Writer’s overwhelm – how to tackle it


I’ll admit it.

Since returning from long-service leave, I’ve had half a heart in the northern hemisphere and the other half right back here at home. It’s taking a little effort to re-boot my mojo for work, even though I love it! So when I realised yesterday (it started last week, if I’m honest) that I really had put off some things well beyond long enough, I became a bit edgy.

Just quietly, there’s a fair bit to do between now and the end of January ... Complete three manuscript appraisals. Write two speeches. Create a suite of media releases and blast them around. Design and populate a new e-zine. Edit three different blogs. Write staff profiles. And coach a first-time author through the steps of writing her first memoir.

And that’s just for clients! Here at ASTT HQ, in our spare time we’re making a new website. (Stand by for a January launch!)

Last night, I got a big fat dose of overwhelm, which made me so sick of myself that I had to do something about it. What did I do?

I wrote (by hand) a list of all the work I have committed to completing by the end of January (see above). Then I drew a calendar (by hand) that details the days of each week until the end of January and started filling it in, working back from due dates. (Yes, I know there are plenty of digital applications and programs I could have used, and I do … Trello, iCal, Scrivener, just to name a few.)

Something about lying on the carpet on my tummy using colour and paper and my brain made the overwhelm go away. By the end of the session, I had a list of things that I had to do tomorrow (aka today) because getting them done now would really help January. (I like to help January when I can … )

This problem-solving work reminded me of the time I was completely stuck writing my novel. It was my first go at writing a book. I didn’t know how to tackle it. So I took time out of writing scene after scene to start plotting the novel …

I typed up the plot points, printed them on coloured paper according to theme, cut them out, got our a huge piece of plywood and (using Blu-tak) stuck them on the board (see image above!) to check that each plot was always bubbling along. Again, digital techniques might have been wiser, even a whiteboard would’ve been more efficient. But the ‘manual labour’ was good for me, and the novel.

The plotting process took a week but it sorted me out. I got sore knees from kneeling before my board, which made for a pleasant change from a sore hip from sitting all day. After a year of fun writing scenes, trusting that they would come together some day, I stepped into my next week of writing knowing where I was headed. I was informed, empowered and confident. Overwhelm was so yesterday.

How do you tackle overwhelm?

May your words pour onto the page,