Improve Your Writing Time Management

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The title of this post is a bit of misnomer, but you work with language people will recognize. As has been said many times, by many people, time management doesn’t exist. What does exist is self-management. What all time management boils down to is using yourself more efficiently and effectively with the time you have. For writers, especially those writing full-time and from home, this is a particularly challenging task.

Luckily, there are a variety of systems, techniques, tactics, and a plethora of desktop programs and smartphone apps designed to help you out with this problem.

Goal Setting

One of the most basic things you can do to improve your time management is to goal setting. Goal setting isn’t the same thing as wish listing. I may think to myself or put on my bucket list, write a personal essay while sitting at an outdoor café in Paris. This is not a goal in a useful sense. This is a wish. For a writer, a goal is something is something achievable, within a reasonable amount of time, which provides a benefit, and is not cost-prohibitive.

My hypothetical write in Paris wish fails on almost all counts. Write 1000 words a day, submit a query to a magazine, write a chapter on my novel, or pursue new clients are all goals. They are all achievable. Each can be acted on or completed within a reasonable period of time. All provide direct benefits to you and none are cost-prohibitive. A goal gives you something to pursue that will probably result in positive reinforcement, be it more writing done or more money.

Plan for Your First Day Back

All of us take a day off or a weekend off here and there and coming back is often an exercise in stumbling. Among several other excellent pieces of advice about beating freelance writer inefficiency, Carol Tice recommends building a to-do list for when you come back from your day off, vacation, or weekend. In addition to serving as an accountability check and getting you focused on the right things, clearing out your brain of all the things you need to get done lets you stop thinking about them when you take time off. Good self-management also means self-care and disconnecting from your work matters to your mental health.

Software and Apps

There are literally so many apps and pieces of software out there that can help you manage your work life it would take up an entire post just to list the tip of the iceberg. In point of fact, that is exactly what Passive Panda does with it’s list of 50 productivity boosting online tools. The time management tools start at number 20, but the project management and productivity management tools are all worth a look. The thing to remember about programs and apps is that you need to find what works for you, not one that you work for. If a particular app or program feels like it’s more work than it’s worth, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to try out more than one before you commit to using one or several of the options. I do, however, advocate for starting with free programs and apps before dumping money into one.

For more thoughts on productivity boosting, you can check out the post I dedicated to that topic here.

Also, check out Jamie Wallace’s excellent post for a more in-depth look at how to leverage project management software and techniques to your writing life.

Boosting Writer Creativity

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Creativity is a crucial tool for every writer, whether you’re trying to dream up a new angle on business branding or to draft potent dialogue. Unfortunately, we also write in a world that places very real mental, physical, and emotional demands on us. I know that I find it much more difficult to when I’m tired or after an argument or when some unexpected expense comes along. Fortunately, you can help train your mind to stay creative with some basic techniques and tactics.

Random Fusing

I picked this one up from The Iron Writer Challenge. Select a few random items or people and design a scenario or story around them. Just writing out a couple of paragraphs can help to cement the fusing process. The point here is not to achieve greatness, though kudos if you do, but simply to train your brain to make connections between seemingly unrelated things. If you can get your brain into the habit, you’ll likely get find it easier to be creative when you need to be.

Be Curious

There is deep link between curiosity and creativity. For a good overview of some contemporary thinking on the link between the two, David Silverstein has done a roundup on his blog here that is worth the read. On a different note, but no less compelling, is this TED Talk by physicist Brian Cox where he draws a link between the curiosity-based research and creative advancements, such as transistors and silicon chips, as well as some very cool information about the origins of life in the universe. I recommend watching the whole video. It’s a very well spent 15 minutes.

 

Develop Expertise

Expertise in a given subject or topic can serve as a springboard for creativity. In-depth knowledge enables you to see the path not taken and arms you to explore it. This doesn’t mean you need a PhD in Renaissance History or Biophysics; you’re a writer after all. What it means is reading and watching everything you can get your hands on in an area that is at your level of understanding. Start at the broad level and work in from there. For example, I’m fascinated by the Medici family, but I didn’t start by reading a biography of Catherine de’Medici. My fascination with them started when I was reading about Florentine history in the 1400’s and 1500’s to give me some context for Machiavelli’s political treatise, The Prince. Fast forward several years and I’m reading books about specific incidents in the lives of specific member of the Medici family. While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the level of professional scholars, I know the material well enough for it to serve as background and fertile soil for my fiction.

While everyone is going to have an off day, creatively speaking, developing expertise, being curious, and sometimes just plain random fusing can help to keep the creative juices flowing.

More Author Branding Tips – Leverage Shamelessness

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While there are a number of technical, logistical and strategic things that go into developing an author brand, there are some fairly straightforward, though unpleasant, things that go into it as well. This week, we’ll cover a few of the more unpleasant ones.

Be Shameless

Yes, I know, most writers are introverts. I also know that pitching friends and family, people who are more or less obligated to feign interest, can be psychologically taxing. Pitching strangers on your work can be downright traumatic. In the end, though, as Machiavelli notes, fortune favors the bold.  In the long run, the worst thing you really face is the prospect that someone won’t be interested. Is that unpleasant? It sure is. Will it kill you? No, despite all that irrational screaming from your subconscious, it will not turn out to be fatal. Creating awareness is a critical step in building any brand and awareness building means you need to engage in some shameless self-promotion.

Places To Be Shameless

Talk to local bookstores and see if they’ll carry your book or, better yet, let you do a reading/signing AND carry your book. Talk to your local library about carrying your book and doing a reading or signing. Offer to give a talk to local writers groups about some element of writing and bring along a couple copies of your books. Is there a coffee shop near you that also sells books? Maybe they would be willing to host an event for you and let you leave a couple copies on the shelf. Got invited to a party? Go and steadfastly talk to everyone. When you get asked what you do, tell them you’re a novelist or an author. 9 times out of 10, they’ll ask about your book.

How To Be Shameless, but Not Obnoxious

When it comes to places like libraries, bookstores and other businesses, you should be straightforward about what you’re after from them. Like everyone else, the owner, manager or staff person who makes the decisions about those things has other duties and their time is valuable. Don’t waste it. If they’re unreceptive, thank them for their time and let it go. Trying to convince someone to let you hold an event or carry your books when don’t want to will be more trouble than it’s worth. When it comes to new people in social settings, wait for the conversation to turn toward work. Don’t worry, conversations with new people almost always turn to work. People spend so much of their lives doing their jobs that it becomes a go-to topic. It’s something they’re comfortable talking about and that they know a lot about. When it’s your turn, it’s a perfect segue to talk about your book. As a rule, it’s bad form and horribly off-putting to just walk up to someone and start pitching your book to them. It’s the interpersonal equivalent of a telemarketing call at dinnertime. Don’t do it.