I recently attended a workshop on being more productive with your writing, and the presenter spent a great deal of time on the idea of keeping a writing tracker. While I do keep a submission spreadsheet so I know what stories are where and all the places I’ve submitted, I don’t really keep a writing log. I have a loose to-do list that isn’t terribly well-prioritized, making it daunting and inefficient. I’m inspired enough by this workshop to change how I work.
The main suggestion the presenter gave that was simple yet eye-opening was to actually give yourself deadlines, even if they’re self-imposed, and spend time working on one to three projects at a time, all of which you devote varying lengths of time based on how soon they’re due. Sounds logical enough, and yet I’ve been writing with serious intent to publish for over fifteen years and this never occurred to me.
Why? Because deadlines so seldom exist in my writing life.
When you’re a fiction writer, if you’re not under contract to do a series or a specific book, you write when, how, and because you want to, for the most part. You work when you’re inspired, basically, though a good, prolific, and dedicated fiction writer will usually write every day or at least every week (I make it somewhere in between, usually). Unless you’re doing National Novel Writing Month or a degree program with a creative thesis (as I am now, which is why I took this workshop to begin with), there is no deadline swinging its blade-edged pendulum ever closer to vulnerable little you, hurrying you onward. Don’t get me wrong, I’m relatively prolific with my short prose, but I’m a slow noveler1. Since I’m doing an MFA that requires a set number of pages every month, however, I need to become a fast noveler and definitely a write-every-day-no-matter-what noveler.
In the next few days, as I construct my version of a better writing tracker, I’ll share my end results here, so that if you’re a procrastinate-y, reluctant composer of prose and verse, you may find something useful here.
1 Yes, I know “noveler” and “noveling” et al are not real words. Blame Chris Baty’s entertaining book No Plot, No Problem on that, for he uses the adorable term so much I have come to embrace it.