Tag Archives: goals

How Do You Find Time to Write?

Writers struggle finding time to write, but the solution is simple

How Do You Find Time to Write?I commonly hear writers complain that they don’t have time to write. Some say “no time” and others say “not enough time.” Time, it seems, stands as the enemy of writing.

Yet the fact remains that everyone has twenty-four hours in their day. From the busiest person to the least active, we each have twenty-four hours to use—one way or another. Some of this time goes for eating and sleeping. And if you work, that takes up about a quarter of the week (forty out of 168 hours). But the rest of our hours are discretionary.

Yes, some of our discretionary time goes to extremely important things. Caring for children, paying bills, and grocery shopping come to mind. Yet even with these essentials, we exercise a degree of control over when we do them and how much time we spend.

If we intend to write, we need to make it happen. We must carve out time if we expect writing to occur. This requires sacrifice.

What will you give up so you can write? Writing is a priority for me. I make sacrifices so I have time to write. Click To Tweet

I suspect everyone can scale back on watching TV and the social media time suck. We might socialize less, not be so worried about work around the house, or eliminate non-essential tasks.

Depending on where you are in your life and the scope of your responsibilities, you may only be able to free up a little bit of time for writing or maybe you can find more.

The worst thing, however, is to put your writing on hold. I can guarantee you that if you’re too busy to write now, you’ll be too busy to write next week, next month, and next year. And don’t put writing off until retirement. I hear retirees become even busier, which is one reason I don’t plan on retiring.

I am a writer. Writing is a priority. I make sacrifices so that I have time to write. I do this every day, every week, every month, every year. And as I do, my word count grows.

Finding time to write is simple. Implementation is hard. We make sacrifices and give up other things so we can write.

When do you write? What sacrifices have you had to make?

Save

Was 2016 Your Best Year Ever or an Epic Fail?

We need a realistic view of our history to plan a reasonable vision for our future

Was 2016 Your Best Year Ever or an Epic Fail?My wife sometimes says I view things as though my glass is only half-full, that I’m pessimistic. I counter that I’m simply being a realist, but the truth is I’m not sure who’s right. Perhaps a bit of reality resides in both perspectives. So it is in viewing my past year as a writer.

As such, I share two perspectives:

Best Year Ever:

  • After years of talk, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. What a great experience.
  • I wrote two novels, the second one in about three weeks. (I’m still editing them both.)
  • My work as a commercial freelance writer really took off this year, with more clients, more work, and more income—all new records.
  • I grew my Twitter followers from 2,400 to 11,500, surpassing my year-end goal of 10,000. I’m enjoying good connections and engagement there.
  • I took LinkedIn seriously and made 100 posts to a growing audience of 2,300, which more than doubled in 2016.

Epic Fail:

  • I didn’t publish a book this year.
  • I didn’t win any writing contests.
  • I wasn’t published in any anthologies.
  • I didn’t accomplish my number one goal for 2016. (Which is now my number one goal for 2017.)
  • Work/life balance continues to elude me. (It’s even harder to achieve when you work at home.)

I could reasonably adopt either of these two perspectives as my primary view of 2016. While it’s easy to dwell on disappointments, missed goals, and wasted opportunities, a better outlook is to focus on what went great this year. Though I might need to reread this post to remind myself, I can truly say that 2016 was my best year ever, and I look forward to 2017 being even better. Celebrate the mountains and don’t allow yourself to wallow in the valleys. Click To Tweet

As you review 2016, I encourage you to celebrate the mountains and not allow yourself to wallow in the valleys. Though everyone is at a different place as a writer, no one had a flawless year and everyone has something to celebrate. Focus on these things as you move into 2017.

May it be your best year ever.

Save

What to Do When You Hit the Wall

When our carefully constructed world of work comes crashing down, follow these steps to reconstruct it

What to Do When You Hit the WallWriters are often amazed at the amount of writing I do on a daily and weekly basis. They ask how I manage to consistently stay productive. Part of it is my stage of life, part of it is discipline, and part of it is illusion. The reality is I seldom feel like I am doing enough of the right things and that I am careening through life trying to juggle five items, while I’m only capable of three. I do this as I speed on a motorcycle…in the dark…without headlights. Then I hit a metaphoric wall, and everything stops. Okay, maybe this is a bit hyperbole, but you get the point.

