Monday, March 15, 2010

 

The March 15 Blog That Probably Shows Up On March 16

Time. It seems like I never have enough hours in the day. I'm sure many of you feel the same way. Luckily, I have the opportunity to freelance full time. I tried to juggle freelancing with a full-time teaching position, but the results were less than spectacular. I was lucky if I queried five or six publications a year. Now, I query five or six a week!

It's exciting, yes, but sometimes it still feels like I'm running the marathon, trying to fit as many writing opportunities into the day as I possibly can.

In theory, you should have received this e-mail diatribe on March 15. In actuality, it will "probably" end up with a March 16 date, depending where you reside. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. But, for me, the woman-writer-perfectionist, it is a problem.

Basically, I overscheduled myself today. As writers, it's probably happened to all of us at some point. We think we can squeeze in one more interview and get those notes transcribed before we begin dinner preparations. Or we focus on completing the page of fiction or a line of a poem before we fold the laundry.

Sometimes, in the rush for manufacturing as much writing as possible, we forget to breathe. Sometimes, we forget to realize that we may miss a deadline and actually learn from it.

For me, writing is a 24/7/365 career. I'm constantly assessing situations and considering story angles. Does it mean I'm planted in front of my computer 24/7? No. I take a daily breaks, and sometimes, family duty requires an extended break.

I choose to write as much as I possibly can. Occasionally, I overextend myself or I don't take into account how a gloomy day (we haven't had a full day of sunshine in three months and we had 90 days with temperatures below 30) affects my productivity.

Writers need to find a balance between time and projects. Since I've been freelancing, I've discovered that balance exists some days, but other times, the writing table is tilted in favor of putting pen to paper, filling it with exciting words and phrases. I may begin at 7 AM. I may sleep in until 9 and start by 10. I may work two hours, take a break, make lunch, hang out with my husband, and return to the office at 9 PM and write until the early morning hours.

Bottom line: find a balance between obligations - both personal and professional. Make time work in your favor.

My husband's asleep now, and I have moved my laptop back to the confines of the office, where I won't hear the drone of his snoring. You see, before I lay me down to sleep tonight, I have another story that's brewing, and I'm afraid if I don't take time to get those thoughts on the computer hard drive, my brain's hard drive may forget the material by morning. That's something I'm not willing to lose.

Do I worry that I'm not getting enough sleep? Sometimes, yes.

But a power nap tomorrow afternoon will revitalize my energy and guide me toward the keyboard, where I make magic happen.

By LuAnn Schindler
Visit LuAnn's Writing on the Wall at http://luannschindler.com or follow LuAnn on Twitter - @luannschindler

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Monday, January 11, 2010

 

Still Time to Set Resolutions

by LuAnn Schindler

We're not quite half way into the first month of the new year, so if you haven't taken time yet to develop a list of writing goals, don't worry. There's still time. But instead of procrastinating (do writers do that?), take a good look at what you accomplished last year and where you want to direct your energies this year.

Unsure where to start? Here are a few ideas I implemented last year and a couple I plan to complete in 2010. Consider it a productivity map.
  1. Submission / Time Tracker: I used to keep track of submissions and queries by creating a folder in the document section on my computer. Sure, it showed who I sent it to, but I wanted to be able to use a tracking system so I could list experts and interviewees, possible publications for submissions, type of submission (feature, how-to, FOB), time spent on research and writing, and publication and payment info. I revamped a query tracker previously posted on Premium Green (WOW!'s premium subscription newsletter) and it makes my life so much easier! I've used the system to come up with new article ideas based on information from experts, which increases the bottom line. It's a win-win! How do you keep track of submissions and amount of time spent on each article or work?
  2. Data Backup: I need to work on this one. Do you? I have CDs filled with photos and flash drives loaded with documents. Now, I need to get it all in one place. Thanks to the data backup program that came with my laptop, I will now be able to keep all my files safe and accessible. What do you use to backup photos and writing files?
  3. Project Deadlines: Do you have a large project that seems like you'll never complete? Don't worry. You're not alone. Unless we writers set a deadline for major projects, we'll likely let them continue throughout the year. That's not healthy for a writer's bottom line. Set deadlines, whether it's writing a set amount of words per day, a certain number of pages, or a certain amount of time. Use a planner or calendar to mark the deadlines. The brain makes a stronger connection and gives a stronger sense of urgency to those tasks we note as being important. How do you track deadlines?
  4. Network: Establishing relationships with other writers and editors is important. It's also important to continue to make new contacts. I plan to send three queries to new markets every week in 2010. I also plan to step up my social networking campaign. How will you build or increase your network?
  5. Website: Do you have a web presence? About four years ago, I started a website, but I wasn't happy with the design and eventually, I quit adding material to it. And then, I got married and I never updated the site to include my new last name. In 2010, I will create a new website and keep it updated. I'll keep my blogs updated, too. Do you have a website to promote your skills and expertise? If so, what's one new element you can add to market your skills and reach new audiences/clients?
  6. Skills: As a teacher, I have to update my repertoire of skills and learn new methods to reach students. As a writer, I have to update my repertoire of skills and learn new methods to reach editors and readers. I'm enrolling in a one-hour credit class for web design and animation. I'm also teaching a writer's workshop for a local community college. How will you improve your skills?
  7. Fresh Ideas: Ever feel like all your articles/blog posts/storylines are the same? Challenge yourself by tackling a new subject, writing from a different perspective, or trying a different genre. I've already written a piece and submitted it to a market I never would have considered before. But, once I saw the potential for earning money, I decided to try. And guess what. I enjoyed it! How will you challenge yourself in 2010?

Having a road map for the new year will keep you on the "write" track, push you to try new ventures, and make you accountable for your successes and failures. Set goals for a productive 2010.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

 

Am I too old for all-nighters?


(Image courtesy of The Unofficial Stanford Blog)


If there's one thing I despise, it's a missed deadline. I’m definitely guilty of it, but I try my darnedest to meet them--even if that means staying up all night. The problem is, when you're tired you make more mistakes, and when you're finally finished with the project, you want to sleep for days. I think this holds true the older you get. Many of my co-workers and team members ask how I do it all. I don't have a set list of instructions, but I've had plenty of practice.

Before I started WOW!, I pulled many all-nighters for my graphic arts business. Many of my clients wanted their catalogues and ad layouts done yesterday. Being the nice person I am, I always complied with their crazy schedules. Without really realizing it, I got into the habit of donning my Wonder Woman costume and "making it happen." These marathons consisted of a week of nose to the grindstone, sleep deprivation, and lots of caffeine, and later, wine. Thing is, I'm still doing it, for a lot less pay. But when does the time come when I can just relax?

I find that the older I get, there's more need for recovery time. There's more need for vitamins and headache pills. And now, every chance I get, I like to gel in front of the TV and tune-out. Is this the life I really want to lead? I often wonder.

Sticking To My New Year's Resolution

Our team members know this, but I made a New Year's resolution that I'm trying to stick to, and have been fairly successful at--though it's a WIP (work-in-progress). I'm dolling out assignments (paying for them) and delegating more. There comes a time when you have to realize what your time is worth--even in this tough economy. You can do it all yourself, but if it's killing you and not good for your health, or your overall business, why not pay to have someone else handle the task?

Delegating More, Doing Less

This method can be applied to anyone who owns her own business or freelances--which is basically the same thing. So next time you are commissioned by a potential employer and think you can handle it all, why not try tacking on a little extra to your price and having someone else take some of the burden off of your shoulders? That's what being a businesswoman is all about: delegating and moving forward. Form a team of talent that can help when you are in need. Network with individuals in your same field. Be an agent. Never turn down a job. Say yes, find help, and charge accordingly. And lastly, get some sleep already! You don't have to take on everything yourself. Think of your health and well being, like I'm trying to do.

What is your method for working less and maximizing your time? I'd love to hear your advice.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

 

Someday is today

"I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's."
-Henry Moore


Perhaps you've made some New Year's resolutions—big goals like writing a book, losing 20 pounds, or finally getting organized. So how do these goals come to pass? By daily attention.

The choices we make each day are what add up to a year-end result. Think: What could you give up in the next 12 hours to fit in some writing? How could you eat lighter just for this day? What if you set a timer for 15 minutes and cleaned up one space?

When you realize that your days are the building blocks of a year's dream, you won’t let them slip by. Doing something now, even a small change or a baby step, will add up. Over the course of twelve months—almost imperceptibly—real progress will be made.

What could you resolve to do today?

--MP

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Friday, January 02, 2009

 

Oops, I Did It Again!

by LuAnn Schindler

So...imagine my surprise when I check Google calendar this evening at 7-something and see that I am The Muffin's blogger today. Oops! When I checked Google calendar last week, it wouldn't load in my browser, and I figured I would check it later. Combine that with the hectic holidays and guess what, the surprise is on me. It happens. I'm only human.

Do you find yourself doing the same thing when it comes time to write? Do daily tasks and life's hurdles stand between you and scheduled writing time? It happens to me all the time, but I schedule office hours and for the 99 percent of the time, I stick to it. It isn't always easy, especially since my husband works on his family's dairy farm, I substitute teach (I start a six-week stint on January 5), I coach competitive speech (at the high school I taught at for five years before I got married...and it is 60 miles from our house), and we strive to find "our" time.

