It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the writing game. Deadlines seem to be the mark of success, and the ability to juggle multiple projects an expected talent. When things get tough, however, and we become mentally exhausted, we can be tempted to hit the snooze button on our writing business tasks and try to eek out a bit of stolen time in the day.
Think Before You Snooze
If you have a writing assignment due to an editor and you drop the ball, that editor will never completely trust you again. Most will never offer another assignment or contract. Your follow-through is critical to their success, too. If you don’t submit the writing project as promised, they have to scramble and try to fill the space your writing was supposed to grace. If you can’t complete a contracted project for any reason, let the editor know as soon as possible. Don’t keep hitting the snooze button and thinking something miraculous will happen if you just wait.
It seems like most writers are procrastinators. Part of that is because we have more and more on our plates each day, sure, but it’s also because we often try to fit too much into each 24 hour period. The result is that there’s no energy left for creativity, and when an emotional drain happens, the writing gets pushed aside.
Do yourself a favor and practice saying this one little phrase, “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t possibly do that right now. You’re going to have to ask someone else.” I know this won’t always work, that you truly may be the only person who can do what needs to be done. Still, don’t just accept the every task because you’ve been asked. Doing so is the first step on the fast track to burnout.
I’ve known writers who stopped writing because of family stress and personal strain, saying they’d get back on schedule when the current obstacles were gone. I’ve seen those same writers go for months, years, and yes, even decades before they started writing regularly again.
And writing regularly is key. If you only write 250 words per day on a book idea—that’s just one double spaced page—by the end of the year you’ll have 91,250. And if you fill one single spaced page each day you’ll have written double that word count.
Best of all, you may even be able to write and sell on the very thing trying to sidetrack your writing career. Markets are always looking for health and family stories. The added benefit is that you may exorcise a few emotional demons as you write about your current journey.
Grab the Pad rather than Slapping the Button
The next time you’re tempted to hit the snooze button on your career, reach for a small pad instead. Facing a small notepad is often psychologically easier than sitting in front of a blank page on the screen. Then write.
As you fill up a page of the notepad, flip to the next one and keep going as long as the words flow and time permits. Five minutes…great. Ten…better. Fifteen…hurrah! Don’t forget to congratulate yourself on your progress at the end. From tiny acorns mighty oaks do grow.
Then when things start to overwhelm again, and the snooze is tempting you, sit at the computer and begin a brief writing session by typing up the pages from your notepad. This will not only build in an almost immediate sense of accomplishment, because you’ll quickly have words appearing right before your eyes, but it will also help jumpstart new thoughts, and make the subsequent writing easier.
My Journal, My Friend
Keep the notepad handy in purse or pocket, and have it ready to intercede whenever your emotions start trying to take over and you feel yourself gazing longingly toward your mental snooze button. Then put it all down, every emotion, every frustration, and every unexpectedly happy moment. You’ll be amazed at how this information will jog your creative juices both now and later. Moving forward is the key to keeping creative in overwhelming times.
Keep Daily Appointments
Even if you have to force yourself to do so, keeping to a schedule, even an abbreviated one, makes it much easier to maintain and see successful results.
Something else I make sure I do every day is to write my gratitude list. I write five things I’m pleased have experienced in the day. Some are big, most are pretty small, but putting each down on my list gives me a chance to again celebrate the moment.
Another great option is to keep goal lists, as these lists can focus the mind back on necessary paths when it seems like everyone around you is trying to pull focus away from your writing. When you set goals, be specific. If you have a deadline, mark it on the calendar and break up the necessary tasks to complete it. Then mark a deadline for each individual task as a mini-deadline in the days or weeks leading to the final one.
The more specific we can make our goals and challenges, the more we set ourselves up for writing success.
You Snooze, You Lose
Yes, you knew I had to say it, right? But it’s true. The more we let things slide, the more we lose. But the more we stay to a steady course, even if its more compressed than we like, the more we accomplish and the more projects we have completed to pitch in the future.
Do you have coping methods you use to keep your head when everyone around seems to be losing theirs? Please feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section.