Monday, July 2, 2012

6 Easy Steps to Stop the Chaos in Your Life

The last few months I hadn't managed to get a lot of writing done. I'd been stuck in the middle of things-that-had-to-be-done. I had to deal with marketing demands, edits on various projects—story edits, line edits, edits on edits—commitments to friends, and other deadlines. Inner turmoil grew and I fell behind on my emails, on my comments, my reading lists, and my social networking. A little voice inside me wailed to simply write something new, to explore fresh ideas. But I couldn't find the time or the will.

The advice I'd normally give writers struggling with this is problem is make the time and just write! Sounds simple enough. There's always enough time if we want something enough. But it wasn't so simple when I'd allowed life and everything that goes with it to get on top of me.

So how did I pull myself out of this malaise? Below are the 6 steps I took to turn chaos into order so that I could get back on course to achieving my goals.

1. Decide to make a change: This step is probably the most important of all of the steps. There are few goals in life that are impossible to reach if we truly decide go after them.

2. Unclutter: Deep down I like things to be neat. I like a clean kitchen, I like a tidy living room, and I love to unclutter. But the thing is, my writing area is almost always a mess. I'll clean it up once in a while, but it quickly falls into disarray. I have no idea why. Perhaps it's part of the chaos that makes up a creative mind. Normally this particular mess wouldn't bother me, but because I had too much chaos in my life, it was time to clean it up. There is a certain truth behind the saying that an untidy desk reflects an untidy mind. The act of uncluttering the work space also helps to reinforce the decision to make a change.

3. Make a list: I know that lists aren't for everyone, but I'd like to encourage anyone in this situation to give it a go, just to kick-start the brain. It's a great way of seeing and organising all the things that must be done. It doesn't seem so intimidating once it's written in list form.

4. Prioritize the list: It's a tempting thing to do the easiest things on the list first, but when there are more pressing commitments that need to be taken care of, they'll continue to hang over your head like a noose until they are done. Prioritize your list and remember not to put your personal goals last, eg writing.

5. Make a schedule: Again, this is not for everyone, but sometimes it's necessary to bring back order into your life. Remember that flexibility is key to making schedules work. Keep adjusting your schedule until you find one that works for your lifestyle.

6. Repeat: This process may need to be repeated until you work your way out of the crazies and into a satisfying creative life.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by everything going on in your life? How did you get over that feeling?

NOTE: Notice anything super cool about the unrelated image above? It's the contents page of Short and Twisted 2012, an anthology of stories and poems with a twist, just released by Celapene Press. Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

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66 comments:

  1. Squeee!!!!! That's so cool!!! :)

    I do get overwhelmed - this past month nearly pushed me over the edge. But with the arrival of summer I'm hoping things balance up again! Hope they do for you as well :)

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    1. Jemi, I hope that edge becomes a distance thing for you. It's a very cold winter here for me at the moment--perfect for snugging up and writing.

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  2. Ooh, the whole unclutter idea speaks to me so strongly. Yet, to be honest, I tend to agree with you that part of my creativity is linked to my office clutter. Funny how that works. Great list and just what I need as I dive into edits. ;D Thx.

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  3. Thanks for the encouragement and the example.

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  4. Isn't is strange the moment we set writing goals, life interferes. All those cupboards need cleaning, clothes need to be sorted, passed on etc, and other things take on importance. When you think about it, during a writing class you're often asked to write to a prompt - just 15 or so minutes. I've filled up 3 pages in this time. If my daily goal is just to write for 15 minutes, that book will get written. I know not everyone is that speedy, but really, we do need little time to write - a lot of mind space can be occupied with ideas etc while we do those other important things that demand our time but not necessarily our complete attention. I've got that glassy-eyed look down pat. My husband knows I'm writing a scene in my head, not really paying attention to what he's telling me about whatever, lol.

    Sorry to rave on, but I'm not going to delete all these words I've written today!

    Denise

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    1. I'll admit I tend to write more when I have less time.

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  5. For me, I've come to accept that a creative mind reflects an untidy house. ;) But I do find when I need to clear my brain from a good bout of creativeness, a tidy house helps me reorganise what needs to be achieved next, be it writing or the rest of life.

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  6. No. 5 worked absolute wonders for me, recently. Same place, same time, M-F for a handful of weeks. Worked like a charm. I swear by The Schedule, now.

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  7. This is definitely good advice. Making a choice is crucial in all things we do. Procrastinating kills creativity BIG time. And yes, there are some of us that make too many decisions (out of a good purpose) but fail to follow through.

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    1. yep, sometimes those decisions have to be remade...daily.

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  8. I need to be uncluttered...as I feel a bit snowed under right now from all sides.

