Writers in Lockdown Mode
by Marg McAlister
In a previous article, "Devious Tricks to Get That Book Written", one of the 'tricks' I suggested was to go into
'lockdown mode'. It's worth exploring this in more detail - because it's actually more than a 'devious trick'; it's
a legitimate and effective way to find time for your writing. In fact, it's a brilliant alternative for writers who
find it nearly impossible (or ineffective) to carve a few hours out of a typical week.
"Lockdown" basically means putting yourself in a situation where nobody can get at you. This can be achieved in
two ways: remove yourself (book into a hotel or holiday cabin) or send everyone else away so you have the house to
1 . Remove Yourself
- Look around for good deals on airfares and/or accommodation. Book in for a weekend, a week or a month -
however much time you can spare to work on your book. If you need to take boxes of research material and your
desktop computer, you'll probably want somewhere close enough to travel to by car.
- Think about what facilities you need. You don't need luxury: this is lockdown, not a vacation! The basics
are: a comfortable bed, a hot shower and a decent table for your computer. You're going to be sitting in a
chair for long stretches, so take a couple of cushions with you or be ready to buy some when you get there if
necessary. If you need access to the Internet (for email or research) then this should factor in as well - does
the hotel/cabin have broadband? If not, can you use dialup? Or is there a nearby Internet cafe?
List several possible destinations, then ask questions about the facilities. Finally, it's nice to have
somewhere with pleasant outdoor surroundings so you can take a thinking/planning walk and relax away from the
computer now and then.
2. Send Everyone Else Away
You may find it more convenient to arrange to have the house to yourself. Think about arranging a week's holiday
for your partner and/or children, or ask relatives to take the kids for a weekend/week/whatever.
If you send everyone else away, you need to be prepared to ignore phone calls, doorknocks and drop-ins. Let the
answering machine pick up landline calls, and use voicemail for your mobile phone/cell phone. Check messages 3
times a day and answer only those that are urgent. Tell all your friends that you won't be available for the time
span of your lockdown. If you have to answer the door, be firm with people about needing to work. Just tell them
you have a deadline (which you do - you have to write as much as possible in your lockdown phase!)
3. One-off or Regular Event?
Is this going to be a one-off event to kick-start your book or tackle a few tricky chapters - or is it going to be
regularly scheduled (say, one weekend a month)? Whatever you decide, you need a workable plan.
- If it's going to be a one-off event, list the outcomes you want from your lockdown period. You might
want a solid outline of the story plus a finished first chapter, or you might want a carefully edited and
polished final draft. Prepare a realistic timetable and stick to it as much as possible. Create a checklist to
make sure you don't leave anything essential behind.
- If a lockdown weekend is going to be a regular strategy to get your book written, take a tip
from the corporate world and prepare a Project Execution Plan. This is biz-speak for mapping your time and
resources to gain the deliverables you want. Example: you have decided to go into lockdown one weekend per
month for a year. That's like having 24 workshop days. What do you want to achieve in each one of those days?
Take the time to prepare a timeline and work out what you want to achieve over duration of your project. If you
can do some tasks between lockdown weekends, build that in too (for example, online research). Have a clear set
of outcomes for each weekend, but be prepared to adapt your timetable if you run into problems or (nice
thought) find yourself ahead of schedule.
- Don't waste time between weekends. It's all too easy to lose touch
with your book if you return to it for only two days each month. Keep your lockdown weekends for serious work
on the manuscript, and in between, set yourself small tasks to keep yourself on track. It's easy enough to jot
down a few ideas in your lunch hour, or do 15 minutes of online research at night. You'll be much more
motivated to do these tasks if you know you're going to get a good run at your book for two solid days every
© Marg McAlister