According to popular belief March either comes in like a lion or a lamb. Yesterday it couldn't seem to make up its mind. Most of the day was sunny and in the high sixties in the Finger Lakes Region. But suddenly the weather took an abrupt turn for the lionish. The temperature dropped about 40 degrees, the wind began to howl, and the first day of March was no longer pleasant.
This type of day exemplifies the life of a writer. The writing life is lovely. Until it’s not! Sources don’t return phone calls or fail to show up for interviews, assignments are given to someone else (less deserving of course!), new ideas are hard to find, and checks don’t arrive on time destroying your carefully laid cash-flow plan.
Especially this time of year, when we are all tired of winter’s roar and longing for spring frolics, these setbacks can seem catastrophic. Sometimes they even temporarily immobilize you. I’ve noticed that people frequently post little inspirational quote squares on LinkedIn. These are nice, but they can only go so far. They may boost your spirits for a minute but then you find yourself in the same old place once again. For me, the best strategy has always been to take some type of action, no matter how small, just to get myself moving forward again.
Make a wish list of topics you’ve always wanted to write about
Then query a few editors to see if they’re interested. Things I’d like to write about in future months include media literacy, immigration, and reviewing books for teens again.
Create an outline for monthly assignments you’ve already committed to
Today I spent some time drafting an outline for my monthly farm column through September. Doing this ahead of time allows me to make sure I’m be achieving a good balance between the type of farms I’m writing about and the towns they’re located in. Having this makes me feel like an organized professional and will undoubtedly save me time in the long run.
Get out of the house to write
It’s really easy to just stay at home in sweats and a ratty t-shirt during the colder months but don’t fall into this trap! Going to the library, a college campus, a bookstore, or a coffee shop is a great alternative. Counterintuitively, you will be much less distracted and more productive in a public place than you are at home by your phone, UPS, pets, and laundry. Just think of these places as mobile offices!
Write something different
Try a poem or, even better, a haiku. These don’t have to be good, just as long as they make you smile. I still read my “Sheep in Seventeen Syllables” when I feel like things couldn’t get any worse! Or take one of your unfinished stories or personal essays that you left midstream and finish it. You don’t have to submit in anywhere, just writing “The End” decisively will make you feel more positive and productive. For bonus points, enter a writing contest and see what happens. Hey-you never know!
Find a writers conference (or two) to attend
This is one of my favorite motivators. Planning to go to a writer’s conference in a month or two will light a fire under you like nothing else. Who wants to answer “Nothing at the moment” when other writers ask what you’re working on? I just finalized my plans to attend the Alabama Writers Symposium in April and The Education Writers Association National Seminar in May. If you simply don't have the money or time sign up for a writing class or workshop in your town.
By the time you’ve tried these tips, or come up with some ideas of your own, the month will be over!