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Birol
03-21-2007, 01:31 AM
As part of that whole grad school thing, I've found myself editing a handbook for one of the university's programs. I don't really read for comprehension when I'm copyediting, but a worksheet in this handbook -- directed at students' doing independent study -- caught my eye.

It's encouraging the students to look very critically at how they write. Can they really multi-task or do they actually perform better when they're focused on just one project with no distractions? How do they respond to deadlines -- do they wait until the last minute and write under pressure or do they tend to plan ahead? How well are these strategies really working for the students? Do they find themselves stressed, not able to include all the thoughts they intended, do they have time to reread and edit their work, etc.?

I'd like to ask everyone here to do the same. Look really hard at what your strategies are and how they are really working for you. Are the number of assignments and acceptance you are receiving progressing as you'd like? Are you where you expected or wanted to be at this point in your writing-life? What are your current habits? How could the be changed or improved upon to better be able to reach your goals?

Be brutal. Be honest with yourself (and with us).

Cath
03-21-2007, 01:37 AM
Well, I've always been a deadline girl - as evidenced, I think, by the fact that my time limited flash fiction stuff is much stronger than the non-time limited writing I do off the forum. It forces me to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.

Which doesn't necessarily mean that I do everything at the last minute - just that I like to work to a clear end point.

PeeDee
03-21-2007, 01:50 AM
Can you really multi-task or do you actually perform better when you're focused on just one project with no distractions?

When I was younger, I multi-tasked extremely well. I'd have three or four short stories running all at once and would finish them in lovely staggering order. It meant I would not finish anything for a week, and then in the space of a day or so, I'd finish all four stories.

These days...I don't know. I can multi-task in the sense that I can keep all the thoughts and tones and moods (seperate as they may be) in my head for a lot of different projects all at once. My ghost story conjures up different things than my sci-fi novel, for example.

I guess I still do multi-task, in the sense that I usually have several deadlines going and I'm working slowly but surely toward all of them. Usually, though, I work my way through one thing and then move onto the next, unless I have some major breakthrough that enables me to skip around projects and be more productive. That's getting more and more rare though.

How do you respond to deadlines -- do you wait until the last minute and write under pressure or do you tend to plan ahead?

It depends on the size of the deadline. For short stories and comic scripts, I tend to wait until close to the last minute, and then turn out what's needed in very short order.

Again, up until recently I would just produce no matter what deadlines were where, but for the past couple of months I've been hideously unfocused and under-productive, something that's turning into a real problem.

How well are these strategies really working for the you?

They aren't. They are the strategies of yesteryear that I'm finding incompatible with my working life today. But since this is a recent discover, I'm not sure how to change it.

Do you find yourself stressed, not able to include all the thoughts you intended, do you have time to reread and edit their work, etc.?

I generally don't get stressed unless it's a pretty long project and I'm really rubbing up against the deadline. I had a project where it was the day before deadline and I still had 30,000 words to go. I didn't stress, but I had a definite grim sense of "Time to shut up and put up," and mostly I did. I got the 30,000 words out and was only a half day over my deadline.

I always re-read, but the amount of actual editing I do varies wildly depending on who it's for and what they do. I write pretty sturdy first drafts.

Are the number of assignments and acceptance you are receiving progressing as you'd like?

They're getting there, yeah. I realized recently that most everything I've written in the past few months has a home, or is a novel (which is another animal entirely.) I'm making contacts, I'm friends with a lot of authors of varying levels of success (which I separate from contacts because they're friends, not just entries in a database). I know editors. I'm figuring out how things work.

Are you where you expected or wanted to be at this point in your writing-life?

Not even close, something that bothers me every day. When I was younger, I had this smart-alecky idea, like teenagers do, that I would vow to be living off my writing by the time I was twenty, and screw anything that got in the way. Suffice to say, I was not and am not.

What are your current habits?

For an average short story, it's get halfway through the story and then stop to reshuffle everything into place for the ending and then finish it. Although as stated above, my work ethic and work theories seem to no longer be compatible with ME, and thus everything's a mess. Mostly, nothing gets done. Except AW posts, a sure sign when I'm not being busy.

How could they be changed or improved upon to better be able to reach your goals?

I never used very strong discipline for writing, because I never needed to. I'm in the metaphorical position of someone who was thin all his life and never exercised who suddenly has to exercise and doesn't have the mental routines built up to manage it. I wrote because it was fun. End of that.

What could be changed would be figuring out what gets me working and how I can regularly apply it. And to be perfectly honest, I should probably have left AW quite some time ago. I'm a very addictive person (that is to say I get addicted easy, not I'm addictive to be around...good lord). Especially when I'm unfocused on writing, I can gravitate into AW and spend a whole day posting and staring grimly at stories that I don't write. If I rouse myself, I might stumble off and take a nap.

