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'Professional Nag' Shares Creative Tricks, Tools & Techniques to Get Motivated

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Textbook and Academic Authors

Textbook and Academic Authors


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Join us for an interview with "Pro-Nagger" Rachel Z. Cornell, an accountability and productivity consultant, who has helped authors increase their writing productivity and keep them moving forward with their projects by providing them with daily, direct support. She will be joined by client Allan Bacon, author of "Start Something You: How to Discover, Develop and Fund Your Own Version of the Good Life (Without Quitting Your Job)" [coming in 2010] If you're stuck, lost your focus, have too many time commitments and end up getting very little done on an important project, or you need to self-motivate, you'll hear some ideas and suggestions for how to keep your projects on track in this 30-minute episode with plenty of time for questions. Cornell will be presenting an expanded audio conference on this topic for TAA members on Tues., Sept. 14 at 2:30 EST/EDT. Visit the TAA website for details: http://www.taaonline.net/


0:05 Kim Pawlak

Welcome to the Text and Academic Authors Association Podcast Series. My name is Kim Pawlak. Today, I'm interviewing ProNagger Rachel Z. Cornell an Accountability and Productivity Consultant who has helped others increased their writing and keep them moving forward with their project by providing them with daily direct support. Before going headlong into a nagging speaking and writing career, Rachel challenged the odds by becoming the first legally blind visual artist to receive a master's degree in Fine Arts from the University of Michigan. After graduation, she enjoyed a prolific career as a Professional Mixed Media Artist. Rachel had shown her works throughout the United States as well as participated in such prestigious shows as the International Assemblage Artist Exhibition in Berlin, Germany. While at University of Michigan, Rachel developed and taught an interdisciplinary course designed to teach student to use the creative process to create what ever they wanted in their lives. It is the same concept she brings to her work with ProNagger. Hello Rachel, thank you for joining us today.

1:17 Rachel Cornell

Hey Kim, thank you for having me.

1:20 Kim Pawlak

Well to start of today, what is a Professional Nag because from my experience you don't actually nag, you motivate?

1:28 Rachel Cornell

That's right. I don't do any traditional nagging like your landlord unless it is actually is effective on the person and usually very few people actually like a nag like a mother nag. So, I do whatever it takes to get you to where you want to go.

1:47 Kim Pawlak

So, why should an author consider hiring a Professional Nag?

1:52 Rachel Cornell

That's a good question. The reason why most of the authors come to me is they have become stuck in a project. You kind of almost focus to the point that you don't even know what you sat down to write, you won't even know what to do or they have limited time. Their time is ? they have demands on all kinds of effects to their lives and they can't seem to find time to sit down and write or they just having a hard time, you know, motivating. There is, you know, they have the time but they just can't sit down and put the pen to paper. There are countless other reasons but those are just a few to get started.

2:36 Kim Pawlak

So, can you describe what you do for a typical client?

2:39 Rachel Cornell

I can and I will but also I'd like to bring in one of my typical clients onto the phone because he can probably help describe what I do even more than I do. So, if we could get him on the line while I keep talking, that will be great.

2:56 Kim Pawlak

Okay. He should be there, Allan.

2:58 Allan

Yes. I'm here can you guys here me?

3:00 Rachel Cornell

Yup, we can hear you. So, what else to say, what I do is my client fit my time, so they call one on one every day. I call them Monday to Friday for five minutes checking call with this basically let me know what they are going to do in that day or whether they are having a problem, whether they are getting stuck, whether they need some ideas and we just troubleshoot for that five minutes which also helps with accountability and just plotting the writing dates for them and Allan can talk a little bit more about what I do and we will just kind of talk about that and just go with it, so Allan.

3:41 Allan

Sure. Well I get my everyday at 10 o'clock on the dot. I get my call for Rachel, so I know I have to get up to do something if I haven't done anything yet, but I guess a backup. I'm in the middle of finishing up a book project and my first, I got Rachel to help me because as lots of your listeners probably know if there are authors -- that writing a book is kind of a real wide-open process, there are a lot of things you could do and it is really a self-motivated process, so Rachel has helped me with a lot of parts that I necessarily like doing so much. She finds a way to help me make them fun to do so that I do make progress every day on my project.

