In this episode you’ll get eight more tools to help you combat interruptors and time-stealers. Plus a congratulatory note for getting through the dreaded week two of NaNoWriMo, some anecdotes, and a free resource!
Did you miss the first part of this two part series? Check it out here.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The Gorging of Souls by yours truly
- The Quick Start Guide – you knew this was coming, right?
- 4thewords – word count game
- 4:15 Never Skip Twice
- 4:45 Skip Ahead
- 6:00 Protect Your Time
- 9:52 Be the Boss of You
- 10:59 Break the Ice
- 12:35 Reverse Engineer
- 14:14 Don’t Break It
- 15:30 Give it the Bird
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Intro and outro music from Uppbeat (free for Creators!): https://uppbeat.io/t/hartzmann/clear-sky
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Hey, Toucan! welcome to episode six of the podcast and part two of planning for anything to get in your way, which is so important during the holiday season and any other busy season you might encounter.
I know my twin sister, for one, has many busy seasons in her life because my niece is a dancer and has dance competitions throughout the year, plus like a hundred dance practices every night leading up to competitions.
I really hope the tools in the first part of this duo were exciting and useful for you. Well buckle up Buttercup because I have eight more tools to share with you in this.
But first, before we get into the tools, if you are participating in NaNoWriMo, I just want to say congratulations for making it through the dreaded week too.
How did you fare? Are you limping along stopping every now and again to lick your wounds? Or did you surge ahead, Sword held high war cry screeching from your vocal cords?
However you survived it. Again, congratulations. Surviving the dreaded. Week two is a huge accomplishment, even if you only wrote 10 words.
Or the 23,338 that would indicate you have kept up the feverish pace of 1,667 words per day or anywhere in between and beyond.
Celebrate this momentous occasion in the words of US Olympic athlete, Kara Goucher, “Acknowledge all of your small victories. They will eventually add up to something.”
Celebrate that you showed up today.
Celebrate that you committed to logging your Toucan20 sessions.
Celebrate that you started strong and even if week two got to you, get back to it right now. Log a Toucan20 then celebrate.
As Jack Canfield co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series says, “Don’t worry about failures, Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”
Hmm. Such a great quote.
Okay, let’s get into the rest of the tools for planning for anything. I
n last week’s episode, I went over the first eight tools. Here’s a quick recap of what you. Number one reboot in which you reboot your writing practice by logging a Toucan20 session as soon as possible on a brand new blank tracker.
Number two, 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.
Number three, the Joe Dirt, aka. Keep on, Keep on in which you show up. And don’t let anything stop you. You are invincible.
Number four, commit already in which you recommit to yourself, your manuscript and your writing practice. Write. When you say you’re gonna write,
Number five, go streaking. Just like level up, but for continuously showing up, pair it with rewards that also level up. This was the one I related to my mom’s amazing summer reading program she made for us.
Number six, Make it fun in which you change things up and write something else, or write by hand or write the same scene from a different point of.
Number seven, do the Anna, in which you do the next right thing, which is adding words to your manuscript.
And finally, number eight, close the door in which you set boundaries by closing the door, either physically or proverbially, and now onto the next tools.
Your next tool is: never skip twice.
In the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear, he talks about never skipping.
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.
Your next tool is: skip it.
This tool is particularly useful if you find you’re 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 will come back to you. 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 wanna mess it up. I don’t wanna do it some injustice and write it in a subpar level.
For plotters, You might also have such a scene in your outline. Perhaps you have a placeholder that says, Insert epic battle scene here. This same fear might overtake. Whatever the reason for not feeling like writing the scene you’re currently on, 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 your meandering too much to get to that point, try writing that next scene Instead, something could happen in that one That will inform the scene that you’re stuck.
Your next tool is Protect your Time.
This My friend, is a powerful tool to use when you have people who constantly want to steal away your writing time. Now, a caveat, obviously there are people in your life that you cannot say no to, and this is kind of a little spoiler alert about what this is all about.
For example, if my husband wanted to take me out on a date, I would not say no to that. My husband is one of my biggest supporters and I want to spend time with him. Same goes for your children, but we’ll get to your children in a minute because I’m sure they are repeat offenders for interrupting you or stealing your writing time.
So we’ll get to that in a second. The people who constantly steal your writing time might not even know. They’re forcing you to decide between them and old musty, aka your manuscript. They could manifest as the coworker who wants to grab lunch, as was the case for me when I used to write on my lunch. saying no to a coworker or a friend or a loved one is incredibly hard, especially when you’ve said yes in the past, or you’ve allowed them to interrupt this time that you have set away for your writing in the past, and so they expect you to do it again.
And especially when saying yes to the question asker sounds like so much more fun than writing.
However diligently showing up to your writing practice starts with you. So in the case of not being able to say no, 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 all the time or more consistently than you actually show up to your writing time.
So protecting your time starts with learning to say no.
If that’s too hard, start by saying no, but maybe next time, kind of like a rain check. And at the time of saying no, but maybe next time schedule that alternate date so it doesn’t come out of nowhere again, because chances are if this person is consistently stealing your time or interrupting your writing time to ask you on a date or to go have fun somewhere, it’s typically unplanned.
So ask if you can do it another time and then plan for it. Then when that day comes, you can plan to either write at a different time that. Or have a planned break that day.
