If there’s anything that 2020 has taught us, it’s that the world is a really loud place. The sound of static has become a constant for many of us, no matter how many times we change the proverbial channel.
Our concerns as individuals and as a race have increased ten-fold. Many families are being forced to co-exist 24/7 thanks to lockdowns, working from home, and hybrid school schedules. For a laundry list of reasons, we are living in a sea of uncertainty, discontent, and even anger.
One thing’s for sure – finding the positive has been hard to come by over the past nine months.
So, in the midst of the madness, how do we keep persevering toward our writing goals? I wish I had a magic answer for you. The fact is, I’ve seen a lot of people take a ride on a variety of roller coasters this year.
At first, the shutdown gave some writers the idea that they would go home and do their ‘day job’ from there, while no commuting and being able to sit around in PJs all day meant they’d have extra time to focus on their books. That lasted about a minute until we all realized we were surrounded by devastation. As much as our writing is an escape, it’s kind of hard to get lost in the headspace required to create it when we’re being blasted with depressing news.
The result of that is that we felt sad and confused by what we were seeing, compounded by more depression that we, in fact, weren’t writing pages upon pages a day. Regardless of where you went from there – back to work, flipping off the virus, staying tucked away at home – it matters not for the purpose of this post. What does matter is the noise continued.
We watched cases rise, heard whispers of more shutdowns, bird-dogged the toilet paper aisle at the local grocery store for visible supply changes…and if all of that wasn’t enough, an event began to come to a head that took us from a steady static to screeching. More to the point, a very complicated, very divisive US election cranked up the decibels.
If the year was 1984 and the sound had been Van Halen, Mom surely would have been yelling for us to “Turn that shit down!” (Did your mom say “shit” back then? Nah, mine didn’t either. But she sure as shit would today!)
Side note: RIP, Eddie. More sucktastic 2020 news.
So, the year has given us a global pandemic, a volatile election…and now it’s holiday madness. And with this season comes the hope of a new year ahead, perhaps one that will bring more smiles than the hellscape in which we currently find ourselves.
While I may not have a magic wand-like solution for you, if you’re finding yourself struggling through staying on track this month, here are a few ideas that have been working for me:
Editing for a friend
It’s a fact that editing for someone else is always easier than it is to edit for yourself. When you’re reading words, grammar, and punctuation that aren’t directly associated with your brainchild, you can be a big help to a fellow author. However, this isn’t a purely selfless act because as you go through said friend’s manuscript, you’ll be upping your polishing game for your own work. All in all, editing puts you on the sidelines screaming into your headset while obscenely gesticulating at the ref. You’re still in the game.
If you are willing to be straight up with another author about the highs, lows, and any potential hiccups in their book, beta reading is a great way to stay focused on writing without actually, well, writing. Since beta reading involves more than just reading a book and checking a like/didn’t like box, you’ll be increasing your knowledge about things like plot holes, smooth dialogue, how much information the reader needs, pacing, arcs, and so much more. Any reading will help fine-tune your own writing skills, but since beta reading is pulling the meat off the bone with your teeth caveman-style, it’s a more immersive experience.
Got a stack of books that you’ve read and still need to review? Me too. Got a stack of books that you haven’t even cracked open yet? Me too. If you’re not writing, you should be reading! And don’t forget how important those reviews are, particularly to indie authors!
I know, I know, I know…
You: Nik, you haven’t posted on your own site in a coon’s age!
Me: Hush, you!
Hey, I never said I was great at taking my own advice.
Now, don’t freak, but for this you actually have to write. Not that much, though! In case you aren’t familiar with them, you’ll find daily writing prompts under the #vss hashtag on Twitter. So, you’re only writing whatever you can fit in 280 characters or less. Two that I know of are #vss365 and #vsschristmas. They’ll give you a different word everyday and you can fire up the creative juices for just a moment to challenge yourself to write something that incorporates the daily prompt.
Side note: I’m not sure who puts out the #vss365 prompt, but a quick Twitter search of the hashtag will tell you the word for the day.
This one encompasses a broad range of possibilities that can be a helpful addition to your writing path while not forcing you to produce words if you’re not feeling a creative spur. You may have research that needs to be done for your current WIP or a future work. But if not, don’t fret because it still applies to you.
Unless you’ve perfected the art of indie publishing and you’re selling thousands of books every month (and if you are – YAY!!), you need to continue to research the massive variety of marketing methods available. There is an incredible amount of information out there on this subject, and you can be taking this time to formulate a game plan. If you already have one or more books published, make yourself a fancy little pie chart or something equally stunning and track your metrics. What’s working? What isn’t working? What haven’t you tried yet? There’s always something new to learn.
I’ll be the first to admit that the shit show around me has caused my writing to take a backseat this year. I’ve spent most of my time re-writing and working with my editors on my first book. Book two? Yeahhh…I’ve written about 5,000 words toward that. However, I’ve been employing all of the above-mentioned tactics, and I feel that when the time comes to sit down and tap out the 25K it’s going to take to finish that second book, I’ll be ready. I’m still in the headspace of writing and publishing.
