Monday, January 16, 2017

Living the Writing Life

My writing life and how I live it.

People sometimes ask me how I manage to be so productive. Here are a few things that matter to me:

1)   Motivation. I am highly motivated. About ten years ago I realized that if I was really, really serious about wanting to be a published writer, I had to up my game. I was on the “write when I’m inspired” track, and that changed. Now I try to write every day. I don’t always succeed, but most of the time I do. On a 5-week trip to Africa, I took a mini Ipad and a keyboard and when everyone else in our 15-member group was napping or relaxing, I wrote 500 words—much fewer than my usual 2,000, but still, writing. Once the 500 was done, I could do as I pleased, but that was my way of keeping in the game.

2)   High energy level. Part of it is luck. I’m like my dad. He was always busy with something. In order to feed that energy, I have a good health program—I work out every day and try to maintain a diet that I know helps my energy level. (notice I said “try” I don’t always succeed)

3)   I’m focused. When I turn my attention to something, I’m all in. If I take a phone call while I’m in production-mode, I’d better write down what the conversation was about, because I may not remember it if I’m focused on what I’m working on.


4)   Limited social media. People think I spend a lot of time on social media because I’m highly visible. But I watch few videos and I skim the content for things I’m interested in. Once I’ve been on for twenty minutes or so, I start to feel antsy to move to something productive.

5)   Attitude. I’m an upbeat person in general. I love writing and feel incredibly lucky to be able to do it. But like anyone, I get upset or annoyed. I feed those things into my writing. Sometimes being a happy person doesn’t work so well for my writing. A couple of times I’ve been well into a book when I realized it didn’t feel lively. Every single time it meant I was making all the characters too “nice.” When I went back and added annoying characters or one with shady secret or who engendered conflict, the story picked up right away.

6)   Here’s a time management tip that has served me well: Don’t do things twice. I took a time management course, and my takeaway was, when you pick up something that needs to be done, if at all possible, don’t put it aside for later--do it now. Otherwise, you’ll have to go back and reread it a second before you take action. Of course it can’t always be avoided, but most of the time it can. I often have people say, “Thanks for getting back to me so fast.” It’s because I find it saves time to get back to someone right now rather than waiting so that I have to remember what the communication was about.

7)   Here are a few things I wish I would do:

     --be more organized with my email correspondence. I keep promising to use folders, but then I forget.
     --use my calendar more wisely
     --get an assistant, which I keep promising myself to do
     --get a bigger desk!



6 comments:

Cathy Ace said...

Congratulations on your well-deserved nomination for a Lefty Award for THE NECESSARY MURDER OF NONIE BLAKE, Terry

Richard Krauss said...

Love this advice--thank you!

Paul D. Marks said...

Good stuff, Terry. And congratulations on your Lefty nom!

Art Taylor said...

Nice post here, with good suggestions--and more importantly, congrats on the Lefty nomination. Yay!!!

Terry Shames said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm great at giving advice. Now if I could just stick to it.

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