We pick up from last week with our year-end attempt to help GITS readers set and achieve their writing goals for 2015. To revisit the process of self-reflection from last week, here are the links:
Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 1] — Looking Back
Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 2] — Assessing Where You Are
Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 3] — Where Do You Want To Go As A Writer
Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 4] — Practical Matters
Writing Goals: 2015 [Part 5] — Going Public
This week we shift the focus to a more pragmatic part of the discussion, considering a variety of tips about how to manage time and projects more efficiently. But before we dig into that, let me roll out one of my oft-repeated mantras:
“There is no right way to write.”
Some of you will have no need for any of this series of posts. Indeed some of you may have discovered that any sort of intentionality inhibits your creativity and ultimately writing output.
That said, I think it’s probably safe to say most writers benefit from setting and working toward specific writing goals. Moreover some of you may think being intentional and setting goals will hurt your writing when in fact you may discover quite the opposite is true.
Bottom line: We’re all just trying to wrangle magic. And specific to spec scripts, as noted in one of the early posts in this series, if you don’t actually write the script, you have no chance of selling it or use it to get representation. All I’m trying to do is provide some ideas to help you get done that most basic goal: Write a spec script. To that end, hopefully you will find something of value in this series of posts.
Okay, having dispensed with that caveat, we move on.
When I was writing screenplays full-time for a living, I had a routine: Mornings were for exercise and taking care of personal business. Afternoons were for writing. Nights and weekends were for research and brainstorming other projects [for more on stacking projects, go here]. In fact for the afternoon writing sessions, I had this little numeric code: 1 to 5, 5 to 7. That is I wrote from 1PM to 5PM every week day and expected to produce 5 to 7 pages each writing session. If I knocked out 7 pages by 3 or 3:30, I had the option of knocking off early, or continuing to plow ahead if I had built up a good head of steam.
That was a simple system and didn’t require much in the way of oversight other than a commitment to work every day.
Now that I have so many different types of writing [creative writing, blogging, lectures, script feedback], I have had to revise my work habits and the way I handle schedules. The key is the calendar. In fact, were I not so fastidious about using a calendar, there is no way I could manage all the writing I do.
Because one of my primary email accounts is Gmail, I use Google Calendar. For planning purposes, I break things up this way:
I plug in a projection of how I see the year laying out. Obviously that is going to flex along the way, but I find it’s helpful to lay out markers for gigs and writing goals throughout the upcoming year.
I divide things up quarterly to help break down goals into more manageable chunks and to stack projects more effectively.
At the end of each month, I create a lay-out of what I project will need to happen over the next 30 days to manage everything.
Same thing with the weekly schedule where I get very specific with daily items that need to be handled.
Finally a daily calendar breakdown.
Three particular things about schedule:
* Open items on my calendar that need to be taken care of are GREEN. When I finish that task, I change it to BLUE. This not only helps me have a visual reference as to what I need to do, it also provides a tiny, but satisfying experience of knocking things off the list.
* Prioritizing: This has made a huge difference for me. I have always been good about making lists, but in the past I have tended to have a rather laissez faire approach to how I would work my way through the things I had to do. Because nowadays I have so many different things going on, I prioritize the items on my list, and go through them in the order of their importance.
* Do the hardest thing first: My Air Force colonel father drilled this into the core of my being, so when I prioritize writing tasks, I put the tougher ones at the head of the list.
This may sound like a hugely schematic way to write, but I look at it like an extension of my own creative writing process in that my schedule is like a story outline: It’s how I provide shape to the ‘narrative’ of my daily, weekly, monthly, and so on ‘story.’
Indeed if you are into the sequence approach to screenwriting, I look at monthly and weekly writing goal breakdowns as ‘sequences,’ parts of the larger whole.
But that’s just me. I’m really curious how you approach scheduling your writing. And especially if you have any tools or software resources you use to manage your writing projects.
So please join me in Comments to discuss your own way of dealing with schedule as it relates to your writing.
Tomorrow I thought we could have a go at time management.
To kick off that part of our collective thought process, here are five pieces of advice from Jane Friedman about finding time to write.