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Avoid Overwhelm
From Write-A-Thon by Rochelle Melander

Being a poet is one of the unhealthier jobs—no regular hours, so many temptations!
—Elizabeth Bishop

In a study on choice, students reported better satisfaction with their work and wrote better essays when they chose from six rather than thirty essay topics. As writers and wannabes, we can avoid feeling overwhelmed by limiting our choices of what to work on each day.

I’ve written a series of books with many short chapters. If I began each writing day looking at the list of more than fifty topics, I would not have finished a book. I’d have spent every day in bed, hiding under the covers, eating a big bag of chocolate.

To save myself from death by chocolate, I end each writing session by choosing three topics I want to work on the next day. I put those in my writing journal and jot down ideas throughout the day. This way, I both limit the possibility of having too many choices and also never face the anxiety of a blank page. I am able to focus on the few topics in front of me. When other ideas float up (and they will), I jot them down in an idea file.

For years, I have kept small turtle trinkets next to my computer to remind me of the power of taking small, focused steps toward my goals. When I heard about the family pet tortoise Willy, who made a break for it, I was even more inspired. Running away at a breakneck speed of an estimated .005 miles an hour, Willy managed to travel nearly five miles from home in a month before being spotted by a local EMT and returned home. Talk about small steps adding up to great progress!

Small, focused steps have helped me write and publish ten books and hundreds of articles (as well as complete a Master’s degree that included writing a 136-page thesis in one year). Focus made it possible for Helen Hooven Santmyer to spend her retirement years writing her 1,300-page epic novel, … And Ladies of the Club. The book was published when Santmyer was eighty-seven years old and became a bestseller. Cory Doctorow finishes more than a novel a year by focusing solely on the novel for twenty minutes a day.
Focus will make it possible for you to finish this book in twenty-six days. Choose your topic for today or tomorrow and get writing!

About the Book
To find out how to prepare for, plan, and survive a 26 day writing marathon, check out Write-A-Thon by Rochelle Melander.

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