Thursday, October 27, 2005

PANEL: Tips to stay disciplined


THE PANEL TODAY IS: Stacy Hawkins Adams, Sophfronia Scott, Electa Rome Parks, Michelle Monkou, Lori Soard

Learn about how to stay displine.

Tips are posted in comments.

Post your questions in the comments section.

Please read the previous comments before you post, so we don’t have duplicate questions.

Please address your questions to a panel member or all panel members.


Tempie said... question is directed to any member of the panel...

What are some of your personal suggestions that you have used to help you stay disciplined in reference to your reading and writing?

As far as time management, is there an average amount of time you feel one should have when writing a storyline fiction or non-fiction?
Tempie Badge #151

Institute of Africana Cosmology said...

this is directed to all of the panelists.

i'm keenly interested in time management too.

my question-

have any of you hired assistants be they housekeepers or lawn care specialists or ??? in order to free up more time for writing?

i'm particularly interested in knowing if you've hired any writing assistants like publicity folk or ???

i'm coming from the place of direct sales where the old adage is that it is better to figure out how much money you average per hour from doing what you do and then ask yourself a question like this- if you average $75 an hour from sales of your wares why not spend $12 an hour for someone to do work that will take you away from the most lucrative thing that you do? in other words why lose money doing housework when you can pay someone to do it and still make a profit by doing what brings in the $$$$.


BlackButterflyReview said...

Have you noticed that there is a better time to write during the time of the day? I am married with children and that should tell you that I have no time, between them and my full time job. I try to make time to write but it dosent always work out. How do you focus when you set time aside. I am usually not sure if I am writing what I really want or writing someting just so that I have written during the alloted time. I basically go back and delete it and so I really havent gotten anywhere, HELP>

Eleanor (#17)

M Monkou said...

Here’s my attempt to answer several questions in one big reply. On tips for reading and writing to stay disciplined -- You can read books on time management to get tips, but guess what – that takes time away from your writing. So don’t go overboard in studying how to get more time because it can be a time stealer.

First decide what it is you want from your writing. Be honest with yourself. Is your writing for the sheer pleasure of writing? Are you writing because it is therapeutic? Are you writing because it’s a new challenge and everybody is talking about being a writer? Are you writing because this is how you want to earn money? Now your answer may encompass several of these questions. But each response solicits a different demand on time and commitment level. Isn’t it fair to say that, if you’re writing for therapeutic reasons, with no intent of publishing that the amount of time you put into the writing would vary from the person who wants to write for a living?

I wrote because I loved it. It didn’t matter to me whether I was published or not. It was several years before I changed from the level of a hobby to this is my life’s work. Once I made that determination that I wanted to be published, that I wanted to be an author, that I wanted to make a living, I had to change my priorities. At the time, I had two young children, husband, job, going to school for my Master’s. But in order for me to buckle down, I cut out watching TV. I didn’t go hang out with my friends on the weekends. I bought videos for the kids. I got my mother to come over and babysit. I wrote in the evenings, weekends, early in the mornings before going to work. I had the stamina to put in the long hours and I pushed myself to accomplish this.

Now several years later and still as busy, I don’t have to go to extremes to manage my writing time. But I needed that earlier process to develop the discipline. Now I write in the evenings, usually around 8 p.m. after I’ve helped the kids with homework and preparing for the next day. I write on the weekends, meaning that it starts from Friday evening until Sunday night. If I’m planning to take the kids to the movies, I carve out the time for that, but this means that I will make up the time either Friday night or Saturday night, writing into the early morning hours.

If I’m on deadline, I write on my lunch hour at work. I may write long hand with pad and pen or I bring my AlphaSmart which is a keyboard emulator. You type on the keyboard and it records what you type, then you hook it to your computer and it will literally re-type your words on the screen. You simply save it to the document or you can have it download directly into your document. It runs on batteries and is very lightweight.

As far as hiring someone for housework or babysitting, if you can afford it, then go for it. Otherwise, get creative for low cost or no money. Ask relatives to babysit for free. But if they do babysit, make sure that you do live up to your end of the bargain and write. When my mother saw that I was actually writing and how serious I was about it, she volunteered without my prompting many times. You can return the favors with cooking dinner or something else.

The reality is that your writing income will not be enough to sustain you (at least in the beginning). Even the writers who are now millionaires didn’t get there overnight. Don’t envy what you don’t know. The time that you get the call that your book is sold to the time that you get the contract to the time that you get the check could be several months. Then most advances for first time authors are low - $2,000 to $7,000, and I’ve heard of lower than $2,000 and higher than $7,000. When authors share that they got a huge six figure advance, there may conditions to that advance that they don’t share with you. The money could be tied to several books, so that when you divide the number of books over the advance, it’s not as huge as it seems. The advance may be issued in pieces based on the prior sales. So if that if each book doesn’t sell well, the publisher could walk away from the deal. All that to say, don’t spend money to prepare yourself as “fulltime” writer with the expectations that it will all return to you a thousand-fold.

