By Judith Briles
Deadlines. Sometimes they are self-imposed; at other times, by others. Some writers and authors are juiced up when deadlines loom. Just some—not most. If you are in the “most” group, you can easily back and slide step as the clock ticks … and the OMG hour approaches.
Usually, I’m one of the ones the gets “juiced” … but, there have been times when my creative brain just doesn’t want to keep time. As a columnist for 10 years with the Denver Business Journal, I was always on the lookout for something that would tie in with the “Career Moves” column I penned monthly. I began to love the one-word sentence. The one-sentence paragraph. I bulked when I came across what I call “paragraph perpetuity”—I wanted the writer, especially a biz writer, to get to the point.
Everyone works differently. It’s a button pusher for me when I hear others—from book and writing coaches to the casual commenter—who advises that every writer/author needs a set schedule? Really.
9 Mental “Tools” for Writing
1. Make No Excuses
Just start writing … no fooling. Brain dump what you are thinking about—whatever it is. Get something out. The nugget, or a gem of an idea may be the buried treasure.
The more you write, the better you will get. The more you write, the faster you will get. I promise.
2. Perfectionism Can Be Your Enemy
Stop editing every word; every sentence. Just get content out. You can go back and fine tune. Should you rewrite? Of course. But get something out in front of you that has a beginning, middle and end. Then work with it. I’ve always told my clients that if I put the same chapter in the hands of 20 different editors—guaranteed, there will be countless variables in how the edits come back. Perfection? That’s where snowflakes come in. Otherwise, you are going to be in the “get ready” mode and not in the “go.”
3. Be Open and Take a SHORT Time-Out (that’s if your deadline in not within a few hours)
I’m amazed when I allow myself to do a zone out with a movie or a TV show. More times than not, a visual pops up or a line of dialogue rolls that creates a spark plug to a link I’ve been missing. I’ve written complete blogs after seeing a 30-second funny. I was blank for my regular Tuesday blog on a Monday a.m., when one of my kids sent me a short video on dominoing iPhones. It seeded a blog on creativity, something I hadn’t planned on writing about, but the clip set the stage. Within 30 minutes, done.
4. Let Your Calendar Be Your Friend
It’s always amusing to me when others don’t think writers and authors “work” … maybe it has something to do with a nine to five job and a regular paycheck. Friends may not be sure what you do is work; even family members fall into this fold. They need to be “trained” … find out what your “work times” are.
I’m not sure where some get the idea that writing is purely a hobby. What I do know is that writing is WORK.
I’m not a night owl—I may be awake, but I’m not working ideas or at the laptop. I’m an early bird; being in my office at 4.30 or 5 a.m. is more common than not. It’s turning those quiet times when I can push out my words. Binge writing is often what I do for my own books—in massive spurts. My blogs and columns are all on the calendar with blocked out times.
Staff is told—I’m writing all morning—don’t talk to me unless it’s urgent or I’m refilling tea. Family is told—leave me alone—I’ll see you for dinner. And it’s written on my calendar—from Write Workbook for Unplugged; Write blogs for week; Wednesday ezine due today; Get Thursday podcast social media out … you name it, it goes on my paper calendar; my laptop; and my phone. When I’m working on a book—it’s No office appointments this week-WRITING—and it’s across all the days.
For you, a café environment may be your ideal place to write; or a cabin in the mountains; or just a place in your home. Wherever it is, claim it—and let others know: you are at work.
The wise writer and author schedules writing at a time that works for them—not others.
The more you can turn your calendar into a habit, the more efficient you will become. It’s part of having a professional mindset.
5. Dress for Writing
Yup—create your uniform. When I did a boatload of TV work, I learned quickly that many TV people dressed from the waist up. Oh, the makeup and hair was perfect. And so were the jackets, shirts and upper garments. Jeans could be on under the desk. If it’s just you in the office, dress for writing comfort—maybe sweats, a favorite shirt or sweater. Kind of like a uniform. My uniform always is finished from at least the waist up, including earrings because I often use Skype or Zoom within the day for meetings. Otherwise, I have bare feet in the summer months or warm socks in the winter and jeans or sweats. My uniform.
