By Milli Thornton
LAST NOVEMBER I woke up one Monday morning and said to myself, “This is going to be a week of taking action.”
That sounded so good—and I felt so ready for it—I decided to name it that. A Week of Taking Action. It had a thrilling ring to it that made me feel like being my own champion.
I proceeded to write up a To-Do list of all the things I’d been neglecting. I had been through an intense period with my writing (while finishing my second screenplay), and I’d pushed everything aside in order to write two-thirds of my first draft in a very short time.
And I mean everything. Brian was out of town for his work and I don’t have any kids at home. I don’t even have any pets right now. I had no outside commitments at the time. So I kept my own hours, ate quickie meals only when I was actually hungry, let the dishes pile up in the sink and did nothing but work on my screenplay.
It was fantastic and I was lucky to have that window of time in which to focus a laser beam on my writing. But later, after my body clock was returning to normal and other things were starting to get in my face, I realized I could do a marathon of a different kind.
I Even Made $111
During my Week of Taking Action I tackled things I normally put off. I filled out paperwork for an important step we’ve been meaning to take. I did five month’s worth of business bookkeeping. I took a product I was unhappy with back to Target. I descaled our coffee machine. I wrote one letter of complaint and one email of customer disappointment and sent copies to all parties.
(The letter won me a fee reversal of $72 that my bank had intended to refuse, and the email got me a refund of $39. That’s $111 just for taking action.)
I slayed even more dinosaurs that week, but it will start to get boring if I go on.
The Buddy System: Check!
Toward the end of the first day, I was so jazzed I wanted to share my energy hit with someone. I emailed a friend and told her what I was doing. Twenty minutes later she wrote back and said, “COUNT ME IN!!”
Each day we would file our email reports listing all the stuff we got done and how great we felt about getting those dinosaurs off our backs. Doing it alone was already motivational, but doing it with a friend notched it up to FUN.
When I look back over my To-Do list for that week, I can see how switched on I was. Granted, we can’t live like that all the time—and I’m a firm believer in pacing yourself over the long haul. But occasionally it can be liberating to have a SEIZE THE DAY campaign where we nail a bunch of stuff that’s been dragging us down.
The Trap of Trying to “Get Organized” So You Can Write
(or . . . Why 386 Words is Better Than 0)
Just in case the Week of Taking Action sounds like a noble way to put off some writing, let me nip that in the bud for you.
This strategy is only valid if you’ve been neglecting other things in favor of your creativity. If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum—procrastinating about your writing—I recommend doing A Week of Writing Every Day instead.
I did a test while I was writing this blog post: I found I could write 386 words in 15 minutes. I’m not a fast typist and I wasn’t trying to prove how much can be written in 15 minutes. I was only investigating what’s humanly possible if you’re going to stick to it for more than one or two days. And, guess what? If you manage to write 386 words every day for a week, by the end of the week you’ll have 2,702 words that you wouldn’t have otherwise written!
(If you think 386 words sounds puny and not worth aiming for, try multiplying it by 365 to find out how much you could write in a year—even if all you did all year was 15 minutes a day.)
P.S. Don’t try to write 386 perfect words. The point of the exercise is to break your inertia. Just as it’s better to be happy than uber-cool, it’s better to be creative than perfect. Creativity leads to more creativity! Whereas perfectionism leads to stress and micro-managing your own creations.
For those who need a week of taking action:
For those who need a week of writing every day:
Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching.