Turning a Stall into a Start by Barbara McDowell

Raise your hand if you started 2012 off with the gusto of taking your writing focus up a notch.  Making promises to write every day, defining word count goals, or outlining plans to edit a big project.  Now, with the reality of life setting in months later, are you still running with that same fire in your fingertips?

Writers write.  This is a mantra we hear when attending writers’ workshops, conferences, and author readings.  We are further reminded when digging into craft books and the blogs of fellow writers.  It is our gospel for in the beginning and middle and end, writers write.  While bursts of divine inspiration are great, it is the steady practice and time put in that leads to regular streams of creativity.  We make time for our writing in the regular balance of life.

But writers also have day gigs that can flare up beyond a standard forty hour week and melt into personal life.  We might spend extended time out and about speaking at conferences or handling other networking tasks.  We have families made up of other carbon-based beings that will not be ignored.  We are caregivers.  We find ourselves downed by an opportunistic flu looking for another host master or even more serious conditions that require medicines, surgery, or extended rest.  We take much needed breaks and go on vacation.  We must handle book launches and the other business of writing.

When these life moments happen, goals can be missed and writing time savaged.  We might have to temporarily step away from writing at all.  We stall.

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.” ~ Stephen Covey

The beauty of ROW80 is that it is a real world writing challenge.  We set goals based on what our next step needs are with our writing projects and what is going on in our lives.  When life happens, there is a circle of writers there to cheer us back to our feet or kick us back into gear.  There is no shame and no judging yourself against others.  The goals are about your journey—where you are right now and where you need to go.

It is said that it takes twenty-one days to make something a habit.  With each ROW round, we get eighty.  During Round One, I found myself distracted by extended birthday celebrating, day gig interruptions, falling ill, and then being stranded by a computer virus wiping out my laptop.  At times, my goals progress slowed or was put on hold.  I found inspiration in reflecting on how a cat would ROW80.  I determined that “they commit to daily habits, by instinct scurry away or swing (claws out) when spooked and stop and do what they need to do in the moment… dedication, determination and self-care.”

What do we do when our progress stalls?  Just keep moving forward.  Forward means progress.  We can sit for a moment and reflect on what might not have been met, and then we move forward.  We reorganize our time and move forward.  We tweak or toss some goals and move forward.  We put that next word onto paper and begin again.

Have you had an unexpected life hiccup?  Have you put some goals on hold or retooled?  What are some of your methods for writer self-care?


Barbara McDowell


15 thoughts on “Turning a Stall into a Start by Barbara McDowell

    1. Yes! That is something I had to train my mind to believe…that all and any writing is forward progress and frees up my thoughts to get to the next idea and back to the WIP. Creative ideas for a blog work. Writing random character sketch work. Copying down dialogue from an overheard conversation in the grocery store works. Thanks for commenting!

  1. What a great post, Barbara! My first round of ROW80 this year was like this with mononucleosis interrupting all of my carefully-laid plans. This round, I’m making up for some of it. But I had to shrug and not sweat the past. Move forward, as you say. Thanks!

    1. Glad you are doing much better, Julie! Sometimes we are taught to keep slugging through regardless of sickness or injury. I get tunnel vision determination, but think that it has a limited place unless on deadline. What is getting it all done as health suffers? Your actions and attitude are fab. Take care of self, let go of the past and keep it moving forward. 🙂

  2. I haven’t been on the challenge list at all this round, but I’ve been trying to do better than I did last round anyway. Doing pretty good, too, aside from letting my blog and blog reading slide. But all anyone can do is decide what they are going to do in the moment since the past can’t be changed. Every day and every hour is a chance to start up again.

    1. Right you are, Jaleh. I love the goals as my guideline, but when life gets crazy, I reprioritize what will be done that moment. Then as things change, add back in what may have been missed.

  3. Thanks, Barbara. Like so many others here, I try to plow through with writing, even when I’m feeling “crappy” or the world seems to be falling apart around me and the keyboard/pen/crayon. And it’s because we’ve internalized so many “bad cues” such as “you’re not making money at it–it’s just a hobby” or “how can you get tired? all you’re doing is writing”… among others. We may not have said these things first, but we’ve heard them, and too many of us have taken them into ourselves and made them our own, instead of tossing them off the way we should.

    I think that’s been one of the best lessons of the ROW80…realizing that it doesn’t have to be a heart-pounding race to the finish line. The pace might be closer to walking or jogging–something that allows us to keep moving after the running is done,

    1. The “bad cues” are the worst, Eden. I’m now working on building up an inner voice that hollers out “get ‘er done” whenever I have a day when I’m spinning and haven’t put in any writing or self-care work. I’m hoping she drowns out the critic. 🙂

  4. Barbara, love the pic! Roadblocks and Life. Oh yeah, I hear ya!

    I find your post inspiring. We all hit the wall from time to time. I got sick in the beginning of April and was sick pretty much through the whole month. Where did April go? Was there even an April this year? LOL! You all took off with the new round. I did not jump in. I still am not back 100%. But I love, admire and miss all of you! Keep in touch. 🙂

    1. Great that you are on the mend, Karen! I’ve been there with illness and also losing months. I’m looking around wondering if we had a May. Yikes. Take care of yourself and do what you can when you can.

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