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Four Tips for Preserving Your Energy and Streamlining Your Creative Process

Man with arms up on the beach at sunset

Four R’s to Find Your Essential Work . . . Instead of Rabbit Holes!

You’ve heard people talk about creating a minimum viable product. How about a minimum viable process? Your time and energy are valuable—and limited—resources. How much work do you really need to create and market your books? Use these 4 R’s to find the essential work.

Risk—Send it off. Email it to your beta reader or editor or hit publish. Test the edges of your process to see how much is necessary. Fear is an excellent tool for finding new risks that might matter. Gently now, test one scary thing at a time. If it works, congratulations. If it doesn’t, you can take it off your to-do list. And test something else.

Restlessness—Are you nervous about a scene or a strategy? Restlessness is a cue that you are facing a worthwhile risk. Do you keep finding yourself on social media without a plan? Try moving physically from one writing spot to another. A long walk could also give you the answers you need. Try writing out your questions as clearly as possible before you go. As Anne Janzer writes: “Technology is most tempting when the work is difficult.”

Recycle—Review your plan (instead of email or social media) or review your draft from the day before. It’s more restful than email, social media, sales tracking or [insert favorite crutch activity here]. It grounds you in your own agenda, instead of letting your writing career be blown by every wind on social media.

Relinquish—Now that you’ve narrowed down your work, let the rest go. Anxiety about external goals powers up your internal critic, so you can’t do your best work. Trust is a doorway into the low-friction flow state, the sweet spot of creativity.

Refining your creative process with Risk, Restlessness, Recycle, and Relinquish gives you actionable knowledge, so you can find ways to rest. Now that you’ve stabilized your process, you can trust it.


The Writer’s Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear by Anne H. Janzer


  • Laurel Decher

    There might be no frigate like a book, but publishing can feel like a voyage on the H.M.S. Surprise. There’s always a twist and there’s never a moment to lose. Laurel’s mission is to help you make the most of today’s opportunities. She’s a strategic problem-solver, tool collector, and co-inventor of the “you never know” theory of publishing. As an epidemiologist, she studied factors that help babies and toddlers thrive. Now she writes books for children ages nine to twelve about finding more magic in life. She’s a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), has various advanced degrees, and a tendency to smuggle vegetables into storylines.


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