Staying Flexible When Life Is Uncertain

2021-01-13 Staying Flexible When Life Is Uncertain

As I write this in early in 2021, I can say that I used to have a writing schedule. It was heavily dependent on getting out of my own house to work. And then a pandemic came along, and both my routines and my schedule were torn to bits. (I know many of you can sympathize!)

But I’m big into trying to make lemonade out of lemons. (Or better, yet, lemon bars, lemon merengue pie, or even lemon cookies. Of course with powdered sugar! What kind of question is that?)

So what did my writing schedule used to look like? What’s it like now? And what have I learned from having life turned upside down?

My Ideal Writing Schedule

Before a new virus upheaved everything, my schedule was both simple and effective. Every morning, I walked to my coffee shop (the same one where I met Charles!), bought a latte, and claimed my favorite chair in front of the fire. (Sometimes I staked it out until an unwitting usurper finally left.)

Chair and fire secured, I sipped my coffee, sank down into my story world, and started to write.

I’d generally write for three or four hours, then pack up and walk home. In the afternoons, I’d transfer to my co-working space, where I would address various admin tasks such as marketing my books, answering emails, etc.

And then rumors started trickling in. A new virus had been detected in China. It was spreading at an alarming rate. It was only a matter of time until it came to the US…

My Pandemic Writing Schedule

Covid-19 arrived in Montana in March 2020. The governor ordered a state-wide shutdown. If we weren’t essential workers, we all went home.

I’ve tried working from home before. I already knew I was terrible at it! That’s why I have my coffee shops and my co-working space! It took me the better part of 2020 to refigure all my routines into something that worked again.

One of the biggest changes I made was choosing two days to be my “write-a-thon” days. These were my days to shut out all the admin tasks screaming at me and simply focus on my words.

But the other major change I made was hiring a book coach. (Yes, I’m that terrible at working from home! You can meet Jacquelyn in the blog post I wrote about her.)

Now on my writing days, Jacquelyn helps keep me on track to make sure the words get written.

What I’ve Learned

2020 was a year that challenged us all, in many different ways. (Can we even feel gratitude for such a year? I wrote a post about that during Thanksgiving 2020.)

I hated losing my schedule and routines. But 2020 really challenged my problem-solving capabilities, and in great news, I was the one who came out on top.

  • I had to learn to stay flexible and be creative. I can’t go to my coffee shop anymore? What can I do instead that would be just as effective?
  • I had to adopt new routines. My tried-and-true routines were gone. It was devastating. I had to keep innovating to find my way through.
  • I had to iterate and optimize. It was frustrating. I already knew what worked for me. (I.e., getting out of the house!) But I just kept trying different things until I found something that worked.

In great news, I feel ready for the next event of near-apocalyptic magnitude. (Because we all know life can never be boring.) 2020 tested my skills, but I came out equal to the challenge. And you know what? I’m proud of me.

Over to You!

How did 2020 challenge you? What new skills did you learn?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below! I love hearing from you.

Hey, at least we had plenty to read in 2020! Here are today’s best-sellers from my online shop:

Meet Jacquelyn Scott, Book Coach

Jacquelyn Scott, Book Coach

Shipmates, I’d like you to welcome my newest crew member, Jacquelyn Scott! Her new position with me and the Mailboat Suspense Series is book coach and project manager. It’s her job to manage my writing deadlines, cheer me on, and set me sail-side up if I capsize. I’m so excited for you to meet her!

Why I Needed a Book Coach

Let’s face it, I have never been great at hitting my book release dates! There have been times when I’ve had to set back a release so I could schedule more time.

Or if my book did come out on time, I was secretly stressing out like crazy and missing a lot of sleep.

But 2020–and the life-shifting global pandemic that came with it–really threw things into sharp relief. My ability to get words down on paper depends a lot on routine. Pre-pandemic, you’d find me walking to my local coffee shop to hammer out my words every single day.

During the pandemic, I couldn’t go to my coffee shop anymore. And thus… the words literally didn’t get written.

I’d wanted to hire a book coach for a long time anyway. After postponing the release date for Mailboat IV TWICE, I knew this was the time. That’s when I found Jacquelyn!

Why Jacquelyn’s Here

But what does a book coach do? And how is this going to help Danielle get her books out more consistently?

Jacquelyn’s job is pretty simple. First of all, we work out the deadlines together. I’ve been guilty of creating unrealistic deadlines in the past, so I’ve put her under orders to keep my expectations sane!

Next, every day before I sit down to write, we get together for a Zoom meeting. During these meetings, we review everything I want to get done that day. Jacquelyn makes a list with annotations regarding how much time each task should take.

And very importantly, she asks me about my headspace. Some days, I’m on fire and I can’t wait to start writing. Other days, one of a hundred things might be off just enough to make it hard for the words to start flowing.