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  9. Hooray! I'm on the right track. I just blogged about some of those same things as I crossed the JuNoWriMo finish line. At times I did feel overwhelmed, but getting myself organized helped a lot. Awesome insight!

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  10. Great list. I feel overwhelmed from time to time. Uncluttering and making lists work for me.

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  11. These are really great and very helpful suggestions. I definitely have to give them a go.

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  12. You get over it by going on vacation! Sadly mine is about to end...
    Great suggestions, Lynda.

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    1. hehe yeah, if you want time to scream by, go on a vacation ;)

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  13. Since I work outside of the home and my daughters make life a surprise, I schedule writing time, even if its for a half hour. I have to or would never happen and I'd be the biggest grumpy bear ever. I even commit to reading 5 blogs the days I work and 10 or more on my off days. The same with marketing. I save that for my off dyas as well.

    Your suggestions were wonderful. The changing your mind one was the best one of all.

    Have a great day, Lynda!

    Shelly
    http://secondhandhsoesnovel.blogspot.com/

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    1. Yes! Scheduling 15mins or 30mins writing time makes a huge difference. It helps if you train your family not to disturb you during those times too.

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  14. Nice list, Lynda. I need to unclutter, too. I'll try the list thing, though I've never been good at following them. I always get side-tracked into something else.

    I don't think there if there is ever going to be any help with my desk. It's always a mess. It's as if I can't write unless there's a mess around me...and a cat or two. :)

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    1. I think that's why lists work so well with schedules. I also get sidetracked, but if I schedule time to do something specific on my list, then I find it easier to stay focused on my goal.

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  15. One of the biggest changes I've made over the last few months is to prioritise my writing. Editing, marketing and everything else comes second. The good thing is, writing doesn't take me that long any more and so I manage the other stuff.

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  16. i love lists and schedules, need to put my kids on one in the summer, but i also want them to make good choices, not plan out their free time. its frustrating!

    my desk gets cluttered, but it is organized clutter. i write notes (ideas for ms, new stories, blog posts, etc) all over and collect them on my desk. but the odd papers, though in their sorted stacks, look cluttery and it seems i will never get to them all! what i need to do is purge!! or get a filing cabinet!

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  17. or just hire a personal assistant, preferably a hunky and gorgeous one.... :)

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    1. That's where my hubby comes in. He is my gorgeous, hunky personal assistant. And he keeps me sane ;)

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  18. excellent list, I'm going to be applying these to my life. I'd also like to add keeping healthy. I know it takes time to exercise and eat right but when I'm healthy I have so much energy and clarity of mind I can do more writing in the same amount of time.

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    1. Yes!! Brilliant addition. That's so very important!

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  19. Your advice is spot-on!. Uncluttering is one of the keys for me. And scheduling. And sticking to it. ^_^

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  20. I did notice your story in the image. That's awesoome! I tend to have a clean, very organized desk and a not exactly tidy house. I agree - it's easy to say just write, but it's not always that easy.

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    1. Thanks, Tonja, I'm thrilled about the story in print as well.

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  21. i so love the list part and the no clutter part--now i have the list part down--gotta work on all that life clutter :)

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  22. I've been feeling very overwhelmed lately. We got back from vacation a couple of weeks ago, and my house just seems to be overflowing with mess no matter how much I clean. I don't have the gift of organization, but I'm committing to decluttering. I've got two editing deadlines for August, and not having a bunch of junk surrounding me will be a huge help.
    Thanks!

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    1. Good luck with your decluttering and your editing

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  23. Great advice and still the list makes it look worse because the whole reason I gave up the busy-ness of a day to day job was to write and to stop writing my to-do lists! LOL

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  24. We are in the process of decluttering our house. Amazing how this stuff collects and multiplies. Once decluttered, then we can prioritize and get stuff done!

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  25. I thought the summer would be perfect for writing! However, I'm finding that I need to set an entirely different schedule. I'm like you, I like things neat and organized and lists are my friend too! I've also had to cut back on blogging...which kind of breaks my heart a bit.

    Great words of wisdom, thank you!

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    1. yep, sometimes cutting back on social networking is necessary--especially if writing is our first priority (which, as a writer, really should be our highest priority).

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  26. Such excellent advice! I have the same trouble with my desk. It is the landing place for all things pending. I find peace in the knowledge that a messy desk is a sign of an active and intelligent mind. :) Now, off to make my list!

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  27. I have felt overwhelmed many times. I am nowadays trying to prioritize my writing life. Writing will take the first place, everything will follow it.

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  28. Oh i hate clutter! back when I was still in school, i remember not being able to study until my room was nice and tidy. I'm still the same way today. :) I also love lists and scheduling is a big part of how I manage my time :) great post!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  29. Those are great tips and sure they would help most people. In my case, I'm just don't have the time to get that organized. I know, it doesn't make sense, but I'm wildly A.D.D. I'm sure that medication is the answer for me, but I can't seem to get that done either...

