So you know I’m training to run in the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I will likely be one of the last finishers, because I am such a slow runner, some people think I am moving backwards. But I’m stubborn as they come, so I will (eventually) make it to the finish line.
You might not know that I also plan to start competing in triathlons by 2015. (When you are as slow as me, you need to plan these things out in advance.) And my long-long term goal involves outliving all of my competitors so I will – at some point in my 90s – win my age group category.
What does any of this have to do with writing, and making the time to write every day?
A triathlon involves three stages: a swim, a bike race, then a run. (Distances of each leg vary, depending on the race and how crazy the participants are.) The photo above shows racers emerging from the water. They strip off their wetsuits in the transition area, then get on their bikes and take off pedaling.
Transition areas are often filled with thousands of racers. (It can be a real zoo.) After the bike leg of the competition, racers have to properly stow their bike on the rack, take off their helmet, change clothes and shoes, and head out on a long run. Racers prepare and train for smooth transitions just as they train for each of the three events.
That same principal comes in handy when you are trying to make daily writing a regular habit. You’re probably pretty good at writing for three or maybe four days in a row, but then life intervenes. The weekend hits. Your in-laws show up. The kids are home on break. Your boss demands you work overtime. The dog gets a stomach flu. Termites eat your walls. The zombie apocalypse begins.
Next thing you know, you’ve fallen out of the habit of writing. AGAIN. And you beat yourself up about it. And you find it even harder to start again, because you know that something else will pop up and derail your carefully laid plans.
Not necessarily, my friends.
All you need to do is to plan for transitions, those short moments in which you have to shift gears quickly and not lose track of your writing goals. And that’s what today’s prompt will help you do.
Ready… Get out your calender and make note of events that are scheduled to occur in the next three months that will likely make it hard for you to squeeze in your daily writing. If shifting gears when the weekend hits regularly creates problems for you, make a note of it. Likewise any upcoming birthdays, or other commitments.
Set… “Other people’s interruptions of your work are relatively insignificant compared with the countless times you interrupt yourself” Brendan Francis To that I will add, “You have little control over the interruptions to your writing routine. You have total control over how you react to them.”
Today’s Prompt: You are going to develop your transition strategy for surviving the annoying interruptions to your best-laid plans that life conspires to throw at you.
Come up with a list of 15 ideas (Get it? One item for each minute of your writing today – think fast!) that are quick, rewarding, writing-related things you can do when your schedule is unavoidably messed with. These might be related to your Work In Progress, but should not be critical to it. For example, you could map out the town your character lives in. Or brainstorm elements of her backstory. Come up with a list of her favorite songs, or the recipe she wishes her grandfather would teach her to cook. Write out alternative endings for your book, or possible changes to the major decision points.
You could write a list of 15 writing ideas that are NOT related to your Work In Progress. Write a poem about the smell of your brother’s feet. Journal about the first dead body you saw. Compose a country and western song about the the dreaded Japanese beetle.
The trick is to prepare these lists ahead of time and that the tasks on them are very specific. This ensures that in those few moments you are able to steal when the in-laws show up, or while your beloved partner is beating off the zombies with a chainsaw, you won’t waste any time wondering about what you should be writing, you will actually be writing.
Scribble… Scribble… Scribble…