In Writer Challenges on November 27, 2009 at 4:35 am

As I know others will surely be able to relate to the following circumstance, I thought I’d share my current challenge and some tidbits that may help those in similar straits.  After all, that is what I’m here for.

Over the past couple weeks I have found it usually difficult to find my groove.  Perhaps it was the upcoming holidays, maybe the fact that I’ve been operating on little to no sleep, maybe the stress of some relationship issues bearing down on me.  No matter what the cause you can rest assured that you will come upon times when staying focused is beyond a challenge (if you haven’t already).

I try to maintain my momentum, and as such I keep quite a few projects on my plate at any given time.  This is not easy by a long shot, but I manage – until recently.  The past couple weeks my workload has had a paralyzing effect.  Where I’d normally thrive under the pressure, I’ve cracked.  I feel almost helpless in the face of the daunting to-do list (professional and otherwise).  How have I coped?  I haven’t really.  It’s much easier to ignore the problem and watch episodes of Law & Order: SVU.  I’ve found myself extremely frustrated and discouraged.

Considering my my misfortune I’ve found some solace in one fact- these feelings are normal.  But the even better news is that we can break the cycle.  You may find yourself reading this as a person who’s going through the same thing, or someone who’s already found their way off the merry-go-round.  Either way it is possible to get back into the groove of things sooner rather than later, before the mountain of work gets any bigger.

In my case the first step is accomplishing one small task to boost confidence.  I decided to update my blog.  Then move on to another small task with tangible results.  Research for your book is good, but for the purpose of gaining back your momentum it’s best to stick to tasks in which you can see your progress – like writing the outline to your cover letter, submitting a short article to Examiner, submitting work to a contest, etc.

Once you’ve accomplished a few less intimidating tasks you may move onto larger ones by breaking them down into manageable steps.  Have you been assigned your first feature article and have yet to write it?  Here’s an example of how you might break down the process:

  1. Revisit your initial query to refresh your memory.
  2. Write down some questions you’d like to answer in the article.
  3. Write your outline, and be sure to include where the answers to the aforementioned questions would be.
  4. Write your rough draft (no research yet; leave space to include stats and facts later).
  5. Research for your article (use specific questions as your guide; this will save time).
  6.  Write your article chunks at a time.
  7. Edit & polish.

By breaking down one intimidating task into manageable steps you may be able to overcome your paralysis.  In some cases you’ll be able to spread your steps out over a few days.  On others you may have to accomplish many tasks in one day taking breaks in between.

In the future you can avoid this process all together by recognizing the warning signs.  Have you been feeling overwhelmed?  Not getting much sleep?  Are tasks popping up faster than you can complete the ones you already have? 

  • You may allow yourself one day to recuperate when needed, but after that it’s back to work, otherwise work will pile up and you’ll be right back to square one. 
  • Eliminate Non-essential tasks until you feel comfortable and able picking the project up again.
  • Allow yourself some time to breathe.  Taking 10min here and there during the day will save you time by preventing burnout.
  • Ask for help.  A good friend to hold you accountable can pay in dividends by keeping work from piling up.
  1. Avoidance is sometimes my way of coping but I’ve begun to do just what you said. Make a list of the things that need to be done and accomplish just one item at a time. Another method that has worked for me was recommended by the FlyLady – setting my timer for 15 minutes and then stopping when the timer goes off. Sometimes I even set it for as little as 5 minutes. That usually gets me going again.

  2. Hey Hun. Slammed w/sick kids and crazy Wallyworld adventures this week. I stopped by… you have block? Sing and dance and blast the radio. Be inspired by MUSIC.

    That is what gets my creative juices flowing, big time!

    hugs sweets. Have a good rest of the week and don’t let the worry overtake you!

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