Hitting the wall happens to me on occasion. This time it was a combination of over-commitment, too many deadlines, excessive optimism about my productivity, family priorities, time away from the office, and a strange sickness that required me to sleep more and robbed me of my concentration. It was like a house of cards, carefully constructed and most tenuous. My house of cards imploded. Kaboom!

Here is what I do when I hit the wall:

Pause: The first thing I do is put some things on pause. Exercise is one. Reading is another. Social media is a third. All are important, but none are essential. I can put them on hold for a few days.

Scale Back: What activities can I reduce? I don’t need to listen to as many podcasts as I do. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by what I’m not getting to, I merely pare back the quantity, unsubscribing from some and skipping episodes of others. I also curtail my TV watching and entertainment.

Eliminate: To make my writing life sustainable, I also look for things to eliminate. At one time I had five blogs, each with a different focus and strategy. A few years ago I stopped posting on two of them and just now stopped a third one.

Say “No”: I like to help people and don’t want to disappoint anyone. But I need to remind myself that sometimes declining requests is in my best interest or I’m of no help to anyone.If five things are a priority, then nothing is a priority. Click To Tweet

Reprioritize: If five things are a priority, then nothing is a priority. What is the one truly important thing in this moment? I do it and then move on.

Restore a Buffer: When new opportunities arise I try to squeeze them in. Before I know it, I’m living a life with no cushion. I need to re-establish some buffer to leave room for the unexpected – because surprises do occur.

A few months ago, I saw my wall looming. I took action to protect myself, such as scaling back the frequency of one of my newsletters, saying “no” to some new opportunities, putting one critique group on hold, and curtailing the amount of time I invested in Twitter. These were all good changes, but they were not enough. All these corrections did was delay the inevitable.

Today I am reconstructing my work and my writing life, striving for balance, sustainability, and a saner schedule. It will take time, but I will bounce back – hopefully with fewer projects and less stress.

Save

Save

3 Reasons Why Writers Need Deadlines

Having a firm due date provides authors with three essential benefits

3 Reasons Why Writers Need DeadlinesFew people enjoy being confronted by a deadline. And due dates apply to writers perhaps more than most others. Deadlines harass us; they make us write when we’d rather do something else, something fun, important, or beneficial. Due dates force us to make sacrifices, too. But deadlines are not our enemy. They are our friend because the offer us three key benefits.

1) Avoid Procrastination: Most people put off doing things, even important, essential tasks, such as a writer putting off writing. We call this procrastination. The reasons for this are many, and those who struggle with procrastination should explore the reasons behind it. Regardless, having a firm due date provides the motivation to avoid the ugly threat of procrastination. For example, I post on this blog each Saturday. This is my deadline – no excuses.

2) Avert Perfection: Another characteristic of many writers is an inner drive to make every word, phrase, and scene be exactly correct, to be perfect. Without deadlines writers will continue to edit and tweak without end, day after day. A friend recently completed writing her novel. I asked how long she would spend editing it. Her simple answer spoke volumes: “Every day until it’s due.” Without a firm due date, she would have continued an endless pursuit of perfection.

3) Advance Production: When we hit deadlines we produce content, one piece at a time. Our writing production grows. Sometimes we see our submitted work published; other times, not. Regardless, these annoying, inconvenient deadlines cause our writing output to soar. Deadlines serve to expand our portfolio.Writers need deadlines to move writing forward. Click To Tweet

To realize these three advantages assumes that writers take deadlines seriously and don’t miss them. Otherwise a due date becomes nothing more than a nagging distraction. We need to embrace deadlines for the benefits they produce and thank them for pushing us forward.

How have deadlines helped you? What sacrifices have you had to make to hit a due date?

What is the Ideal Writing Process?

What works for one writer may not work for other writers and that’s okay

What is the Ideal Writing Process?Every writer has a different method of writing. I know that because many of you tell me.

