Clear the Decks for Your Writing + a Downloadable Checklist

Back-to-school time is upon us. Whether you have kids or not, the end-of-summer, beginning-of-fall, time-to-get-organized energy is running high right now! 

(It also means we’re at or near that moment where the end of the year is in sight. Can you feel it? I’m feeling it.)

This makes this time of year pretty much the ideal for thinking about how, when, where (and why!) you’ll meet your writing goals for the year. Maybe you didn’t get as much writing done this summer (or year so far) as you’d intended. Maybe you did. If you’re on track, more power to you! If not, this is a great time to adjust your course.

For me, after losing my father in February and some unexpected health issues, I’m in a much different place than I’d expected to be, but I’m ready to take a big leap forward now. 

The fall Deep Dive Writing Intensive is a big part of this plan for me. I’m targeting making a big burst of progress on the sci-fi script I’m working on. I’m also looking ahead, knowing the holidays are coming, we have a wedding to go to, my 50th birthday is coming up (holy smokes), and my older son’s birthday (11!), plus flu and cold season, so I’m aiming to take action while the energy is here. 

In the first prep workshop for the Deep Dive, we’ll start with “Clearing the Decks” for our writing. We’ll meet by phone on September 5th to make our Clear the Decks plans so we’re ready to rock and roll on September 20th when we start writing in earnest. I’m giving you a special preview of this process (and a downloadable checklist!), so whether or not you participate in the Deep Dive, this will help you make more time and space for your writing. 

How to Clear the Decks for Your Writing

Clearing the decks for your writing is a fascinating topic because it can be such a slippery slope — I don’t want you to decide you have to KonMari* your entire home before you can write — you have to be mindful about how you approach this. So many writers put off writing until “everything else” is taken care of first, and that’s just not the way it works — in general. 

However, if you’re setting out to do a focused burst of writing, you’ll want to make some extra space in your life to make it work. The core idea here is to look for opportunities to streamline, clean up, eliminate, delegate, and clear out to make more room for your writing.

This is also an excellent opportunity to review your schedule for any “creep” that’s occurred, like extra commitments that have snuck into your schedule and make it harder have time or energy to write, or any back-sliding that’s happened with scheduling your writing time or your resolve to meet it.

Here’s a list to get you started thinking about the different areas of your life you might want to triage. (Hint: the key word here is triage! Again, you don’t want to try to handle everything, but systematically evaluating what might get in the way and proactively handling it is quite effective.)

Remember, the core idea is to eliminate or quiet things that might otherwise get in the way of your writing. You can use these questions as prompts to freewrite or brainstorm to get yourself started, and then use the checklist (below) as you work your way through making any needed changes. 

  1. Logistical Realm: What adjustments do you need to make to your schedule to make space for your writing? What events, guests, responsibilities, and commitments do you have coming up that you’ll either want to reschedule, eliminate, or decide how to accommodate around your writing? 
  2. Physical Realm: What do you need to do to make your physical space more conducive to writing, if anything? Is there clutter? Are there distractions in your line of sight? How can you take great care of your physical needs with healthy food, snacks, beverages, sleep, and exercise? Are any physical IRL materials for your book organized and ready to use? 
  3. Mental Realm: How will you reward yourself for writing? Are there any open loops you need to close or resolve so you can focus? How will you handle new writing ideas that come up during your writing time? How will you handle negative self-thoughts if they come up?
  4. Emotional Realm: How will you handle emotional challenges that may arise around your writing? How will you handle non-writing emotional challenges? What support systems can you put in place?
  5. Digital Realm: How can you minimize or eliminate digital distractions so you can focus on your writing? Is there any organization of your writing files you need to do? 
  6. Financial Realm: What bill paying and other financial tasks can you handle now or automate so you can prioritize your writing? Are there other financial tasks (like taxes) you need to handle in advance or plan to address when you’re done? 
  7. Relational Realm: How can you guide your family, partners, friends, and colleagues to respect your writing time? How will you protect your writing time from interruptions? 
  8. Spiritual Realm: How can you spiritually prepare to make the most of your writing time? What intentions and positive visions are you holding for yourself as you write? Are there rituals you may want to plan in advance?
  9. Writing Prep Realm: Is there anything you want to have prepped or completed BEFORE you begin your intensive writing time? Do you have a timeline in place for completing it? 

Download Your “Clear the Decks” Checklist Here

Click here to download your Clear the Decks” Checklist so you can make space for your own focused writing burst or get a jump on prepping for the Deep Dive. 

Join the next Deep Dive Writing Intensive.

Find out more and register here: 
https://calledtowrite.com/deep-dive

 

 

 

* From The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
Working hard

Is It Time for a Big Burst of Progress on Your Book?

There are many stages of writing.

There are the practical stages — inspiration, idea, concept, development, outlining, drafting, revising, editing, polishing, and proofing.

There are the emotional stages of a writing project — from eureka! to discouragement to resolve to despair to euphoria to apathy to completion. It’s an up and down journey sure to delight the most ardent theme park enthusiasts. Or not.

There are also a set of career stages in a writer’s life. We might experience them as a progression as we evolve from feeling the call to write to treating it the way a professional does, or we might move in and out of these states along the path to writerdom.

