If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m a big believer in writing plans and writing goals. Writing plans and goals are important. It’s how we can stay motivated and move our projects forward. But sometimes, things don’t always go as planned. If one day gets off track, it might be easy to catch up, but if its a series of days, it can be a lot harder. And I’ve found that the harder it is to catch up, the more intimidating the entire task is, and it gets really easy to want to give up and walk away from it all.
This post is designed to cut off that overwhelming feeling that comes with falling behind on your writing plans and help you get back on track!
1) Take a timeout
Before you do anything, just take a second to breathe. Take a moment to understand what went wrong. If it was simply, “life happened” then don’t put any more thought into it. If, perhaps, you got too ambitious and tried to do too much too fast, make note of that so you don’t make the same mistake again. Also during this timeout, let go of any old plans and expectations. We’re resetting and starting fresh!
2) Assess where you are
Julia Cameron likes to say, “start where you are.” It’s good advice, especially in a situation like this. But first, you have to figure out where exactly you are. Take a moment to take inventory of where you and your project are at. How much of your old plan where you able to accomplish? Where exactly did you stop? This will become your new starting point.
3) Assess what you have left to do
Make a list of the tasks you still have to tackle. With each task, also list actionable steps you need to complete in order to accomplish the task. For example, one task might be “Fix main plot.” Some actionable steps you can do might be, “Identify the current problem, brainstorm a solution, outline scenes to work in the solution, add scenes into book.”
While it’s always helpful to break your problems down into action steps like this, I think it’s even more important after your previous plan falls through. It forces you to really slow down and make sure you’re allowing enough time for each step, which heightens the chance that you won’t be frustrated and disappointed by a plan twice in a row.
This step is two-fold. First, prioritize your tasks. The biggest and most important should go first. If you prioritize smaller tasks just because they’re easier and will give you some sense of accomplishment, you’re setting yourself up to waste time. Bigger tasks impact more of your project, which means sometimes the bigger task with either fix a smaller task or alter the course of a smaller task. If you tend to a smaller task first, there’s a chance your bigger task will force you to rewrite and change that smaller task twice.
Second, make a commitment to prioritize your new and improved plan. Sure, sometimes interferences are unavoidable, but sometimes they are. If someone or something is trying to take you away from your writing goals, give yourself a second to assess before you walk away from your story. Ask yourself: “Am I really the only person who can solve this problem? Is the problem truly urgent?” If the answer to these questions is “no” then don’t give up your writing time. Let someone else handle it or take it on after you finished your writing.
5) Make a new plan
Be realistic! If your first plan fell through because you over planned, scale back your daily goals. You’re better off moving a little slower, taking a little longer and actually finishing, than continually getting overwhelmed and falling behind. And if you got derailed because of some new recurring time commitment or lifestyle change, take that into consideration. One trick that helps me stay realistic is to first give an honest assessment of how much time I think I may need for a task, then, if at all possible, I give myself time and a half to complete it. So, if I think I’ll need two days to fix a plot, I plan to give myself three. This gives me a cushion and keeps me from falling behind. At best, it only takes me two days and I can get ahead of schedule.
6) Focus on one task at a time
When you get back to work, stay focused on the task at hand. Try to put aside all the work you still have to do, and all of the people or things that need your attention. When you are working on your book, the only thing that matters is your book. I’ve found that fifteen minutes of total focus is more productive than thirty when my mind is half on something else. This is also something to keep in mind while you’re making your new plan. If the only solid half hour you have to write means you’ll have to multitask, try to find ten or fifteen minutes when you don’t instead. Of course, every writer is different and this may not work for you, but I definitely think it’s worth trying out!
I hope this helps you regroup when your writing plans get derailed!
Now it’s your turn: What do you do when your writing plans get derailed? What tips have you borrowed from others? Tell me about it in the comments!
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