Now I mentioned I would come back to children. Full disclosure, I don’t have children, but I know a lot of authors and writers who do have children and their children, of course, as they should come before all else, however, I want you to try to prioritize your time above all else, and I mean it unless there’s an emergency in which somebody might actually die or they’re on fire.
Nothing should come between you and your computer or notebook or stone tablet when you have your writing time scheduled. Now, if you’re just sitting down for a random Toucan20 session, obviously it’s not That’s the kind of time that has a little more wiggle room for being interrupted because maybe you do have a scheduled writing time and your family knows it.
So if it’s an off time that you’re writing, they think they can interrupt you or they think you’re not writing. So make it known though when you do sit down to write, whether it’s your scheduled time or a random time, other than your schedule time, make it known that you will be unavailable for consultation unless there’s blood.
And I mean a lot of blood.
You’ll be unavailable for 20 minutes, just 20 minutes. If the people around you can’t survive without you for 20 minutes, then my friend, you must be some sort of higher power godlike creature. Feel lucky that they need you, but also set some boundaries. See, close the door from the last episode.
Your next tool is 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. And what I mean by that is micromanage the heck outta 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 book.
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 or some other type of solo entrepreneur or company owner, schedule it in your planner or diary or in your phone’s calendar or reminder app.
Then set a reminder and assign a certain alert ringtone to it. Stick to that time as if you will fire yourself if you don’t. Nobody wants to be fired from something they love. And since you’re here, my assumption is you love to write.
Your next tool is Break the Ice.
This tool goes hand in hand with commit already.
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 reread the last few chapters. If not your entire ma. 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, especially 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.
I know for myself, times that I’ve spent away from my manuscript and come back and reread what I wrote. And the reason that I stepped away was because I thought everything I wrote sucked. When I reread and broke the ice with my manuscript, I found that what I wrote wasn’t that bad, and it actually did inspire me to get back into it and keep going.
And not only that, but as I reread what I had previously written, it gave me more ideas for what should happen next. That’s something to consider now if you’re 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, of course.
Your next tool is reverse engineer.
This tool is similar to skipping ahead in that you move past the block that’s keeping you from writing each day. And fast forward to a scene in the future. The difference here between reverse engineer and skip it, skip ahead, is you pick a future scene and you walk backwards from that point to the current point in your manuscript and reverse engineer your plot.
And yes, this even works if you are a cancer like me. Case in point, 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. I knew what the final scene looked like, so I reverse engineered my plot to figure out how to get there from where I was currently at.
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 way off script, so to speak, and some, but somehow came back and made my way to that climactic scene at the end on the first of the year. So I didn’t finish on New Year’s Eve, but I did finish on January first.
Having that little bit of a roadmap helped me get there quicker. It helped keep me on track, so even if I did veer off a little bit, everything still made sense to bring it back to that short list of scenes I needed to write to get to the end. I should probably do an entire episode on why I don’t plot, including all the plotting systems I’ve tried in the past that did not work for me.
Your next tool is: don’t break it.
Imagine this, 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 wanna do is break this amazing streak. Use the trackers from the quick start guide to writing more and less time and start tracking Immediately as your Toucan20s accumulate, And you see you have a multi-day, multi-week, multi-month streak, you’ll be so impressed and proud of yourself.
Why would you ever wanna 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 or your inner gamer site involved with your writing practice and save some innocent princess or princesses from certain doom with your words.
One that I’ve used before is called For the Words. I will link to it in the show notes. You should check it out. It’s pretty cool.
And finally, your last tool. 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, you probably guessed it, logging a Toucan20 session as soon as you can. You could even pause this podcast and do a little writing, but please be sure to come back to me because I have a little bit more to teach you about how to implement these tools.
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, like vacuuming the back of your refrigerator, shaving your cat, vacuuming under the couch, things like that. Give that the bird and log a Toucan20 session.
Then after your Toucan20 session, if you feel the need to do any of those chores I just mentioned, by all means you do you, boo.
All right. At this point you might be. Well, that’s all well and great Claire, but these are just tools. How do I use these to actually plan for anything? This my friend, is where you will have to use your immense brain power to come up with some scenarios.
Think about the times when you skip or miss a session because of something or someone else, or you’re interrupted, or you get in your own way and devise a plan.
Using these tools with the following formula:
When this happens, I will do this, Using this tool.
Don’t worry. I have some examples. Here’s the first one.
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 example, because three is a magical number.
When I find myself procrastinating, I will write anyway by giving my manuscript the bird and Logging a Toucan20 session.
To make this ridiculously easier for you, I have a free quick reference guide that lists all of the tools you learned in this two part episode.
I’ll link to it in the show notes, so be sure to go and grab that.
That’s all for this episode. Next week I’ll be in your ears, jibber jabbing away about the guilt of taking time off. If you’re like me, then taking time off from writing and getting back into it can be a major challenge. I spoke with one of my Toucan students about this very subject recently.
Tune in to hear some of the things we discussed and how to overcome feelings of guilt.
Thank you so much for hanging out with me today. I really hope you learned a ton of stuff from this episode. If you like what you heard, please consider sharing this podcast with your friends. Or better yet, leave a review.
So amazing listeners, just like you will find me. Set your timer. Go right.
If you have any questions about this episode’s content, you can, two can in general or anything else you’ve seen, read or heard, drop your questions at, youcantoucan.com/questions.
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Claire L. Fishback
Author coach, project manager, published author, amazing wife, dog mom, artist, twin, and your host and guide to discovering your path to the writing life of your dreams!
Youcan the Toucan