4:16 Rachel Cornell

Right, right. And what I can add here is like Allan, I'll tap into certain tactics or tricks that might help Allan specifically keep moving if he has a reason for getting stuck or a reason that he is having a hard time getting an idea across or getting the research he needs or a lot of people have a hard time visualizing the whole book because what I do basically is I use the creative process to help people move through from idea stage to completion. That's always my goal. So, I find out where they are in the process and then I help them. But with authors especially you can lose track of what the book even looks like or the paper looks like and then you're locked. So, one of the tricks and tools I use is a mind map and I think Allan because he is such a visual learner has benefited a great deal from my mind map. Would you agree?

5:13 Allan

Absolutely, maybe tell what a mind map is?

5:16 Rachel Cornell

Yeah. Well, it is just a visual outline basically of your idea. You put basically mind block in the middle and start doing like it looks like a spider, start doing little spider limbs off of that center point and there are some mind mapping tools that are free online. I can after we're done, I can get that to you by you e-mailing me, for example, or else Kim giving you some addresses, any help. Is there anything else Allan that when we talked that has been especially effective in your writing recently?

5:56 Allan

You know a lot of times I think what the biggest help is just kind of you force me to sit down and then you will help me walk through kind of what most important and makes sure that I have well thought out plan for each one, like it's me keeping from getting stuck what you have said earlier on any particular -

6:13 Rachel Cornell


6:14 Allan

Items on the list.

6:16 Rachel Cornell

Let us talk about book ending because you are one of my clients that uses book ending a lot.

6:21 Allan

Yeah, okay.

6:23 Rachel Cornell

You want to, you want to say -

6:25 Allan

You should tell what it is and I will say it -

6:28 Rachel Cornell

Okay. Book ending is a tool that I don't have available for free online and then kind of the gold card of book ending, one on one with me is basically when you're going to start your writing time or when you are going to start especially something that you don't want to do, you text me one quick sentence that says, you know, starting, whatever, and then you go do it instantly right after you say you are going to go do it and then when you're done your book end you have by texting me again. So, that's how my clients one on one get that and I send them back, you know, Smiley faces and exclamation marks or keep going, keep going kind of comment. I also have a free book endings service like a chat and a website that you can use and hopefully it will become more and more popular, so that you can go and use that. I have had feedback that that's very helpful to use the chat as well. So, that's book ending.

7:28 Allan

Yeah and for me that's a really it's like you said, it is great when you have to do something you don't like to do. The other piece of that, the one of your best tricks for me is you taught me how to break things you don't like to do into super small pieces like 5 or 10 or 15 minutes.

7:42 Rachel Cornell


7:42 Allan

And all I have to do is work on it for that 5 minutes and then I'm off the hook for a while.

7:48 Rachel Cornell

That's right.

7:49 Allan

And you can make a lot of progress in a day doing that tools to book ending helps with that as well.

7:53 Rachel Cornell

Yeah. So, that's like a speed round. I have a different kinds of speed round that I do with my clients and what I do when I break - just the idea of breaking it down to the step that's _805_ until I hear you saying and always my client will say, "Oh, yeah I can do that" and sometimes "I can do that" means turning on your computer, that's the first step, turn on the computer. "Can you do that? Yes. Okay. Can you open up a word document? Yes." So, we break it down that small because sometimes when you're stuck, "Ah," you can even think of anything you can do. So, we get to the place where "I can do that." And then another speed round is what I called the make it work speed round and if you are familiar with Project Runway, you do have speed round. Allan did you have a speed round today like that?

8:42 Allan

No, not today, but definitely. We talked about how - sometimes when you have a really critical deadline where you're going to actually show something to somebody else it will help you get that good enough work done and so you are trying ?.

8:56 Rachel Cornell


8:56 Allan

To get it to 100% to 80%. Yeah, I have done that before with your direction and that's helped a lot.

9:01 Rachel Cornell

Yeah. It is just like no matter what at the end of the 20 minutes, the email goes out and sometimes I have you send an email to yourself instead of the person you need to mail it to or whatever. After that 20 minutes, it is gone. You know, if you watch Project Runway at the time that Tim Gunn comes in, you better be ready to, you know, walk down the runway because if there is thread hanging too bad, it's time to go. So, that actually for people that especially like to play games that's a great, great way to keep moving. Kim is there anything - is there anybody that has questions or anything?

9:42 Kim Pawlak

Yeah. We might want to take a question now while Allan is on the line, if somebody has a question for both of you. So, if you have a question, you can press 1 to raise your hand.

