A friend and fellow writer and I were having a brief text conversation about writing. I had mentioned that I am behind on one of my deadlines. She responded with, “At least you have deadlines.” Embracing the idea of deadlines is not something that initially worked for me, but following them, in my own style, has at least increased my writing output. With this, I would like to share some tips related to deadlines, as well as offer some other bits of advice.
Create a master list. I have found this to be the most helpful idea. I have gone through countless lists where I simply start by jotting down everything I want to work on or should be working on. Even this phase is fun since it allows me to explore all my options. Of course, this can also lead to feeling overwhelmed. We’ll get there later. My master list, in its current form, is a two-sided notepad page. On the front side is a breakdown of the writing goals I have for this year. It does not have to be for a year, but my current projects have nicely settled into that time frame, at the moment. On the back side, I have mapped out projects with deadlines from August 2014 to June 2018.
Have multiple projects going on at the same time. I think this is tough for a lot of people. Some want (need) to work on one thing at a time. As much as I can get wrapped up in one project, I find that if I don’t switch gears, I stop writing. By being organized (more later) with my multiple projects, I actually get a lot more done in the long run.
Revisit old projects. Two of my friends, who are gifted writers, inspired me to revisit a couple plays I had written over a decade ago. It was an enjoyable experience for me to reread my writer’s voice at that time. I did some revision of characters, plot lines, and dialogue. As I’ve written before, I was hesitant to do so because I felt that I would lose my original voice if I were to go back and revise. Lucky for me, this act only made my product better.
Write in a genre or style in which you know you’re not that strong. I have tried for years to write literary criticism and critique. I know it’s not my strength, but I keep attempting it, and each time I do, I feel a bit more confident in my range.
Limit your promotion time. I have seen this bit of advice before, like anything offered here. I sometimes get sick of my own promotion of works, so I try to be selective in when I remind people what I do for a hobby. I see some writers who over-promote, and it turns me away from them.
Create a promotional platform that satisfies you. Yes, I just said to limit your promotion time. However, I have found the idea of promotion to be useful in keeping me on task. I have a Facebook profile. Every time I publish something to any blog or similar idea, I put the link on my page. I know people read them because I see the statistics. Even though my audience is small, knowing that people are reading my works keeps me focused on writing and publishing. I consider it part of my routine.
Get organized. I personally like to hand-write my lists. These hard-on-the-hands reminders motivate me to keep working, even if it’s only to scratch one item off my list so I don’t have to write it again. I have a small binder that stores some of my projects in printed form. In that binder is where I currently keep my master list. I also have a few notebooks that are dedicated to writing. I admit I do not keep separate notebooks per project. Because I often type them later, they become organized in word documents. My documents are all saved on my laptop and organized in two forms. The documents/works that are long-lasting without my by-year’s -end deadline are in my documents folder. The ones that are on the front page of my master list are also on my desktop. In addition, I periodically save my work to my email account (which has its own labeled space!), especially for those works that are not saved in cyberspace.
Read your favorite writers. So much about this has been said, but I find it does rejuvenate my routine.
Encourage and work alongside other writers. As an introvert, like many writers seem to be, I don’t really like to work with others any more than I need to. Yet, there is a certain magic in having someone else writing next to you or even updating you with his or her progress. The first friend I referenced here just texted me to tell me she has been working on a story. In some small way, I contributed to that. That motivation keeps me grounded in a routine.
Put yourself on a behavior plan. In my text conversation, in response to her struggles with deadlines, I wrote, “It’s simply rechanneling your energy, taking time you would spend doing something else and taking a stab at writing.” I love writing, but there are rainy days and exhausting evenings when I will do anything else to prevent me from writing. I don’t write every single day, and I’m okay with that. But, I think about writing every day. Last night, I talked to myself and said I had to get one particular piece out today. I did so, and now I am on this one, and a third one seems to fit today’s weather, so I will most likely work on that one, too. No, I will work on that one. For this act to be a true behavior plan, you also need a reward. I find a lot of intrinsic value in doing this hobby, but I may supplement it with watching a movie and shutting off the rest of my brain for awhile.
Alright, kids. I hope this has been helpful. If you have a routine tip that helps you, please feel free to contribute. Thank you, and keep writing!