For example:

  • Wanting to write but not writing.
  • Writing occasionally, ephemerally, but not quite getting anywhere. 
  • Binge writing in a big burst of enthusiasm, to meet a deadline, or in a NaNoWriMo-fueled burst, but then crashing into writing aversion/burnout for a long period of time, maybe even months or years. 
  • Writing regularly and consistently, but maybe not as productively as you’d like to be, possibly struggling with creative blocks along the way.
  • Writing like a pro.

Before you hit the pro stage (and sometimes even then), these stages can be sometimes more fulfilling than others, depending on where you are in your writing career. 

For example, if you’ve been wanting to write forever, and you’re finally writing every day, even for just a few minutes day, that’s a huge win. On the other hand, if you’ve been plodding away at a draft, day in and day out, and feeling like you’re never getting anywhere, it might be time for a push with your writing.

I generally work with writers in my Called to Write Coaching Circle who want to go from not writing to writing. From writing sporadically and inconsistently, to writing daily. (Or as one of our writers put it, writers who want to go from whining to writing. LOVE that.) 

In the Deep Dive Writing Intensives I run, I work with writers who are ready for more. They might have the daily writing thing down, but want to put in a focused burst of work on their books or screenplays. This usually happens when they have a goal they’re trying to reach and want a boost of progress to get there. 

Here are some examples of times you might be ready for a big push with your book or script.  

Signs You Might Be Ready to Go for a Push with Your Writing

  • You’re willing and able to carve out the time and space in your life for an ultra-focused period of writing. This means being willing to clear your schedule of any and all extraneous commitments and otherwise scaling back where you can (stockpile your freezer now!) to make it easy on yourself. 
  • You have a story idea you want to develop or outline and want to (need to!) carve out some time to do it. Putting in a few weeks of intense attention can get you to the finally “ready to write pages” stage and feel incredibly satisfying. 
  • You’re writing, but you’re stuck in a rut or feeling complacent about your work and your progress. There’s nothing like doing a big push on your book or script to get you out of your comfort zone and operating at a higher level of productivity. You’ll want to make sure you have a way to keep writing once you get to the other side of a focused burst of writing so you don’t crash and burn afterward.
  • You’ve done all the prep work for a new project but you’re hesitating and holding back from diving into the actual writing. If you’re sitting on the edge of the pool, scared to even dip in a toe, now might be exactly the right time to take the plunge. It can be easier to face all the resistance in one go, especially if you find a way to write alongside other writers to help support you.
  • You’re in the middle of writing a book or a big rewrite and you’re struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The dreaded middle of any stage of book is called the dreaded middle for many reasons, including that it’s just plain hard to get through. Remember — when you’re going through hell, keep going. This is a good time to put on a burst of speed, keep your head down, and keep working. 
  • You’re staring down a deadline and procrastinating or struggling to pace yourself and you want to avoid the binge-burnout cycle you’re setting yourself up for. Many writers (especially those dealing with second novel syndrome, I find) get stuck in procrastination when there’s a deadline coming up — not close enough to spur you into action, but not far away enough to totally ignore. This makes for a constant and uncomfortable low level of guilt and anxiety. Whether you’re working on a self-imposed deadline, a publisher’s deadline, or other submission deadline, using a focused, structured burst of writing to help pace yourself can be life and sanity saving, plus you’ll be far better positioned not to lose your writing habit on the other side. 
  • You’re making progress, kind of, but you’d really like to put some mileage on this thing and see your page count climb. Along the same lines as the “dreaded middle,” sometimes you just need to see somethinganything happening to feel some sense of progress and accomplishment (so helpful with these long form writing projects).
  • You need a safe space to write. If when you’re part of a critique group (or even just hard on yourself in your internal mental conversations), you may want a separate, critique-free writing “space” where you’re just committed to the process regardless of anything else happening. It can be both healing and relieving to “just write” and is particularly so when you’re writing with a group of like-minded writers who help you normalize the experience of writing.
  • You wish you could go on a retreat or disappear to a cabin in the woods but you can’t quite swing it with your budget (or your family, job, or other commitments). Finding a way to create a writing retreat for yourself from the comfort of your own home is a lovely alternative and can fulfill much of that desire in you to “get away and write.”
  • You know what you want to write but you’re having trouble overcoming resistance. That monster called resistance can be handled in a couple of ways. One is by sneaking past it in small increments of writing time, which is an excellent way to get started. The other is to jump in, full bore, and write like your life depends on it. The trick is having a structured support to help you keep going afterward. 

If You’re Ready to Go Big, Here’s How

If you’ve decided you’re ready to make a big focused burst of progress with your writing, while there are certainly options, like creating a self-led writing intensive for yourself or attending a writing retreat (if you can swing the travel, lodging, and retreat costs), I’m a fan of online writing intensives like my Deep Dive to help you focus and get the most bang of your buck. 

Here are some resources to get your started:

There are certainly times when a writing intensive is NOT the way to go — if you’re dealing with creative wounds for example, or having trouble figuring out what to work on. If you’re wondering if you’re ready for a big burst of writing progress, shoot me an email or ask me a question in the comments and I’ll be happy to talk it over with you. 

Featured image photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash