Friday, March 30, 2012

3 Tips for Getting Back on the Write Track

I've worked with authors for many years now, and I've found that if they get off track—if "life" happens and they move, land a new job, or have a baby—it’s often difficult for them to get back on track.

If you find yourself off track in your writing, here are a few tips to help get you back on.

#1  Read a chapter in a similar book.

Sounds silly, I know, but think about it. How many times have you read a book set in, say, Paris and began to feel rather Parisian? Your mind can sort of take on the environment, if you will, of whatever you’re reading.

So if you’re supposed to be writing a textbook, read a chapter or two of a textbook similar to the one you’re writing. Read it like you mean it, don’t just skim over it because you know the content. Read it like you’re a student.

When you begin to feel a connection to the writing, when you become engaged in that environment, put the book down. Go to your computer, and start writing something in the subject area of your book. Doesn’t make any different whether you ever use what you write, just write.
That reading–writing connection should help stimulate your writing appetite again.

#2  Reorganize your research and other project documents.

If you’ve put aside your writing project for a while, chances are good that you’ve got a pile of papers and books somewhere in your office, den, bedroom, or, I dunno, bathtub.

Pull that pile out to the middle of the floor or a large table, and start sorting through it. Put like documents with like, and then plunk them into manila folders.

Sometimes you can’t kick start a project until it’s well- and recently organized.

Give it a shot. Couldn’t hurt, might help.

#3  Work on ancillaries for chapters you’ve already written.

If you had written a few chapters before you fell off the tracks, pull them out and work on one of the ancillaries. PowerPoint (PPT) can be particularly helpful here.

Many authors enjoy the more visual aspects of putting together PPTs for their chapters. Working on a chapter’s accompanying PPT can engage you in the project without having to write much.

After you develop a few PPTs you’ll find it much easier to get back into the flow of writing chapter content.

No matter whether you’re on track or have been bumped a few miles off track, just keep telling yourself that, like the little blue train that chugged up that great big hill, you can do it!

Friday, March 16, 2012

5 Time Management Tips for Authors

Too busy to write? Your schedule so packed that there just isn't enough time?

I hear you. When you work full-time and write part-time, as so many textbook authors do, finding time to write can be difficult. I find, though, that it's not so much the lack of time as it is the misuse of existing time.

I mean, if there's always room for Jello, there's always time for writing.

Here are a few ideas to help you find that missing time to do what you love doing.
  1. 60-Minute No Social Session. Give yourself a period of 1 hour when you're not checking Facebook, Twitter, Google+, e-mails, texts, or any other form of electronically enhanced social contact and spend it at the computer, writing.
  2. Tap on the Timer. When you decide you're going to spend the next hour writing, set a timer. Use the one on your stove or microwave, if you're near the kitchen, or your phone, computer, or even — go figure — an actual alarm clock. Set it for 60 minutes, and don't stop working until the buzzer goes off.
  3. "Sign" Into My Writing Time. Announce to your friends and family that if you don't answer your phone or respond to texts right away, it's because you're having a My Writing Time session. Tell your children, spouse, or anyone else in earshot that, hey, don't bug me, I'm having My Writing Time for the next hour. Then put up a sign that says My Writing Time: Go Away!
  4. DVR That 'Downton Abbey.' If you simply cannot miss the latest episode of "Downton Abbey," "Family Guy," or "Dancing with the Stars," tape it. Record it on your DVR or TiVo. If you don't have one, make recording arrangements with a friend who does.
  5. Win a Writing Prize. Make an agreement with your spouse, partner, children, or someone really important to you that if you actually do writing work for an hour at least five days a week, you'll go somewhere or do something nice as a "prize." Maybe you'll order takeout and eat it in front of the television. Maybe you'll go to a restaurant for dinner. Maybe you'll take a day off from cooking. It's like being on a diet. You can't do it 24/7/365, you've got to take some time off once in awhile.
The real key, though, is to make writing an actual, living priority. If you're looking for ways to stay on track, if you're reading this blog, even, to find the right tip for you to keep writing, it's really because you haven't made writing a priority.
When you can do that, when you make writing a true priority, you won't need any of these tips and tricks. You'll just need a computer and a place to write, and that's a lovely place to be.

Happy writing!