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In The Media

Removing Brain Freezes, Brain Farts and Mental Roadblocks

by Larry Chiang on November 13, 2013

Unedited by Larry Chiang 
I really like reading this newsletter called Femgineer. You should SUBSCRIBE to my friend Poornima’s newsletter

Hi Larry,


When you’re just getting started on a project it’s hard to commit to it. You don’t know if you’ll make progress or an impact. Take for example this newsletter, when I first started it I wasn’t sure if anyone was even going to read it! I just started out writing, and then made it a point to keep consistently writing and sending it out for over a year.


But then interesting things began to happen, a few months after I began it, a number of my readers began reaching out. They thanked me for the work that I was doing, and that’s when I felt like I was a woman on a mission!


A number of you have recently written in asking me:


  • “How do I come up with a topic to write about?”

  • “How do I set aside time in my schedule to write this newsletter weekly?”

  • And in the time that I’ve set aside and with the topic I’ve chose, “How do I manage to get it all done?”


I’ve been wondering those same questions myself! So I decided to take a close look at my process, and share some details with you. My hope is that it will help you understand how in general I manage projects.


This year alone I’ve sent out a newsletter 29 times, this is the 30th edition!


Getting Over the Mental Blocks


When I first began to write, I was nervous, I felt like I was invading people’s inbox, but I didn’t let that stop me. I’d mull over topics for days, finally settling on one, and then I’d take about 3+ hours to write the post. Then another hour to edit. I was spending more than half of my day working on it, but I realized it was worth it! I enjoyed writing it, receiving responses from readers, because it gave me the freedom to stay engaged with a number of you despite where I was in the world.


However, it took such a long time to produce, that I only had time once or twice a month to send it out. I was dissatisfied. I wanted to connect with people weekly!


So I made a goal to write every week, and that’s when I realized I had to change a number of things.


Constraints Help Creativity


In order to meet my goal I had to alter my behavior. First I had to stop being nervous and picky about the topic. I’d look for inspiration from experiences that I had the prior week, and make sure the theme was broad enough to appeal to my readers.


Next, I didn’t want to be erratic in my delivery times, I wanted to give readers a regular experience. To create that experience I’d need to be on a schedule as well. I wanted the newsletter to show up in people’s inboxes at 10am PST, when most of my West Coast buddies would be waking up.


This meant that I had until Tuesday or early Wednesday morning to produce and edit it, which meant I had to be on a schedule!


At first being on a schedule was a little bit tough, but as you can imagine, I wouldn’t have produced 30 editions if it hadn’t become a little bit of a habit.


When I got rid of the mental roadblocks regarding the topic and gave myself a deadline, the time it took me to write went down. Now it takes me a max of about 90 minutes to 2 hours to create this newsletter. Most of the time is spent editing, and I do my best to withhold editing until I’ve written a full draft. (I learned awhile back that editing while writing is bad for the mind. You’re forcing it to do two very different tasks that compete with each other.)


Putting a process in place over time has helped me take this project to the next level, but the keys to keeping it alive have been:


  • Having a goal and being committed to it by clearing my schedule weekly.

  • Receiving positive feedback from readers like YOU!


One final note when pursuing a project, you’re going to get some haters… Initially people would write in and complain or request to unsubscribe. This bothered me at first. But after awhile I changed my mindset, and began to encourage those who were disinterested to unsubscribe, so that I could focus my efforts on creating for those who were engaged!


I’ve got a number of things coming up this month and next month, that you might be interested in participating in:



Remember it’s OK to feel a little noncommittal when you’re starting a project, because you don’t know what the outcomes will be. But if you’re on the fence, I’d encourage you to start just to see what will happen next (assuming you have time), and as you make progress you can create your own process to keep you going. Do you currently have a process for how you manage your personal projects? I’d like to learn from you, so please share what it is!





PS I’ve formalized my mentorship program. You can learn more about it here.


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