Tag Archives: planning for writers

A New Year – 2019

I’ll be back to short stories next week, but a year ago I was blogging primarily for writers, talking about reasonable expectations, looking back, motivational boards, and planning. I was on a roll, getting things done.

On my About page, I’ve just posted an update describing my second half of 2018. Where writing is concerned, I got off track, stopped using my spreadsheet to plan each week, changed direction ineffectively, didn’t achieve my primary goal, didn’t get my new book out . . . lots of negatives. My accountability partner and I both moved this year and fell out of the habit of weekly planning together, but the last two weeks we’ve gotten back into it, using our spreadsheets to plan and track progress. I’m trying to have reasonable expectations for the 168 hours in each week, leaving time for sleep and other basic human stuff.

KeepPaddlingOn New Year’s Eve the last several years, I’ve made a habit of listing accomplishments for the year, making a new plan, and creating a new motivational board. I didn’t really want to do it this year, with all those negatives, but I did. My list of accomplishments did not include my writing goal for the year. However, I did make a respectable amount for writing, editing, and formatting work – considering the time put into those activities. I did keep this blog going, even when I was on the road for months. The switch to free fiction feels right, and there are more followers each week. I attended the RWA conference in Denver, which got me off track when I pitched Peg’s Story, but I attended many informative sessions and expanded my network. Seeing what I’d done right perked me up and got me planning for the new year.

Previous years, I just had one page of large print, listing things I wanted to accomplish during the year ahead – something to keep posted on my wall to stay focused. Last year, I got fancier. I had one main writing goal with three objectives that would help me reach it, then steps to reach each objective and actions to reach each objective. In fine print it fit on one page with narrow margins. It was overwhelming. This year, I’ve gone back to larger print on that one page. My goal is a dollar amount for the year. I have five potential avenues for achieving that goal, so I listed all five. Of course I came up with ideas for each area, and I did pop them into the list (so I wouldn’t lose them), but it’s not nearly as rigidly picayune as last year’s. To make it less intimidating, I color coded the print: first, second, third, and later priorities. Anything like this blog that’s done regularly is highlighted. The red items are the priority for the first weeks of January.

My motivating phrase for 2018 was “Keep Paddling”. Well, the board got packed up at the end of June and kept in a storage unit with most of my things – and my motivation, direction, and drive floundered. Having no set work space didn’t help. I just pulled it out from under the tarp where many of my belongings await a place in my new digs. I’ll keep it leaning against the wall wherever I’m working, until I have a spot to hang it up.

I’ll keep paddling.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

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Setting Priorities

My datebook’s a mess. I’ve been tracking what I do every day so I know where I’m spending time. It all goes onto a weekly chart that I’m sharing with a accountability writing buddy. What I’ve found is I slide off into unplanned activities and spend too much time on things that aren’t really that important.

So the tracking has been a good thing. While I’ve accomplished a lot the last three months (see last week’s Quarterly Report), the tracking records show that I could be using my time more effectively.

Enter the new experiment – or is it old? I sat down this morning and made a traditional four-box matrix for my writing activities. In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, this is what it looks like:

Urgent Not Urgent
Primary Importance  1  3
Secondary  2  4

Of course, you can louse this up by putting too many things in the urgent & important box, which leads to feeling overwhelmed to the point nothing gets done.

I’ve used this matrix for each of the next few months. For example, consider developing materials for the workshop I’m teaching in June (Self-Publishing for Educators, at Sierra Community College). This is of Primary Importance, because this is the first workshop I’m teaching in this area and I’ll be judged by it. However, the class is at the end of June. So in April, that will be in the upper right-hand box (3), Primary Importance but Not Urgent. In May, I’ll move it into the upper left-hand box, Primary and Urgent (1). In April, I may work on it, but only after April’s Primary/Urgent matters are addressed.

Secondary tasks may be urgent, like getting the reading done for critique groups, or secondary and non-urgent, like making sure I get some exercise in each day. The things in the secondary/urgent box (2) will be scheduled on a timely basis, but won’t replace taking care of items in (1). The items in secondary/non-urgent (4) will get some attention throughout the week, but they’ll be slipped in between the items in the other three boxes.

This clarification of priorities makes it easy to decide what needs to be done when. On days I have a lot of meetings, I’ll knock off some of the secondary items. When I’m home all day, I’ll focus on something of primary importance that needs to be done urgently.

I’ll still use my datebook as a tracking device, noting what I’m doing during the day, but the only thing getting penciled in ahead of time will be meetings. The weekly chart will still go to my accountability buddy. But hopefully it will reflect more time spent on the most important things.

Sheri2012RGB2inchwww.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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Affirmations for Writers

Our inner dialogue has enormous impact on how we see ourselves, which in turn is reflected in what we do with our lives. The power of repeating positive affirmations has been documented and if you search “affirmations” you’ll find all kinds of lists of positive affirmations recommended to improve your life.

I wrote here previously about having balance in our lives and how, several years ago, a group of close friends gathered regularly over several weeks to look at where we had been, discern what we wanted in all areas of our lives, and then plan actions to make those things happen. This included an assessment of our strengths, which we each put into a personal affirmation to be repeated daily.

By making the affirmation personal, it has more power than a generic statement that may or may not be a good fit. At least, that’s how it works for me. I know I’ve done serious introspection and discovered these positive things are true about me – I just need to be reminded of them on a regular basis.

There are several good habits I let slip from time to time and this is one of them. I do keep a copy of my affirmations posted on my motivational board, but I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing them daily. I have to thank Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers for inspiring this blog and a renewal of my affirmation habit.

Hope’s weekly newsletters always have good resources and inspirational messages – I strongly recommend subscribing if you are a serious writer. The one I just read, from 2/16/18, had quotes from Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks about not letting fear make our choices. After reading it, I added two new lines to my daily affirmation:

I make choices in hope.
I plan action with purpose.

These two lines are also personally true, but repeating them daily will help me keep that action moving forward and stifle fear and self-doubt.

Take some time to look at where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished (small things count), and what skills you’ve developed along the way. It helps to do this with people who know you, for they may see things in you that you’re overlooking. Then decide what you want in all aspects of life as you move forward – a year from now, five years, ten, twenty. Determine what steps you need to take to achieve those goals, look at what skills or attributes you have that will help you get there, and write your personal affirmation.

The time taken for introspection will be balanced out by more effective actions going forward. The few moments daily affirmation takes will focus your energies for the day.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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Sheri McGuinn

www.sherimcguinn.com

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