A reader of this blog, Tara Benwell, who just published her novel came up with an interesting motivator to get her novel to press. Until she accomplished this, she vowed she wouldn’t buy any new socks. Which got me thinking about my memoir. I have finished writing it but getting the query and the accompanying book proposal to a literary agent is my stumbling block. Maybe I’m spoiled because the first agent and the first publisher to express interest wanted to skip the preliminaries and look at the whole manuscript. Although both rejected my book, they had some positive feedback (which I acted on). Now, I’m heading into unknown literary agent territory and non-fiction books require a book proposal. I seem to be taking too much time to complete the book proposal. And therein may lie the problem which we writers have – finding the time to actually write. Although I’m not going to give up buying socks until the job is done, Tara got me going. What are the bugaboos that can get in the way of writers finishing writing that novel, memoir, synopsis or book proposal? Here are some I’ve come across and possible ways to tackle them.
1. Too busy doing what others want instead of writing your book. This can include too many family demands, and a bane of freelance writers and editors (guilty here) – bowing to client demands that go beyond the parameters of the job and your contract/agreement with the client.
2. Social media overload (guilty here but with e-mail and surprise, surprise, business, not personal, e-mail). Social media is necessary to do business these days but you need to pick and choose what best suits your career/business marketing strategy. And on the personal side – how much time spent tweeting or texting could you use writing?
3. Downright procrastination – no matter what you are doing instead of writing. (guilty here.) First you need to acknowledge it – say out loud “My name is —– and I am a procrastinator.” Then look at why. Are you scared if you finish that novel, memoir, etc. it won’t be good enough? Try putting the editor in your head to sleep when you are writing. Editing/rewriting can come later. Or do you get writer’s block when you stare at that blank computer screen? Try freefall writing on any subject, word, even a sound to loosen up. Or go for a walk, take a shower, or pull weeds in the garden (if spring ever arrives). All can get you thinking about ideas.
4. Keep a time log or diary of everything you do from when you get up to when you go to bed. Do this for a week and see what your time-wasters are.
5. This one is important enough to put as a separate point. Pick a time and day (evenings, nights, early mornings, weekends, weekdays) when you could actually sit down and write. Don’t pick early mornings if you are a night owl. Write it down – in your “to do” list, in your Blackberry – wherever you keep track of your day’s schedule. You will be deleting some of your time-wasters – at least for some of the time. Think of it as making the best choice for you. For example, you give up texting your friends for hours Monday and Wednesday evenings for writing a couple more chapters in your book. Which brings me to my final point.
5. Let your family, friends, clients, etc. know what you are doing. And tell them diplomatically. Remind the client about the work parameters. Tell your friends and family you aren’t ditching them, just re-organizing your time because you are writing a book but you will still spend time with them. Note: for family chores: can your partner pick up the kids from soccer practice sometimes? Or if you’re a single parent, can you arrange with other soccer parents to take turns? How about getting your children to do a few household chores (increase their allowance if necessary). You might want to consider hiring a cleaning person once or twice a month if your budget can afford it. Think creatively beyond that box you are stuck in.
As for me, I’m cutting back on business e-mail time and adding in “finish book proposal” – it is started – to more days each week.
But I won’t give up my coffee and ice cream.
Read Tara Benwell’s blog post at http://www.tarabenwell.com/Tara_Benwell/Blog/Entries/2011/3/25_And_then_there_were_socks.html.
Only Child Writes