A Week of Taking Action

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.

Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

Gotta love those checkmarks!

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:

Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

For those who need a week of writing every day:

What I learned in 15 minutes a day . . .

Milli Thornton



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.

18 Responses to A Week of Taking Action
  1. Terri
    January 3, 2012 | 7:15 PM

    Ah Milli, this is an awesome article and concept!

    I clearly remember that morning I received your invitation to a Week of Action. I was feeling pressure about some things that I was procrastinating on. I was not able to scrounge up enough motivation to take care of and not liking it very well that morning.

    Then I got the invitation from you. I must say my mood and inaction lifted immediately once we were aligning energy on getting things done. It worked brilliantly for me. I continue to experience positive repercussions from all I got done that week.

    After that, I received another invitation to align energy with a group to get a creative project underway, which was most productive as well.

    I often find I’m more productive when working with someone even if we are states apart working on entirely different projects. I loved the no pressure part of it.

    YOU were the ROCK STAR ACCOMPLISHER that week. Your checked-off list of tasks amazed me! Inspired me too!

    Great article! I hope it encourages others to align energy in a Week of Action!

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      January 4, 2012 | 12:32 PM


      I’m tickled to have you as my first reader on this post and thanks so much for joining me during that week. What a blast we had together!

      I’m glad you also found a supportive group for creative projects. Group accountability in a friendly environment is a wonderful thing!

      • Terri
        January 4, 2012 | 2:07 PM

        Milli, Reading this last night and reading comments today is rousing me to declare an Afternoon of Action. I think the list is key. The picture of your list shows me how to write a succinct one. Mine are usually loaded with detail. It works while I get through about 4 or 5 things and then I lose interest in the list, drop it and start another one next week. (not so productive.)

        I’m going to try a simple list today with my Afternoon of Action and see what happens. I’ve often thought it would be good to keep a small journal book of to-do-lists because I see the value in it. Checked-off items is powerful. I think I’ll start that today! The visual of yours in your article is helpful.

        • Milli Thornton
          January 4, 2012 | 2:11 PM

          Terri, here’s a tip to go with the visual. In the Writer’s Digest planner I use, the columns are very narrow (esp. for someone who writes as big as I do). It forces me to be succinct because I usually don’t like to write a task on more than one line.

          You could try getting a ruler and making some fairly narrow columns. The widest in my planner are 2.5 inches and the narrowest are 1.5 inches. (I wish they would make them all 2 inches wide.)

          Best of luck with your Afternoon of Taking Action! Feel free to come back here and report if that helps. 🙂

          • Terri
            January 4, 2012 | 2:34 PM

            Oh. This is very important information. I am making my list now and already getting into detail because I am using a moleskin with no lines and no columns. So that’s the trick!!!

            Always about boundaries, humm?

            How much do I appreciate this?? Bunches! Will draw lines or look for a ruled journal book and draw in columns.

            Very helpful Milli, thanks. You caught me just in time. I will check back in later.

            • Milli Thornton
              January 4, 2012 | 2:39 PM

              Here’s the other trick, which you might already be doing. Draw a line in front of each task where you intend to place your checkmark after you’ve completed that task. Like this:

              ___Wash the car

              And then use a different-colored pen to check it off before you carry on to the next task. Simple, but incredibly motivational!

              • Terri
                January 4, 2012 | 2:48 PM

                OK, got it and in time too. I went back and studied your list in the article. I see how this is a much more productive and motivating way to use a list.
                I’ll draw blanks in front of words and use some color coding. This is a great new habit for me!
                Many answers/solutions. Thanks!

                • Terri
                  January 5, 2012 | 1:06 AM

                  This kind of list changes everything.

                  Writing notes succinctly in limited space makes the tasks more succinct when I do them. I like the act of physically drawing the blanks in front of the task. It seems there’s an anticipated excitement of being able to put a check in the line as I draw it.

                  I’m refining list to fit me, but 2.5 inches is max.

                  Great tool for getting things done and helps me edit/summarize which are ever constant challenges for me!

  2. Lois
    January 4, 2012 | 8:11 AM

    Awesome idea! 😀 I recently did this with baking. The last few days before Christmas I did a lot of baking I’d been putting off. Now I need a knitting marathon. 😉

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      January 4, 2012 | 12:33 PM

      LOL! A knitting marathon. I have this mental image of your fingers flying and reams of knitted stuff rolling off the production line, piling up around your feet. ;D

      • Lois
        January 4, 2012 | 12:57 PM

        If only I could be that fast! LOL

  3. Estrella Azul
    January 4, 2012 | 8:45 AM

    I did a week of taking action, even though I didn’t necessarily call it that, the week before Christmas. Had a long to do list and everything. It was tiresome… but worth it.
    Now I’m procrastinating again and could start another week of taking action, before I’ll try the week of writing every day.
    Because you were lucky to have no interruptions. I on the other hand, would never hear the end of it if something remained undone and I was at my laptop writing away…

    • Estrella Azul
      January 4, 2012 | 8:46 AM

      PS: I loved seeing my name on your list and the Day of the Dead article 🙂

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      January 4, 2012 | 12:36 PM

      Estrella, if you decide to do another Week of Taking Action and you want an accountability partner, feel free to call on me. I would shift mine onto a different kind of task, but I could definitely be your buddy in exchanging progress reports!

      P.S. I was hoping you’d see your name and the title of your Milliver’s Travels story on my To-Do list. 🙂

  4. Tania Dakka
    Twitter: TaniaDakka
    January 4, 2012 | 11:47 AM

    Ha! I love this idea and JUST published a post along similar lines! LOL Congrats on getting so much done!

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      January 4, 2012 | 12:37 PM

      Hi Tania,

      Thanks for visiting the Fear of Writing blog. Sounds like a case of “Great minds think alike!”

      ~ Milli

  5. Charlotte Rains Dixon
    Twitter: wordstrumpet
    June 8, 2012 | 12:03 PM

    I’m taking a Week of Action next week for sure! And I love seeing your planner so full of items that are crossed off. Yay!

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      June 8, 2012 | 4:24 PM

      Charlotte, if you think of it, come back here afterwards and let me know how you went with your Week of Action. I’m jazzed for you! 🙂

      ~ Milli

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