Wouldn’t you love to be able to pick up a pen/pencil or open a blank document on your computer and breeze through the article or chapter you are thinking about … basically having it completed within a short period of time? Or how about structuring the marketing program you’ve been thinking about for the past six months, but somehow summer got in the way? Your desk is clear—calendar open and there are no hiccups or obstacles to block your creative waves … yet … yet, it’s just not flowing.
You just may have Author Fatigue Syndrome! The brain cells have taken a hiatus. You are pooped and a cruise is sounding mighty fine right now! If you are feeling a tad overwhelmed … or just plain blocked on going forward, try these tips to get you back on track:
1. Take a piece of paper and divide it into four sections. In the upper left, label it ASAP—those are the items you need, really need to deal with. In the upper right, put 7 Days—these items you have to address within the next seven days—the order of importance is not relevant. In the lower left, write 30 Days—these are the items/events you need to tackle within the next month. The last column should be labeled Future. There’s no rush in dealing with any items in that list.
Now, go back to the first ASAP section—those items that need your immediate attention. One option is to cross one or several off the list with a decision that they can’t be dealt with and are in the wrong box. Items in the 30 Days box are to be ignored for now, as are those the Future and 7 Days. You are dealing with ASAP. Stay focused—it’s so much easier to acknowledge that you can’t deal/do something in the here and now but can address it next week … then let next week arrive. Meanwhile, the ASAP list gets whittled down.
2. Review what you’ve already created/done. Sometimes just a review will create the goose that can lay your golden egg. That idea that got buried may be stimulated; the scribbly notes you made all of a sudden make sense; or the original idea you had may take on a whole new dimension because you’ve let it sit in a form of stew for awhile.
3. It’s gaze in the belly button time. What’s up? Any thoughts on why you’ve been stuck or chosen not to go forward with your article, book, work … what? Acknowledge issues preventing you from moving forward. Maybe you don’t love the topic or subject any longer. Maybe there’s been breaking news or a morphing in the field that has altered your views. Maybe the hero of your story is really a dud. No matter what, look in the mirror and have a chat with yourself. One of my favorite Keepers is—Don’t do well what you have no business doing. If your work involves pulling teeth … your own … stop it. It’s not fun any longer.
4. Review your goals and game plan. Did you ever have any? That’s part of the gaze in the belly button time. Good idea to start here. Goal setting can get you back in the frame of mind that you initially had when you started your authoring venture. If you didn’t do it, stop and do it now. I can get blue in the face, reminding you that you’ve got have the Vision for what you are doing coupled with the Passion for the project and the Commitment to see it through. When you do run into a hiccup, you’ve set up the game plan that got you started in the first place. Then it’s much easier to cross over the hurdles that pop up.
5. Plan a reward for yourself. I’m the first to admit—I’ve been known to start here. Okay … if I finish this chapter, I get an entire bag of M & Ms—a big one … and I’ve done that (you’ve heard of “baby fat”? This is “book fat”! If I finish this book … I get an entire month off of reading any business books and I get to read trashy novels—murder mysteries for 30 days in a row.
- When I finish this, I’m booking a cruise to a warm place …
- When the first draft is done, I’m going skiing …
- When this section is sent to the editor, I’m watching all the Oscar ®
- When I complete this article, I’m … you get the picture.
Rewards and incentives work. Everyone has different ones that they march to. Find yours. Write them down. And honor them. Just having something you want—even a trivial Snickers (only one!) or a night of watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy qualifies—it may just be the perk you need to get you back on track or celebrate a job well-done.
6. Escape to the familiar or unfamiliar … just escape. I don’t have the gift of the novelist. Oh, I’ve worked with authors who wear the fiction hat—tweaking their words and getting the storylines to flow. I’ve even had to step in and doing massive re-writes, ghosting a great deal of the book—but the initial idea was generated from the author.
I dearly love a great story; yet I don’t have the gift of the creative gene that seeds the fiction writer’s journey—that sometimes wild ass idea that delivers magic to the eyes of the reader. What I do know is that when I’m stuck and I pick up something else, leaving my “get this finished” work alone for a day or two, it’s amazing how my own creative juices can salivate with ideas that get kick-started with something totally unrelated. Kind of like take a shower and all of a sudden the “aha” drops in as the hot water pounds on your shoulders.
The something else can be fiction … it can be non-fiction … it can be related to your specific genre. The trick is to let another voice come in … think of it as a muse swirling around you … waiting to be invited into your mind and expressed through your finger tips.
7. Know what your writing environment is. I’m always amused when I listen to an interview with an author who proclaims that getting up at four every morning and writing for four straight hours is the way to be a successful author. Really? It sure isn’t mine. Not that I’m not averse to getting up if that’s what the body is saying to do … what I rebel against is someone else telling me how I should write—the time frames, the place, the anything. Coffee bars aren’t my thing either—although I have many clients who thrive in that atmosphere—and I encourage them to go there … often.
I’m a binge writer—have always been; most likely, will always be. I spend days, weeks, even months discussing it in my head; gathering tidbits of info that I’ve dropped into a “just in case” file or an expandable file that is actually split up in chapters that will be in the “book.” When I move into my writing mode—it’s fast, furious and usually on target. I can bang out a first draft of a book in a short period of time. Recently, I taped the entire audio program … from scratch … in one day for the new audio and workbook series for Creating Your Book and Author Platform. Granted, my butt was a tad sore because I was on the rug in my office, with papers spread around, mic in hand, voice ready. The next day, the tapes were FedExed to the editor. I headed for a cruise four days later.
No one … and I mean no one … is/was allowed in my private office space when I move into that frame—it’s as if there is a yellow crime scene tape across the French doors to my space. Music is on in the background … my “reward” is close by and the fingers are ready. When I come out to take a health break, get a cup of tea, I check in with staff if my input is needed anywhere—otherwise, I’m viewed as “out of sight, out of mind” to all.
Authors have habits … find the ones that work for you, not someone else. Tell those who come into your space your “rules,” your “habits”—and that include kids. Too many times, when you are at work, you may be the only one that understands that. Education is in order. The Author Fatigue Syndrome is in the shadows. The journey to and through authordom is long and loaded with detours and hiccups. And that’s just creating the book. The journey that you will go on to support the book has even more. Take care of yourself. Take care of your book. And do think about that cruise!