Either way, Jacqueline makes sure to remind me that I can do this thing! Her encouragement and enthusiasm (and sometimes a little therapy!) are just what I need to get me going.

After our video meeting, the rest of the day is filled with periodic check-ins. She’ll shoot me a text and see how things are going. If I’m hitting my goals, we celebrate! And if I’ve been swept overboard into the bottomless ocean of writer’s block, she throws me a lifeline, such as a phone call to talk about what’s going wrong and what we can do about it.

Sometimes the answer is to just keep going! Other times, it’s a good idea to take a walk or do something else to unplug. And some days I accidentally end up in a Nerf gun battle with my boyfriend Charles. Oops.

Jacquelyn and I have only just started working together, but the difference is already amazing. Last week, she coached me through 21 chapters (about 40 pages, double spaced) in a single day, helping me finish the third draft of Mailboat IV!

Mailboat IV, third draft

Without her tireless enthusiasm, I’d give up long before my potential actually ran out. Just like a good fitness coach, Jacquelyn reminds me that I actually do have a few more reps left in me! And that’s why I’m so glad to have her here to help me with my writing goals.

What Jacquelyn Can Do for You!

I know I have some other writers in my fan base! Guys, if you need a book coach, Jacquelyn is fantastic. She combines optimism and enthusiasm with just the right amount of psychology to make magic happen. And she offers other services, as well!

    • Book Coaching
    • Editing
    • Ghostwriting
    • Interior Book Design and Formatting

To learn more about Jacquelyn and what she can do for you, visit her at her website,

And Finally…

We’re all family around here! I’d love it if you left Jacquelyn a warm note in the comments to help welcome her aboard.

Thanks so much for joining our adventure, Jacquelyn!

The first book Jacquelyn’s helping me with… and others that came before!

Thanksgiving 2020: How to Be Grateful During a Global Pandemic

<span>Photo by <a href="">Nachelle Nocom</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a></span>

This Thanksgiving may be different than most–the gatherings a little smaller, the miles traveled far shorter, our loved ones maybe in 2D on a computer screen or tablet.

I’ve seen two schools of thought this year:

“You know, 2020 isn’t that bad. Let’s be grateful for the ways in which it’s shaped us.”

And the other sentiment?

“2020 was the worst year ever.”

Which of these sentiments is true? And how should we celebrate gratitude in a year like this?

Was 2020 the Worst Year Ever?

What school you’re in depends entirely on how 2020 has affected you. Maybe it left you only lightly scathed–or didn’t touch you at all. Maybe you even benefitted, if, say, your job was in high demand during the lockdowns and quarantines.

But maybe some of us have less to be thankful for. Maybe you’ve lost a job or a business, put off travel or wedding plans. Maybe you’ve even lost a loved one.

Maybe you’ve struggled with depression or anxiety. Maybe you’ve been stressed as you’ve tried to figure out how to balance the entire family living, working, and going to school from home, or how to make the ends meet on a reduced income.

Me? I’m somewhere between “unaffected” and “lightly scathed.” So far, I and my friends and family are in good health. Luckily, Charles was attending school and working from home anyway, and my job of writing and selling books has the flexibility to be done from anywhere.

But my brain has been quietly sabotaging me in the background all year. There are reasons I work outside my home; I’m far more productive. Here in my three-foot-by-three-foot office corner in my bedroom, I find it easier to be distracted than at the coffee shop or my co-working space. I haven’t written as much. And my admin tasks are all in various stages of “I’m behind on that.”

A Guilt-Free Pandemic Thanksgiving

So, should we be thankful this year? Or should we give up on Thanksgiving 2020?

My answer: Whatever it takes for you to get through. If you have to cry, cry. If you have to scream, scream. If you have to jump in your car and get away from the family you’ve been stuck with, day-in and day-out, then do it. (But maybe not on Thanksgiving Day, if you can avoid it.)

But if you find that closing your eyes and taking a deep breath of pumpkin spice brings you calm and balance, then embrace that calm and balance, without guilt, no matter what your 2020 has been like. Yes, even if 2020 has been horrible to you. Yes, even if the worst has happened and you’ve lost someone you loved. Never feel guilt for moving on.

I can’t wait for this pandemic to be over. I can’t wait to cozy up in my coffee shop or library to write my books, and my co-working space to plow through the business end of my writing. I can’t wait to be surrounded by the inspirational buzz of other people living life.

But I am healthy. Charles is healthy. Our friends and family are healthy.

I have cried, and I have wrapped myself in a blanket all day with some low-level but very real depression. But this Thanksgiving, I do have something to be grateful for, and yes, dwelling on that gratitude does bring me a sense of calm, peace, and balance.

So I will embrace it as long and as often as I can.

Happy Thanksgiving, however you are able to celebrate it.

~ Danielle

Something to Distract Your Mind, If You Need It: