Your Priorities As A Writer

What are your priorities as a writer? Do you have a firm sense of them? Knowing what comes first in your career and life can help you take hold of your time management.

Photo by Renáta-Adrienn on Unsplash

I started thinking about this after reading an article in the May 2018 issue of the Romance Writers Report, the magazine of the Romance Writers of America. It was written by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who, as many of you may know, is a very prolific writer. Bear in mind that her priorities as a writer might be different than yours–but that’s the point. You need to figure out what works for you. (Also note that these priorities are for indie writers. She seems to take a somewhat dim view of traditionally published writers.)

Here are her priorities:

#1–Self-Care (getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well)

#2–Spend Time With Loved Ones

#3–Writing New Words

#4–Publish New Words

#5–Whatever Keep You Healthy and Happy

So…she lumps marketing, if it makes you happy, into #5. I should think a traditionally published author might want to substitute marketing for publishing new words in #4. And then, of course, there are those of us who teach and coach or, gasp, have a day job. That has to fit in there somewhere, too. Right?

But I feel like these guidelines are an excellent starting point for a discussion you might want to have with yourself, your spouse, or your family.  Think about it. Roll it around in your mind, talk about it. You don’t have to figure it all out at once. But I do think it is good to have a firm grasp of your priorities so you can pull yourself back when you deviate from them.

Don’t cringe at the words self-care. It is just about eating right, exercising, and sleeping enough, which are baseline activities that will do more for your writing than just about anything.  And maybe you are an extreme introvert who doesn’t give a rip about any damned loved ones, in which case you can knock that priority out.  But I do try my best to take care of myself, and I do love my loved ones, so I am pretty good with her outline up to #3, but after that I’d diverge, adding:

#4–Paid Work

#5–Marketing

#6–Things that Make Me Happy and Healthy

In truth, I’m pretty good about the latter, given that much of what makes me happy is spending time with loved ones. And going to France every year, from where I just returned.  Honestly, what tends to get shoved aside when things get overwhelming is my own personal writing–and I know I am not alone in that.

How about you? Do you have priorities firmly planted in your mind, or maybe even written down somewhere? Care to share them? I’d love to hear what they are in the comments.

(If you want to read more about this topic from Kristine, go to her site and search for “burnout” or “sustainability.”)

How Many Projects Should Writers Focus on at a Time?

Photoxpress_2677927Lately I've been cursed blessed with an abundance of ideas.  I've got viable ideas for three mainstream novels and at least six ideas for novels to write in a new genre I'd like to experiment with a bit.

As a professional writer, I'm accustomed to juggling projects.  I'll often have an ongoing ghostwriting project (just finished up one), perhaps a shorter business project or two, coaching clients, students, and my blog, not to mention my own work on fiction.  This suits me well, as I'm a fickle type, who gets bored easily.  When I have a variety of projects to work on, I can go from one to other and keep my interest and engagement level up at all times.

However, most of what I've mentioned above is non-fiction. I can't recall ever working on more than one fiction project at a time.  Okay, wait a minute, when I was getting my MFA, I wrote a novel and also worked on several short stories.  So that technically counts.  But what about writing more than one novel at a time?  Is that even possible?  Seems to me the process of writing a novel is so absorbing, so all-encompassing that it might not be advisable.

I do know that in the past when I've had several ideas for novels at once, I've flitted back and forth until finally one idea became so consuming that I dove into it without looking back.  So my theory for the moment is to stay open, realize what a gift this is, and allow myself time to explore, with the idea that one idea will rise to the top and grab me without letting go.

So, do tell.  Do you work on more than one idea at a time?  How do you balance multiple projects?

PS.  In case you hadn't noticed, it's December.  And December means the holidays.  And the holidays mean I'm in a good mood.  So it might be worth your while to come back here next week.  Just saying.

Photo from Everystockphoto.

It’s In Deciding

What's one of the most powerful words in the English language?

Decide.