10:00 Rachel Cornell

Actually, while we're waiting to see if anybody - I would like to hear, like if you are author and you're having some kind of issue with your writing right now that would be the perfect thing to ask about like, you know, the reason why you are stuck or the reason - you know something within your own writing experience but another I am speaking to is I might have you do something that I call "Ask an expert," and I'll have you send an e-mail to yourself, let's us say you're having a hard time finding a research information. So you would write -- you would _1033_ writing an expert saying " I'm having a hard time finding research information." The expert would write you back and tell exactly how to go ahead and do that and the benefit of doing that is we know how to motivate ourselves to the very best. So, the expert actually had the expert idea, the perfect idea to help you keep moving. So, basically I make you to do work.

10:58 Kim Pawlak

Okay. Well, I don't see any questions right now. So, we all just move on - oh, I guess we do have a question.

11:05 Rachel Cornell


11:07 Kim Pawlak

All right. Go, you can ask Rachel.

11:10 Caller 1

I just - sometimes I just don't know where to start. I may have published a journal but not books like I would like to and I just don't know where to begin. For example, I have like maybe one manuscript that's maybe three-fourths complete. I have maybe three other working titles and concepts that, you know, I think are great, but I haven't put them to paper and it's like I have the time to do something and I just don't know what to do first. I am a business owner as well and I have some ideas about a book for my business and a work I have been doing for the past years, but I don't know what to do first.

11:54 Rachel Cornell

Uh-huh. Well, I think if you were kind of like the first thing is if none of them had like a pressing deadline. One of the things that we do is just like, let's say I called you this morning and you said, "I don't know which to do first." "I would ask you, "Which one is calling to you the most? Which one is the most interesting to you?" And I have you select that and then maybe you haven't visited it for a while. So, I just - the only thing I have you do today is review it, get an idea, make some notes on a side piece of paper as to where you want to head within that. And again if they don't - none of them are pressing, I would ask you maybe the same question day after day and see if one have visited another one. Pretty soon one of them will probably stand out and then I would say "Let's figure out how to get that to completion" and I also check if completion is an issue for you. If then, I want to help build a success for you so that you have a completed papers, so it feels good and you can repeat the feeling. So, again it is always about the creative processes. It's the idea to fruition to evaluation, and back to idea. Is that helpful?

13:06 Caller 1

Yes. Thank you very much.

13:08 Rachel Cornell


13:12 Kim Pawlak

Okay, anyone else have a question? Again you press 1 to raise your hand. Okay. Well, we will move on then. So, Rachel how are your service is different from a writing or productivity coach?

13:32 Rachel Cornell

Well, I don't know exactly what the writing or productivity coach would do specifically. I think the thing that I bring to this -- well, it's my own creativity, the own experience as an artist and as you know, my idea is to make tricks and tools, but also the format that what I just have said, the kind of groundwork of what I do is looking at -- I'm always kind of underlying thinking about "where are they in the process? Are they still on the idea stage?" Because if you are try to complete something that you just thinking about, it is really hard to do. You need an idea first before you even have any movement. I have a client that's working on a name for a business. She needs the name before she moves forward in the business and _14:23_ front. So, we have to -- that would be if she still in the idea phase of it she's not in the fruition phase. So, I'm always considering the creative process as I work with the clients. So, that's may be something that distinguishes me from others. I want to see you succeed. I set you up to build and successes. I'm not attracted to affirmations because if you fail you had a failure. I want to see you have successes. That's why I bring things down to "I can do that." If you can turn on the computer, if you say you can and you do, that's a success, and I know it sounds trivial but they build on themselves to have, you know, major successes like Allan, who's about to publish a book and eventually he will have a success as published book. He has built his successes to the point that he has achieved what he desires to do. So, I don't know if that actually separates me, but that is kind of my style. You're my Rocky. If you're my client, you're my Rocky. I want to see you in and I would do everything to help you help yourself because you're winning, not me, get to where you need to go.

15:39 Caller 1

Alright. Well, thank you.

15:40 Allan

I can answer that question too from my perspective. I mean, I have used different kinds of coaches and things before. I think two things that are different about Rachel. One is its custom-tailored to you and on down to the daily basis, so it is not a formula that you're following or a set pattern, so you know -

15:59 Rachel Cornell


16:00 Allan

Rachel, it's just every time I'm like you can tell us you got like a thousands tricks in the bag, so she will find something that's works for you. And then the second thing is that sometimes is not really about the book project that's the issue. It might be something else you need to do before getting in the way and since Rachel can work with you on all your aspects of your business or what you're doing, she touches more than just a writing coach or somebody who is specifically tailored to writing a book with.

