myself, and I’d like to invite you along for the ride. I’ve set a goal to read 52 books on writing this year — one for each week — and then share my highlights with my fellow Rookie Writers.

You can expect the following for every book I read:

  1. An introduction to the author so you have some idea who’s offering you their advice and expertise

  2. A BRIEF overview of what kind of book you’re dealing with

  3. A maximum of three (and only three) major suggestions or points made in the book and one tip

Beyond that, it’ll be up to you to decide whether or not it’s something you’d like to delve into further.

Enough for the intro. Let’s get to it!

Okay, I have to say this: I’ve kicked off this challenge with a winner: Dear Writer, You Need to Quit written by Becca Syme and published in 2019.

The author is Becca Syme, the woman behind The Better Faster Academy, which offers classes and individual coaching for writers. In addition, she produces a writing productivity podcast and YouTube series of her own called The QuitCast. For the past few years, she’s also been co-hosting a book marketing show and will soon be launching “Dear Becca,” a weekly coaching column. She’s earned a couple of Master’s Degrees in coaching-related fields and has worked with thousands of authors, many of them pulling in six- and seven-figure annual incomes.

She does not in any way promise that you will reach this income, by the way.

Becca would be the first to tell you that her communication style isn’t of the “blow sunshine up your wazoo” variety, but she delivers the kind of advice you probably need to hear in a clear and often humorous way. She is not without empathy for your situation, she just isn’t interested in letting you shine yourself on either. She wants to give you the kinds of tools to start coaching yourself to the levels of productivity that are right for you.

If you like Lisa Cron’s approach to plotting, you’re going to love Becca Syme’s approach to writing productivity. This is a book that dips into brain science and applies it to your situation.

She emphatically states that this isn’t a book of tips and tricks. This is a book designed to get you to ask yourself deep questions about which writing path best suits your strengths and interests. She’s not interested in offering a prescriptive one-sized-fits-all approach to writing productivity. In fact, I’d say she views these with a wary eye. As she mentions throughout the book, she does not buy into a “silver bullet” solution to your writing woes, no matter what worked for someone else. Like she says in the blurb for the book: “Anyone can tell you what worked for them, and of course they can say, ‘it might not work for you,’ but they can’t tell you why. Come and join me, and I’ll tell you why.”

Her approach is born out of the fact that she is first and foremost a coach. She’s not pitching an approach that worked for her as an author (though she’s written and published both fiction and nonfiction), she’s offering ways to think about your individual situation. She believes that systems should be based on your individual:

  1. environment,

  2. personality,

  3. writing platform (genre, etc.),

  4. resources, and

  5. existing tendencies/habits/patterns.

Three Things

1 If I had to choose a single core notion it’s this: She strongly encourages you to “Question the Premise” or “QTP” as she likes to refer to it. She uses this throughout the book, going back to it like a touchstone. If you’ve been listening to The Rookie Writer Show, I’d say it’s fairly analogous to my “Get Meta.” So often when we don’t slow down long enough to actually ask the right questions, to poke and prod our assumptions a little, we run around trying to solve the wrong problems or even create problems that weren’t even there before.

2 If I had to share one more key idea that she comes back to again and again, it would be this. She believes there are four steps to transformation: Knowledge (which is half the battle – see QTP), Support (getting your crew around you), a Plan (for when things get tough, which they will) and Execution (actually pulling the damn trigger).

3 Transformation is really, really hard. That’s why only a small percentage of efforts to change adult behaviors are successful. You’re fighting against a lot of patterns of behavior that have worn grooves in your brain. You’re fighting a lot of established circuitry in that brain of yours.

I love what she says, though, about the occasional difficulty of writing:

“Because resistance is conflict, which causes tension, strife, frustration, consternation. We see it in our books all the time. The difference is, as storytellers, we know how to make conflict productive. Yet in our own lives, we reject conflict instead of embracing it for what it can offer us, learning what we can, releasing our emotions, and getting the work done.” Becca Syme in Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, p. 61

This is a slim book — only 208 pages. And I picked it up for my Amazon Kindle on sale for less than $5. But it packs a (good) punch, and I’m so excited to discover Becca Syme’s other offerings. I’ve already caught one of her Quitcast episodes on YouTube while I was making dinner the other day. Also totally worthwhile.

*A tip I picked up from her book (despite her aversion to offering this sort of thing) is this: Consider setting up a time tracker. (Knowledge is half the battle, remember?) I set up a free account with RescueTime, “a fully automated time tracker.” She actually mentioned the use of another one called Green Tomates, that does the same thing, but I had trouble getting that one to work for me. (Here’s a 2020 review of time tracker apps.)

So far, I am LOVING RescueTime, because a) after the shockingly quick/easy setup, it has asked almost nothing of me and b) it gives me information that I can use to make informed decisions about my own habits based on how I’m spending my time on my devices. It works on my computer, iPad, and phone and the information is aggregated and synced. Helpful. And did I mention, forever free?!

Later in the year, I plan to read her other two books in the series, which are included below in case you can’t stand the suspense.

I hope this was helpful to you! Next week I’ll be applying this same approach to my little Rookie Book Report to Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins.

Until then. . .

Happy writing, people!

#questionthepremise #writingproductivity

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