- Don't just have "a" goal, have "goals." My first tip last time was to have a goal, and that's a good starting spot. Without a goal and a way to measure progress towards your goal it's really hard to have a sense of how well things are going -- you can easily delude yourself either negatively ("Oh, I'm getting nothing accomplished" when you really are.) or "positively" ("I'm making fantastic progress" when, if you looked at it objectively, you might not be making good progress relative to where you hope to be. However, just having a single goal is a rather narrow way of looking at your writing, certainly if you're thinking of it in terms of a career (first, second, or third) but also even if you're thinking of it in terms of a hobby/avocation which you still want to approach seriously. Better is to have multiple goals and for some of them to be short-term and others to be long-term. How you define "short-term" and "long-term" is somewhat up to your own comfort level. Personally, I've liked having my short-term goals oriented around a month and my long-term goals oriented around a year. That doesn't mean I don't sometimes have to shift plans mid-month, but it's a place to start and gives a certain rhythm to things which I personally find appealing. As with any of these tips, don't be afraid to play around with different ways of implementing them and seeing which (if any) of those ways works for you.
- Pick your writing time wisely. Naturally you have to work within the confines of what your schedule and other commitments allow but -- everything else being equal -- if it's a matter of determining how to allocate your "free" time then think about when you feel freshest and most mentally alert. Place your writing activities during those times and less-taxing free time activities (games, etc.) in the times which remain.
- If you can, keep going when you get on a roll. Sometimes the words are flowing easily and you're making really great progress. If you can do so without sacrificing something else important, this is a great time to keep right on moving even if your original schedule had only allocated a certain amount of time. Though it is worth keeping in mind that you don't want to keep working until the point where you are exhausted -- that could leave you with a lingering negative feeling about what had been a very good writing session. And sometimes keeping going simply won't be possible: it could be time to head to work or you might have made a commitment to a family member or friend and you'll need to stick to your original schedule. It's always important to keep overall life priorities in mind, not only writing priorities.
- Consider calling it a day (or, at least, a session) when you need to do so. This is, in a way, the opposite of the last tip. If you’re having a writing session where you’re really struggling, maybe you need to take a break and do something else for a while. If you’re trying to maintain a daily writing routine and you’ve built options into your routine such as doing revisions or critiquing or some other writing-related activity then maybe changing your activity for the day is a good idea. The key is to not let this turn into a habit of setting aside writing tasks any time the going gets a little difficult.
- Consider letting some details slip in a first draft. This is a tip which I was first exposed to during last year’s NaNoWriMo and a recent comment I saw from another writer reminded me about it. Let’s say you have a minor character -- your main character’s uncle -- and you’ve forgotten his name. While you’re in the heat of composition, maybe it’s best not to go back and try to dig this fellow’s name out of earlier sections of your story. Instead, you could put something like “@@UncleOfMC” or “[Uncle of MC]” in as a placeholder. One thing I’d suggest would be to be consistent about how you designate your placeholders. That way it’s easy for you to search for them later when you’re going to fix your continuity. The same thing could be done if you needed a piece of research. Don’t remember who the President was in 1843? (I don’t!) Then tag it as “President @@PresidentIn1843” or “President [President in 1843]” and move along. This allows you to keep writing without a substantial break in your thought processes and you have an easy way to know what you need to fix later.
- Learn to say "no." There are all sorts of ways where you can end up using writing time which aren't leading you towards either your short or long-term goals. You want to build good relationships with fellow writers, editors, and others in the business so there are times when it makes sense to do things which don't directly lead towards your goals if it's part of building those relationships to help indirectly lead towards your goals. Often it will pay back to be generous with your time, but there are some times when it won't. Perhaps a person has repeatedly asked for favors from you and not been willing to assist you in return later. Perhaps you're up against a serious deadline of your own and really can't make time to add something else to your workload right at that moment. You may not have to say "no" often, but it's important to be willing to do so -- and do it nicely -- when circumstances require.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Six More Time Management Tips for Writers
One of my most popular blog posts is an entry from last October titled "Eight Time Management Tips for Writers." With another half-year or so of experiences to fall back on, here are six more tips for writers who would like to find ways to improve their time usage.