How to Write When … You Just Can’t Stick to Your Writing Plans
This is a post in the “How to Write When…” series. You might also want to check out:
- How to Write When … You Don’t Feel Inspired
- How to Write When … You Have Kids
- How to Write When … You Keep Getting Interrupted
- How to Write When … Your World is Upside Down
- How to Write When … You Feel Like You’re Not Good Enough
- How to Write When … Your Partner Isn’t Supportive
It’s often said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. And as a writer, you might sometimes feel like the whole world is against your writing.
Whether you’re working overtime at your day job, dealing with an unexpected family crisis, or simply facing a busier week than you expected, it can be next to impossible to stick to what you’d planned in terms of your writing.
The writing time that you thought you’d have has vanished … and maybe it seems easiest just to give up and start again next week.
But can you still salvage something from your week and squeeze a bit of writing in?
Here’s what you can try:
First, Figure Out What Went Wrong
You sit down on Monday, scribble “Write 5,000 words this week” on a post-it note, then before you know it, Sunday evening comes around again … and you’ve written very little or nothing at all.
Everyone has weeks like that. But if this is happening pretty much every week, it’s important to take a mental step back and figure out what’s going wrong.
For instance, maybe:
- Your target is too ambitious and it’s putting you off. Perhaps 5,000 words feels so daunting and out-of-reach, in your busy week, that you end up writing nothing. It might be frustrating to set a lower target – but it’s better to aim for 2,000 words and reach it than 5,000 words and do nothing.
- Something predictable got in the way of writing. Maybe you had several social events on your calendar for the week, for instance, or maybe you had a bunch of chores to get done. If something you could see in advance got in the way, that may mean you need to look further ahead in your calendar when planning writing time. Get those writing blocks in place so you can say “no” to other things (or rope in more help).
- Something unexpected got in the way of writing. It might seem impossible to plan for the unexpected … but if you find that different things keep happening each week to throw you off, you might need to deliberately plan for a certain amount of time to get eaten up by interruptions.
- You had plenty of time: you just didn’t use it for writing. Perhaps you knew you had time to write 1,000 words every single day … but you wrote nothing. Please don’t feel guilty if this is the case! Maybe you were emotionally exhausted and didn’t feel at all creative. Or perhaps your project itself was the issue – you just didn’t have any enthusiasm for it.
Unless you pinpoint what’s going wrong (and it might well be a mix of different things), it’s really hard to create a good writing plan going forward.
Then, Change Your Plans … and Get Writing
If you’re part-way through the week and it’s all falling apart, or you’re well into the month and you’re nowhere near meeting your 30-day writing goal, then don’t just hope you’ll somehow catch up. Revisit your plans and change them to give yourself a good chance of success.
You could do one (or more!) of the following:
#1: Find Just 10 Minutes to Write
Often, the best thing you can do is find some time to write – even just 10 minutes. Set a timer and ignore everything else for that long. If you can’t manage 10 minutes, just do 5 minutes.
The “getting started” moment of writing can feel really hard – especially if you’ve had to put it off because your plans didn’t work out. By making a start, even in a rushed or non-ideal way, you’ll have achieved something.
#2: Postpone Something
Is there anything in your calendar for the rest of the week (or month) that you could postpone? That might mean asking friends to meet up next week, not this week, for coffee. It could mean doing your big shopping trip a few days later than you’d planned. Or it might simply mean ignoring the chores for an extra day.
It’s so easy for writing to become the thing that always gets pushed further and further down your to-do list. Find something else that you can postpone instead – and make a little bit of extra time for your writing.
#3: Book Writing Time Out of the House
Look ahead a week or two on your calendar. Could you plausibly book some writing time away from home? For me, that usually means a cheap hotel for the night so I can take a writing retreat: it puts a firm boundary around my writing and helps me focus.
You don’t have to do a full day. Even a couple of hours at a coffee shop could help. If you can’t book it in with the venue, then book the time with someone else – such as a friend who’ll join you to write, or your partner/family member/babysitter who’ll take care of your kids while you do so.
#4: Do Something Writing-Related, if You Can’t Write
Perhaps you’d planned to write in the evenings, but you’re having a much busier week than expected, and you’re exhausted by the time 8pm comes around. If you can’t face writing, could you do something writing-related?
For me, that usually means making notes about whatever I want to work on. I’ll often do this in bed, in my pyjamas, with a mug of decaf tea and some chocolate – that way, it feels like a treat, not just yet another task to do.
#5: Don’t Give Up on Writing
When your writing plans never seem to work out, it can be so tempting to just give up altogether. Perhaps you think you just procrastinate too much – or that life is simply too busy for you to write.
By all means, take some time off from writing if you want to. You’re still a writer even when you’re not actively writing (or trying to write). But if you do want to write, don’t give up! You might need to go more slowly than you hoped, and you may need to plan further ahead to get the writing time you need.
Today, find just 10 minutes to write – or to do some brainstorming about the project you want to work on. If you have a few extra minutes, figure out a good writing time tomorrow or the next day, where you can have a little longer to dig in.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
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