Are you an aspiring writer befuddled by what to do next to get your career going? Maybe you’ve kept yourself busy organizing your writing space to avoid staring at that intimidating blank page. Perhaps you don’t know where to begin, or you are just a little depressed that no one is knocking down your door just yet. You see a lot of competition out there. many of whom are established with platforms: websites, Twitter accounts, multiple publishing credits and more. Ugh! Where do you begin?
Welcome to a writer’s life.
This is situation normal for most of us, if that makes you feel better. As a writer, I’d find myself mucking about in the details to avoid writing a query letter. Or being worried about my Facebook presence, Twitter following or website details. Ugh! I didn’t even know where to begin. I was like a deer in the headlights: knowing I needed to make a move to save myself, but unable to do anything but stand and stare.
Luckily, it hit me. Not an Ford F150, thank goodness, but an idea. And it literally changed my life. It’s pretty simple, really. To be successful, I just needed to be in Perpetual Forward Motion (PFM).
Really. No secret potion–no magic formula.
And guess what? Forward motion doesn’t mean writing a book in a weekend. It DOES mean choosing something, anything, to start with and breaking it down into bite-sized pieces to keep you moving ahead without feeling overwhelmed.
Breaking things up like this gives you a great, big, sunny feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment every day that helps to keep you going. And once that momentum begins, your writing career can’t help but flourish.
So, now that you know you need a little PFM in your life, how do you go about it? Here’s what works for me: I call it my “three little things”.
At the beginning of each week, I print off a 7 day calendar and on each square, Monday through Saturday, I write down three little things that I will accomplish that day for my writing career. That doesn’t mean that’s all I accomplish—it just means that it’s all I have to accomplish. Just three little things. Let me give you an example.
- Renew Writer’s Market membership.
- Choose three markets to target.
- Get online and research potential article ideas.
- Comment on LinkedIn boards.
- Choose my favorite market/article idea from Monday.
- Begin query letter draft.
- Write blog post.
- Finish draft query; let it sit until tomorrow so I can edit it with “new” eyes.
- Work on revising third chapter of fiction novel.
You get the idea. No matter what your overwhelm involves, you can manage it and be successful with PFM. Let’s face it, life gets in the way of what we want to do for ourselves sometimes. Doctor’s appointments, kid’s events, weddings, funeral and car maintenance– even an unexpected traffic jam can throw a wrench in our well-laid plans. All these interruptions serve to make us feel like we can never get down to doing what we want or need to do because we are busy handling all of life’s little details.
I was often finding myself torn between my career, responsibilities on several Boards on which I was serving, my triplet teenagers’ activities, and my husband, who travels frequently. I felt like I was doing everything — and getting nothing done.
PFM, and specifically “three little things”, organized my life in no time and got me moving in the direction I needed to go. It worked so well that I managed to find time amidst the craziness of life to write not just one, but a whole series of books. The first one, the One Size Does NOT Fit All Guide: Stress Management, hit the Amazon #1 Bestseller list!
So, you might be thinking “But Nikki, that just deals with writing. What about the rest of your responsibilities? How are those getting done?
That’s an astute observation. Some things are not getting done. And that’s okay!
Before you start getting your PFM groove on, you have to do a little thought-provoking introspection. For example, there are things that will get done no matter what, either because they are non-negotiable or because they are emergencies. You will get your kids to school every day. You will put gas in your car when it is on “E”. And you will stay home to meet that locksmith who’s going to fix the broken lock on your front door. Those are the very things that derail our best intentions, but there is really nothing you can do about them — like life itself, they are just gonna happen.
On the other hand, there are a whole slew of activities that you need to sort through to determine which “three things” you are going to focus on. What is most critical to you right now? Your writing? A home project? Your health? Personal life? Something else? Whatever your answer is to this question, THAT is where you should focus your time and attention. When you find you have two areas of focus that are equally important in your mind you either increase your must-do task list from three to six things or alternative days between the two objectives.
I recommend the latter unless you’ve been practicing “three little things” for at least three to six months. Why? Because developing good habits like these take time — and it’s easy to fall back into overwhelm and give up if you pile too much on at once. Once you have your “three little things” habit set in stone you can tweak it as you need to. Remember, though, if adding more things sends you reeling again, stop and go back to just three. The object is to succeed, slowly and surely. You’ve had enough of the non-productive whirl of doing a little of this and a little of that. You need to add F-O-C-U-S.
Notice, I didn’t say the crazy spinning would go away. It’ll still be there, because that’s how life is, and it is exhausting to fight against it. Railing against the inevitable just leaves you feeling tired and, quite frankly, like a failure. But adding a point of focus to your crazy, choppy day is like throwing yourself a life raft in the middle of a stormy sea. It gives you an island of calm, a place where you can keep your head above water, and a feeling of triumph over chaos.
So try it—I dare you! Pick a focus for your PFM, map out “three little things” to do each day this week, and be prepared for some amazing changes.