Wowza–it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?
And if you’re like just about every other person on this planet, you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and distracted because there is just SO MUCH stuff going on in the world!
How in the world are we supposed to get anything done, let alone write a children’s book manuscript?
For one, we are still deep in the throes of a pandemic. That alone is enough to make me want to curl up in a ball under the covers and sleep until the “all clear” bell sounds.
But not only that, it’s been an election year. Don’t worry, I’m not even going to talk about that topic–you get enough of that elsewhere.
And then there’s regular life happening (except that nothing looks regular these days). There’s work, and school if you have kids, and the latest creation by Shondaland, and the aftermath of the holidays, and AHHHHHHH!
So what in the world does this have to do with what I usually write to you about, which is about writing for kids?
It just seems like many creatives are struggling to get any work done on their kidlit stuff because it is hard to get in the right headspace with so many major distractions flying around in our heads.
We are not writing stories. We are not making art. We are not generating ideas.
But despite all that, I’m actually having one of my most productive years ever. I’ve got a book coming out. I’ve got three new work-for-hire projects going on simultaneously. I’m trying to keep up with my website and keeping in touch with you guys.
It’s not been all smooth sailing. I have days where I feel as if I’ve been banging my head against the wall and all I’ve produced is a big, fat headache.
Other days the words feel like they are being s-q-u-e-e-z-e-d out of my like an old glue bottle where the glue seems to still be liquid but my vise-like grip only produces a tiny drop.
(I mean, someone explain this to me. The glue is moving around in there, so why oh why can’t I get anything out??)
But then there are those days when I sit down and the words flow. I feel energized and excited about what I’m writing. I am learning interesting facts about what I’m researching and I can’t wait to share it with kids.
How can we get more days like that?
I thought I’d share a few of the things that I think are helping me have productive and enjoyable days.
Number one: Sit quietly.
Okay, don’t laugh. I know this can feel impossible sometimes. But I’m not even talking about a long time.
I am a huge fan of meditation. I started exploring it a few years ago, and at first I was skeptical. Thoughts would ping around in my brain so fast I’d open my eyes feeling like I had completely failed.
Don’t go there.
Meditating is a practice. And it requires practice.
I started with baby steps. I downloaded the Insight Timer app and looked for guided meditations that were only ten minutes long. Or less.
Sometimes all I would do was one minute.
But over time, you get better at focusing on not thinking. And I’m telling you, if you can stop your mind for just ten seconds, it helps.
I now have a streak where I’ve meditated over 650 days in a row without missing a day.
I know I am a calmer person than I was a few years ago. I’m less anxious and stressed.
And I’m able to write.
Number Two: Extend yourself some grace.
What I mean by this is don’t try to be a superhuman.
You are doing the best you can. Sometimes the best you can do is get out of bed and change out of your pajamas. Or maybe you stay in your pajamas. But still.
You are doing the best you can.
Just keep trying to do what needs to be done. Even if it’s the bare minimum, remind yourself you can try again tomorrow.
Just don’t give up. But stop beating yourself up that you are not cranking out 10,000 words or drawing 100 sketches and also getting dinner on the table and your teeth brushed.
Number Three: Remember you don’t have to figure everything out right now
This one has actually been huge for me.
Because the truth is, we start to feel anxious and overwhelmed when we look at our to-do list or start going through the million and one things we are supposed to take care of and you think you can’t possibly get it all done and you’re going to fail and everyone is going to laugh at you or lose all respect for you and you may as well just stay in bed and definitely not change out of your pajamas.
Instead of going down that path, stop.
Decide what are the one or two things you absolutely have to do. Then just focus on those things.
And when other things pop up, ask yourself: Do I need to figure this out right now?
Even if you have a deadline coming up next week or a payment coming due and you don’t have the money in your account to cover it–if you don’t need to figure out that one thing AT THIS MOMENT, then tell yourself:
“I don’t have to figure that out right now.”
Because if you did have to deal with that one thing, well, that’s what should be on your must-do list.
Everything else you tell yourself you will get to it later. But don’t obsess over it until then.
The amazing thing about this approach is that in many cases, the problem resolves itself, a solution presents itself, or you realize the problem wasn’t as bad as you thought.
For those times when you are still struggling to figure out an answer, go back to Number One: sit quietly. Try to settle your mind and then ask the question: what is the next best step? This approach has helped me many, many times in my life. You may be surprised by what comes up.
Are you wanting to write for children, but don’t know where to start? Check out this post: Want to Write for Children–But Have No Idea How to Start?
If you are feeling ready to exercise your creative muscles, and want to dive into some stories, check out this post: How to Brainstorm Ideas for Your Children’s Book.
And if you have any other great tips for managing being overwhelmed by life, let me know!