How to Make the Most of an Off-Track Week

In Business of Writing, Craft, Writers on Time on March 26, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Today’s guest poster, Marla Beck,  is a dynamic, talented writer and coach of writers. Proof that real, good connections DO come from Twitter. She also has something I (and you) need: Answers on how to deal with that pesky creature, time, and most important, ways to be kind, easy, and generous with yourself so you can have more of the creative time you want!

How to Make the Most of an Off-Track Week  

By Marla Beck

You know that little clock-resetting episode last weekend?  I’m never delighted to lose sleep, but this year’s daylight savings transition was especially unsettling:  
my husband was recouping from a five-hour professional exam,
my daughter’s bedtime routine tanked, and
my lingering cough turned into full-blown bronchitis.
Needless to say, I missed the mark with my writing time. 
We’ve all got our own versions of what-the-heck-happened, weeks-from-hell…weeks when our best-laid writing plans fail. 
You don’t have to let scheduling setbacks derail your writing life, though.  Here’s a user’s guide to making the most of an off-track week.
What to Do When You’re Not Writing
Whether you’re upset that you didn’t log in as many multi-hour writing sessions as you’d planned or annoyed that you didn’t get within a yard of your writing desk, there’s much to learn from your off-track week.  Here are five lessons to get you started.
Lesson #1.  Accept it.  
If you have a day job, live with children, tend to elderly parents, maintain a busy household or freelance-write for a living, you already know that some schedule disruptions are beyond your control. 
During weeks like these, you’ve got a choice.  You can fall into the common trap of slamming yourself for not being a super-hero (we’ve all been there), or you can accept the fact that you’re a writer who’s choosing to pursue your craft in the midst of a thriving, multi-faceted life. 
Creating a consistent writing schedule isn’t necessarily supposed to be “easy.”  Accept it.  Then move on.
Lesson #2.  Focus on your body.
When you’re rushing from task to task, do you ever start feeling as though you’re a walking brain: all head, no body?  When you’re time stressed, it’s easy to lose your connection with your creativity, your silence and your heart. 
There are opportunities to ground yourself during the busiest of weeks.  Try taking five minutes to do yoga before bed.  Breathe deeply at stoplights.  Let yourself take a catnap if you need it.  Restoring your connection to your body relaxes your mind and helps you make decent choices, even in the midst of chaos.
Lesson #3.  Know that crazy weeks won’t last. 
 As a professional coach, I lead busy writers through a step-by-step process to create more time to write.  As my clients share their successes and challenges, I’m reminded again and again of these two truths:
Protecting and making more time to write is an incremental process.
Crazy weeks don’t last.  (Though this can be awfully hard to see in the moment!)
Sometimes we get in our own way by expecting our progress to be linear.  Realize that making more time to write is a gradual, sometimes messy, process. 
One way to do this is to enlarge your focus and look at the past four weeks.  Consider:  “Overall, am I moving toward or away from realizing my writing goals?”  This longer-term perspective helps you acknowledge your gains (if you’re on track), or it reinforces your need to revamp your time management (if you need it).  
Lesson #4.  Review and learn.
 Good managers periodically review their department’s performance data to analyze what’s working and what’s not.  Doing so provides a terrific opportunity to streamline and optimize operations.
You can do the same.  Study your off-track writing week to gather data about your writing life. 
Ask yourself: 
What happened this week? 
What choices did I make? 
What factors created my schedule upheaval, and how did I respond? 
Outline the circumstances that influence your time- and life-management, and decide which factors are within your control and which ones are not. 
As you gather information, you may begin to realize that making a single, specific change would really improve your writing life, such as:

“I need to set better boundaries with my work/job/spouse”
“I need to say no more often”
“I need to clear more unstructured time in my schedule” 
Lesson #5:  Prepare to Change.
 After you’ve analyzed your off-track week, you’re set to make some changes.  Don’t try to go it alone.
Read books on time management for writers, such as Kelly L. Stone’s Time to Write (Adams Media, 2008).  Compare notes with other writers. Take advantage of free resources online, such as my free five-part e-course:  “Making More Time to Write.”  Gather all the tools and support you need to help yourself succeed.
What’s To Gain?
Put these ideas into action and your off-track writing week won’t be wasted.  When your time stress subsides, you’ll return to your writing with more energy and insight.  Best of all, you’ll have started down the path to creating and sustaining a realistic writing schedule: one that really works for you.
Poet and life coach, Marla Beck, MFA, coaches freelancers and writers with day jobs to finish their novels and create more time to write. She blogs at The Relaxed Writer ( “Making More Time to Write,” her five-part time management e-course, is available free of charge at:
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  1. Thanks for the opportunity to write for your awesome blog, Jordan.

    Anyone else just now rebounding from an off-track week? What helped you get back to your writing? (And what *didn’t?*) 🙂

  2. Great post, Marla–thanks for hosting this guest-blog, Jordan. Wonderful ideas. 🙂

  3. Thanks for coming, Marla. Your points were very needed for many.

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