Looking for the next steps in your project?
Here’s a little of what “writing office hours” looks like at TheRightMargin:
“Okay, what’s the very next thing you need to do?”
Kidding aside, I want to get writing again. Trouble is… I’ve lost my mental context. I don’t even know where to start.”
“What specifically are you trying to write next?”
“I guess my next chapter.”
“Okay, what do you need to do to get there?”
“I don’t know. Well, I guess I need to get my outline straightened out. But I’ve lost track of the plot and what I need in it. So I guess I need to reread things first?”
And so it went on and on until Will, our sleep-deprived yet awesome Head of Marketing worked out a series of achievable, concrete next steps to take on his novel about love, Greek mythology and the art of pizza making.
“Office hours” are about coming together to chat about one team member’s writing, whether it’s about ideating, organizing or solving writerly problems to get him/her unstuck and back in the writing game.
And although the concept is similar to coaching or going to a critique group, the beauty of it is that our entire mission is to help writers in a similar way. Our goal is to build delightful software, helpful insights and resources to serve up to you during your writing journey.
So here are a few key tips we gleaned from our last couple “office hours” that will help you figure out your next steps for writing:
1. Write down your next steps, no matter how small.
Whatever you think your next step is, write it down and ask yourself, ‘what are the actual next steps to take’ to get there? And then write those down. This is the crux of getting yourself unblocked.
Breaking things down means challenging yourself to think about the smallest parts of a bigger goal.
If your ‘next step’ is to write Chapter 7, then think about what it would take to write Chapter 7.
- Do you have to work out an outline or a list of bulleted items to include?
- Do you have to reread something to get back your mental context?
- Do you have to organize some of your notes?
- Do you have to schedule the time to actually write it?
These are all potential steps you have to take to get to ‘writing Chapter 7’. But remember to write them down as you break them out. Even if it’s as simple as ‘Send that email to Dr. Zeus about his favorite pizza flavor’. You can write it down, check it off and achieve a small win! No matter how small the progress, feel good about it. Making yourself feel good about progress made is an important part of getting your writing done.
2. Break down a task that has the word ‘and’ in it.
Sometimes I ask someone what they have to do next to make progress on a project and they say, “Well, I have to flesh out my notes and work them into my outline.” But really what they’re telling me is “Well, I have to do <task 1> and then <task 2>.”
Why not break those things into separate tasks on your task list? Now you can do task 1, feel great about having DONE task 1 and move on to task 2 with a small win on the mind. If you stick ‘and’s into a task, you end up elongating the time it takes to do it. And sometimes you end up with a situation where you only did part of the task–and then you lose out on a mental win! It seems silly, but keep the ‘and’ out of hand when planning.
3. Create tasks that have nothing to do with writing new words.
This is really hard to get us writer types to do. You’re working on a writing project. Shouldn’t everything you do involve getting words down on paper? Actually, no. There are ways to make progress to get your writing done faster! They involve rereading notes or work done thus far, revising parts of your writing, proofreading sections, scheduling time for yourself to write, reaching out to people for information, research or feedback, etc. Think about those as tasks, and as making progress, too! And remember, write them down. You’re still making progress on your project, even if the task to move your project forward has nothing to do with actual writing.
4. Add a time estimate to a task.
Maybe you’re really struggling with taking the next step even though you’ve done all of the above. Maybe a week passes and you’ve crossed nothing off that writing task list. Then consider adding a time estimate to the next few tasks on your list.
Email Dr. Zeus: 10 minutes…Reread Chapters 1- 5: 45 minutes…Fix outline for Chapter 7: 10 minutes.
If you’re looking for a good tool to plan all this out, try our goal-oriented writing software! Or copy paste this whole post into an editor of your choice and treat it as a worksheet. Don’t worry, I won’t check your work unless you ask for help. If you’d like to get in touch, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why do this at all? Sometimes when you feel stuck, this process of breaking your next tasks down can take less energy than actually working on your project. And if you give it a shot, you might wind up making progress and feel more capable. And remember, success is a journey made with LARGE hopes and small, doable goals. Keep calm, and write on.
Ready to finally finish your novel? Join TheRightMargin – We’ll show you how.