February was an insane month for me. I presented and sold books at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention. I launched a new book – a process that included a party, a public reading event, a plethora of social media posts, a month of book launch dedicated blog entries, dozens of emails, an interview with the local newspaper and lots of thought, heart and energy. Both my son and husband had birthdays and the college baseball season started up again which impacts my household in a big way. I submitted an application to teach an online writing class this summer and visited Arcadia to lead the Mississippi Valley Gifted and Talented Network Young Author Day. Oh yeah, and I worked two part time jobs and helped keep two human children dressed appropriately, fed, bathed and otherwise alive.
Don’t get me wrong… it was a fun busy.
A bored writer is a broke writer, but needless to say, I was silently looking forward to March, a decidedly slower month for me… at least according to my calendar.
Now that I am here, solidly in the month of March, my head is still swiveling. Instead of bouncing from task to task, my gaze is casting about for the next thing to work on. What needs and deserves my attention? This is one thing I don’t think entrepreneurs talk about enough.
When you are your own boss, how do you decide what to work on?
My usual mode of operation dictates that whatever project has the next deadline gets the #1 spot on my radar of attention. In February that radar was FULL. But now? Not so much.
To prevent myself from falling into patterns of inefficiency and a lack of productivity, I invent deadlines. Deciding on a MUST-BE-DONE deadline motivates me to push forward. As a writer I am very used to deadlines and use my experience with that mindset to propel me to success.
Here’s an example. I’ve been meaning to re-do my teaching materials for the Orphan Train Riders series since I republished the collection in a single volume (rather than three independent stories). When I found my self with a down week in January, I decided having these materials ready to go for WSRA (the aforementioned state reading conference) would be a good idea. So, I invented a deadline. It was only a ten-hour project… but for some reason, it hadn’t ever made its way into a prime spot on my radar. Had I not invented the self-imposed (and highly beneficial) deadline it would probably still be unfinished, and I’d have one less product floating out there in my passive income stream.
This month I have decided to submit to the call for entries in both the Driftless Writing Center 10 year celebration anthology, and the next issue of the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild’s Literary Journal, Barstow and Grand. Rewriting and polishing pieces of the past, including taking them to my critique group, doing additional drafts and finally turning them in will be the perfect bite sized projects to keep me busy until more work comes around.
If you are wondering what you could add to your open radar, here are a few invented deadlines you could create for yourself.
Compose a query letter for a work in progress. Even if the manuscript isn’t close (or even remotely close) to being done, it is a necessary evil that must be completed at some time. Having a “shitty first draft” of the query letter to come back to down the road will be super helpful. It can also be helpful to force yourself to think of your story from the mile-high view of the query letter.
Revise a piece from the past. And then, maybe r(e)submit it!
Write a blog post
Join a class or writing program. I know I’m biased, because I created it, but Story Seedlings is an awesome way to jump start a story project.
Whatever you choose to work on, I wish you the best!
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