Writing a novel can unquestionably be overwhelming at times. It’s a massive undertaking, and there’s a ton of work that goes into writing a book, with no guarantees of a positive outcome. Some things that may cause your project to feel overwhelming include feeling lost in your story, getting behind on your goals, realizing you have so much work ahead of you, realizing your book needs more work than your thought, being told your work isn’t good enough, and so much more.
Here are seven tips to help you when writing feels overwhelming:
1) Take a break
Binge watch your favorite show, read, spend time with family/friends, spend time outside, or do anything that relaxes you and helps you reset. It might be tempting to guilt yourself while you take this break or chastise yourself for “wasting writing time.” But you’re not wasting writing time, you’re recharging. It will only be a true “break” if let yourself off the hook and give yourself permission to enjoy this activity and clear your mind. Coming back to your project with a clean slate may be just what you need to chase to overwhelm away. It’ll give you the opportunity to clear out everything that’s bringing you down, then when you come back to your project, you can reassess and prioritize.
2) Start where you are
This is a key philosophy in Julia Cameron’s book, The Right to Write. Don’t think about your entire project. Don’t even think about all the work you have ahead of you. Start where you are and take one step forward. Then take another. You can write an entire book this way. Overwhelm is more likely to set in when you look at the picture. So don’t look at the big picture until you’ve finished.
3) Make a new plan
If part of your overwhelm came from falling behind on your goals and plans, take a time out and make a new plan. I’m a big believer in making plans, setting goals, and doing your best to stick to them, but sometimes you have to make adjustments. You’re better off creating a new plan/goal that you can reasonably reach than struggling to catch up and getting discouraged. It may feel like you’re regressing or admitting defeat, but you’re not. You’re creating consistency, and that’s what will help you finish your book. You’re better off planning to write 500 words a day every day and hitting that mark than planning on 1,000 and falling behind. For more, check out why you should set reasonable writing goals and how to set reasonable writing goals.
4) Spend less time on social media
One problem with social media is how cultivated it is. People often share the good stuff over the problems they might be having. It can be easy to look at the social media feeds of your friends and acquaintances and think things are great for them. And if you’re struggling with your book, something you’re putting your heart and soul into, seeing everyone succeeding online might add to the overwhelm.
I’ve also found that the more I take in from others, the harder it is to focus on what I want to say and write. Or, as a friend once put it, too much input makes it hard to produce output. Take some time off social media and give yourself the space to think and create. This has helped me so much that I’ve cut back on social media across the board. It’s helped me be more centered, focused, and keeps overwhelm at bay.
5) Notice what’s discouraging you and step away
Sometimes, overwhelming feelings can be triggared by discouraging or negative forces in your life. Whether it’s someone telling you that “you can’t do this” or it’s yourself, looking up “how to get published” and panicking, negativity can make your project feel bigger or harder than it is. This can, in turn, make you overwhelmed. If you need to stop yourself from going to a certain site, most web browsers have a site blocker extension you can add on to help you stay away. If it’s a person, do your best not to talk about writing with this person. And if that person asks you questions, you can say something like, “I don’t like to talk about my projects until they’re finished.” Do whatever you have to in order to protect your writing and creativity.
6) Work on a different project for a bit
This is one of my favorite tricks! Not only does it cure writing overwhelm, but also writer’s block and other plot problems. If you’re anything like me, you write because you love it. Having a low-pressure side project always helps bring me back to why I write and takes my mind off whatever problems I’m having with my main project, including overwhelm. Often when I go back to the project causing me problems, it feels so much more manageable. For more on this, check out this post.
7) Talk to other writers
Every writer I know has felt overwhelmed by their projects at one point or another. Sharing stories and knowing you’re not alone in this can be a powerful way to push through. Not only that, your writer friend may have a tip or trick to help you navigate to a situation. I’m not on facebook, but I hear they have some great writer support groups. If you’re looking for writer friends in real life, consider taking a writing class at a library, community center, or local college. For more on the importance of writerly friendships, check out this post by my writer friend, Julie Eshbaugh.
I hope this helps you when writing feels overwhelming!
Now it’s your turn: What do you do when writing feels overwhelming? Do you have any tips and tricks to share? Tell me about it in the comments!
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