  • Schedule: Some write every day (like me) and others do not.
  • Motivation: Others wait for inspiration and some sit down and write regardless of how they feel (like me).
  • Target Date: Some need a deadline to spur them on and others do not (like me – though a deadline does amp up my motivation).
  • Writing Mode: Others spew out a quick rough draft and fix it later, while some write with more intention to produce a reasonably good first draft (my goal).
  • Time of Day: Some write in the morning (like me) and others at night or random times (I occasionally do that, too).
  • Planning: Next are those who strategize before they write (like me) versus those who figure it out as they go. Many people call these two modes plotters and pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants), but I prefer the labels of outliners and discovery writers. They sound nicer.
  • Length of First Draft: Another consideration is writing long or writing short. That is, some writers write long first drafts and then edit them down. Others write shorter first drafts and then add to it. I’m neither. I have a target length in mind and aim to hit it.

The point is we all go about our writing differentlyWe all go about our writing differently. We each need to chart our own path. Click To Tweet

I write every day in the morning, even if I don’t feel like it, work to produce a good first draft from an outline (be it written or in my head), write to hit a target length, and mostly don’t need deadlines. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow my example. It simply means this is what works for me – in this season of my career. If this works for you, too, then great. But if it doesn’t, then figure out what does work and then follow it, adjusting as needed along the way.

There is no one correct way to write; we can all learn from each other’s processes. The only error is trying to force ourselves into a mold that doesn’t fit us.

What does your writing process look like? Is there anything you might want to change? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Six Writing Goals to Spur Us On

To make progress in their work, writers must have a plan to move their writing towards completion

Six Writing Goals to Spur Us OnWhen I write, I always have a goal. Without an objective to strive for, I wouldn’t write too much, if at all. I’m sure I’d spend more time thinking about writing than actually writing. The biggest byproduct would be guilt. I’d also wallow in procrastination. I’d become that person who talks about writing but never actually writes.

To avoid these very real threats, I use goals to propel my writing forward. Here are six that I use, not all at once, but as appropriate to the situation.

Schedule: My most common writing process is to set a schedule and stick to it. This involves writing every day for at least one hour (but it’s usually more). The first thing each morning, before I do anything else, I sit down and I type. On the weekends, it’s blogging, and weekdays, it’s a personal project, usually a book. (I fit freelance work in later in the day. See “deadline” and “paycheck.”)

Word Count: When I’m working on a book, especially one with a deadline – be it self-imposed or set by others, I set a word count goal for the day. As a recovering overachiever, I’m not happy unless I surpass my daily word count goal. As a side benefit this allows me to complete the project ahead of schedule, or it provides a cushion on those occasional rough days when the words refuse to cooperate.

Targets: Other times my goal is not time or words, but outcomes. I will write one scene and take a break. I will complete two sections and give myself a small reward. Or I will finish the next chapter and stop for the day. Regardless of how fast or slow the words flow from my fingertips, I persist until I reach my target for the day.Successful writers set writing goals to propel their work forward. Click To Tweet

Milestones: Another technique involves establishing major goals or milestones. A common milestone is to finish my first draft of a book by a certain date. Or to complete my final edits by a set time so I can send off my writing. After each milestone I take time to celebrate (but not too much time).

Deadlines: Due dates are a powerful motivator for me. Professional writers treat deadlines as inviolable. I strive to do the same. Often I set my own, and other times they are set for me. Only once (that I recall) have I missed a deadline of others in thirty-five years of writing.

Paycheck: Most of my writing does not result in an immediate payment, but when I write for clients payment for my words waits for me at the finish line. This is a powerful motivator. Yes, I do track how much I make each week. It keeps me focused.

I use one or two of these goals for everything I write. Without them I fear I would never finish a thing.

How do you motivate yourself to write? What techniques do you use to complete projects? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Writing is Not a Hope, it is a Habit

Real writers make a commitment to write, and that requires sacrifice

Writing is Not a Hope, it is a HabitThough I sometimes talk about when I write and how much, I’m always reluctant to do so. Writing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. We are individuals with different family situations, who are at different life stages, and have different levels of obligations. What works for me, doesn’t apply to you – at least not directly.