On whether to hire a publicist – first separate your “wants” from your “needs.” In the beginning, there may be lots of things that you can do for yourself. If you are selective and savvy (listening to others, researching, etc.), you will save time and money. Over the years, I’ve learned that some of things that I did were impractical, costly, and time consuming. Some things didn’t work with my personality or goals. The key is not to mimic someone else in hopes for their success. Your pursuit of your dream is an individual.


Electa Rome Parks said...

Hi everyone! TGIF!! I hope your day is going well. . .

In response to the previous posts, I'm going to sum up my response into one post and tell you what works for me.

Presently, I work as a full-time writer (since April 2003); however, that may change soon. As Michelle stated, it is hard, initially, to make it as a full-time writer; it takes forever to get paid in publishing.

However, for the moment, I treat writing as I would any job/career.
I work from 9-5, Monday through Friday. Who am I kidding (LOL)? Seeing that I work from home, I put in so many more hours beyond the call of duty. When I was in corporate America and had more time restraints, I wrote during my lunch hour, late at night and during the weekend. I'd edit my work sitting under the hair dryer at the beauty salon or in the waiting room of a doctor's office, etc.

Now, when I'm working on a project, I try to complete a chapter a day. A certain amount of pages may work for someone else, ie., five to ten pages per day. Once I've completed one chapter, even if I have to go back later and do a major rewrite, I feel productive. Decide on what you're comfortable writing per day and whether you prefer writing early morning or late night. Once you've decided, don't break your routine for anything.

As for the hiring of professionals, this is my reasoning: do as much as you can by yourself in the beginning. Many things that a publicist does, you can do yourself. Presently, I have an inhouse publicist at Penguin and an outside publicist. However, I've discovered even as a mainstream author, you still have to do a lot of things yourself. I definitely still do many, many marketing/promotions myself.

Reading. I too share a serious love for reading. However, when I'm working on my projects it's a no no. You will be amazed at how much you subconsciously retain from reading some else's works. So, it always a divine pleasure when I have the opportunity to simply read.

Bottom line, if you are serious about writing and truly passionate about it, you'll make a way out of nowhere to write.

Hope this helps!

Electa Rome Parks
Author of Almost Doesn't Count & Loose Ends

BlackButterflyReview said...

Thank you ladies for the wonderful and candid information.

Eleanor Shields (#17)

Lori_Soard said...

Hi, everyone. This conference is such fun. Huge thanks to LaShaunda for putting it together. I'm enjoying reading through all the panels.

Discipline is hard for me. For most of my life, I have worked. When I was 9, I helped my parents in their stores they owned and got used to having my own money and like it that way. However, I have what I call "lazy" days, where I just want to veg out with some romantic comedies or do something with my girls and enjoy life. There is a song by Toby Keith about his list of things he has to do and the important things in life. That song really speaks to my soul.

The main point I'm trying to get at is that you need some balance. Yes, be disciplined...have a certain amount of time that you write each and every day, but also allow in that down time. If you don't, you may start to find that the work is so tedious that you get little done in the allotted time anyway.

If I am experiencing a lazy day (happens about once a month), then I do the bare minimum that day and allow myself some time for fun. I find that when I return to work the next day, I am able to work much more efficiently.

I also take Sunday off unless it is a dire emergency. Our family goes to church and that takes up much of my day, but I also just feel that I need a little down time to plan for the week ahead.

Speaking of planning, I have a top 5 to-do list for each day. I may have a lot of other, smaller things that need to be done, but what are the most important 5? Seeing those tends to get me working quickly. I also look at my work about once a month and see what I can delegate to my helpers or if I need to hire someone else to help with the business end of things.

Somehow, it eventually all gets finished. Another trick I was taught by a good writer friend of mine was that if writing is really important to you, you will do it first. You will always do what is important to you first. So, my day goes like this (after shower and dressing, etc.)

Read the Bible and do a devotion with my girls (they are homeschooled)

Write while they do their independent work (usually about 30 minutes now)

Math with the girls

They read while I work on other things.

And so on. There seem to be days when I am stuck in molasses and just don't work very fast. Other days, I get a lot done. Don't beat yourself up. That's just the nature of working at home. Learn to enjoy the small interruptions and they won't seem so big.


Lori Soard (Professional Promotions)

Anonymous said...

Well, I've always been pretty good about writing regularly, but I think having a child really forced me to be more disciplined about my work. When he's at the babysitter's, I know I only have X number of hours before I have to pick him up and I really want to make those hours productive so I get to work. I'll even do a "prep day" a day or two before he goes to the sitter's--that's when I do the laundry, clean the bathrooms, buy groceries and do any household stuff that might distract me during my writing time.

It's also important to know why you write and that you really believe in what you're writing. That will give you the motivation to keep going. I find that people who don't finish books are often unclear about why they're writing in the first place, or they're writing something that they don't necessarily believe in.

Good luck,
Sophfronia Scott

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