You set a goal—write a book in 30 days. And you’ve been writing every day, cranking out the words and moving toward meeting your deadline. And then…life happens.
Your kids (or you) get sick. Someone close to you dies. A natural disaster occurs. The basement floods. Your boss throws a new project at you that is due ASAP. Your car breaks down.
And…you stop writing.
“Life Got in the Way.”
“Life got in the way…” That’s the most common explanation I hear from writers—those participating in the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge or merely trying to write consistently—for why they haven’t written consistently. But life doesn’t have to impede your writing progress.
It’s true that sometimes it gets enormously challenging to write. If a hurricane or wildfire pushes you out of your home, you might find it hard to sit down at the computer—at least for a day or two. But, if you have your computer, you can write. If you don’t have your computer, you can borrow one or buy a new one. (Insurance will even cover it!) Or you can go to a place where you can borrow a computer, like a library—and then email your work to yourself or store it in DropBox.
It’s true, you might feel distracted with life happening all around you. That doesn’t have to stop you from writing either. Set a timer, and write—even for 15 minutes. The mini-deadline will help you focus.
Life is Not an Excuse Not to Write
In most cases, though, whatever “disaster” has caused you to stop writing just becomes your excuse for not pushing through to meet your goal. It’s your way of getting out of doing something that can feel hard at any time. (And saying “life got in the way” sounds a lot like “the dog ate my homework.”)
I’ve been there…sick kids just when I’m on a deadline. I wrote anyway—in between taking their temperature, cooking them chicken soup, and holding their heads over the toilet as they threw up. I even wrote while sitting with them in the doctor’s office—and turned in my work on time.
Believe me, I know about life happening…
Mother 91-year-old mother broke her hip. We weren’t sure she’d survive surgery, so I flew across the country—with my computer in tow. She needed my sister and me to help for almost two months. My laptop came with me each time I boarded a flight, and I wrote on the plane. And, once at my mother’s home, I wrote—usually late into the night after she had gone to sleep. But I wrote.
And you can write, too, no matter what life throws your way.
How to Write No Matter What
So, how do you do that? Try these five tactics to help you write no matter what.
- Make your writing project available from anywhere. If you are writing in Microsoft Word or with a program like Scrivener, you might find it difficult to write if your computer, God forbid, was stolen during WNFIN or it was consumed in a fire. However, if your documents are stored in the cloud, like with a backup service, you can access them from anywhere and with any computer (as long as you know your password).For this reason, Google Docs provides an excellent platform for your writing. Or you can set Scrivener settings to save to Evernote or Dropbox. You can also manually save to a cloud service like Amazon S3.
- Make writing a ritual. Rituals are things you do every day…no matter what. If your house burned down in a fire, you would still brush your teeth, eat breakfast, and pray before going to bed, for instance. Make writing a daily ritual. You could write every morning from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Then, if life becomes challenging—your kids are sick or your spouse loses a job—you can still spend time every morning writing. You might have to reduce the length of time you spend writing, but you can still write.
- Keep it short. Commit to writing daily—no matter what—even if it’s only for 15 minutes. We can all find 15 minutes to write. By committing to writing even for a short amount of time, you stay tapped into your project. You retain the continuity of the work, and you maintain your writing habit. Will you get as much done in that amount of time compared to writing for an hour? Probably not, but you’d be amazed at how many words or pages you can produce when under the pressure of time.
- Fit it in. In keeping with #3, you can always find a place in your day to fit in a writing block—even for 15 minutes. You can write during a lunch break, before bed, or first thing in the morning. You can write on the bus or train during your commute or while your child is at gymnastics or taking a nap. If you are determined to write—no matter what—you can find a time and place to fit writing into your day—I know because I’ve done it.
- Schedule make-up days. If you have ever lived somewhere cold and snowy, you might remember having “make-up days.” At the end of the year, the school district would tack on days to make up for lost time due to snow days, for instance. Do the same with your writing project. Schedule make-up days all month long if you are taking the WNFIN Challenge. Or tack them on to the end of the month, so you can make up lost time and meet your deadline. Use those days to knock out the words required to finish your book in 30 days.
When life threatens to get in the way, be armed to keep writing…no matter what. And let that knowledge give you the confidence to tackle your book project in 30 days—or any nonfiction writing project at any time or the year.
Does life get in the way of your writing? In a comment below, tell me what aspects of life are most challenging for you.
This post is part of the 2018 Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, also known as National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo). Find out more about how to participate by clicking here.
The event is sponsored by the Nonfiction Writers’ University. Get a 1-week trial membership for just $1!
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