It’s that time of year again. With brand-new calendars and the joy of writing “2003” on our checks, we set writing goals for the year. Let’s see, “This year, I will actually finish the novel I started each of the last five years,” or maybe “This year I will send at least ten queries every single week.”
Then real life intrudes. The boss starts a new project, the kids get sick, and it’s January 31, 2003. We’re used to writing 2003, but that’s about all we’ve written. So much for resolutions.
Maybe this year it can be different. Instead of resolving the impossible, let’s resolve the reasonable, and PARTY our way to more money in 2003.
Why do I mean PARTY? Aren’t resolutions supposed to be work? Maybe not, if you set yourself up for success.
The first step to more money from your writing career is to make writing more portable. You want to write whenever and wherever you can squeeze a few moments out of your busy life. A notebook and pen can go almost anywhere, and here are some more products for the portable writer.
Flip-top clipboard. Grab and go! Fill this clipboard with reading materials, articles to proof, pens and paper. You get a sturdy writing surface and a way to keep your pen from rolling away. Grab it on the way out the door, and you can write or read in the car, at the soccer game, while waiting at preschool, or even waiting at the drive-through.
Handheld computer. Prices for these portable mini-computers have dropped significantly. Look for a model that uses an external keyboard (for all that writing you are going to do) and a connection cable (also called a hot sync cable) that fits your computer (serial or USB). Most electronics stores will let you try out different models. Test each model thoroughly to see if it fits your hand and you like the handwriting recognition. For more info, check out the Handheld Computer Buying Guide on Amazon.
Dictation service. No time to write? Do you have time to talk? Consider a dictation service with a virtual assistant. I’m testing some now that use the phone as the recording medium, and it’s cheaper than I thought it would be. I can talk much faster than I can write, and she transcribes even faster.
Voice recorder. A voice recorder is also helpful for those times you can’t write. You can get a digital recorder, a cell phone with a built-in recorder, a handheld computer with a voice recorder or if you’re desperate, call and leave yourself a voice mail message.
Use these portable writing solutions, and finish more projects this year.
Set up your writing business to run automatically (or at least remind you automatically) whenever possible.
Routines. Even though my creative side revolts against routines, they really do make my life easier. I have daily and weekly writing routines, monthly business routines, and holiday routines.
Email reminders. Set up reminder emails to return your library books, follow up on queries, and send invoices.
Checklists. Make checklists for sending queries, proofing articles, doing your taxes — anything you repeat regularly.
Auto-payments. Speed up bill paying with automatic payments
Auto-scheduling. Configure your virus-checker and your computer backup to run automatically.
Resolve to put your business on auto-pilot so you can spend more time on writing and less time on administrative tasks.
Find ways to reward yourself when you work on your resolutions.
The rewards can be as simple as a piece of candy, a bubble bath, or reading a chapter in your favorite novel. Play stimulates creativity, so stock your desk with plenty of toys. A jar of Play-Doh or a small Lego set are perfect for a short break or you are waiting on hold.
Make a huge list of your favorite big and small rewards, and pick one each day you put effort into your resolution.
Take a careful look at how much time you have for your resolution.
Use a time chart or time line. Estimate how much time you spend on different activities, and then use a stopwatch to confirm your estimates. Use this online stopwatch, or buy a portable one from Amazon.com. Identify the holes in your schedule you can spend on your writing business.
Most people think they know how they spend their time but are surprised when they actually record it.
If your schedule is completely jam-packed, it’s time to do some tough prioritizing. Eliminate some things, and reduce the time it takes for others. I quit watching the news and got an extra 75 hours to work on my writing over the past year and a half. Fill your freezer, and save time cooking. These three cookbooks give you step-by-step plans on how to cook from your freezer.
Frozen Assets Lite and Easy by Deborah Taylor-Hough.
Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month by Deborah Taylor-Hough
Once-a-Month Cooking by Mary Beth Lagerborg
Make your household hum. Spend less time on cleaning, and more time writing and querying. Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell has my favorite cleaning time-savers. His site, http://www.speedcleaning.com has speedy cleaning tools like the home care kit and a Sh-Mop.
Spend less time waiting in line at the post office. Buy a postal scale, and order stamps for a small service charge at 1-800-STAMP24. Use the online postage calculator, and drop your queries in the mailbox instead of standing in line at the post office.
Schedule investment time to revamp and improve your old time wasters. Invest an hour setting up a new system if it will save you 20 hours in frustration later.
Do you really want to (fill-in-the-blank with your resolution)? Will you say yes?
Design your resolutions so you will say “yes” when obstacles appear.
For example, last year I resolved to learn to play the piano (yes, I know, what was I thinking?). When I asked myself, “Do I really want to play the piano?” the answer was a definite yes.
But I forgot to ask myself, “Do I really want to practice?” The answer to that question was “no.” I always wanted to do something else more, and this resolution died a peaceful death last year.
The secret is to think through the whole resolution from the starting point, to the steps in between, to the success in at the end. As you consider the different steps, you’ll have plenty of “Do I really want to …?” questions. If your answer is “yes,” then you’ve found the resolution for you.
It also helps to be honest about your personality traits. Work with them not against them.
If you are a night owl, resolve to write in the evenings. Feel free to create piles instead of files. Just organize them. If you are a right-brain, creative type, make left-brain, organizing tasks as fun as possible with colored folders, stickers, and fun pens. If you procrastinate with your writing, find ways to work with this trait (consider M.J. Rose’s class, Procrastinate Your Way into Writing a Novel ).
Are you a messy who gets comfort from the stuff around you? Restrict yourself to a messy zone. Do you have every paper you ever wrote in college (and high school) because you might need them someday? Acknowledge your pack rat tendencies, and buy lots of filing cabinets. You don’t have to get rid of everything, just make sure you can find the important stuff when you need it.
Think back to last year’s resolutions, and try to remember what made you drop them. Program this year’s resolutions to your personality, and it will be easier to say “yes.”
Throw Your Own PARTY
Follow the PARTY steps, and on New Year’s 2004, throw a big party. You’ll be celebrating your first book, your byline in a national magazine, or even that full-time writing career!
Julie Hood is the author of The Organized Writer: 30 Days to More Time, More Money, and Less Frustration. Buy the Ebook for only $14.95 from the Writer’s Weekly store.