Freelancers: Ten organizing habits of successful writers



Writers used to use 3×5 cards and colored tabs to keep organized and focused and to keep their data in order. Computers make the organizing your writing neater and easier. To tame a large project, a writer needs to break the big project into small tasks. Submissions go more smoothly, tracking is easier and book projects stay controlled. Here are ten no-fail ways to tame the lion of disorganization as you write and sell your writing.

  1. Use Outlook Tasks to set up projects with a follow up date and an assigned completion date. You can track progress with the completion meter. Outlook is not the perfect tool and it has its limitations, but working with it for a while, you’ll train yourself to respond to cues of due dates, follow up dates and so forth. If you need to collaborate with another writer or someone else, Outlook allows you to assign a task and deadline to that person, email it to them and then follow-up. Once you have those tracking skills down, you might consider purchasing a writers’ database program.
  2. If you write from a home office, shut off the phone, ignore your doorbell and don’t surf the web unless you’re doing specific research.
  3. Take the TV out of your office. No kidding – you can zone off and watch an hour of The View or half an hour of Jeopardy before you catch yourself. That was a few hundred words you might have written.
  4. The rule is you can’t leave your desk until you finish today’s task(s). The exception is, take measured breaks for lunch, bathroom, stretching or a walk, just as you would in a company setting, because it makes you work smarter.
  5. Motivation – from one who has worked freelance for two decades, making a terrific living. If you don’t meet your deadlines, you will see your stream of work dry up. Editors talk. Word gets around. Sloppy writer habits multiply and become infectious. Additionally, if you like what you do, you’ll probably take a strong sense of ownership in the the quality of your work. It represents you. If you don’t enjoy the work – it isn’t right for you.
  6. Don’t use writers’ block as an excuse for laziness – an excuse for goofing off. Having trouble focusing? Set small rewards. If you finish writing the next 700 words by 11:00 a.m., run out to the coffee drive-through and get something really gourmet. If you get through a section of proofing in half an hour, you can play 15 minutes on Dsi or Wii.
  7. Keep healthy munchies and ice cold water right next to you so you don’t start feeling sleepy and sluggish. Eat good little meals, frequently, away from your writing work.
  8. Do something active right after work each day and you’ll be better able to focus on writing on the next day.
  9. Set realistic, measurable goals, and refuse not to meet them. However, be practical and willing to reevaluate writing goals that are not attainable. .
  10. If working on an overwhelming project, leave yourself enough time in the writing project proposal to step away from it time to time and tackle something you really love to write.

Even if you don’t adopt all these writer rules, pick up a few of the habits successful writers rely on and your writing career will swing in a new, positive, productive direction.

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