If you need a break from all of it, make yourself a big cup of hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows, turn on some Christmas music, and do a little shopping. Even though the noise continues, at least we know that we’ll soon be happy with the joy of giving, donating, helping a neighbor, and any other traditions you have that arrive with the magic of Christmas. Hey…maybe there’s a wand after all!
Be inspired go create blessings boo xx
This was exactly what I needed today. I’ve been beating myself up because I haven’t been able to get a project off the ground. It’s affirming to hear that someone else is going through the same thing. On top of that, I can now reinterpret the hours I’ve spent reading, and listing to video essays about writing during this pandemic. I’ve been learning this whole time! (And wasting time productively!) Thanks, Nikki! 🙂
It all helps, Julia! You definitely shouldn’t be beating yourself up, especially after everything we’ve been through this year. Here’s to a better 2021!
Thanks, Nikki 🙂 I have high hopes for 2021! 😀 It’s hard to keep reminding myself that everything helps, especially since I have (impossibly!) high standards for myself. So, for my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve been taking small, daily steps on projects. Currently, my writing goals are to write 100 words a day on my novel and to write one poem a week. It’s been going well so far. I hope that your projects are going well in this new year.
I love setting small goals and I often spend my work days hitting mini-milestones that increase as I go on. When you reach 100 words a day for a while, bump it up to 200. Then 300. Before you know it, you’ll be knocking out 2K in just a few hours and your novel will be taking on a life of its own. Good luck! 🙂
That is a great tip. I often find that I am not reaching my weekly goals. I’m going to take a step back and revamp those goals. I love the idea of daily goals, smaller yet reachable steps. Thank you for the insight! I think this change will help with my anxiety of missing my goals and feeling like I’m accomplishing nothing.
This is a wonderful idea! I always expect WAY too much from myself and try to start at 2,000 words per day, instead of a smaller, more realistic goal. Then, when I don’t reach my unrealistic goal, I’m disappointed in myself. I’m going to start doing this! Thanks, Nikki! 😀
Y’all keep an eye out – I have a post going up tomorrow that might address some of the things that are holding writers back. Hopefully it’ll help to decrease some of that disappointment. 🙂
Perfect blog post! The noise continues into 2021! What in the world is happening here in the states. Thanks for breaking it out the way you did. It’s like a to-do list, research, review, edit, help others – love it.
I hope everyone can rise above the noise and create something amazing!
I also love creating small goals. I feel much more accomplished when I hit a goal so smaller goals works for me.
Thanks for the push. Often times I struggle creating above the noise. Right now my life is full of noise.
2020 has been a very tough year on everybody. I am a blogger myself and I just found it so hard to sit down and put my ideas into words. But it’s definitely a great idea to blog. I did pick up the pace a couple of months into 2021 and now I’m blogging more frequently.
I wish I could say the same thing. I’ve just been so damn lazy it’s not even funny. I did offer to edit and proofread for a friend, but sometimes I just can’t get myself to get started. It’s awful!
Add me to your list, Astrid. I get so discouraged; especially when the weather doesn’t help during the winter months. I am a summer person and feel more productive when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. I love blogging, but I really need to be pushed to get started.
I have felt similarly in the past. I get frustrated with myself when I feel that I should be doing something, and I’m not. These past few years with the pandemic has been hard, and I found that I don’t have nearly as much mental ‘bandwidth’ as I did before the pandemic. So, even if you’re frustrated with yourself now, give yourself the time you need to improve without being too critical.
It’s great to hear that I’m not alone in my slump. 2020 was a hard year! 2021 is a bit better but I’m still not exactly where I want to be. I have been hitting mini goals lately though. Thanks for putting it out there that we are not alone in a sinking boat!
Great picture! It is what pulled me in to read this. It is exactly how I feel today. Stressed, overwhelmed, lost! Thanks for some insight and for making me feel like I can do this. I can still succeed even when I feel this way.
Small successes are what keep me going. Lately, I’ve started keeping a list of daily goals and keeping those goals small so that I can’t help but reach them. Getting a small goal completed gives me a boost and then I snowball into getting more and more done. Good luck and keep creating, even when it’s difficult! 🙂
I genuinely thought I would reach my goals in 2021, that I would create above the noise. But that just wasn’t the case. I found 2021 to be harder in a lot of ways than 2020. Here’s to a productive and safe 2022! Goodness knows we all need it!
I really thought 2021 would be my year. The year that I accomplished a lot of my goals and made huge strides in my professional life. And that just wasn’t the case. It’s really discouraging to not make the process you want. Hopefully, both of us will have a better year this year!
It’s been two years since the pandemic, and things are mostly going back to normal. However, other alarming news has transpired that my worries persist. When it comes to writing, reading others’ works and doing random research helps organize those thoughts. I love how you added various advice here, by the way. 🙂