My Twist on the Mythical Seinfeld Method

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Before I knew The Seinfeld Method (a.k.a. Don’t Break the Chain!) was a myth, I tried it on for size.

As legend has it, Jerry Seinfeld’s big secret for writing better jokes was to write jokes every day. He motivated himself to write these jokes by getting a large paper calendar and marking off every day he wrote with a big red X. (Again, this is not true.) The longer the chain of Xs, the less likely you are to skip a day, Jerry (denies ever having) said one time after an open mic night in NYC.

When I tried…

Here’s one way to get out

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I read a book to my kids called The Hug Who Got Stuck.

It’s about how we all have a hug factory inside our hearts that tirelessly creates then pumps hugs out into the world. But sometimes a hug gets caught up in a lonely thought or bad feeling, and when a hug gets trapped in The Web of Sticky Thoughts it cannot make its way out into the world. It cannot share its love and light with the world.

I was feeling bad, bad, bad the other day. So I went running and listened. This is what I heard.

Time to pick up the pieces. Again.

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DEFRAGMENTING my subconscious. This was the not super lofty, totally manageable, writing-adjacent goal I set at the outset of 2020. After reading this article by author/environmentalist Jeff VanderMeer in December of 2019, I realized many of the frustrations I was experiencing with my writing process were rooted in an unconscious mistreatment of my imagination.

VanderMeer suggests a writer can train the subconscious to deliver gifts. This was the first time I’d read something about the functioning of the imagination articulated so clearly. Of course I’d felt a flash of an idea while in the shower or folding laundry. I knew…

Great advice, but, like, how?

Have you met your inner critic?

The first time I caught a glimpse of what was causing so much drama in my writing life was during this Softening Your Inner critic guided meditation on Insight Timer. I was reluctant to try it at first, but Georgina Green, founder of Calliope’s Writers, an online community of mothers who write, convinced me it could be helpful to put a face to the voice yapping at me all the time.

As I relaxed into Melissa Joy Bennett’s soothing voice, I was shocked by what came forward almost immediately. And, even though she was…

Do it today. Then do it again tomorrow.

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Every weekday morning at approximately 5:07 I light a candle. Sometimes it’s a hand-poured, essential oil-infused, organic soy wax candle from a pop-up farmers’ market. Sometimes it’s a grocery store paraffin wax candle that I threw into my cart because it was on sale for two-ninety nine and the fragrance wasn’t Cat Litter Box in July.

As long as it burns, I’m not picky.

The candle is part of my morning ritual. The flame signals to my brain that it’s time to write and it reminds me of the mantra I developed for myself after a year or so of…

Maybe not. But that doesn’t mean we’re shallow.

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Ihad just finished wiping my four year old daughter’s bum when I noticed a slip of paper on the floor next to the toilet. A library receipt for Cal Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, which I’d returned several months before. On the back of the receipt were my notes:

deep work creates flow, which is when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. The more flow in a given week, the higher the subject’s life satisfaction.”

I stood in the…

How the pandemic is sending us all back to where we started

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“This is exactly what we’ve been training for,” said my friend, Jill, an artist and fellow stay-at-home mom, when talk of quarantine began to circulate. Our friendship began with the help of the Internet, as modern friendships do, after having our first babies three days apart. Those babies, our sons, started full-day Kindergarten this year.

Up until a few weeks ago, our boys were at school all the blissful long day. Finally. We both said it at the beginning of the school year. Finally. A little space. Just a little bit, because we both have daughters with a few more…

A mindset shift to prevent burnout.

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Everything is closed. Life is cancelled. In addition to your regularly scheduled responsibilities, you must now homeschool your feral children. Oh, and don’t forget, people are dying and scientists are disagreeing and politicians are being extra politician-y and businesses are suffering and your spouse is, like, always. right. there. and none of us know when this is going to end.

Now get to work, you lazy asshole.

Sound familiar?

By this point, you must have read some bullshit article about how Shakespeare and Newton completed revolutionary work while under quarantine. The author likely encouraged you to view this time of…

When having your butt in the chair isn’t working, try moving it instead.

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Author Steven Pressfield is one of my favorite no-nonsense resources for writing encouragement and support. Steve’s like a merciless middle school gym teacher fluent in the language of woo. His bite-sized pieces of advice always leave me feeling like I’m on the hook for my own destiny without the need for self-flagellation.

Here’s one of my favorite of Steve’s philosophies as I work on my first novel:

“Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

You want to be a novelist? Simple. Plant your bottom firmly in front of your preferred writing device and get to work. Write the…

Writers don’t get free bananas.

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“Writing a novel is like running a marathon” say a ton of people on the Internet who have written novels. Two years into writing my first novel, I’m starting to wonder whether any of these people who say writing a novel is like running a marathon have actually tried to run a marathon.

Because I have and I’m telling you right now writing a novel is nothing like running a marathon. At least it hasn’t been for me. It’s been much, much harder.

Here’s why.

A marathon takes about half a day. Tops.

Recently, Eliud Kipchoge, a 34-year old Kenyan runner, ran a marathon in under two hours…

Sara Bates

Functioning Perfectionist. Library Enthusiast. Recovering Lawyer. Stay-at-Home Mom. Not so patiently writing my first novel from five to seven each morning.

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