What do you do when you feel yourself giving up on your writing project?
It’s Week 14 of my First Book Project, and I can feel myself slowing down. I have felt myself slowing down for weeks, actually. I noticed that I started slipping on my self-set deadlines, and now, when I sit down to write, it doesn’t flow as easily as it did before.
But, I don’t let myself get discouraged by this.
I know myself well enough to know this is all part of my process. I know that in the past, when I have tried to write this book (I’ve tried to write it at least five times before), this is the point where I give up. This is the moment, right when I finish the skeleton of the first draft, when I usually give up.
Does this sound familiar to you?
It’s totally normal.
A lot of us have dreams of writing our book (or books). We start out with great momentum, and then at some point, we let the project slowly falter and then slip away.
I used to be embarrassed by the fact that I had stopped and started so many times, but now I realize it was all a gift.
I learned from those stops and starts, and now I know to look out for them. Talking about it so openly also helps others who struggle with this, too. I know tons of writers who can relate to this.
So, here are my biggest tips for what to do when you feel your big writing project/book manuscript sputtering:
Instead of feeling ashamed of yourself, make it your goal to become aware of your own patterns. If you’ve tried to finish a writing project/book several times,
Where do you always stop/slow down?
Where do you feel yourself wanting to give up?
What are the excuses you make for yourself?
Notice your own patterns, and release the judgment you feel toward yourself. Holding on to judgment is only going to keep you stuck.
Now that you are aware of your patterns, ask yourself why you are behaving in this way.
Listen for the answer. (You know.)
Are you slowing down or giving up because you’re afraid it’s not perfect? Are you afraid to put yourself out there? Are you afraid no one wants to read it? Are you afraid it’s bad?
Wanting it to be perfect is a big one for me. I always have this subconscious pressure for the first draft to be perfect, and I work to actively let that go every time I sit down to write.
Let your internal fears be heard, but then ask yourself where they came from, and make the conscious choice to believe something different.
Why are you scared that your writing is bad? Did you have a teacher who told you you were a bad writer? Do you have disturbing memories of getting your papers back in school all covered in red ink?
Who or what made you believe you weren’t good enough?
Choose to believe your message and words are worth expressing. Writing is natural. Wanting to share your story is natural. It is how we connect. All of that other noise is just that — noise.
Grammar can be cleaned up.
Run-on sentences can be cured with periods and semicolons.
That stuff doesn’t really matter.
Your truth and message is what matters. That’s what resonates with people.
Sometimes what worked for the first 13 weeks of your project won’t work in the 14th.
So far, I’ve been setting word count goals for myself, and hitting them pretty much every week. This week, I felt myself putting off the writing and distracting myself. I decided on Sunday that yoga and cookie dough ice cream were more important than meeting my deadline.
But, instead of judging myself, I am studying this behavior. If the writing isn’t flowing anymore, what should I be doing instead?
I realized that the writing isn’t flowing anymore because I now have over 20,000 words, and it’s time for me to sift through them. I have a first draft now, and it’s time to review it, and create an action plan for my next steps.
The nice thing about setting weekly word counts is that it feels very manageable. Even if you have a crazy schedule, you can find 30 minutes to an hour to crank out 500 words every week.
But, when you reach a point in your book creation process when you have a lot of material and it starts to feel unwieldy, you need to translate other activities into bite-sized pieces that help you continue to feel productive and accomplished.
My new goals for this phase of my First Book Project will have more to do with setting timed goals and taking the time to review and refocus.
So, for this week, instead of setting a word count goal, my focus will be to take one hour to review what I already have, and brainstorm next steps for myself.
Instead of just saying “I’ll review my manuscript,” I put a time limit on it. All I need to commit to is one, uninterrupted hour.
If setting a word count goal is not where your project is currently, what else can you do to make sure the goals you’re setting are bite-sized and manageable?
It is so helpful to reach out to friends and other writers when you start to feel stuck.
Go to an open mic. Take a writing class. Seek out a writing group in your community. Call or email a friend to chat about your project. Post about it honestly and openly on Facebook.
You don’t have to hide when you miss your deadline, and you don’t have to abandon your project just because you feel yourself losing steam.
Take care of yourself, slow down, rest up, but don’t — please don’t — abandon your writing project.
Do not abandon that manuscript. Because the desire is in you. You want to write this book. You want to get this project done.
Remind yourself why you started this project in the first place. Remember your “big why.” And then find ways to break down your weekly activities into steps that feel manageable and actionable.
First Book Project Week 14 Goal (due by Saturday, August 22nd) = spend an hour reviewing my existing manuscript, and set actionable, bite-sized goals for the next four weeks.
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