Planning for interruptions part 2
I hope the tools in the first part of this duo were exciting and useful for you. Buckle up, because I have eight more tools to share with you in this one!
In part 1, I went over the first eight tools. Here’s a quick recap of those:
- Reboot – in which you reboot your writing practice by logging a Toucan20 as soon as possible on a brand new blank tracker.
- Level Up – in which you set three levels of goals: everyone gets a trophy, a little bit of a stretch beyond that, and your ultimate writing day.
- The Joe Dirt (aka Keep on Keepin’ on) – in which you show up and don’t let anything stop you. You are invincible!
- Commit Already – in which you recommit to yourself, your manuscript, and your writing practice. Write when you say you’re gonna write.
- Go Streaking – Like Level up, but for continuously showing up. Pair with rewards that also level up. This was the one I related to my mom’s amazing summer reading program she made for us.
- Make it Fun – in which you change things up and write something else, write by hand, or write the same scene from a different POV.
- Do the Anna – in which you do the next right thing, which is adding words to your manuscript!
- Close the Door – in which you set boundaries by closing the door, either physically or proverbially.
8 more tools to manage and plan for interruptions
NEVER SKIP TWICE
In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he talks about never skipping twice. He writes, “the first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows.”
So, with that in mind, if you miss a writing session, do your darndest to not let it happen again. Log your next session as soon as humanly possible.
This tool is particularly useful if you find you are procrastinating when you should be writing. Sometimes we procrastinate because we feel stuck in our plot. If you’re a plotter, this probably won’t happen as much, but bear with me, because I’ll come back to that.
As a pantser, I typically get stuck when I have a scene that feels like it needs to be epic. So I get all up in my head about it, and fear takes over, and I’m suddenly afraid to write that scene because I don’t want to mess it up.
For plotters, you might also have such a scene. Perhaps in your outline you have a placeholder that says, Epic Battle Scene. This same fear might overtake you.
Whatever the reason for not feeling like writing the scene you’re currently on, then skip it!
Think about what might happen after that scene and write that one instead.
This also works if you’re stuck. If you have a scene in mind that happens in the near future of the plot (something you’re writing toward but find you’re meandering toward), try writing that scene instead. Something could happen in that scene that will inform the scene you’re stuck on.
PROTECT YOUR TIME
This is a powerful tool to use when you have people who constantly want to steal away your writing time. They might not even know they’re forcing you to decide between them and Old Musty (aka your manuscript). They could manifest as the co-worker who wants to grab lunch, as was the case for me when I used to write on my lunch break.
Saying no to a co-worker, or a friend, or a loved one even, is incredibly hard, especially when saying yes to the question asker sounds like so much more fun. But diligently showing up to your writing practice starts with you.
If you are your own obstacle, you might have to have a chat with yourself, especially if you give up your writing time to other people and invitations.
Protecting your time starts with learning to say no. If that’s too hard, ask for a raincheck. Be sure to schedule the alternate date so it doesn’t come out of nowhere again. Because, chances are, this person or invitation came out of nowhere or was unplanned. If this is the case, ask if you can do it another time, then plan accordingly.
Prioritize your writing time above all else. And I mean above all else. Barring emergencies (in which someone might actually die or are on fire), nothing should come between you and your computer, notebook, or stone tablet when you have your writing time booked in your schedule.
Make it known to all that you will be unavailable for consultation unless there’s blood (a lot of blood) for twenty minutes
If the people around you can’t survive without you for twenty minutes, you must be some sort of higher power god-like creature! Feel lucky they need you. But also, set some boundaries (see Close the door from Part 1)
BE THE BOSS OF YOU
Be your own best boss and manage yourself as if you are a new employee in a new role at a new company—meaning, micromanage the hell out of yourself!
If you write during a break at work and you have a calendar that people can see when they schedule meetings with you (and hopefully they respect you enough to see when your time is booked), block time on your work calendar. You could even go as far as marking that time as “out of office” so they think it’s an appointment or something outside of the office.
If you actually are your own boss (as in, a full time writer who struggles to show up consistently), schedule it in your planner or diary or in your phone’s calendar or reminder app.
