Spring cleaning. Today’s one of those beautiful days that scream spring. I’ve been at the library most of the day working on my work in progress, but it looked beautiful outside. Especially now that the pollen count is down. All around spring is blooming. Flowers are sprouting, the weather is warming up, and I’ve thought about cleaning. The operative word being thought. I asked my wonderful hubby to bring home boxes from work so I can box up old clothes for Goodwill and some books for the library sale. I’ve started going through stuff, weeding through piles of stuff and getting it ready to go out of the house, hoping for the day when I have a clean, uncluttered house. (For those of you who know me, I’ll wait a minute for you to stop laughing.) With spring all around me, I thought about ways writers unclutter their lives in order to become more productive. What can I learn about writing from spring cleaning?
Have a plan. Not just a plan for a book but a plan to increase my productivity. One of the best ways I can do this is to utilize a to-do list. When I don’t write out my goals for the week, I usually don’t get as much done. It’s not enough for me to think about my goals, I have to physically write out my list. When I visualize what I need to do, I attack my list. Today I actually made it to the part where I included blogging and social media. To-do lists often get a bad rap. They’re often seen as signs of a Type A personality when someone hunkers down over his or her work and thinks of nothing else but accomplishing everything on that list to the detriment of everything else in his or her life. In my case, not so much. It’s a way for me to finish my goals so I can dedicate time to my family. Lists don’t work for everyone, but I think they can do wonders for writers. Instead of berating themselves for all they didn’t get done, writers can congratulate themselves on what they did get done. Just like it helps with spring cleaning to have a list of what you want to get done in each room and cross off the deeds one by one, so too a plan can help a writer prioritize what needs to get done today and what can wait until tomorrow.
Get to work. I’m a great procrastinator. Not just good or okay. I excel at it. Instead of Writing Monday, this blog is getting written on Thursday. It’s been one of those weeks. Just as spring cleaning is great to visualize, it doesn’t happen until the sleeves are up, the clutter is put away, given away, or thrown away, and the room is clean. So too with writing. Until I sit down at the keyboard, nothing gets done. It’s great to have the book simmering in my head, but BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keys) works great for getting it onto the page. I have to write every day. For me, the process is multi-fold: I plot out the book, write the book, edit the book, send it to my critique partner, and then edit a lot more.
Double checking the drawers and under the bed. I’m a mom of a teenager, a tween, and twin preschoolers. The four of them all have their own personalities, but they all have one thing in common: all of them love to make messes. One time I found a bottle of opened maple syrup in my oldest son’s room. So I’ve learned I have to double check under the bed and in the drawers when I clean. I’ve learned to go back and start line editing my works. Writing a book doesn’t stop the first time I type The End. Even on my fourth pass of a draft, I’ve found paragraphs where I used the work dark three times in two lines. Today I corrected peeked to peaked. Checking work is crucial: spelling, grammar, word repetition and maintaining one character’s POV can go a long way into presenting a professional looking manuscript. It’s making sure the bottle of maple syrup is outside in the trash rather than under the bed.
Enlisting others to help. Sometimes getting the whole family to help is the best way to make sure the whole house gets cleaned. Encouragement from others is often the best way to make sure the manuscript gets done. Whether it’s a family member, a critique partner, a friend, a chapter member or someone else, a friendly word goes a long way in helping get through rejection or writer’s block or whatever’s in the writer’s path.
Start another cleaning project. Once the house is clean (once again, no laughter from those who know me best), there’s always another project to tackle: organizing family photographs, planning a vacation, getting kids ready for back to school. Once the book is written, edited and re-edited, then it’s time to start all over. Writers don’t rest on their laurels. I’m always looking to my next book, getting excited over plotting and meeting new characters.
Are you a fan of to-do lists or do you wing it? Let me know.