Do You Do It?As owner of
freelance writer, and recent author of the book
The Shy Writer, I am
asked often, "What is your secret to doing all you do?" Frankly, I had to stop
and look around me, analyze what I consciously did (and didn't do) to be
productive. It's been a long road and I still don't see the end in sight
(thank-goodness) but I believe some habits of mine might count as good and
rewarding toward being an efficient writer.
Hope Clark, author of
The Shy Writer
E-mail is a time saver or a time waster, depending on how you manage it.
E-mail saves me time in many ways.
- Subscriptions bring me research information I use in
FundsforWriters and my writing,
which decreases surfing time. I have contests, jobs, grants and markets come
to me in droves, and I pick and choose what is pertinent to the
FundsforWriters reader. When I
initiated FFW, I had to search for each and every one.
- E-mail decreases phone time. So much time is wasted
trying to connect with people, making small talk beforehand, and closing the
conversation. A twenty-minute phone call can take place in two minutes
- E-mail opens doors. People can read a hundred e-mails in
the time it takes to make 10 phone calls. People are more available via
e-mail, and I've made more connections that way than via phone and snail
- Most of my day's informational and research work comes
laid out for instant review. I can open all personal messages first, then
open all the sales related information, then the subscriptions, then
whatever category I choose next. Having all my mail laid out before me with
subject headers allows me to prioritize and better coordinate my work.
E-mail can be a time waster, too.
- Chain letters, jokes and cartoons waste a lot of time if
you receive too many. Be selective, and don't be tempted to read and
redistribute all that you receive. I often delete them unopened.
- Take a moment and use your spam filter, giving it the
proper direction to do what you want it to do to better screen your
- Check your spam-filtered messages daily and adjust your
address book accordingly to allow those you need to read.
Have a place for everything. I can sit in a swivel chair and reach my
address labels, stapler, scanner, printer, USB ports, bookshelves, mail and
files. My chair is ergonomic so that I can last as long as possible without
back, shoulder or wrist problems. My mouse is wireless and ergonomic. My
calendar is in plain view with deadlines and appointments. Postage sits ready
to use. A thick coaster keeps my drink from weeping onto papers. My phone sits
within reach and has a speaker attachment to save my neck.
In other words, streamline. Remember the movie Men in
Black where the alien was in MIB headquarters with multiple arms
performing multiple receptionist duties? That's about how I like my desk to
feel—so I can do anything when I need to without wasted
Now you need to designate when you do what. Most importantly, when is the
best time of day for you to write? Carve that out, schedule it and adhere to
it. Make your family and friends respect it. I write best in the evening and
into the night. And I love writing all Sunday when I can because that's the
day of lowest e-mail volume. I almost feel deprived and hungry when I do not
get my writing time done on a daily basis.
Second most important schedule is your
marketing time. Carve that time out as well. It might be 15 minutes a day or
one evening a week, but do it. I market
FundsforWriters in everything I
write—each query, each newsletter and each e-mail. And now I'm making at least
three promotional connections for my new book
The Shy Writer, each and
every day with the efforts marked on a spreadsheet. I do that type of work
earlier in the day since it is more left-brain type work leaving my
right-brain rested for the evening writing.
Third, you need to rejuvenate with other
writers or mentors. That's an easy time to skip when time schedules run amuck,
but these connections recharge your batteries. Once a month, once a week, in
person, in a chat, whatever. I have a breakfast buddy who edits and writes. We
meet monthly for about three hours and solve the writing world's problems. And
I have a friendly chat room I enjoy every couple of weeks.
It's so easy to set big grandiose goals for New Years and never meet them.
I keep 13 in play, which means I keep at least 13 queries live at all times.
When I get a rejection, I submit something else. I actually keep closer to 18
now that it's a habit. I've followed this plan for three years and it now
raises a sense of urgency in me when I see the numbers drop.
Write 1,000 words a week, a chapter a week, or
2,500 words a month or whatever suits your fancy. If you miss it or fall
short, do not kick yourself or try to double up the next time. Just regain
your footing and keep focused. Making up for lost time only tires you out and
Many people fall short here. I like to know what I've done, plus the
organization of queries, income, expenses, marketing and submissions saves
time in the long run. My taxes come together more easily. I know what type of
article fairs better with what publications. I can identify trends, and I can
control my spending when my marketing zeal goes too far. Actually, I have to
rein myself in here or I'd do more organizing than writing, but the writing
can't evolve and produce unless you know what direction to take it. Without
organization of your efforts, your energies go helter-skelter and suddenly
you're disenchanted and throwing up your hands.
When to do the organization, you ask? When you
submit an article, log it in right then. When you sell a book, log in the sale
right then. I have two main spreadsheet files with multiple pages on each. As
I work throughout the day, I keep these two files minimized on my screen. When
I put the stamp on that query envelope, I flip up the screen and note the
publisher, date and estimated response time. When that time arrives I either
query the editor again or submit the piece to someone else. But I know who,
what, when and where about my work.
And when I receive payment, I mark it off
pending and add it to the collected category. I tally that one often because
it's fun to watch—most of the time. I know what my average monthly income is
supposed to be, and I see when I'm ahead or behind my goals. Plus, I know when
to ask for a payment that might appear a little tardy.
Organization might be a dirty word in the
writer's vocabulary, but doing the necessary duties gives him more time to
relish in that world of words he so enjoys. Taking a little bit of time here
and there makes a writing career much more fun, efficient and even financially
C. Hope Clark is founder of
FundsforWriters.com and just
released a new book,
The Shy Writer.