16:27 Rachel Cornell

Yeah, because like the last woman that was on the phone, she said she is running a business. She is trying to do all this things at the same time. Maybe she has a family, nothing in all things that we keep into in consideration and how we can fit in your writing time and make it fun and make it doable at the same time you continue living your life. I don't think you just ever - just writing a book or publishing a paper. There is always more to it and there is emotion involve, so we look at the emotion. We do what we can to put your resistance, so your fears kind of, you know, you can just ask it to sit over there for a little while, you can come back in a minute but right now, you're going to sit down and write for 15 minutes. I have tricks to help quiet the fear and quiet the resistance a little bit enough, so that you can continue doing the work. I pay attention to the emotion and pay attention to _1720_ if you are, you know, feeling a little bit tired or something in a certain day. So, I do want you to succeed and I will push you and if actual nagging works, I will do that.

17:38 Kim Pawlak

Alright. Well, Rachel can you share a few motivational tips that can help others increase their productivity or move forward with their projects.

17:47 Rachel Cornell

Well, I think a lot of what I have been sharing are those motivational tips but when you think,

18:16 Allan


18:17 Rachel Cornell

This is one of ?

18:18 Allan

Yeah. I have been surprised how helpful it is to just take start with what you are needed to do that day and break it down to really small pieces. How much that motivates me to start going versus -

18:31 Rachel Cornell


18:31 Allan

Thinking that after being inspired by something bigger or whatever that doesn't seem to help as much as just digging into the details of whatever it is.

18:38 Rachel Cornell

Right, right.

18:39 Allan

And, there are certain things that are happening, so.

18:41 Rachel Cornell

Right. It is so funny that just the idea of crossing one thing out your list can make you feel more able to cross the next thing out of your list. So, I even have people you know just stuck when they are going to a minor depression or something. Put things on your list that you know you are going to do like brush your teeth, you know, in other times funny, so you can start that feeling of crossing something off the list and you will be surprised like, "Oh, let's see what else I can do. Oh, I can do this next book actually, yeah. It is breaking things down. It's a great, great, great thing to do and writing them down. You are more like to do something because it is written down, you know, you turn that a hundred times but you know that's true.

19:27 Kim Pawlak

Is there any other things that you can think of? I think the book answers great things. I am always doing it in the moment, so I try to be kind of back up and think about what specific things. Allan did you have any others that I suggest that you approve, love or hate if I bring it up?

19:48 Allan

Yeah., no, no. I think like you said -- I think the other thing that Rachel does for me is, you know, sometimes you get really excited and you want to try to do too many things in a day and the process of going through and looking at each thing and talking through somebody else like me talking to Rachel helps to realize, "Hey, well, I really set myself up to be a failure today no matter how much as I do because I'll never going to get it all done.

20:13 Kim Pawlak


20:13 Allan

So having someone to talked it through come up with the realistic plan is another way to build up on that overtime.

20:20 Rachel Cornell

Yeah, or do or put those things that you are look at the most important things of the day and then put some of those extra things into the bonnet so that if it doesn't happen today it's okay. I think a lot of the reason why ProNagger works is not only is duly on your side but at least it helps with accountability. There is somebody else that has not connected to you know, if you are in a university there's all the university stuff. There is somebody else who's not connected to that noise that really wants to see and succeed, that knows you have a life outside into the process that you are working on and is going also help you be accountable to the things that you need to do. I think that's the huge part of it and when you are getting a daily dose of support and you know it just fuels the fire.

21:15 Kim Pawlak

And I'd like to also say other clients, that as a really busy person at first I was a little bit nervous about adding another thing to my preserved things to do.

21:28 Rachel Cornell


21:29 Kim Pawlak

And I found that the time I took to do what we worked on actually was helpful in my day. Instead of taking up time, it helps focus me. So when you always said to do five minutes to spend 5 minutes on.

21:49 Rachel Cornell


21:50 Kim Pawlak

And you would think that 5 minutes is a very long but if you focus on that task for five minutes, it's amazing how much you can get done in five minutes.

21:58 Rachel Cornell

Yeah, 5 minutes is a big long, long time, sometimes longer than you want. But you are rightly on your knees. You are amazed what you can do in 5. Were you saying something, Allan?

22:09 Allan

I would say I wrote my whole books 5 minutes at a time. It helps me totally writes it through.

