Keep Calm and Write On

Sometimes events seem to conspire against you. It seems that several things decide to go sideways all at the same time. In addition to struggling with the writing of your book, you now face a completely new set of challenges that you didn’t anticipate. Each new challenge feels like a step backwards and it adds to the pile of an already monumental project. Your normal rhythm of writing and work life is disrupted.

One minute, you were hard at work and making progress in a familiar order. Everything seemed to be in its place and you could see and understand the progress you were making. Then suddenly, a few unexpected events made your vision and goals seem so far out of reach. These trying times can cause panic, and you feel overwhelmed and frozen into inaction.

When ambushed by events that disrupt and overwhelm your work, think about a simple sequence of actions that soldiers use when suddenly running into an ambush, called, Stop, Drop, and Roll. You can literally do this, of course, and the laughter would be good medicine to help cheer you out of your panic. The basic principle behind this sequence is that continuing just the way you were in the face of new challenges will not work, no matter how hard you try. It’s time for a timeout, just enough to consider your course of action to get back on track.

Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed and overcome by fear that simply blocks you from doing anything. Likewise, avoid the temptation to knuckle down and work extremely hard to force your way through the challenges and hope to get back on track. Most likely, you’ll make some of the new challenges worse. Constantly driving yourself upward so all you ever see is a huge never-ending pile of work is a sure way to burn out.

The soldier stops walking, then drops to the ground to be out of sight from his attacker and then rolls away from that spot to a new spot where can observe the scene safely. Follow this routine when suddenly overwhelmed by events. Step away for a moment or two and think of a few constructive and positive actions you can take to change the circumstances. The magnitude of the change is not important. What is important is that you calmly and confidently develop a plan of action and begin executing it.

The best way to reengage and get back on track is to take a few small steps and then step back and look at what you have accomplished. You’ll be amazed how much progress you can make from a few small steps. Celebrate these small victories. Each one will inject encouragement and enthusiasm in you and fuels your desire and energy to achieve the next major milestone.

Stop and look back and see how much you have written. After just a few paragraphs, your perspective on your situation will change and you will see that you are now above that place where the crisis began. You will see the world more clearly and with much more hope and confidence. As you continue, you will be more productive as you anxiously await the view from the next stopping point just a few paragraphs ahead. When challenges strike, keep calm and write on.