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