Be brutal. Be honest with yourself (and with us).

I was. Actually, this thread was less fun to answer than I thought. I should have stuck with stretchy-pants related jokes.

Mr. Fix
03-21-2007, 01:54 AM
(Crying)

"Crying, Hmmm, Interesting..."

I hate my current situation...
(work, no money, two dogs, little time, lack of focus, a project that I've spent two years on and can't find anyone to take the time to read it and give an honest feedback on it...)

I really do like to write. But I just keep falling into the same self induced trap - lack of focus. When I actually sit down and write, the hours peel away like seconds, and I find I've had no sleep and then I have to go back to my real (underpaid) job so that I can keep a roof over my head and feed my dogs and me. It's difficult to just concentrate on the writing project and the string of thought with other obligations creeping in. My present literary work (Habitat) took maybe three years to get it in its present final form. In actual time I probably spent about three months of eight hour days on it. That doesn't make me feel good about my focus. How could I possibly get more focused? Not having to spend eight hours a day serving others (9-5 job) so that they (my employer) may profit! I refer to my first project as "my lottery ticket," because when I am able to make a living off my writing, that's all I'll do (and because I understand the odds at getting it published.) When its published hopefully my focus will be there peeling away the time so that I can knock out the several other projects that are waiting in the wings.

Now, can you name the movie I quoted in my title?

Rich
03-21-2007, 01:58 AM
You put much thought into this, PeeDee. I'm impressed--for whatever that's worth coming from my miserably lazy writing habits.

PeeDee
03-21-2007, 02:00 AM
It's been on my mind. It seemed a good time.

SpookyWriter
03-21-2007, 02:03 AM
It's encouraging the students to look very critically at how they write. Can they really multi-task or do they actually perform better when they're focused on just one project with no distractions?Is the study of our own writing habits close enough to academia that we can honestly say whether we are doing a good job or not? I can't write on a schedule because the creativity bug might not come out when the clock is ticking.

I was working on a short story last night until someone next to me (at the bar) interrupted my writing. I got a couple paragraphs done and will probably wait until the mood hits me again to pick up the story.

So my multi-tasking is work, home, eat, drink, write, bed and then repeat this process the next day.

I guess the truth is that my writing is haphazard at best. But I'm getting stories done. It's just a slow process without a plan.

Birol
03-21-2007, 02:17 AM
Mr. Fix: The movie is The Princess Bride.

Spooky, yes, I think we can. As you've described, you're more of a hobbyist and that's a perfectly respectable choice, but the question becomes, do you always want to be a hobbyist. If the answer is yes, no worries. If the answer is no, then what can you do differently to change that?

As demonstrated in the What Do You Write (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58430) thread, most of us do not specialize in just one type of writing and certainly not in fiction. That type of writing, although it is a dear love of many, does not often put food on the table or pay the electricity bill.

Occasionally, those who are attempting to reach the next level of writerly growth -- whatever that next level is for them -- need to step back and reassess their personal habits and traits. This is true of many activities, not just writing. For example, we all may love AW, but to be honest, it is a time suck for many. How then can it be better managed so that one can maintain involvement in a community loved by many without sacrificing one's own goals and aspirations?

Shady Lane
03-21-2007, 03:04 AM
I'm without a doubt a multitasker. I write everything in front of the TV or during a class. No question. I can't just sit down and write.

Puma
03-21-2007, 03:15 AM
I'm a savor the silence writer and woe be he who invades my writing time and space. I can and do multi-task on things that have little importance or are mechanical - but writing a creative story, no way. I want all my senses unencumbered to capture it all. Puma

PS and I do plan ahead and allow as much time as it takes.

Siddow
03-21-2007, 03:43 AM
When I'm writing a novel, I have to work on it every day or I lose it. Lose the story, lose the voice, lose everything. Once I've finished with the novel, I write short stories for a while, poke the novel with a stick, visit forums...

My biggest failure as a writer is the difficulty I have revising a novel. I blame my noisy household for that ('cause it's certainly not my fault!), but I'm trying to not be too hard on myself. I fully expected to spend five years working toward a publishable novel, and so far, only two years have passed. I've got four first drafts, nothing fully revised.

Am I happy with my acceptances? Well, yeah. I graduated from form letters to personal rejections to acceptances pretty quickly, and have already earned more this year than I did all of last year, so what's to complain about?

I think I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. I'd love to be farther along, but I'm ahead of where I thought I would be. There's something to be said for creating low goals.

