Posts filed under 'Book'

Heeding my own advice: Structure, dammit!

Last week I talked about swallowing my own medicine by creating a detailed spreadsheet to help me wrap my brain around a big fat deadline. Somewhere between the holiday turkey and stuffing this past weekend I realized that when it came to getting reacquainted with working toward a beefy, long-range project deadline while sitting home in my union suit, I still had miles to go before I could consider myself a lean, mean well-oiled machine.

Suddenly the expanse of time I now enjoyed each workday seemed more like a curse than a blessing. The ABC daytime lineup beckoned, as did the half-dozen half-read memoirs on my nightstand. The dirty dishes in the sink taunted me, and the disorganized bedroom closet became an irresistable siren song. I realized I needed to add some structure to my writing day — and quick — or come deadline day, all I’d have would be (1) a Jeopardy-like command of General Hospital trivia, (2) a scarily impressive Goodreads page, and (3) an uncharacteristically immaculate house.

So I once again sought the counsel of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and quickly honed in on page 104, where I found this tidbit:

“If you’re self-employed, setting ‘office hours’ will help you stay on top of your workload and better compartmentalize when you’re off duty — something that’s infinitely harder to do when your office is ten feet down the hall. Without set hours, it’s far too easy to fall prey to the ‘I’ll just take the afternoon off and then work late into the evening or get up before dawn to finish’ line of thinking. Half the time you’re too tired to do the work justice after dinner, let alone drag your sorry, procrastinating ass to your desk. And setting your clock for 4 AM to finish the work you blew off yesterday is a surefire recipe for oversleeping.”

Ahem, and amen.

Since I’m a fan of lists, I created this one, which I promptly hung on my fridge:

Structure, dammit!

8 AM wake
8:15 journal and morning dance*
9 eat
9:15 walk Buddy
10ish to 4ish write at least 1,000 words for bigass project**
4ish to 5ish catch up on email and errands
5ish walk Buddy
6ish make/eat dinner
8 to 10ish evening activity: playing, slacking, reading, blogging, marketing***, editing day’s work, and/or writing something else****

*Journaling about my project’s progress helps me clear my creative throat each morning. And rocking out to some 70s jam band or other helps get my blood pumping and gives me a morning ritual to signal that the workday’s about to begin.

**Obviously I break for lunch in here. Works best if there are leftovers from the night before that I can heat up in a flash. Also, I discovered in 2006 that (a) everyone strives for 1,000 words/day when working on a bigass writing project, and I can crank out this amount in 3 to 6 hours (or so), polished, depending on how much reporting is involved.

***The other day someone asked for my bio and clips for a potential ongoing career advice gig. Sending them the requested material and following up on other similar opportunities is what I mean by marketing.

*****The something elses I am writing are a couple of non-fiction essayish stories on topics I’ve been wanting to tackle for quite some time. In all likelihood, I will have to put myself on a writing schedule for these too. But first I need to get my hands around the beefier project’s schedule.

Because it’s officially permanently gray in Seattle, with a whopping six hours of daylight available, I discovered I have to set my alarm — yes, even to rise at 8 AM. Otherwise, I’ll sleep clear till lunchtime. So far I have yet to ace this schedule, but I think I’ll have it somewhat close to licked this week. If not, I’ve resigned myself to showering and working in a cafe next week. For some reason, I am resistant to doing that. I like to choose my own background noise/music and visual distractions, I suppose.

How about you? What scheduling tips have worked for you when you’ve seemingly got all week long to chip away at a far off deadline?

9 comments November 27th, 2007

Heeding my own advice: Getting your arms around a fat deadline

My life has changed a lot since the month began. From July to November, I was burning the candle at both ends, jugging a contract gig with freelance writing deadlines, which I realize is ironic for someone who wrote a book with a hefty work/life balance theme. But sometimes you need to bring home a little extra bacon, so I bit the bullet and toiled a little more than I should. And now I am free. FREE.

First thing I did to decompress was go here, then here. Then I read this, and this, and even took in a bit of this. Along the way, I taught a class, applied for a grant, and turned in a couple short articles. But it still felt like a vacation.

After two weeks of this luxuriating, I realized it was time to face the music. What I haven’t told you is that I have a Very Large Writing Project due in a few months, and while that’s quite exciting, the time management aspect of it is a little scary to me, especially since I’m essentially home in my jammies with zero structure whatsoever for the first time in many months. So I decided to crack open The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and take some of my own medicine. In particular, this tidbit from page 59:

“Use a wall calendar, notebook, or spreadsheet to measure your progress: how much time you spent on your project each session and what you accomplished. This will help you see the bigger picture come into focus.”

I suspected that making a list of all the components of this Very Large Writing Project and their deadlines, target word count, state of done-ness, and final word count would be freeing. So I cribbed a spreadsheet template that my friend Ariel, who completed this Very Large Writing Project a while back, used to help her feel calm about the whole thing. (Thanks, lady!)

I’m excited to move the project management aspect of this beast from my head to my laptop. Not only do I feel more organized, I already feel less stressed about the whole thing. Rather than having to wonder where I am in the project, if I am on schedule, if I’m over or under the desired word count, and how much writing/editing I have left to go, I can just crack open my spreadsheet and feast my eyes upon the data. Of course, I have yet to add in the deadlines as that would move me from a state of denial to one of reality, but I plan to force myself to go there today. Good luck to me.

