I’ve been evaluating my writing process so that I can use my writing time more efficiently, but also so that I can help you figure out how to focus your writing time so that you can accomplish your goals. Maybe you’re just learning how to write, or you’ve switched from one genre to another. Maybe you want to get your work out there: on stage, into journals or magazines, or to a web audience through a blog. Maybe you’re trying to accomplish many writing goals at once. That’s where I am at the moment, so on each occasion where I actually have time to work on writing, I end up spending part of the time trying to figure out what to do that day. It’s not particularly efficient. It wastes part of the precious time I have.
When I’m jumping around, here are the different tasks I have on my immediate to do list:
- Write blog posts for this site or my parenting blog.
- Submit poems.
- Engage in different aspects of social media in order to establish an author’s platform.
If I blog, then submit, then read something about Web 2.0, even though I’ve worked on many areas of my list, I didn’t get as deep and am less likely to have completed anything. Instead, I have the draft of a blog post, a potential market I need to research more before I can submit, or I’ve added something to my social media to do list but don’t have time to actually do it. If my goal is to post to my blog three days a week, say on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, then I don’t have to waste writing time trying to decide what to do on those days.
Over the last two decades of writing, I have had varying goals and so my process doesn’t always look the same. What remains constant however is that if I know what my goal is, I’m much more likely to meet it. On the days when I decide I want to complete and publish one blog post before I allow myself to do anything else, I get something crossed off my list. It focuses me and I’m able to concentrate more fully on the one job I’ve given myself. Once that job is done, I can focus on the next thing: submitting to one journal. Then I cross that off the list and can move to something else.
So my recommendation for today is that you sit down and make your own writing goals list. Write down everything you can think of, then break the list into categories: immediate, short term (over the next few months), and long term (one year, five year, or in this lifetime). Then do a gut check. What is it you really want to be doing right now? Writing more, getting published, finishing a book you’ve been working on for years, starting a book you’ve had the idea for but never make time to actually begin?
I ask this because there will be certain items on your list that feel more immediate to you. Though I have a 300 page first draft of a memoir I pitched at an agents and editors conference and have five agents interested in looking at once I have a final draft, my focus just isn’t there right now. I kept feeling like I should finish the memoir but when I sat down, there were so many other things I wanted to be doing. The result was that I kept feeling like I was failing even when I was accomplishing so much else. So I took the memoir off my immediate to do list. By the end of the year, I expect that I’ll have gotten into a routine with my immediate list. That will open up room for something else. My short term goal of getting parenting essays published will move up to the immediate list. It will be easier to move from blogging about parenting to finding markets and querying them with parenting essays. Then I’ll start working on the memoir again with the longer term goal of completing it.
So make your lists and be honest with yourself about where your energy is. If there’s a particular area you want some help with or you’d like to see me write a post on, let me know. I’ll add it to my list.