Margaret Sallee, NJAWHE Co-Editor
July 17, 2017
I have the greatest success with meeting my writing goals when I impose a sense of structure on myself, both through setting goals and creating the conditions to ensure I get my writing done. Sometimes finding that structure is difficult in the expansive freedom of summer. I share what I do in case any of it is helpful to you:
· Creating long-term goals: At the beginning of the summer, I sat down and mapped out what I wanted to accomplish over the next three months. I identified my major projects and created a grid to indicate what I would accomplish each month. I frequently refer back to this grid as I engage in my daily goal setting, so that I can make sure that I working toward my goals. As I write this, it occurs to me that I could (and probably should) further divide up my writing projects by tasks for each week. I’ll put that on my list of things to do today.
· Identifying short-term goals: As I suggested above, I am also big on daily goal setting. It helps me stay focused and working on tasks that will keep my work moving forward. I typically create my daily goals every night before I go to sleep, so that I am ready to go for the next day.
· Outlining: It may come as no surprise, given that I am one who loves structure, that I also create outlines for any manuscript I write. For smaller projects (such as this one), the outline is simply in my head. But for most major projects, I spend several hours creating an outline before I start writing. I find that the more detailed the outline, the greater ease I have with getting my ideas on paper. Plus, just as our ideas are clarified through the act of writing, so too do I find that they are clarified through the act of outlining. I find the time investment up front well worth it to the overall project.
· Carving out time to write: As much as I love writing, sometimes I just don’t want to do it and will find any other task so much more pressing (checking social media, anyone?). In these instances, I find the Pomodoro Technique to be effective. The Pomodoro Technique asks the writer to focus in 25 minute blocks, take a 5-minute break, then resume the same pattern for another hour and a half before taking a longer break. When I don’t want to write, I find that this method helps me get in the swing of things—I can certainly write for 25 minutes, I tell myself. If you’re having trouble with motivation and concentration, I’d highly recommend it.
There are so many other tips that I find critical to my writing (spending time editing my work, for example), but when I think about what contributes most to my writing success, I always come back to the importance of structure. Feel free to share your own experiences with imposing various kinds of structure on your writing—whether you sing its praises or find it more constraining.
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