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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

The Write Time
by Jane Seaman

As a writer, not only are you a creative producer--unless you're very lucky, you are also your own publicity consultant, secretary, accountant, and all around administrator. In fact, there are so many talents and skills you need to possess it's a wonder you get time to write at all!

Administration is a time consuming, but necessary part of being a writer. And if you aren't thrilled by keeping up to date with record keeping and paperwork, you'll need plenty of self discipline to get it done. Let's be honest--what would you rather do--complete your tax return or finish work on the short story you just know will win that competition? No contest, really. So how do you free up extra writing time by being more efficient with your paperwork? Here are 10 ideas that could make all the difference.

1. Choosing the right time
This can be the key to successful time management. Everyone has times when they are at their most creative. For some people, it's first thing in the morning. Others tend to be night owls, and their imagination really flourishes when the sun goes down.

 Notice when your writing flows and when it feels like more of a chore. Choose your least creative time to do your administration. Then you won't be tempted to leave it to write the next chapter of your novel, or feel frustrated because you're not being creative.

2. Prioritize
What has to be done? And does it really have to be done now? There really is a difference between urgent and important. If you're within 24 hours of a competition or copy deadline, that piece of work outstanding is urgent. Completing your tax return to ensure it reaches the IRS before their deadline is also urgent if you're already a week late! Getting out the invoice to bill a publisher for that article they have just accepted is important--but not urgent. You won't get paid any quicker.

3. Don't put it off!
Having established what needs to be done urgently, do it now!

4. Planning makes perfect
To ensure you don't find yourself constantly having to deal with lots of urgent administration duties at one time, adopt a strategy of forward planning. Draw up a 'to do' list every week and check off each task when it's done. (It works for me!) And make sure that list doesn't end up buried on your desk among last week's 'still not done' list. Put it up on the wall above your desk as a constant reminder. (If necessary, on a big sheet of paper!)

5. Sort that mail.
Don't open junk mail. It's a waste of your time and energy and you might get tempted to spend money on something you really don't need. File it in the bin. If possible, with any other mail, deal with it the day it arrives. Otherwise, file it. Put it in a folder marked 'To Do This Week'. Don't leave it lying around. Chances are it will end up buried under the Radio Times or mixed in with other paperwork so it mysteriously disappears.

6. File that pile!
Yes, having an efficient filing system really does matter, particularly if, like me, you tend to keep losing bits of paper with ideas on them. This will help your writing too. You know you jotted down the opening of a novel...somewhere. You've been commissioned to write a local history feature and that piece of research you did on churches would be ideal...if only you could find it.

If you love scraps of paper, rather than leave them scattered around the house, put them all in a box file. Or keep them organized in a series of clear plastic wallets, properly labeled. For instance, one labeled 'ideas for novel', another 'feature on bell ringing', etc. I'm sure you get the idea. Or keep a hardcover notebook to write your ideas in. For the more technologically minded, a computer file simply called 'Ideas' can save on paper and at least you know exactly where to find it.

7. E-mail getting you down?
E-mail is a wonderful invention for writers--you can save on postage, envelopes and endless trips to the post office and instead, e-mail your submission to potential publishers (checking first, of course, that your publisher will accept e-mail submissions, as not everyone does).

 Conversely, people can e-mail you, too. Which is great, of course. Communication is what  makes things happen. However, there is nothing worse than opening your inbox to be confronted by 129 new e-mails. You can easily spend an evening's writing time trawling through to find the ones you want, besides being a highly inefficient use of the technology. So set up folders. File your e-mails in appropriate categories, by subject or publisher, whichever suits you best. Or better still, set up folders for 'deal with today' and 'deal with later.' Delete non-essential messages before reading them (like junk mail). Try to keep your inbox as empty as possible. Don't get side-tracked. (I know that's easier said than done because, being a writer, you just love procrastination....)

8. Productive record keeping
Of course, you do keep scrupulous records of the fate of your submissions, don't you? For example, title of manuscript, where sent, date and result. What do you have most success with? Short stories, poems, articles?

To get the best use of your writing time it's vital to know what kind of work brings you the most positive response. It's important to regularly review and evaluate your output and productivity. You can be so busy sending stuff out that you don't stop to think about this. If you don't keep proper records how will you know how productive you are? Apart from anything else, how can you chase that editor if you can't remember when exactly you sent your idea or story?

9. De-clutter
Bookshelves heaving? Keep tripping over your precariously balanced collection of writing manuals? Is that multi-storey pile of magazines rapidly rivaling the Eiffel Tower? Then it's time to de-clutter. (Keen advocates of feng shui will support me on this.)

 Decide which books you definitely couldn't bear to part with. Then honestly consider which books you will never read, that are merely gathering dust. Pack them into boxes or bags and take them to your nearest charity shop. Oxfam have special charity book shops, which are an excellent resource for cost conscious writers.

They'll be delighted to receive your gifts of unwanted books. Then attack your magazines and journals. Again, what you don't want, take to a charity shop. The rest, organize. Those you are likely to access for research or information, file in magazine racks which you can get from most stationers. They only cost a few dollars each and are worth the investment. You can even color co-ordinate by subject and they can then live on your considerably tidier bookshelf...and make good bookends.

The magazines you don't want to give away, in case they might be handy in years to come, put in box files and label them. Then store on the top shelf.

Never throw out unwanted books and magazines...they can still bring pleasure to other avid readers. And as a writer yourself, how would you like your words consigned to the bin?

10. Now get writing!
You've got the filing, accounts and administration done in record time. So now you have no excuse whatsoever to get down to some creative writing! And do I practice what I preach? Hmmmm.....

Jane Seaman was born in 1962 and had her first short story published at age 14. She enjoys writing articles, fiction and, sometimes, poetry. In addition, Jane also teaches in a college.









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