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  30. Fantastic tips. With my limited time, I'm finding that lists do help. I also declutter when I procrastinate. Helpful in taking care of both problems!

    Congratulations on the anthology! :)

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  31. Great tips. I'm a list maker. I purge my stress to paper and take it one thing at a time.

    Major congrats ont he anthology!! Yay!

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  32. I love making lists, but I never prioritise them, and that's most of my problem. Plus I don't give enough conviction to point 1, so I'll have to boost my oomph in that department.

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  33. Squeeeee!! Awww look at your lovely name in print! Yay!!!!!

    Oh whenever I feel overwhelmed, I unplug and spend time in the kitchen baking! Take care
    x

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    1. It's amazing how theraputic baking can be :)

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  34. I spied your name poking out in the photo :)

    Have you been living in my mind? I think so. I've been not writing for a little while now because of getting ready for my book release. What you say do, I did. It helps. For real.

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    1. That's so awesome to hear. Book releases are tricky things. The prep and marketing for them are necessary, and during those times we fool oursleves into thinking we are doing enough for our careers. But if we aren't writing, then we start to go a little insane.

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  35. Congratulations on the anthology! And in print, too. :)

    I need to work on two. There's too much clutter around these days.

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  36. Nice to see your name in the anthology! I bet that makes you feel good.

    I need to work on the clutter. Mostly, it's my kids' clutter. Summer is a bad time for clutter, because they're home all day. Scheduling a writing time is good, too. If you keep your writing time consistent, it's easy to get in the habit of doing it.

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  37. Thank you to everyone for the congrats on my name in print in the Short and Twisted 2012 anthology. I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing my name in print :)

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  38. I think lists are great, and prioritising your writing to the top of the list is one way to make sure it gets done, I've learned that any items below number five are only there to remind me how much stuff there is to do, there's no way I'm ever getting that far down the list. Schedules are a good idea too, I have to lock myself in, because if I get deep into procrastination mode I start thinking I really need to bath the cat before I sit down to write, knowing full well that once I start that task I'll be too busy with Dettol and bandaids to write anything for the rest of the day.

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  39. Prioritizing and making a schedule are the most important goals. Tidying and making lists just are things to do besides writing. The greats, Hemingway, Zelazny, Faulkner, made a commitment to write at least ten minutes of every day. Who cannot find 10 minutes in which to write? Of course, it often extends to at least 30, but that is a good thing.

    Ten minutes of writing usually equals one page. In a year that is a novel. If you manage to do 30 minutes every third day, you will finish a novel in four to six months.

    This was a great post, Roland

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    1. Well said, Roland. Breaking it down like that makes finishing a novel manageable.

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  40. Hi Lynda, I wondered if you would kindly feature my ebook free promotion giveaway, two children's books on your blog? for the 6th to 9th and the 12th to the 13th July please? Don't worry if that is a problem. Kind regards, Carole.

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    1. Sure thing, Carole. I have a new post going up this afternoon after I get back from another session of root canal therapy (oh fun, oh joy). I'll mention your giveaway then.

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  41. Yes! Life can become overwhelming with all there is to do. And it's so frustrating to lose that precious writing time. I love lists for getting me out of these ruts, or at least helping me cope with them. It's satisfying to check things off a list.

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  42. Yes, yes, yes. All of the above, Lynda. Spot on, as always :)

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  43. I remember reading something written by Chuck Palahniuk who suggested setting an egg timer for 45 minutes or starting a load of laundry and forcing yourself to write either until the timer sounds or the wash cycle is done. His theory is that about 45 minutes is a very doable amount of time to actual get deep into the writing without being too much of a chore.

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  44. Hi Lynda! I did notice your name in the picture. Yea! Great post.

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  45. I love lists like these. And I love uncluttering! My problem is that I save all kinds of paper - brochures, newspaper clippings, printed stories and snips, on and on. So they all get shoved into piles and bins and then, even though the surfaces are clean and clear, there's a mess hidden behind closed doors. Argh!

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  46. I love the advice about prioritizing the list. I need to do that more often. I love making lists, but I often just do them in the order that the items popped into my head.

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  47. Oh yes... Certainly have felt overwhelmed! (Like now!) :)

    I think making a list is oh so very important - and I do that. Now #4... ;)

    I tend to put my writing towards the bottom, which is shameful. But I'm working on it.

    Thank you for the post, Lynda! (Found you via a Tweet from author Elizabeth S. Craig.)

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    1. Welcome Tracy!
      I'm the same with the tendancy of putting writing lower on the lists. I have to remind myself that this is important to me and whenever I'm writing, I'm soooo much happier.

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