Jamesaritchie
03-21-2007, 04:11 AM
I can't write on a schedule because the creativity bug might not come out when the clock is ticking.



.

If you stick to the schedule long enough, I guarantee the writing bug will start coming out every time you sit down to write.

Jamesaritchie
03-21-2007, 04:12 AM
I'm without a doubt a multitasker. I write everything in front of the TV or during a class. No question. I can't just sit down and write.

But do you write at a good pace, while actually remembering all the details of the TV show, or all the details of the class.

Jamesaritchie
03-21-2007, 04:28 AM
Can you really multi-task or do you actually perform better when you're focused on just one project with no distractions?

Yes, I really can multi-task. It's a necessity of my professional writing life, and I rather enjoy it.

How do you respond to deadlines -- do you wait until the last minute and write under pressure or do you tend to plan ahead?

I generally wait until the last minute. I write better this way, and can complete more projects. But the last minute is whatever point I know I can finish the story on time.

How well are these strategies really working for the you?

Well enough to let be be a pro writer. But if I didn't enjoy these strategies, if they produced undue stress, I'd change them.

Do you find yourself stressed, not able to include all the thoughts you intended, do you have time to reread and edit their work, etc.?

No stress. And I get as much revising and editing as I need or want.

Are the number of assignments and acceptance you are receiving progressing as you'd like?

At the moment, no, not even close. But my health is the problem, not my writing strategy.

Are you where you expected or wanted to be at this point in your writing-life?

Of course not. I never will be. As they say, "If a man is any good, it takes a lot to satisfy him."

How could they be changed or improved upon to better be able to reach your goals?

If I knew the answer to this, I'd make the changes.


Be brutal. Be honest with yourself (and with us).

I was.

Shady Lane
03-21-2007, 04:39 AM
But do you write at a good pace, while actually remembering all the details of the TV show, or all the details of the class.

I do! It's insane. I don't know how I do it. Years of practice completing homework that way, I assume. ;)

Namatu
03-21-2007, 06:37 AM
Can you really multi-task or do you actually perform better when you're focused on just one project with no distractions?

I can, but only in the early stages. The more I develop one project, the more I need to focus just on it.

How do you respond to deadlines -- do you wait until the last minute and write under pressure or do you tend to plan ahead?

Both. I delay if I know I can get it done in the short timeframe I have left. Otherwise, I'll diligently work at it for as long as necessary.

How well are these strategies really working for the you?

Well, I'm getting a lot of freelance work done lately, but nothing of my own. The deadlines are working, just for the wrong work. Evasive maneuvers seem to be a speciality I'm developing. No idea why. I don't fear the blank page, and I love the feeling creating worlds on paper gives me. I just don't do it enough. When I do set myself deadlines for my writing, progress is made. Consistent progress requires persistent discipline and diligence, which is too often lacking.

Do you find yourself stressed, not able to include all the thoughts you intended, do you have time to reread and edit their work, etc.?

Depends on the market. I find it difficult to not edit.

Are the number of assignments and acceptance you are receiving progressing as you'd like?

I'm not seeking assignments at the moment, just trying to finish things. My motto for this year is: one step at a time!

Are you where you expected or wanted to be at this point in your writing-life?

I'd like to have finished a solo novel by now, but take full responsibility for that not happening. I've completed two co-authored works; neither are yet published. They're good for developing my skill and teaching me more about how I write longer works, how I best work, and how to make a better, marketable product in cooperation with my imagination.

How could they be changed or improved upon to better be able to reach your goals?

Truly, I need to be more disciplined, sit myself in the chair, and write - regularly - until it's done. My solo project has turned out to be much more challenging than I set out for it to be. It's a huge learning process, exhilerating, and the end result will be far beyond any expectations I ever had for the story. Regardless of whether it ever sells, I'm excited about it and will be happy to have successfully birthed it. This year! I need to make my writing more of a priority because it falls closer to the bottom of the pile far too often.

Azure Skye
03-21-2007, 06:28 PM
Are the number of assignments and acceptance you are receiving progressing as you'd like?

I'm just now getting ready to submit so I can't really answer this yet. I've been thinking about it though. It's been stressing me out and I'm wondering if I'm setting myself up for burnout.


Are you where you expected or wanted to be at this point in your writing-life?

A few years back, when I started taking writing seriously, my mind was whirling with the fantasy of what life would like. It's not where I thought it would be but that's because I didn't know any better. Fantasies are never realistic. But the reality is, I have improved. So I guess I am where I should be.


