Between Books: Writing, On Schedule

By reader request, (thanks, Rachael Nevins!), I’m going to write a little more about my schedule. Sort-of surprisingly, and sort-of unsurprisingly, my post about my schedule has been one of the most popular I’ve written. Freelancers are always worrying about and adjusting schedules (if they’re smart). And yet we don’t talk about them that much, because they seem pedestrian and boring to outsiders. Not so to freelancers and aspiring freelancers!

Rachael specifically asked me about what goes on during the chunks of time I have scheduled for writing. In the other hour-long blocks, the goal seems obvious: During email time, I email, until all of the emailing is over or the time is up. “Writing” is a different kind of enterprise that comes with its own parameters. Should we write to a certain word count? Page number?

What I do is pretty simple: During the hour I allot for blogging, I write one post here and one post on SexyFeminist.com, unless something unusual is afoot (like something specific we need to post or promote). The end. One post per day on each is my goal; I feel lucky if I make it. Usually I can do this in an hour, with about a half-hour for each. Something I’ve had to learn about blogging is that blogs are for short, quick bursts of writing. Occasionally you can write a longer, more in-depth reported piece or essay for your own satisfaction. But you know what gets more hits than that? A 50-word post in which you ask readers to weigh in on which of two photos they like better, or a 100-word post with video featuring famous people. So I’m training myself to think and write in bitsier pieces for blogging. Blogging is about consistency and frequency, not epic length.

My hour of working on book projects varies wildly. Right now, that hour is dedicated to reading over final page proofs of Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted. (Yay!) After I send those back by tomorrow’s deadline, I’ll switch into research mode to investigate new projects and possibly start proposals. When I was writing my books, this hour would be pure writing. I have found I can handle doing almost anything for an hour; longer makes me fidgety. So I’ll make myself sit there and write for an hour straight, presuming there is an hour’s worth of writing to do, and then give myself permission to stop. No matter the word count or page count I’ve accumulated. Other writers work differently, focusing on word or page count for the day, which could mean they’re done in an hour or three or ten. That seems like a good strategy for someone who might find him or herself allowing for distraction despite physically sitting at a desk. That is, someone who might accidentally spend the whole writing hour surfing the web for no good reason. I happen to be a person who does what it says in her schedule. The key to getting me to do things is to put them there. Basically, a huge part of freelance writing is figuring out your own strengths and weaknesses, and then figuring out how best to deal with you. In this way you are literally your own boss. You have to “manage” you like a boss would.

The hour later in the day that I spend writing current assignments is the same: I write for that hour. What makes this hour different is that it also often involves researching, setting up interviews, transcribing interviews, and outlining. Once I have an outline, all I have to do is get myself through each step of it. It’s (almost) as good as done once I’ve figured out what it’s going to look like. It’s getting to the outline part that’s a chore.

 

 

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