But the principles of my writing practices can pertain to everyone.

If we are to be writers, we must embrace the truth that writing is not a hope, it is a habit. What writing habit can you cultivate today?

Commit to a Schedule: I write every day. Not everyone can. Some write on weekdays only, while others are weekend warriors. Maybe Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon is all you can squeeze in. Start with that.

Discover Your Time: While I like to write first thing in the morning, that doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe it’s late at night or in the middle of the night. Perhaps you arise early before the kids get up. Find out when is best for you.

Pick a Place: I have a writing office. Not everyone has that luxury, but find a place and dedicate it to writing. When we enter our writing place, our mind learns it’s time to write.

Set a Small, Realistic Goal: My first goal was an hour a day. It grew from there. But an hour might be too much for you. Can you block out ten minutes? Or maybe you don’t set a time goal, but a word count goal. Can you commit to writing one hundred words a session? If you go beyond ten minutes or one hundred words, consider it a bonus. But strive to reach your goal every time your schedule tells you to write.Don’t hope you will someday find time to write, begin today to make it a habit. Click To Tweet

Don’t Stretch Yourself Too Soon: Once you form the habit of writing, you may want to expand beyond ten minutes or one hundred words. Just don’t push yourself too fast or too soon. I didn’t push myself to write more than an hour a day, my writing (some might call it my muse) propelled me to do more.

Recognize Your Style: Some people write like the fabled hare and others resemble the tortoise. Figure out which you are. Then embrace it. But know that both have seasons when they write more and write longer. The writing hare uses deadlines and then takes a long break. The writing tortoise plods forward every day but makes more progress during certain seasons. Recognize that writing productivity ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s futile to fight it.

The point in this is, don’t hope you will someday find time to write, begin today to make it a habit.

What writing habits have you formed? What will you commit to in order to form a writing habit? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Why Writers Shouldn’t Wait for Inspiration

Professionals don’t need inspiration to write; they push on without it

Why Writers Shouldn’t Wait for InspirationSometimes I’m just minding my own business, not giving my writing a conscious thought when an idea pops into my mind – a really great one. Inspiration hits me like a lightning bolt. If at all possible I stop what I’m doing and write. Even if it’s in the middle of the night.

However, if immediate action isn’t an option then I scribble a note or add an entry to my smart phone. The last thing I want to do is push my vision aside, for it may not come back. I don’t want to risk losing my literary epiphany. It has happened.

But sometimes inspiration doesn’t confront me; the vision for what to say eludes me. What do I do then? It’s simple. I write anyway. Here’s how:

Deny Writers Block: At the risk of angering some of you, I have never had writer’s block. In fact, I don’t believe in it. What many people call writer’s block is really another issue in disguise: Fear of failure, fear of success, perfectionism, self-doubt, or some other neurosis. You get the idea. These things are real, but confront them for what they are, and don’t use “writer’s block” as an excuse. Then…

Just Sit Down and Write: Put yourself in a position to write. For me that means I’m in front of my computer, I’ve remove distractions, and I expect to write. Then I start typing. If all else fails, type: “What I want to say is…” and then complete the sentence.Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the pros don’t need it; they just write. Click To Tweet

Deadlines Help: Deadlines are a powerful motivator. And if a publisher or editor isn’t giving you a deadline, give yourself one: a time, a date, or a word count. Break longer projects into smaller goals (so many words or pages a day) or milestones (completing a chapter or section). Celebrate each win. Postpone all other activities until you hit your deadline.

Allow More Time: It may take longer to write if there is no inspiration, but not always. I can write upwards of a thousand words an hour if I’m truly stirred. My normal pace is around five hundred. If I’m struggling, I know editing will take longer. We need to factor writing speed and editing efficacy into our schedule.

Keep an Idea List: I have several lists of topics and ideas for future writing projects: a blog post list, article ideas, concepts for short story, ideas for content marketing pieces, and even book ideas. Some of these will never be used, but most will eventually materialize. I keep my lists ready. If I don’t know what to write, my list will prompt me. Many of my ideas come to me when I am writing something else. (The idea for this post and the next two all came to me, in lightning-bolt fashion, as I wrote last week’s piece.)

