We’ve all had those writing projects – the ones that seemed so straight forward. And then…
It’s okay when you get overwhelmed in your writing project! It doesn’t mean that you need to give up but it does mean that you might need a different approach! Here are 5 steps to cut through the overwhelm!
1. Determine exactly what is causing your stress
It’s my experience that it’s one of three things:
- Lack of a plan
- Lousy idea
Some deadlines can be moved and some can’t! If you’re writing for somebody else, reach out and share that you’re having challenges and see if there’s any flexibility.
And speaking as somebody who writes for a living: sometimes the deadline is what it is. It only takes one (okay, maybe two) crunch assignments when you KNOW you didn’t give yourself enough time to complete it to your usual standards that you either plan better or negotiate the deadline earlier!
The lack of a plan can be two-fold: the timeline plan or the writing plan, aka, an outline. This isn’t necessarily a quick-fix solution to fix a missing or incomplete plan! But if you’re writing for someone else (client, publisher, partner, etc) reach out for clarification.
If you’re all on your own, step back and create that plan! It’s better to cut a few pages that aren’t going to fit the overall body of work than to try to muscle through and get all the way to the end realizing that your ladder was on the wrong wall!
A lousy idea can be harder to identify. Sometimes it’s an overall lousy idea: you’re not interested, you don’t have the knowledge to write it, or the idea isn’t big enough to carry all the way through.
On the other hand, a lousy idea can also show up as “right idea, wrong format.” An example of that is an article I was writing for a client – I had way more information than I could put into just one article. When I looked at it, I realized it was better served as THREE articles!
Another example of this is The Book Idea Workbook. This originally started as ONE blog post! Um, no?! Way too much information for a single article.
2. Reach out for support!
I think everybody can tell stories. Some people are better at it than others!
By the same token, everybody has something to say – not everybody can write! This can be:
- I don’t like it
- I’m not good at it
- I THINK I’m not good at it
- I’m unable (dyslexic, blind, no fingers, etc.)
So if you’re getting bogged down with the physical act of writing, for whatever reason:
It’s okay to hire a ghostwriter, copywriter, or coach.
3. Build yourself a backup
Remember when my life fell apart in January? And I was a huge advocate of having “extra” articles written for when life just gets too busy?
(Nope, I haven’t done it for myself but I’m doing it for my clients!)
I’m still suggesting that you create a backup for yourself to take some of the pressure off! When you’re blogging this can be re-running a prior article, having a guest author, or publishing pre-written copy. A tip I’ve been using lately for myself and my clients is to email myself links to useful resource and research articles AS I FIND THEM. Then I don’t waste time researching when I should be writing!
If you’re working on a book, consider farming out some of your research. You can also hire people for editing and formatting.
By the way, building yourself a backup in the middle of your overwhelm isn’t the way to go! Now is the time to USE your backup. Or put it on your to do list for as soon as you’re not so cramped for time.
4. Take care of yourself
When you’re overwhelmed, it’s tempting to do nothing but chain yourself to your computer. And while that may work for a while, you’ll do better work if you’re drinking enough water, eating balanced meals to keep the brain energized, and moving around.
This week has already been a bit overwhelming. I realized that I was STARVING. At 4:15 pm. Instead of fighting through to an “acceptable” dinner time, I stopped and ate dinner. I was able to return to the computer and the project with a functioning brain!
5. Know your triggers
Seriously, if you’re already overwhelmed, now is NOT the time to move from your quiet office to a busy coffee shop. Or if you thrive with music on, to turn it off and try to work in silence.
Make it easy on yourself! Know what’s going to support you and what’s going to make you crazy!
Me? I like my background music. But I realized that my Pandora was making me crazy. So I’ve got an hour-long playlist on repeat. Yes, I listen to the same twelve songs over and over all day. I know it works for me! So why fight it?
This can also be knowing that you tend to lose hours “taking a break” with the TV, YouTube, or Facebook. Set a timer so you know when to get back to work. This isn’t about willpower – it’s about giving yourself the tools to meet your deadlines with your best work!