22:14 Rachel Cornell


22:16 Kim Pawlak

That's great. That's great. Well let's see if we have any other callers that want to ask a question.

22:24 Rachel Cornell


22:25 Kim Pawlak


22:26 Caller 2


22:27 Kim Pawlak

Hi, go ahead.

22:28 Caller 2

I think someone

22:30 Kim Pawlak

Alright. We can hear you.

22:31 Caller 2

Yeah, I think the gentleman mentioned he wrote his book in 5 minutes a day and I'm intrigue by that because I'm writing my first book as well. So if you only did it for about 5 minutes a day, maybe sometimes a little more, how long overall did it take you to finish?

22:50 Allan

Oh yeah. It wasn't 5 minutes a day I was just 5 minutes a time and not might be 5 minutes of writing, 5 minutes posting the music, 5 minutes writing you know.

22:58 Caller 2

Oh I see.

22:59 Allan

So, there was definitely but that's more than 5 minutes a day.

23:02 Caller 2


23:03 Rachel Cornell


23:04 Allan

Yeah. It is long more than that, but

23:05 Caller 2


23:06 Rachel Cornell

Yeah, like one of the tricks of the equal part. One of the tools I have is what you call "Equal Parts", but Allan was kind of suggesting it is like, "You are having a hard time you know writing today so you agreed to do 5 minutes of writing and then 5 minutes of something that you find really enjoyable or you know other people would say it's a waste of time, like if you want to spend 5 minutes surfing the web or something to equal parts, and you could add it up, if you want to do 20 minutes on your writing and you get 20 minutes to play and whatever kind of reward that suits you. Personally, I think we are all kind of a lot like dogs. We either like praise, food, or attention. Well the dogs like praise, food, or plays, the three so, see what of the three that you like and give yourself enough tricks that will help you. But you know what, like you spent a lot of days not writing, so isn't 5 minutes a day is better than no minutes a day because if you are really stuck, you are just thinking about it during the day and actually haven't put any quality work down that day anyhow. So 5 minutes is great!

24:18 Caller 2

Okay. I have one more question.

24:20 Allan

I guess

24:21 Rachel Cornell


24:22 Caller 2

Yeah, and another question is, I am wondering Rachel, you have interest in services, I am wondering are there other people who offers services such as yourself or? Because I assumed that at some point you get overwhelmed with requests. So when you're overwhelmed with request do you refer people to another individual who does similar work? How does that work?

24:49 Rachel Cornell

Yeah, that's a good question because I only do take a certain amount of clients at a time, but I have other options with e-mail services and then I try to set it up so people can get some free support on my website and on my Facebook page. But I don't, you know, I have been thinking about training some other nags but I don't know how to translate this yet and I don't know anyone else that does it. I am working on an E-book that can walk you through a lot of the tricks and eventually I am going to have my book finished.

25:24 Kim Pawlak


25:24 Rachel Cornell

That would really spell out all the different tricks and the tools that you can use to help keep you moving. So, those are going to be actions as well but right now it's me and the tools on questions you can use, both the chat and my Facebook page.

25:42 Caller 2

Thank you.

25:43 Rachel Cornell

You are always welcome to ask me a question because I love answering questions.

25:51 Kim Pawlak

Okay, do you have any other questions?

25:54 Caller 2


25:55 Kim Pawlak

Okay, alright.

25:56 Caller 2

Thank you.

25:57 Kim Pawlak

I am going to take another caller. Alright, anyone else have any other questions, remember to press 1 if you want to raise your hand. Alright, well I am going to, it looks like we are almost out of time, so we will be closing out. If you have any other questions, I will be giving information about Rachel at the end of the show. So thank you Rachel for talking with me today.

26:32 Rachel Cornell

Oh, thanks Kim. This was fun.

26:34 Kim Pawlak

And thank you Allan for calling in.

26:36 Allan

Yes, sure. Hope it helps.

26:38 Kim Pawlak

Alright. Well, Rachel will be presenting an expanded version of today's topic as an Audio Conference for team members on September 14, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Participation is free for members. If you are not already a member, you can join for as little as $15. Nonmembers can participate in the Audio Conference for $69. If you miss the Audio Conference and a member, you can listen to it for free in the members' area of the website. Rachel's company is called ProNagger and you can learn more about her services at pronagger.com. You can also join the conversation on her Facebook page, The DailyNag, where she gives daily pointers. Thank you for listening today's Podcast. This is Kim Pawlak with TAA Podcast Series.