Let's face it: writing isn't always easy. Sure, it's fun when we're in the zone, when we have a brilliant idea in mind and the words just seem to flow. But most of the time?
Most of the time, writing is hard.
We battle tricky plot holes, the urge to edit as we write, the monstrous task of editing, scenes that just don't seem to have any direction, the hell that is proofreading, and so on.
And oftentimes, we lose our battles, letting the overwhelm of tackling tough writing problems or goals turn us to procrastination rather than productivity. So how can we flip the script?
That's exactly what we're going to talk about today!
Why clarity is your new best friend…
One of the reasons I wanted to create my new free resource, Write With Purpose, was to teach writers how to get clear about what they want and how they plan to get it.
Because you can't make a plan if you don't know where you're headed, and if there's anything that's going to help you overcome overwhelm, it's having a plan. Why?
Well, most writing overwhelm is caused by one (or more!) of a few things:
• A lack of knowledge or skill
• Minimal writing time
• Doubts about your skill
• Fear of an intimidating task
But by building an action plan that will help us tackle these writing struggles, we're able to stop doubts and fears in their tracks, work actively to improve our craft, and make the most of what little writing time we have.
Boom! The power of plans, coming right atcha. Pretty awesome, right?
Now, I know some of you cringe at the thought of planning, but hear me out. Having an action plan to overcome your writing struggles and achieve intimidating goals isn't going to stifle your creativity or take up lots of mental space and energy.
It's simply going to provide you the direction you need to arrive at a destination you've yet to visit. So don't get lost...or dare I say overwhelmed. Make a plan to divide and conquer today.
My super simple system for conquering writing overwhelm…
Conquering your overwhelm doesn't have to look like Jon Snow facing down Ramsey Bolton's army.
You simply need to take your overwhelm and smash it to bits. Like a toddler with a cookie. Or the Hulk with...anyone the Hulk doesn't like. Something like that.
In other words, divide and conquer. Here's what I'm talking about…
Step #1: Identify the root of your overwhelm.
Are you struggling with your writing routine? Afraid of editing? Feeling overwhelmed by the publishing process? Begin by identifying the root of your overwhelm. Let's take a look at a few examples...
1) If you're struggling with your writing routine, it's likely because you're lacking either time or motivation (or both!).
2) Or if you're afraid of editing, it's probably because you're unsure of what needs to get done to complete such a massive task.
3) And if you're overwhelmed by pre-writing, it's probably because you just don't have any idea where to start.
Get real about what lies at the root of your struggle. A doubt or fear, a lack of knowledge or skill, a time crunch?
The sooner you know exactly what you're dealing with, the sooner you can overcome it.
Step #2: Identify key milestones.
Now that you know what you're struggling with, it's time to divide and conquer. Begin by thinking about 3 - 5 major milestones you'll need to reach if you want overcome your struggle or achieve your intimidating goal.
Not sure what that looks like? Let's explore our examples once again:
If you need to maximize your writing time, your milestones might include:
1) Completing a time assessment to see how you can better make use of your time.
2) Shifting your priorities so you write more and Netflix less.
3) Using brains triggers to trick your brain into falling into a groove faster.
If you need to tackle editing, your milestones might include:
1) Researching editing tasks.
2) Making a game plan that prioritizes high impact editing tasks.
3) Putting your game plan into practice.
And if you need to decide on a publishing path, your milestones might include:
1) Researching traditional book deals, self-publishing options, and hybrid companies.
2) Reading through multiple sources on each path to gain a well-informed view on each.
3) Creating a pros and cons list for each publishing path.
4) Choosing the path you'll take.
Once you've identified your major milestones, it's time to move on to the third step of our Divide and Conquer formula.
Step #3: Identify major goals.
Now you know the major milestones involved in overcoming the root of your overwhelm, but each milestone is still quite intimidating in its own right. That's why it's time to divide and conquer again, this time breaking each milestone down into smaller goals.
Take the first milestone from your list and think about 2 - 10 tasks involved in completing it. These will be your major goals. For example…
If you need to complete a time assessment, your major goals may include:
1) Researching effective time assessment techniques.
2) Figuring out how you will track your time (via apps, an Excel spreadsheet, etc).
3) Completing your assessment.
If you need to research editing tasks, your major goals may include:
1) Doing a basic search to learn more about editing tasks.
2) Compiling a list of tasks relevant to your manuscript.
3) Researching each individual task to get a better understanding of what goes in to completing them.
And if you need to research publishing paths, your major goals may include:
1) Reading through five articles on traditional publishing.
2) Reading through five articles on self-publishing.
3) Reading through five articles on hybrid publishing.
See how dividing each milestone into goals helps banish a little more overwhelm?
By continuously breaking your writing struggles down into smaller, more manageable tasks, you get clear about exactly what steps you need to take next to banish your overwhelming struggle or achieve your intimidating goal.
But I still called these tasks "major goals" for a reason. It's okay if they still feel pretty overwhelming. That's totally normal, and it's exactly why we're going to divide and conquer one more time.
Step #4: Identify daily or weekly tasks.
By taking the first major goal on your list and breaking it down one last time, you should end up with a few bite-size tasks that you can complete during your daily or semi-weekly writing sessions.
Need a few examples? You got it, dude.
If your first major goal is to research effective time assessments, your daily or weekly tasks may include:
1) Googling time assessments and bookmarking five articles to read at a later time.
2) Reading through a few of your bookmarked articles to get a feel for what's involved in completing a time assessment.
3) Reading additional articles if you haven't yet found a time assessment that works well for you.
If your major goal is to do a basic search of tasks involved in editing, your daily or weekly tasks may include:
1) Defining the difference between editing and revising.
2) Finding and bookmarking a few articles on each.
3) Reading through these articles and taking notes.
And if your major goal is read through five first-hand articles on traditional publishing, your daily or weekly tasks may include:
1) Looking up the names of a few traditional publishing gurus.
2) Sifting through the gurus' sites to bookmark relevant articles.
3) Reading the articles you bookmarked and taking notes.
See how easy it is to make an action plan?
By identifying the root source of your overwhelm and choosing to fight it, you're already off to a great start. But by working to divide and conquer the tasks involved in overcoming your overwhelm, you know exactly what you must do next at all times. You take power back into your own hands.
And you know what? That's just smart writing.
Do you feel ready to conquer writing overwhelm?
I use this method to overcome my own writing struggles all the time, as well as to help me plan out how I'm going to achieve my writing dreams.
That's exactly why I included an extended version of this action plan in Well-Storied's latest free resource, Write With Purpose. Want to know more?
Write With Purpose is a free 46-page workbook that breaks down my simple system for finding focus, cultivating confidence in storytelling, and building your ideal writing life.
This system includes 5 simple steps, each of which I break down with lessons and guided questions. To learn more and grab your copy of this free resource today, click the button below!
Are you feeling inspired to kick writing overwhelm to the curb? Go get 'em, champ!
If you have any questions about the Divide and Conquer method or would like a few more examples, don't hesitate to let me know in the comments below. Let's get you back in control of your writing life ASAP, okay? *high fives*