Though creative insight is wonderful when it happens, real writers don’t wait for inspiration to hit, they just write – whether they feel like it or not.

How important is inspiration to your writing process? What do you think about writer’s block? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Writers Must Merge Passion With Marketability

Focus on the intersection of what we want to write with what we can sell

The goal of every writer is to make money with his or her art.

I’m sure some of you are shaking your heads over this statement. You insist you don’t care if you make money or not. You just want to write. I get it. I even agree – to an extent. But it’s not true, not deep down.

If you claim you don’t care about the cash, let me meddle a bit. Writers who say they don’t concern themselves with money fit one of three categories: they are independently wealthy, they are lowering expectations to avoid disappointment, or they are lying to themselves. Since I don’t know any writers who are independently wealthy, that leaves the other two categories. Which one describes you? Think about it. Seriously consider this. Admit the true, unspoken, deep desire of your writing heart: you want to make money writing. Then keep reading.Venn Diagram for Writers

I love Venn diagrams. They communicate so much in so little space. Venn diagrams help me understand writing. Of all the things I can write, represented by the box, the things I’m passionate about fit in the first circle. This is where I find joy. When I tap my passion, I can write all day; I skip meals and sleep isn’t important.

Also within the box of all the things I could write sits a second circle. It represents all the types of writing that sells. Staying within this box presents the opportunity to make money with words.

Where the two circles intercept is our sweet spot, where passion and profits converge. This is where we need to focus our writing – not all of the time but most of it.

Yes, sometimes I take a short break to write what I enjoy even though it doesn’t pay and never will. Other times I write what pays even though it falls outside my passion. (Though I’m not zealous about those projects, I only pick ones I will enjoy and am good at. To do otherwise would be author suicide.)

My hope for every author is that your passion circle will overlap the marketability circle. We all need our sweet spot so we can pursue our art and pay the bills. But if your circles don’t share any common ground, then know this truth: sometimes you will write for a paycheck and other times you will write for the joy of it. The first allows you to feed the second.

May we all find joy and money when we write.

What writing are you passionate about? What does your Venn diagram look like? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.Venn diagram for writers: find your sweet spot where passion meets marketability. Click To Tweet

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be an Aspiring Writer

The labels writers use about themselves reveals much about them – & their future

Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be an Aspiring WriterI cringe every time someone says, “I’m an aspiring writer.” The phrase is an oxymoron: either you’re a writer or you’re not.

It makes as much sense as the claims of “somewhat unique” or a “little pregnant.” There are no degrees of uniqueness or pregnancy. And while there are levels of writing proficiency, there are no variations of writership.

Simply state, “I am a writer,” and don’t equivocate.

When people say they are an aspiring writer it tells me one of three things about them:

1) Romantic: They are a dreamer and not a doer. These folks will forever talk about writing but will never write. They long to have written but will never sit down to do the work. They derive satisfaction talking about writing and may even have in impressive vocabulary about the craft, but they are mere poseurs – and always will be.

2) Procrastinator: This group waits for the right time to write. Life is in their way right now, but the next season will be better, allowing time to write. Except it won’t. Just as they allow the distractions of life to push aside writing today, the same thing will happen tomorrow. Now is the time to start writing, not later.

3) Doubter: Some people write in secret or hold their words too close to ever share. They are waiting until they become better and dare not claim full writer status at this time. This group lacks confidence, and I understand that. But real writers always strive to improve; we will never arrive. My work today is better than it was a year ago and in another year I expect to be even better, but the whole time I have been a writer. You are too.

This brings up a fourth category: the delusional writer. Though they are not aspiring, they are arrogant. They think they have this writing thing down and see no need for improvement. I’ve had people actually tell me that. They make me sad because they don’t have a clue.

So don’t fantasize about writing, put off writing, or diminish your writing. Always strive to improve, but never aspire to write. Just write.

Have you ever said (or thought) you were an aspiring writer? How did you move past merely aspiring?Aspiring writers: Don’t fantasize, put off, or diminish your writing. Just write. Click To Tweet