Friday, September 24, 2010

Plan B

I'm in the process of creating a new and improved blog. In the meantime, I want to share with you my tip from last week's Write Now! Tips. If you are interested in receiving these in your in box, you can sign up at the Write Now! Coach page.

The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B. —James Yorke

I set aside last Monday and Tuesday to finish my Art Fellowship application. My daughter, husband, and son got sick. Because Tuesday was a primary election day, the phone rang every six minutes. Candidates and their supporters stopped by the house to see if we were voting for them. Of course, since the whole family was germy, I got to be the phone-checking, door-answering diva. By noon on Monday, I was ready to chuck the whole thing. Then I remembered plan B.

Plan B is what you do when ideal doesn’t happen. Plan B allows you to get real and write what you can, when you can, no matter what. Here’s how to make your own Plan B:

Loosen your grip on ideal and get real. Often writers tell me they can only write in the morning or at night or when the moon is full. Some tell me they need to set aside a whole day to get anything done. Others need just the right paper or light or chocolate. Here’s the thing—ideal rarely happens. Sometimes when we have the ideal circumstances, we can’t get the words right. Or we do not write as much as we wanted. Let it go. Ideal is for television and movies. Accept that ideal rarely happens and get real about what you can do. Whew. Now you’re ready for Plan B.

Plan ahead. Interruptions happen. Part of getting real is getting ready. Look back on the kinds of interruptions and roadblocks you have experienced in your writing over the past year. What sort of Plan B would have helped you to solve them? Examples include: writing less, working on a shorter project, writing in a different location, researching instead of writing, or turning off the phone.

Get specific. Most writers I work with have a global idea of what they want to do during the week. For example, I went into last week with this on my to-do list: “finish fellowship application.” That’s too big, even without interruptions. Take your big goal and break it down into really small steps. For my plan B list, my small steps looked like this: write list of current interests in work, write sentence about how art exhibit influenced current work, add recent publications to CV. Each of these steps I could do in 15-minute slots. Many of them I could work on while cuddling a sick child.

Get creative. Do you remember the old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention?” Crazy, challenging situations stimulate our creativity. Use your interruptions as an opportunity to get creative and design a fun plan B. When author Madeleine L’Engle was in her 20s, she did more acting than writing. Her plan B was to write between scenes. Barbara Kingsolver wrote her first novel in a closet, in the middle of the night, while pregnant with her first child. Keith Donohue wrote his first novel as he commuted to and from work on the train. If these writers can write without all the time in the world, you can too!

I managed to complete my writer’s fellowship application in between delivering doses of pain reliever to my children. My days did not turn out the way I had planned. But my Plan B worked just as well. Now I’ll never go into a week without a Plan B (and C and D)!

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