19 Steps I Took While Writing My Memoir

Craig Stanland
8 min readMay 16

19 Steps I Took While Writing “Blank Canvas, How I Reinvented My Life After Prison.”

1. Read Beautiful Writing:

I’d read (still do) what I believed was beautiful writing.

And then, one day, while I was in prison, I took it to another level. My gut told me to write the passage I had just read in my own handwriting.

For just a little bit, I embodied the author. I could feel why they chose those words and put them in that specific order.

It showed me the power of words, and it’s a practice I still employ.

2. Routine:

Based on my work schedule at the time, I wrote from 8–10 every morning. But it just wasn’t about those two hours; I had a routine I did before I sat down to write.

Cold shower, meditation, yoga, gratitude, journaling, and juggling while listening to the same song.

All because I wanted to arrive at #3.

3. Maximize my time:

I understood I only had two hours to dedicate to writing and needed to maximize those two hours.

I started thinking about times when I was in the zone and how good that felt. I knew I needed to enter that state to maximize those two hours.

Googling “In the Zone” led me to Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, and I discovered the term Flow and studied and embodied it.

4. Commitment:

I wrote almost every day for 3.5 years straight.

I’m guessing I took off 10 or fewer days during this time, and the days I took off were for a reason — I was feeling burnt out and needed a reset.

This commitment was more than just a desire to get it done; it was about rebuilding my self-trust (which was decimated after prison).

Through this commitment, I became a person I could count on.

I rebuilt my self-trust.

5. One true sentence:

I’d do my morning routine, I’d sit down every day, and I’d do everything I could to maximize those 2 hours.

It doesn’t mean the words flowed. I’d get stuck — a lot.

Craig Stanland

I write about my journey from corporate success to federal prison and finding joy, mission, meaning, and fulfillment beyond professional and financial success.