What is writing overwhelm? It is that sometimes familiar feeling of being overwhelmed by the vastness of the job at hand – writing. As we all know, writing is not an easy task all the time, and sometimes the sheer amount of work that needs to be done can weigh heavy on our minds. So, how do we overcome this, pausing the battle so we can get some words written down on the page? Here are ten ways to limit writing overwhelm.
1) Make it fun again.
Remember when you first started writing? What did it feel like to sit down and get to share a story that had been waiting inside your head? For me, it was pure joy. It was sitting at the computer after school, basking in a fantasy world that I just wanted to spend more time in. The words flew out of me because I had no expectations. All I wanted to get from my writing time was the pure joy of writing, of spending time with my characters. So, how can we make writing FUN again?
If you’re struggling to enjoy writing your novel, change what you’re doing. You could change your writing space, making it brighter, clearer, or simpler. Take a break from your book with a short story or a page of writing that has nothing to do with anything else. You could use a writing prompt, like the ones I send out every week to my subscribers. The main thing is to ask yourself HOW to make it fun again and think about the question. For me, fun comes from real-life research, cooking the foods I write about or visiting similar places. That gets me fired up and ready to write – so what works for you?
2) Separate research time from writing time.
I’ve previously written a blog post all about this – check it out here! Separating research and writing time can really help with limiting overwhelm. Why? Because when you sit down to write, take a minute to do some research and fall down a research rabbit hole (which happens at the best of times), you find that the time you had set aside for writing quickly disappears. Instead, try setting aside time for researching as one task and writing as another. Multi-tasking was invented for computers, not the human brain, so it makes sense that task batching would work better. Check out this post, all about task batching, to learn more. Being able to sit down and get some writing done helps limit that overwhelm because it focuses your mind on the task at hand.
3) Remove distractions.
Distractions are tricky when writing, and it is easy to be overwhelmed when there is so much going on. I often think about Dickens and wonder what distractions he had when working. Of course, it was nothing like today when the urge to check Instagram ‘just for a second’ is there while writing, but certainly, he must have had some. So, how can we limit distractions in this world of entertainment? The Forest App is excellent for this. It blocks websites of your choice for as long as you set a timer. Don’t want to download an app? Not a problem; try simply setting the stopwatch on your phone. You will find that each time you look at it, you see it counting up, giving you pause for thought. Realising that you are about to be distracted is often all you need to continue. Want to know more about limiting procrastination? Click here.
4) Set a timer.
Have you ever tried the Pomodoro technique? This time limiting technique asks you to set your timer at twenty minutes for a task. Sometimes you will find that twenty minutes is all you can spare, and at other times you might continue without noticing that the time is up. Setting a timer can help limit overwhelm because it lets you take the task in one small piece. Writing a novel is made up of those moments of writing, just one paragraph at a time.
5) Try a new perspective.
Not your perspective, a character perspective! It can really help you refocus on your story, and limit overwhelm to consider your characters’ feelings. Here’s a fun task: try writing a letter to your protagonist from the point of view of other characters. You might find that you learn something you didn’t already know.
6) Create a writing routine that works for YOU.
A writing routine that makes you feel overwhelmed is not the right one. Perhaps you are trying to write every day when you just don’t have the time. That’s okay – writing every day is for Stephen King, but certainly not for me, and it might not be for you either. If you are ready to create a writing routine that works for you, click here and read about how to do it.
7) Consider your expectations.
How much pressure are you putting on yourself to get this work done by a specific time, and is it realistic? Can you move the deadline, and what would happen if you did? Are you stressing about something like formatting your book when you could hire someone to do it for you? Consider what expectations you are having of yourself and how they play into your feelings of overwhelm. If you want to set effective goals, check out this post.
I am a big fan of journaling because it helps you investigate your feelings and thoughts about a situation. I would always recommend doing it by hand if possible because it forces you to write slower, giving you the time to think about the overwhelm you are experiencing. You could also try meditation, or purely sitting in silence, and allowing yourself to think through the feelings. Time for yourself can work wonders.
9) Set boundaries with yourself and others.
Setting boundaries with other people is essential in writing. You need the time to create! It helps to tell other people that you are planning to write at a specific time and that you will need space to do so. If you find that the response is a little combative, try involving the other person in your plans and successes, such as sharing a reward when a thousand words have been written. This may make them more willing to give you that space and time you need to work and will show them how seriously you take it.
It’s also important to set boundaries with yourself. This means allowing yourself to find that time, to have that space, and invest in your craft. Writing isn’t easy, but it deserves your attention if it’s important to you. If you allow yourself the support of you, the feeling of overwhelm will be much easier to investigate.
10) Organise your writing area.
A tidy desk really does create a tidy mind. When our writing area is cluttered, it can make us feel overwhelmed purely by looking at it. So, take a moment before writing to clear the space in front of you and make it nicer to be in. Perhaps light a candle, and open a window for some fresh air. Making your space conducive to writing will help.
There you have it, ten ways to limit writing overwhelm! Want to chat about this further? Get in touch; I would love to tell you how coaching can help you move forward in your writing life.