One of my clients was frustrated about writing. This is not unusual. Writing is a common reason to hire a coach.
This particular client is well advanced in her career and currently managing a very large research project. By anyone’s definition, she is successful. She has written and published before. She has things to write about. She knows how to do this.
She has experimented with different ways of writing over the course of her career. After much experimentation she knows that writing every day just doesn’t work for her. She needs to block off several days for writing, days in which she can focus solely on writing.
However, one side-effect of success is that she’s finding it increasingly difficult to do this. She has so much going on it’s hard to find blocks of 3 or 4 days to write, even if she includes weekend days.
We talked about this and it turns out that even though writing and research is incredibly important to her, she was fitting writing in after everything else was scheduled. The problem is with finding time for writing.
This what I was getting at in the post I wrote about treating your research like a hobby.
Find time for meetings, not writing
I suggested that she turn this situation around. Schedule the writing first and then “find” time for meetings.
You could do this, too. Think about the rest of the summer, or a whole semester. How many days it would be reasonable to spend writing during this period? Take into account that you have other commitments (teaching, supervision, etc) but really think about a reasonable amount of time devoted to this important activity.
Now, block off that many days in your calendar now. If blocks of 3 or 4 days work for you, as they do for my client, then block of 3-4 day blocks. If whole days work, schedule all-day meetings for writing. If you write best in small amounts every day, put an appointment in your calendar every day for writing.
Do the rest of the summer now. Do the fall semester sometime in August. (You could book writing time from now until next July if you like.)
Now, when you need to book a meeting, or respond to a request to take on a new committee or other task, those times are already showing as unavailable. You will book things around writing. Or, you’ll find it easier to say no because you can see that you don’t have time.
You can move those appointments if necessary but you will be doing it consciously. You will be aware that by taking on this commitment or holding the meeting at this time, you are using your writing time.
How it worked for my client
A few weeks later, my client reported that she had done what I suggested. She was really pleased with how well this was working. She’d had one of her writing blocks* and got things done! She noticed that, although other things did intrude on that writing time, the level of intrusion was much lower than it has been in the past.
Even better, she felt “that feeling” coming back. The calmness and feeling of loving what she does. She described it as “like a deep breath”.
*We’re also laughing at how we’ve managed to redefine “writing block” to be something to look forward to.