Hellooooooo! Welcome to the new year. If you’re like me, you’ve made some resolutions (you, ten pounds–you’re going down!). If you’re a writing type–also, like me–you’re getting ducks in a row, setting goals and starting new projects. And if you live in the real world (don’t look at me, I just rent on this planet), then you’ve got to balance the new projects with the old. This will require supreme organizational tactics.
I used to be a disorganized writer. When a project came to me, I threw myself into it and just worked hard to see my way through. That worked well for me when I didn’t have so much on my plate, including plenty of projects that will never be completed. There is always going to be more slush to read. My blog will never disappear. And even though Twitter is mostly entertainment, networking has already proved its worth. I can’t let these things fall by the wayside while I go into a short story-writing frenzy.
So here are some of the ways I’m planning to keep all my ducks in a row.
1) Carve off the largest chunk of time for the most important project. By most important, I don’t mean the one with the closest deadline, and that’s something I’m going to have to remind myself about. Writing my new book is the most important thing I can do with my time. Period. A writing career is based on books. If I don’t have books to sell, I’m never ever ever going to be JK Rowling or Stephen King. The writing business is just like the lottery: the odds are against you, but you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket. Writing a novel is like buying my lottery ticket. 🙂
2) Cram small projects into weird spaces of time. Right now, I’m waiting for the oven to pre-heat so I can toss my broccoli-tofu-tahini casserole into the oven. (Let’s hope it tastes better than it sounds.) I’ll check the slush while my daughter takes her bath, and I’ll wash dishes while she reads to her dad.
3) Cut the fat. I don’t watch tv. And I let myself watch 2 movies a week: one grown-up movie on my one night off with the sweetheart, and one kid movie for Family Friday Movie Night. I read on the bus, or while I eat lunch. And I only mop the floor when it looks the wrong color.
4) Don’t start projects you don’t plan to complete. This is a hard one for me. I’m prone to starting stories that I don’t finish because I realize they aren’t any good and I’ve wasted plenty of time with novels that go no place.
- But it’s okay to play around with words. That’s called practice, and it’s critical. But don’t commit serious energy to practice. When you finish an uneventful or run-of-the-mill story or reach the point where you realize you’ve created a great character sketch, don’t worry about editing it into publishable form. You don’t have to submit everything you write. I’ll say it again: YOU. DON’T. HAVE TO. SUBMIT. EVERYTHING THAT YOU WRITE. Writing can be about learning. Learn from a piece that goes nowhere and let it go. Teach yourself to recognize your gems. Spend your energy on them.
- Approach your projects in an energy-saving fashion. You’ve thought of a cool novel idea. Great! Write a short story set in the same world to test out your world-building–don’t write 40,000 words and realize you forgot to create any memorable characters. Before you commit yourself to a long project, give yourself a chance to make an outline. Look at organizing your materials in new ways. Now would be a good chance to create a Google docs spreadsheet of all your characters and important facts and place, so you have that information backed up. Now would be a great time to think about story structure, and maybe make an effort to build some bones into your project before you get frustrated and decide to kill every character. And for your own sake, get your hands on something like Dropbox, so you don’t lose your project when you knock over your latte.
There are a thousand more wonderful ways to better organize your time and spend more energy getting what you want done. For me, the most important multi-tasking I plan to do is simple: I’ve put my laptop on my dishwasher so I can stand up to write. After all, those ten pounds aren’t going to go away on their own, and I’m a writer: I don’t have the cash to join a gym.
I’m eager to hear all your organizational tips and tricks if they help me in my quest!