6. Break Your Project Down and Track It and Reward Yourself
Whether it’s a book, a blog or something in between, break down what you plan to do. You maybe someone who just needs a few words to act as triggers of what you do—sticky notes work well. Or you may need, a detailed outline. Resources, sections and sub-sections.
Depending on what you are writing, the level of what you need beforehand will vary. Many bloggers and articles writers have identified their topic and have an idea of where they are going. What they have to do is to get it organized.
For me “tracking it” … means it was sent to where it was supposed to go to—either my VA or to the column, like Joel’s by my deadline date. Usually it is started and finished in one sitting. My reward is a fresh mug of tea.
Books aren’t done in one sitting. There’s a stretch of time. Some chapters flow in order—some jump out with a “my turn” now … or even, “you hadn’t thought about this, but add it” … it’s creativity at work. Don’t try to do too much at once, as in multiple chapters. Complete one as much as you can and go to what is beckoning you next. You will be revisiting them all again and adds and deletions will be added. Create an overall game plan and then start marking items off as you complete them.
Rewards are for milestones and completion. You pick them. They become the carrot to reach for and enjoy.
7. Create an Edits and Deletes Folder
Somewhere on your computer, create a Folder—something that you will instantly recognize. Within it, will be folders—they could be for books, for topics, for whatever. These folders can become goldmines—recipients to all goodies you have cut and deleted. Yes, there is writing rejects in here—but they are yours. And these rejects can be the missing ingredient for another book, chapter, blog, even something that you want to post out on social media that you will work going forward.
Figure out a sorting and organization system so that your Monday brain will remember what the Thursday one told you to do.
On my desktop, I create a “shortcut” so the folder is quickly accessible.
8. Make a Checklist
Checklists can be friends—from preventing a missed deadline; a reminder of your goals; even going for a walk or swim. Sometime within the first week of the month, I work out most of my calendar for writing deadlines with my virtual assistant. She creates a one page with all on it, color-coded and I print it out. I know instantly what my open time is for meeting with clients and what personal time I can schedule for family and friends.
Don’t forget scheduling for personal refueling.
9. Discover the Power of Action Triggers
One of the books I keep in my conference room has a cover of neon orange. Across it is a wide grey strip that feels like duct tape. Chip and Dan Health’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is a personal business book favorite. Loaded with a variety of useful tips, one that got my attention was the power of action triggers. Something that you do. Writing your goals. Telling friends and family that you are going to write a specific something. Committing to yourself and writing it down that you are going working on a writing project on ____ day or week—something I did earlier this year and worked 14 hours a day for 7 days. The result: the entire manuscript of my latest book, How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech.
The Action Trigger was to commit the week; block it off so there was no interference; get all blogs, ezine, podcast and social media done one week ahead of time; let my editor know that I planned on turning the manuscript in the following Monday; and let all clients know that I was underground for one week writing. And I disappeared, only communicating with my VA for 15 minutes each day in the early a.m. Otherwise, my action trigger required me to be gone so I could be myopically focused.
Focused with action triggers is something I would encourage you to do. Studies show that those who are specific and do the set up with action triggers have a success rate of reaching goal three times that of those who just say or think, I’m going to write a book.
- Why do you want to/need to write your book?
- When are you going to write the book?
- Where are you going to write your book?
- What do you need to have in place to make writing it happen?
- Who do you need to help or provide material/research to pull it off?
- Who are you writing your book for?
Your Action Triggers
Do you want to become efficient? Do you want to get that book done? Or create blogs on a regular basis? You could have the makings of a fantastic novel, a creative young adult series, and exquisitely illustrated young children’s stories. Sci-fi could be your genre, a cookbook, romance, intrigue, how-to or business book may be lurking in your creative closet.
You just may be able to take your career to a whole new level with the creation of a book or another. Adding to your professional credentials, if done right, could position you as the expert in a specific field. A book that is timely and lands in the right “opportunity window” could take you to a whole new level, a different type of professional business card.
There will be times that your words are woven with gems. Your paragraphs, pages and chapters sparkle like diamonds. It doesn’t happen overnight … but it does happen. It takes practice, writing, and rewriting. And requires making it a habit.
What do you need to do, starting now, to become the author and writer you truly want to be?