What are your current habits? How could the be changed or improved upon to better be able to reach your goals? I write. I try to write everyday. I finish. I edit and edit and edit and edit. It's funny that I often hear others say, "don't send out your manuscript until you think it's your best work." Truth is, for me, I'll never have that feeling. I will never be satisfied with anything I've written because there is always room for improvement somewhere. Anyway, the only thing I would change about my current habit is to write more than I do. Even though it's not part of my personality to sit still for five hours, I do wish I could sit that long and just write. I'm just way too hyper to sit that long.

SpookyWriter
03-21-2007, 07:23 PM
Spooky, yes, I think we can. As you've described, you're more of a hobbyist and that's a perfectly respectable choice, but the question becomes, do you always want to be a hobbyist. If the answer is yes, no worries. If the answer is no, then what can you do differently to change that?

Occasionally, those who are attempting to reach the next level of writerly growth -- whatever that next level is for them -- need to step back and reassess their personal habits and traits. This is true of many activities, not just writing. For example, we all may love AW, but to be honest, it is a time suck for many. How then can it be better managed so that one can maintain involvement in a community loved by many without sacrificing one's own goals and aspirations?Hi Birol,

First I want to say that I don't treat my writing as a hobby per se, but as a growth and a learning experience of sorts. I do want to transition into the role of a full time novelist someday, but that takes money from sales to sustain me. At the moment I don't see this happening because of the disparity between my income now and what I'd make from publishing my novels, short stories, poems, etc.

The second part of this response is addressing how much time is spent on AW or the internet in general. I pop in for a while during the day because I need a break from work. But since I don't have internet access after work I spend my time doing other things, like writing.

Southern_girl29
03-21-2007, 07:25 PM
Can they really multi-task or do they actually perform better when they're focused on just one project with no distractions?

I am pretty good at multi-tasking. I have to be at my day job, because as Lifestyles editor, I often have three or four stories going, two or three that I have to edit and the phone ringing off the hook.

At night, when I'm concentrating on fiction or freelancing, I am able to do laundry and write. I put the clothes in the washer or dryer and write until it gets finished. I fold, put up and then write some more. It works out pretty well.

How do they respond to deadlines -- do they wait until the last minute and write under pressure or do they tend to plan ahead?

I do write pretty well under pressure. I have to. I mean, I'm the editor, reporter, layout person, photographer, etc., for my section. I have deadlines every day. I like to work under pressure. So far, I haven't had any deadlines to meet for my fiction or freelance. Those might be harder to meet, though, I don't know.

How well are these strategies really working for the students? Do they find themselves stressed, not able to include all the thoughts they intended, do they have time to reread and edit their work, etc.?

I think in my writing day job, my strategies work really well. I've been doing this position since 2001, except for seven months I spent as editor-in-chief of another newspaper. I win awards, and I get praise from the community.

With my fiction writing, my strategies for completing something are working very well. I've written nearly 30,000 words in a little over two weeks. At this rate, I'll probably finish the book in a little over a month. However, I haven't really sent anything out lately, although everything I did send out has gotten rejected.

Are the number of assignments and acceptance you are receiving progressing as you'd like?

Nope. I think I might be targeting the wrong places for some of my short stories, although I think they would fit in well at the ones I've sent them, too. I've posted them in SYW, took in the comments (which were mostly good), cleaned up the pieces, but it's just not working. These are mainly my short stories; I haven't sent out any longer pieces.

Are you where you expected or wanted to be at this point in your writing-life?

Oh my goodness, no. Laugh if you want, but in high school, I made out a life plan. I knew what age I was going to do everything. I was going to be published by the time I was 25. When I turned 25 and it hadn't happened, I changed it to 30. Well, I'll be 30 in a few months, and it still hasn't happened. I have been published, in the newspaper where I work, but I long to see my fiction in print. Maybe I'll have my WIP edited and on submissions by the time I turn 30.

What are your current habits? How could the be changed or improved upon to better be able to reach your goals?

For fiction, I try to do BIC every night for two hours. I usually take one or two nights off a week, but I think I might not do it this week and just keep writing.

Shadow_Ferret
03-21-2007, 08:04 PM
Are the number of assignments and acceptance you are receiving progressing as you'd like?
I write fiction. I have no assignments.

Are you where you expected or wanted to be at this point in your writing-life?
No. I thought I would have been successful many years ago having done the talk show circuit. I had dreams of being on the Carson Show. (Not Daily.) But he's not only retired now, he's dead, and I'm not only not successful, I'm still a never-was.

What are your current habits?
I chew my fingernails.

How could they be changed or improved upon to better be able to reach your goals?
Well, if I'd BIC more I probably wouldn't be biting my nails.