Yesterday’s release of my first book for 2021 officially marked the end of my writer’s block. It took eighteen months, four versions, countless drafts, and four deadline extensions before I finally found my groove again and wrote the version that was released three months before release day.
It’s bittersweet but oh, what relief to know that I’ve overcome the biggest challenge in my writing career.
It wasn’t all because of one thing. It was a combination of things, from family losses and personal struggles, taking on too much without recognizing or understanding my strengths and weaknesses, to expecting too much of myself. That last part, especially. There were no baby steps, just giant steps.
BEING BUSY VS. BEING PRODUCTIVE
One of the things I always thought about myself was that I was always busy. Busy doing this or that. I prided myself for being able to multi-task, being superwoman and all…
But at the end of the day, I would end up learning that not much had been achieved. Most of the things I would start to do weren’t finished, forgotten, or never started.
So I started learning the difference between being busy and being productive? Which one would I like to be?
To be productive both as a writer and as a person with a life outside of writing, I decided to do the following:
- Made a list of things that needed to be done.
Have a book on preorder that needs to be completed? Sure. Write it down. Doing a takeover in a Facebook group? Write it down. Need to organize my series into a timeline? Write it down. Better yet, create a checklist. Mine started out on Google Sheets with the date, task, and a checkbox. I’ve since created that same checklist on my Evernote app complete with deadlines and reminders.
- Broke down tasks into small chunks.
Writing a book? It took a while but I set a goal to write one chapter a day or in two days. An act in a week or so. Once achieved, I’d mark it as done and set another goal to write the next chapter and so on.
- Identified my strengths and weaknesses and worked around them accordingly.
This is probably the biggest discovery for me. Two years ago, I signed up for Becca Syme’s Write Better Faster course under the assumption that I’d learn how to simply ‘write faster.’ Boy, was I so wrong. Her course is based on Gallup’s Clifton Strengths where one’s writing styles is based on that individual’s top 5 strengths. No one person’s strengths are going to be alike.
It took me two years and getting over burnout/writer’s block to finally figure out how my strengths helped my writing when I started out and why, when I thought I was being too slow compared to other writers, burnout/writer’s block hit me when it did. Instead of working with my strengths (I write with feeling, with barebones outlining, and I love discovering the story as I go), I was doing the opposite until one day, the words were simply gone.
- Asked for help.
In the middle of my burnout/writer’s block, it was so easy to just hide inside my shell and pretend that everything was okay. But one day, when I decided to venture back out to the writing world again, I knew that I couldn’t do it all on my own. So I hired a business coach to help get me back on track. I reconnected with writing friends and set up accountability goals. I also sought out counseling to deal with personal issues.
- Be proud of myself and what I’ve achieved so far.
This was one of the hardest things for me to learn because I had set up such major goals on myself that baby achievements were nothing but a blip on the screen that I thought didn’t warrant a celebration. To me, it just wasn’t big enough of an achievement to be proud of. But after going through writer’s block and burnout, guess what? I celebrate the little things now. Life is too precious not to, to be honest.
- Not to be too hard on myself.
There’ll be days where you’re just not feeling it, but don’t worry too much – keep going. Do something else in the meantime. Fill the well by reading a book, listening to music or an audiobook, going on a hike, or picking up a hobby. Breathe. Relax. Pat yourself on the back for what you’ve accomplished that day. Taking a break can help reset your mindset, and get you prepared to returning to the task at hand.
These are just a few of the strategies I’ve been using since my burnout/writer’s block. I’ve also learned to take things one day at a time, one thing at a time. I’ve learned to say no to things that I know will cause me stress while not really aligning with my personal goals. I’ve learned to not get carried away with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Besides, my plate is already full as it is.
How about you? How do you stay productive? Any tips to add?