Set a reminder in your phone and assign a certain alert ringtone to it. Stick to that time as if you will fire yourself if you don’t!
No one wants to be fired from something they love.
BREAK THE ICE
This tool goes hand in hand with Commit Already from Part 1. Once you recommit to yourself, your manuscript, and your desire to write consistently, you may need to revisit what you’ve already written.
Depending on the amount of time you’ve been away, it might make sense to re-read the last few chapters, if not your entire manuscript.
This may seem counterintuitive given my preaching about never looking back and only forward progress! But this is an important step in getting back into the story voice and to remind yourself what’s already happened (if you took an extended vacation away from your manuscript).
This will also inspire you to keep going. What you might have thought was not very good (and possibly the reason you abandoned Old Musty in the first place) will likely be amazing!
If you are coming back into your writing practice with a new project, you only need to break the ice with yourself and your desire to write. The way to do that? Log a Toucan20 session!
This tool is similar to skipping ahead, in that you move past the block that’s keeping you from writing each day to visit a scene in the future.
However, the difference here is, you pick that future scene and you walk backwards from that point to the current point in your manuscript and reverse engineer your plot (yes, this works even if you are a “pantser” like me).
In fact, when I wrote The Gorging of Souls, I desperately wanted to finish it on New Year’s Eve. In order to do so, I had to quit meandering and get to The End already.
I knew what the final scene looked like, so I reverse engineered my plot, and figured out how to get there.
But Claire! You might be exclaiming. YOu’re not a plotter!
I know. And here’s the thing. Even with the plot spelled out for me, I STILL went off script so to speak, and somehow made my way to that climactic scene at the end on the first of the year.
BUT, having that little bit of a roadmap helped get me there quicker.
I should probably do a whole article on why I don’t plot, including all the plotting systems I’ve tried in the past.
DON'T BREAK IT
You have an incredible multi-week streak going. You’ve shown up every day. You’ve logged your Toucan20 sessions, the word count is piling up. You’re improving the amount of words you can write in a 20-minute period. You have a month, two months, three months racked up!
The last thing you want to do is break this amazing streak, right?
Use the trackers from the Quick Start Guide to Writing More in Less Time (or, if you took advantage of the coupon in the NaNowriMo bonus lesson, the trackers that come with the Deluxe Tracker Tool) and start tracking immediately.
As your Toucan20s accumulate, and you see you have a multi-day, -week, -month streak, you’ll be so impressed and proud of yourself, why would you ever want to break it again?
Alternately, Search up some word count games. There are a few that, if you log words every day, you unlock quests and such. Get your inner-child/gamer side involved and save some princes or princesses from certain doom. With your words!
One I’ve used before is called 4thewords. I will link to it in the show notes. Check it out!
GIVE IT THE BIRD
NOw I don’t mean flipping off your manuscript or anyone else in your immediate area (I’ll tell you in a minute what you CAN flip off though).
What I mean is, give your manuscript the bird by logging a Toucan20 session as soon as you can. You could even stop reading right this second and do a little writing. But be sure to come back to me, because I have a little bit more to teach you.
What you should flip off, in the face of avoidance behavior (which, you’ll recall, is anything that doesn’t have to be done right now that takes precedence over your writing), give THAT the bird and log a Toucan20 session.
You might be thinking, that’s all well and great Claire, but these are just tools. How do I use these to actually plan for anything?
This is where you’ll have to use your immense brain power to come up with scenarios.
Think about the times when you skip, or miss a session because of something or someone else, or are interrupted, and devise a plan using these tools by using the following formula:
When this happens… I will [do this]… Using this tool.
Here’s an example:
When my coworker asks me to lunch, I will say no, using the Protect Your Time tool.
Here’s another one:
When I have been away from my manuscript for a planned (or unplanned) break, I will get back into my writing practice using the break the ice or commit already (or both) tools.
And one more, because three is magical:
When I find myself procrastinating, I will write anyway, by giving my manuscript the bird… and logging a Toucan20 session!
Get the Quick Reference Guide
To make this easier for you, I have a free quick reference guide that lists all the tools you learned in this two part post.