As in, deciding to do something.  With all your heart and soul.  And then following through and doing it. No matter what.

There's magic in that there action.  Deciding and doing it.

I bet you've experienced this.  I know I have.  When I've absolutely, positively committed to something with no waffling, amazing things happen.  The problem is that most often we don't decide.  We don't commit, or we commit in a half-assed way, leaving ourselves room to weasel out if we end up not liking it.

I've been thinking a lot about this.  Last week I was in Orlando, at Suzanne Evans' 10K Coaching Club intensive.  Suzanne emphasizes the importance of deciding in the sales cycle and also in life.  Her position is that most of us wobble through life without really making strong decisions.  Not so with successful people.  They make quick decisions and follow through with action.

Deciding relates to writing, too (doesn't everything?).  Have you had the wonderful experience of deciding to write a story and feeling like it was almost channelled to you?  Or perhaps you have committed to writing a novel, and suddenly you are in that amazing space where every ounce of determination that you have goes to writing it.

Indecision is death to writing.  It is death to action.  And we are a society of indecisives.  To be a writer is to be decisive by the very definition of the word–you're putting words on paper, one after another, a decisive action in and of itself.   Writing is intentional, and intention is decision.

Are you with me on this?

Let's all decide to be more decisive about our writing, starting right here, right now, today. 

What will you decide to write?

***Something I decided to do that I feel really good about is host writing retreats with my friend and fellow writer Debbie Guyol.  Our first event is in San Antonio in October.  Check out more here.

 

Conjuring Clarity

 I work with writers and other creative types in a variety of ways, including one-hour sessions that help them to gain clarity about their work.  I do this through this very website and at events like Room to Write in Nashville, where I am the resident "book doctor" on call to guide writers.

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What I find over and over again is that confusion is common amongst us and it causes angst.   The two of these together make up that state often known as writer's block.

We're confused about:

Which project to write

How to write it.

When to write it.

Who to write it to.

How to get it out in the world once its written.

And this causes angst:

Because confusion creates paralysis.

Over and over again, I see this paralysis in writers.  But once we wade through the vast confusions our brains sometimes present us with, clarity rules.  And suddenly writing happens.

How can you gain clarity, short of hiring me or attending a retreat?  Here are some tips:

1.  Corral Multiple Projects.  We right-brained types have a lot of ideas, and every new idea is always the best one yet.  This riot of ideas is wonderful, and the envy of many left-brainers.  But it can also cause us not to finish projects.  Learn how many projects you can handle at once (its three for most people) and stick with that number.  Make notes of new ideas that occur and trust that you'll get to them in due time.

2.  Trust the Internal.  The world is an external-led machine.  We respond to telephone calls, tweets and emails that interrupt our flow.  We worry about what others think of us.  We decide we shouldn't do a project because its too controversial, too sweet, too whatever.  Instead of being externally-focused, learn to be internally-focused.  What's right for you?  Whats the project that makes your heart leap with joy? When can you turn off the internet and the phone and focus solely on your writing?

3.  Be Okay With Choice.  In order to get your creative ideas into the world of form, you're going to have to learn to exercise choice.  I'm the master of unfinished projects, but I'm training myself to finish them, no matter how much I fear criticism, or "failure."  Learn to choose your most important project and focus on it until it's done, with a couple of other secondary projects along for the ride.

4.  Chunk It Down.  Rome wasn't built in a day, it was built one brick at a time.  Or whatever building material they used.  Looking at a huge project such as a novel can be so overwhelming you'll never get to it.  But start to think of it in terms of chapters, or better yet scenes that form parts of chapters, and it looks doable.

5.  Work With Time.  Work on your most important project first if you can.  If writing a novel is your main goal, get up early and get your work session done first thing.  This reinforces the internal point-of-view mentioned above–that your work and your ideas are the most important thing.

Give these tips a try and let me know how they work out for you.  And if you have some tips of your own, feel free to share them.

Photo by pll, from Everystockphoto.