|Nancy Julien Kopp|
This is a guest post I did for Michelle Rafter's Word Count blog awhile back.
Writers are urged to write often, to write voraciously, to write, write, write. Even so, to win the prize — publication — there are myriad things you must do besides putting words on your computer screen.
Non-writing tasks such as reading about writing techniques or joining critique groups are beneficial, even essential. But if you're not careful, those non-writing tasks become traps. You can become caught in a spider web of good intentions that eat into writing time.
The key is to maintain a healthy balance. Review your writing-related activities occasionally to make sure you aren’t falling into a time trap. When you produce fewer and fewer pages, it may be time to step back assess why.
Here are five common writing-related activities and how to get the most out of them without letting them cut into your writing time:
1. Books on writing. Writers buy or borrow dozens of books on the keys to good writing. But read too much and you risk becoming so busy learning that you forget to apply what you learn. Use books to teach yourself the craft of writing, but be selective.
2. Writing websites and newsletters. Writing websites, blogs and newsletters offer articles and classes. They also showcase markets, present contests, offer writing prompts and exercises. Many writers subscribe to several, sometimes many more than several. Though these resources offer excellent information, they take precious time to read. Pick the ones you like best and unsubscribe from the others.
3. Critique groups. A face-to-face critique group is a great place to get constructive criticism and praise for your work. It also provides an opportunity to network with other writers. While writers can profit greatly from them, critique groups also take time. Ask yourself if belonging to one is worth the hours you might otherwise spend writing and if it works into your writing schedule or your home schedule.
4. Research. For many writers, research and reporting is a necessary part of what they do, and for some, it's pure joy. But don't get so involved in the process that you spend far more time than is needed. Practice determining the appropriate amount of time to give to the research end of a story or article.
5. Writers' organizations. Joining a local, state or national writers group such as the Online News Association or American Society of Journalists and Authors offers networking possibilities with other writers, and can connect you with new-to-you markets and publishers. Being a member also is a way to keep up with the latest trends in your field. However, along with all that, some of organizations require members to become officers, committee chairs and or serve on committees. Before you join, know what you're getting yourself into. Keep your membership to a select number of groups and limit your participation to what you can handle.
Financial experts advise clients to take money out of their paycheck for savings before spending it on anything else. Writing is no different. Those 1,000 words a day take precedence over all other writing-related aspects of your life. Now that you know what the traps are, practice self-discipline to avoid them. Your greatest benefit will be more time to write.