How To Make Progress on Your Book When Life Intervenes

Jun 26, 2024 | Writing A Book

Joe, Judy, and Mike were all working steadily on their books. Then life intervened.

A crisis in Joe’s business claimed his time and attention. He won’t be able to continue writing every morning at the same time and in the same place for an hour or two. Judy has a health issue and doesn’t have the time or energy to work the way she has. Mike wants to step back from intense writing for the summer to spend time with his son, who’ll start high school in the fall.

I think of the saying, “We plan, God laughs,” whenever I lay out a project plan that looks oh-so-nice and neat on paper. Alas, as Helmut von Moltke said of military plans, no writing project plan survives its first contact with reality.

Sometimes, you simply can’t write the way you planned. What can you do to keep the book moving forward when life intervenes?

What You Can Do

You may not be able to get large blocks of writing time, but you should get small blocks from time to time. Be prepared. Keep a list of simple research and writing things you can do when you suddenly have a few spare moments.

Master the Pomodoro technique. There are many variants of this basic and effective technique. They all call for concentrated work for a few moments, say 20, followed by a short break. Sometimes, you’ll only be able to work for one Pomodoro session. That’s how one of my clients measured his writing effort– in “Pomodoros.”

Capture your good ideas. You’ll likely get plenty of good ideas while working on other things. Capture them right away because you won’t remember them. I capture my ideas on a small digital recorder, but I also carry index cards for times when I have a good idea but am in a situation where speaking aloud would not be appropriate. Think church.

Review the ideas you get. Some will be great, but most will need work. Write down the good ones. Then, reflect on them. Use the ideas to keep your list of simple research and writing items full.

Get a project box. “What’s a project box?” I hear you cry. A project box is a place to put everything related to your book project—files, books, journals–anything you need. It’s vital to keeping your progress going.

Touch your project at least once a day. You don’t have to spend much time, 10 or 15 minutes will usually do. Record your ideas. Work on something small. When you’ve got things in your project box, they’re always there to work with.

Missing one day here and there is no big deal. Don’t miss two.

An Important Reality

Writing a book is important to you, but it is not the most important thing in your life. Relationships with loved ones are important, as are your relationships with good friends. Spending time with them is crucial.

Tim Urban pointed out that when he graduated from high school, he had already spent 93 percent of the time he would ever spend with his parents. That’s what motivated Mike to take the special time just before high school to devote the summer to time with his son. He’s scheduled a date to return to his regular writing routine after his son begins high school.

Don’t waste effort trying to make things just right. Don’t waste time shaking your fist at the sky. Can’t change it. Move on. Make progress.

Do what’s most important. When it’s time to write, write. When it’s time to do something else, do it well. The force you have is all there is. Use it

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