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Don't Kill Productivity
by Marie-Helen Goyetche

Productive writers write. The more they write the more money they make. Non-productive writers keep hoping for that money to come their way. It won't. Being a self-disciplined writer will determine how successful a writer you'll be. Here are ten areas to ensure structure and success.

Clutter: Take care of paper and problems as they arise. If an editor wants a reprint, deal with it immediately. If you receive guidelines and sample magazines, carefully take notes rather than keeping the whole magazine. Get into the habit of keeping your desk clean and clutter free. Have a filing system such as hanging files, colored folders or index cards. Make sure you regularly clean out your files. If you put a paper in a file and don't look at it within the next year - throw it out. Chances are you won't need it.

Paperwork: Put telephone numbers, addresses, fax numbers and email addresses in a book or rolodex. Otherwise you'll write on little pieces of paper, or on envelops. When the time come you'll end up searching all over when you really need it.

Interruptions: They can kill a business. Use an answering machine. Don't get in the habit of talking to your friends and fellow writers all day. Use a kitchen timer and limit each call to five minutes, after the bell goes off tell the person you are talking to, you must get back to work. If that doesn't work make up an excuse - you're off to an interview, another line is ringing, someone's at the door... Responding to emails can also disrupt a writer at work.

Miscommunication: Follow up an acceptance phone call with a email of exactly what was said in the conversation. Don't be afraid to ask if there are details that are unclear. The editor that has accepted your query, be specific, are you writing 'on spec' or are you assigned the article? How much will you receive? What rights will you be selling? Get the details out of the way so you can concentrate your energy in the right direction.

Lack of specific goals: All writers have bills to pay therefore this might be a good goal to make. For example: every month you need xxx dollars, so you keep marketing your work until you have attained or surpassed your goal. Other writers will be motivated by using the number of accepted articles a month. Be careful that your work is not published too widely in non-paying markets. Being published in non-paying markets is good in the beginning or if it's a cause you support. Don't spend you time writing for free.

Indecision: Pondering whether to write in the third person or the first person? Which approach to use such as a quiz or how-to? Should you interview three subjects or four? Write a detailed outline with all the possible angles and put it away for a day or two. When you come back to your article, you'll be able to weed out the good ideas from the bad.

Overload: It's a writer's dream to have too many articles to write in a short span of time. Although you might not be able to control demand and response times, you can plan time around your articles. Have a calendar and write down the deadline date, the title and the publication. Send in your article(s) a few days ahead of your deadline rather than a day or two late.

Lack of planning: Learn to plan your time. Buy yourself an organizer date-book with one page set aside for each day. Write everything that needs to be done. Not only in your writing life, but also write down your family life and other activities. What family activity or outing might you miss if you schedule an interview on that day? Write up a "to do" list and check off what you have accomplished. Plan your research time as well. Don't spend too much time over researching or web surfing.

Lack of self-confidence: Forget saying you're not good enough! Do your best and when you get rejection slips, turn around and send your piece right back out to another editor. You never know where your next check will come from- send, send, send.

Procrastination: This is a waste of time. Don't talk and complain. Focus your energy into a productive mode not a destructive one.

Writing is a lonely job but if you are prepared and are self-disciplined, you will have a successful and rewarding career.

© Copyright 1999, Marie-Helen Goyetche

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