The important thing is that no matter how busy you find yourself, you must make time to write. This is especially true if you depend on writing to help pay the bills! Five minute spurts will become my normal routine in just a few days, but with careful planning and a supportive husband, I will still meet my deadlines.

And now, I'm off to open presents with my grandson and two of my daughters. They just arrived for our holiday celebration, and tomorrow brings the final festivities for this holiday season.

I need the break! And then, back to writing.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

 

Are You Setting Yourself Up To Procrastinate?

Although written to help those with academic writing goals, such as dissertations, theses, and publishing, the ideas in this article apply to the rest of us too. Read on to find out an easy and painless way to increase your writing output. I related to many of the excuses, but I'll try it if you will!

--MP



"How can I stop procrastinating?"

This is by far the most frequent question that I get from graduate students and professors. As a dissertation and tenure coach, I’ve come to realize that everyone in academia, whether writing a dissertation, completing an article, or doing research, struggles with procrastination. Why is this so prevalent in such a well-educated, intelligent population?

You've Got the Wrong Attitude

Your belief system is what may be standing in the way. Most academics cling to the belief that they must set aside large chunks of time, do a lot of preparation, and be in the proper frame of mind to be able to write.

What this means is that when you finally sit down to write, it's going to be an unpleasant marathon. You have placed such importance on this writing session that you feel anxiety about it living up to your expectations. And you know it's going to be difficult. After all, there are thorny issues you haven't addressed, articles you haven't read or reread, and a lack of coherence to your thinking. You need to solve those problems. And if you don't do it now you'll be quite disappointed in yourself.

How unpleasant! And how counterproductive!

What Should You Believe Instead? Or "Oh, The Irony!"

Research by Robert Boyce actually shows that first and second-year professors who participated in a study on writing productivity were able to turn out more publishable pages in a year by

• Writing 30 minutes a day
• Only writing on workdays
• Shoehorning that writing into small gaps in their busy schedules

The difficult part, it turns out, was convincing these professors to try this low-key method in the first place. Ironically, they all insisted that the only way to get real work done was to do it in the marathon way that I described above.

The second irony was that when Boyce actually measured the amount that they were writing per week (before the intervention,) it was less than 30 minutes per week! This was much less than their retrospective reports of how much time they had been spending writing.

The third irony was that those who most adhered to the idea that you must write in large doses were the least productive.

The fourth irony was that although these professors considered writing a private activity, they did best when they were accountable to someone for maintaining their 30-minute writing habit.

Do It Already!


So what's stopping you from learning from these professors and writing a small amount each day?

Here are typical excuses:

• It's just not rewarding writing in small amounts. I feel like I've gotten nothing accomplished.
• I have a big issue to work out. It will take more time than 30 minutes.
• I feel guilty if I don't work more each time.
• I'll never complete my dissertation/paper/research project at that pace.
• I've waited until it's too late and I can't afford the luxury of that small amount of time per day.
• It just doesn't feel right.
• I've got more time than that, I should be putting all my time to good use.
• It's so overwhelming that I don't know where to start, and by the time I figure it out my 30 minutes will be up.

My answer to those responses? Bull! Except for the emergency deadline, there is no reason not to try this technique. Give it time to see if it works for you. If you're like every other academic I've worked with, you will resist the idea. I suggest that the more resistant you are, the more problem you've probably had with procrastination in the past.

An Action Plan

Try it for a week. Select a time each day, preferably not the evening unless you're a night owl, and write for 30 minutes, without email, reading or other distractions. Don't listen to the voices in your head saying you "should be getting more done," or "you should be writing more than this." I'll bet at the end of the week you'll be pleasantly surprised at your output, and pleased with the increasing ease with which you can sit down to write. You’ll start to see progress on your dissertation or article and maybe come to believe that you will finish one day.

Furthermore, don't forget about being accountable to someone. Let someone else know that you're going to be doing daily writing. Perhaps you can find a writing buddy, or someone in your dissertation group. Or join one of my coaching groups – our listservs allow for lots of accountability during the week! My membership site, CafeAcademia.com (stay tuned,) will have a place for finding writing buddies.

Don't forget, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. Start setting yourself up for success starting right now!

© Gina Hiatt, PhD. Gina is a dissertation and tenure coach. She helps academics, from grad students wondering about their dissertation topic to faculty members who want to maintain a high level of research and writing, to reach their goals more quickly and less painfully. Get Gina's free assessments & ezine at http://www.academicladder.com

source: www.Isnare.com

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