A Writer’s Guide to Starting from Scratch
As writers, we know how important it is to find a balance between our writing and other obligations.
We also know how important it is to remain consistent with our goals so we reach them within our desired timeframe.
However, when you’re transitioning into full-time writing, your other obligations are what keep your life together and your bills paid until you’re able to transition completely.
This means the balance and consistency you need to transition smoothly is often not there. Your day is taken up by your job, your personal time by family and social obligations.
Throw delays, interruptions, and exhaustion into the mix, and it’s too easy to end up behind on your writing goals. Sometimes, so behind, there’s no way to catch up.
I’ve been in this position too many times to count, and what saw me through every time? I’d let everything go and start from scratch.
When your current strategy isn’t working, it’s time to create a new one.
Take a Break
There’s nothing that stifles your creativity more than being behind and having no way to catch up. Your thoughts become the equivalent of a swarm of flies in your mind; you become scattered, overwhelmed, and unable to focus.
Step away from the computer, and take a break. The length of your break will vary based on how frustrated you are. Only go back to your writing when you feel “level” again; it’s the only way you’ll be able to think clearly and create a new strategy.
Create a Clean Slate
The more you scramble to catch up on a strategy that doesn’t work, the bigger mess you’ll make. Drop everything. Everything. Take this time and organize all of your writing: your ideas, your works-in- progress, completed pieces you need to market, and your online marketing tasks. Divide everything into their own piles (or file folders if all of your writing is on your computer).
Once all of your writing and old to-do lists are organized, this brings where you currently stand with your writing into focus.
Fill Your Pickle Jar
I was first introduced to the Pickle Jar Theory through Orna W. Drawas, author of Perform Like A Rock Star and Still Have Time For Lunch. As she says, it’s not about doing things right, it’s about doing the right things.
We’re constantly told about the importance of prioritizing, but when you love every writing project equally, it’s hard to focus on one without feeling guilty for neglecting the others.
Learning about this theory made all the difference for me, and I know it will for you too.
So, you have an empty pickle jar, and there are four ingredients you fill the pickle jar with: rocks, pebbles, sand, and water.
Rocks are the most important ingredient, and represent your top priorities. Although all of your writing projects are of equal importance to you emotionally, you have to prioritize by working on the ones that are most likely to transition you into a full-time writing career.
For example, my one and only rock this year was applying for writing jobs. Now, I work for Sterling & Stone, and it’s the one rock that comes before any other writing project I’m working on.
Pebbles are the writing tasks you have to complete to get the results you want from your rocks. In my case, my pebbles include outlines and research for my writing assignments, as well as marketing my published projects. Your pebbles will likely include similar things.
The sand represents the fun stuff that makes your work enjoyable; in my case, blogging for my wolf pack. These tasks help make the stressful parts of your writing easier to handle. They complement your pebbles and rocks, and will help to enhance your writing career (but aren’t as crucial to your bottom line).
The water in your pickle jar represents the things that make you feel mentally cluttered. We tend to complete these tasks first, even though they don’t advance our writing careers. We think completing them will get rid of the clutter and clear our minds so we can focus on our rocks.
However, it takes us so long to deal with the water, there’s never time for our writing projects. The next day, we’ve got a whole new jar of water to deal with.
Tasks represented by water include responding to e-mails and maintaining your social networking accounts. Yes, they’re important tasks that build your platform, but in order for you to utilize your platform once it’s grown, you need to have writing to offer your following.
Water is important, but will always be there. You’ll never be finished with your water-related tasks, so these tasks should always come last on your priority list.
Take One Step at a Time
As long as you always make sure your rocks are taken care of, you’ll feel as if your writing career has been revived. The better you are with maintaining your rocks, the better you’ll be with maintaining your task list as a whole.
For two months after I created my new strategy, I worked on my rocks non-stop before being able to balance out my pebbles, sand, and water. I ended up in my big mess because I was trying to multi-task between all aspects of my pickle jar, which caused me to accomplish only a fraction of what was necessary to become a full-time writer.
Thanks to removing my head from my… you know, and putting my rocks first, I’m now able to work on all aspects of my pickle jar regularly, because my priority projects are always taken care of.
Don’t let any setbacks in your writing career get the best of you. You haven’t failed; you just need a new strategy that better suits your lifestyle.
Have you revamped your writing strategy before? What helped you regroup and push forward?
About Krissy Brady
Krissy Brady is the owner of Krissy Media Ink, and author of The Freelancer’s Guide to Starting Right and Staying Strong. Keep in touch with Krissy on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest for the latest writing-related information.