I want to write. Now what?
When I introduce myself as a professional editor, I often hear some iteration of the same story: “That’s so cool that you get to work with writers! I’ve always wanted to write a [book/memoir/film script/self-help guide/better website/family history/world history/ongoing blog]. But…”
The “but” can be anything. Let’s face it, there are a million things standing in the way of working on that project we’ve been imagining for who knows how long.
Here are just a few:
Time: time is the most frequent problem standing between potential writers and a sustainable writing habit. We’re busy people with busy lives full of things that we need to do busily!
Know-how: this is another frequent hang-up. There’s a great idea that has been percolating for weeks, months, years… yet folks can feel crippled by a sense that they don’t have the skills, background, or experience to translate their great ideas into words written on the page.
Fear: fear is a big hurdle for many potential writers. Some folks are scared that when they sit down to pursue their writing project they will fail. But a lot of people fear the exact opposite: what if they succeed?! What if it turns out that a writing project is successful, opening the door to a whole new host of opportunities and possibilities that they are not actually prepared to envision as part of their lives? Fear can be a major impediment to sitting down and trying.
Like anything, writing for the first time can be a daunting task. Stringing together the right words can be difficult. It’s much easier to see what’s not working than it is to see a way forward when something feels off. Moreover, for many new writers, the last time they really tried to sit down and write for a specific project was in high school or college. For some, this comes with debilitating memories of their professor’s red pen bleeding all over their lovingly crafted text. For others, it simply means that the last writing advice they received was to write an outline.
If any of this sounds familiar, it does not mean that you should not be writing. It means that you need a hand.
So, you want to write. Now what?
In this post, I’m going to be tackling time. If you have something you want or need to write, don’t let time (or the lack of it) be what stops you. Below you will find some practical advice for making the most of the time you have.
The best thing you can do is prepare. While practicalities are not the most fun, creative part of the writing process, there are several things you can do before pen ever meets paper to ensure that you will be able to successfully and sustainably complete your project. Let’s break it down…
Ask yourself the key questions. What do I want to write? Who is my target audience? What is my timeline to complete this project?
Be honest. If this is a writing project that you want to share only with your family and friends, that’s fine! It’s a very worthwhile goal. But your approach will (and should be) different than someone whose goal is to publish their manuscript via a traditional trade publisher. If you want to be sure that you are finished with your work before you quit your job at the end of the year, great! But recognize from the get-go that your writing timeline will feel less comfortable than someone who sees no need to complete their work any faster than George R. R. Martin. If your writing project is for like-minded business people, know that your page goal should be more akin to a novella than to Anna Karenina.
Having a clear sense of your goals, timeline, and audience will help you approach your writing with a dose of reality. Nobody sets their household budget with the expectation of winning the lottery. The goal should be to know your goals and write with them firmly in mind. Thinking practically about your time will help you use your time most effectively.
Break it down. What’s the plot? What’s the point? What are the key features that need to be included in your project?
There is a lot to be said for letting the creative mind wander. And for some, the journey is the prize. That said, the point of this blog post is to break down the key elements of setting yourself up for effectively and sustainably completing your project. This means having a clear sense of purpose of front. Figure out what you want to write so that you can just get down to it when you sit down to produce!
If you’re writing a novel, breaking down your project might include character mapping or plot outlining. If you’re writing a self-help book or a business manual, breaking it down will likely include identifying the key topics or themes around which you will build your chapters. The process will be a little different for each project, each time. But the key is to spend the time up front to save yourself time and frustration while you write. Knowing where you intend to go and what you need to do ensures that you keep moving forward rather than spinning your wheels.
Schedule writing time.
Have you heard the ABCs of writing? Apply Butt to Chair. A pretentious jerk in an elevator once told me this one when I was in the thick of writing my dissertation. I hated him for it… what obvious and patronizing advice! Nonetheless, it’s true. The only way to write is to sit down and get to it. For most of us, this requires a schedule, because writing is something we will need to fit into our already busy life schedule. So if your writing project is something you are ready to commit to, commit to it in your planner. Whether your overall timeline requires you to schedule time every day, once a week, or over the course of one weekend each month, schedule the time and commit to your schedule.
Are you ready for 2018 to be the year you finally tackle and finish your book-length writing project? Set yourself up for success! Get practical with your project and your time. You can’t rush greatness, but you can give it a realistic timeline and solid foundation.
Sound too easy? Be in touch! I'm here to help. I offer one-on-one coaching sessions and one-time intensive crafting and strategizing sessions.
Read more about my coaching and strategizing services here.