7 comments November 20th, 2007

My dishy Mediabistro interview

Book KeepingContrary to what you may have heard, first-time authors usually do not sip champagne from Fluevogs or travel by Learjet. I set the record straight on the business of bookselling in this dishy Mediabistro Q&A, written by the fabulous Rachel Kramer Bussel. See why I chose Seal Press as my publisher, what kind of money we’re talking about when we talk indie press book advances, and how the heck I financed writing a book in the first place. (Subscription required.)

4 comments May 25th, 2007

Quick question

Any UK residents (or North American expats in the UK) reading and using The Anti 9-to-5 Guide? I’ve been contacted by a journalist who’s looking for guinea pigs — I mean, people who’ve read the book and found it helpful. If so, email me. Thanks so much.

Add comment April 16th, 2007

Oh, lookie — I have a North Seattle reading tonight

Lake Forest Park (North Seattle)You know how Disney’s always saying, “last chance to get ‘Fantasia’ or ‘Bambi’ or ‘The Little Mermaid’ before we shove it in the vault for the next decade?” While this post isn’t anywhere near as melodramatic, tonight I am doing my last Seattle bookstore event for The Anti 9-to-5 Guide, at least for a little while. The book will of course continue to be available through all the usual retail outlets, and I have some other non-bookstore events (read: not necessarily in bookstores and/or not necessarily free) in the works for summer.

Meanwhile, here are the details for tonight:

Thursday, April 12, 7:00 p.m.
Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park (North Seattle)
(206) 366-3333

If you make it, be sure to say hello. For more events in other cities, lookie here.

5 comments April 12th, 2007

Cally recap

bear flagI’m back from my week in the Bay Area. The trip was both hectic and lovely. I’d forgotten that there are places in the world where you can go a week without seeing rain. I caught up with old friends, ate a lot of burritos (in Seattle, the choices are limited to Taco Bell and Taco Del Mar), and stared at Mt. Tam a lot, which was in plain view from the Marin cottage I stayed in, courtesy of my friend Marcy, who was out of town herself. Some trip highlights:

Events: People came. Turnouts were good. I managed to elicit a couple chuckles from the crowd. And sell a few books. All in all, things went well. And Habitat Books and Borders sure know how to make a writergirl feel special. For that, I am very grateful.

Media: I did several radio and TV spots while in town, including a location shoot for the ABC afternoon show “View from the Bay” (sandwiched between “GH” and “Oprah”). Also included in the segment is freelance-pal-turned-mompreneur Deirdre Greene, who now runs the publishing company Roaring Forties Press. We did the interview at Deirdre’s house to show off her nifty home office. I’ll letcha know when that spot airs — it should be fun.

Meanwhile, check me out on the Morning Show on KPFA radio, with Elaine Lee, author of Go Girl! The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure, mentioned in my book. We were interviewed together about alternative career paths, especially self-employment and travel gigs. (Note: The interview’s at 8:30 a.m., though the show starts at 7.) And here’s a morning news spot I did on KRON 4 TV the Saturday before Easter; I think I could have used another cup of coffee — oops. More than anything, I’m sorry they cut out the anchors singing Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” at the top of the spot — complete with jazz hands!

Meetups: Met Jill Rothenberg, my book’s fabulous editor who’s no longer at Seal Press, and camped out at the offices of Urban Moto magazine with her (she freelances for them) so I could steal some wireless time. Visited the Seal Press crew, too. Saw my friend Jeff Perlstein, who runs Media Alliance. And spent some time with these fabulous authors/bloggers/webmistresses you should know about:

Biggest lesson learned: Not being wired is a drag. It was crazy (OK, dumb) to think I wouldn’t need high-speed Internet access 24-7 while trying to coordinate interview plans with my publisher and various media producers. Happily, I already checked with the east coast pals I’ll be staying with in May and they all have wireless. Phew.

3 comments April 10th, 2007

California, here I am!

double rainbowHello, San Francisco Bay Area. It’s lovely to be back. (I’ve missed you so!) If you call San Francisco, Marin, or the East Bay your home, please come meet me this week at one of my readings-slash-author-Q&As. The events:

Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m.
Habitat Books
205 Second Street

Wednesday, April 4 at 7 p.m.
Borders – Union Square
400 Post Street
San Francisco

More info on my Events page. (And more news, tips, and profiles when I get home this coming weekend.)

Add comment April 2nd, 2007

Meet me at Parkplace Books in Kirkland, WA (tonight!)

Parkplace BooksHey, east siders (of the greater Seattle area): Just a little reminder that I’ll be reading from The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and answering questions on career change, self-employment, flex time, the freelance life, and anything else you want to talk about this Thursday evening (as in, tonight). The scoop:

Thursday, March 29, 7:00 p.m.
Parkplace Books
348 Parkplace Center (at Third Street South)
Kirkland, WA
(425) 828-6546

If you can make it, don’t be shy. Belly up to the booksigning table and say hello.

Add comment March 28th, 2007

Monday morning happy dance

Elliott Bay Book CompanyThis was lovely to wake up to: Elliott Bay Book Company’s current bestsellers. (Scroll down, look right, join me in my goofy little happy dance.) Thank you, Seattle! xoxo

5 comments March 26th, 2007

Hello, Bellingham!

The HamAny Bellingham, Washington, residents (or neighbors) browsing here? If so, we could be talking in person — tomorrow! — at my Village Books reading and author Q&A. The details:

Tuesday, March 20, 7:30 p.m.
Village Books
1200 Eleventh Street, Bellingham, WA
(360) 671-2626

If you and/or your friends attend, be sure to say hello. As always, you can play “Where’s Michelle-o” here.

Add comment March 19th, 2007

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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