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A Call for Order in 2011; You Can Do It!

Please welcome my fellow writer and GLVWG member, Ruth Heil, who kindly agreed to write a guest post for me today. 
A Call for Order in 2011; You Can Do It! by Ruth Heil

Facebook posts, query
letter follow up, workshops, emails, events, audience building, manuscript editing, contest submissions, collecting debts.... how is a writer supposed to keep it all straight? I thought writing was supposed to be a dream.
We are creative people. We don't track market data, crunch numbers, document plans, or make lists. Or do we? If you and I want to increase our writing profits, we simply have to. We must operate like professionals even when the required tasks do not complement our primary skill set.
There is hope.
These things can be learned.
And after they're learned, you'll see they're not so awful after all.
First you must make a commitment. Like any worthwhile endeavor, you have to WANT to learn how to operate a business. Each of us has a motivating factor that we can use to trick ourselves into wanting to do something that our nature otherwise despises? If it's money that motivates you, recognize the value in the task; if its time, understand what efficiencies can be gained; if it's confidence, focus on stress reduction.
For instance, on April 15, you are going to have file a tax return. Would you prefer to get the most deductions and keep more money? Would you like to get it done as fast as possible? Would you like a clean return with few audit flags? Your best chance lies not with the cleverness of a high-priced accountant, but in the completeness of the information YOU supply to him or her, and that depends on your day-to-day process.
Accounting software (such as Quicken® or QuickBooks®) is a powerful tool that records both expenses and income, in real time, and then organizes and spits out line-by-line details for the IRS. But if you don't build in a routine for entering data into the program, the result will be a hodgepodge of incomplete information that is virtually useless and inefficient.
Hiring an assistant might sound nice, but it's up to you to tell that assistant exactly what you want done. He or she is not going to be a magic fix. The routine must still be defined.
The point is, once you take the time to build an administrative process, you'll immediately begin saving money, time, and effort. In the tax return scenario, the rewards will be revealed during those dreaded days leading up to April 15.
The fact is, stressing over administrative tasks causes us to expend far more bodily energy than the actual doing of the task. After you invest a little time and brainpower into learning what needs to be done, you soon see that staying organized is not all that difficult. You can hire someone to teach you, ask a successful writer for advice, or use online searches and software tutorials.
Every for-profit writer is burdened with unpleasant business functions. Is it more burdensome than a daily commute, corporate politics, and unforgiving time clock the average American has to deal with? Absolutely not. It's a small price to pay for the freedom of self-employment. You can chose to put them off, or you can chose to tackle them head on. Either way, they are eventually going to have to be done. A proactive approach places you in control whereas procrastination is more likely to control you.
Examples include:
Contact address books for recording prospective agents, other authors, sources, and fans.
Spreadsheets to track query letter submissions.
Task lists for both short- and long-term goals.
Logical filing structure for folders on the computer (or in a tangible file cabinet).
Procedural documentation and checklists so you don't have to remember every detail of every infrequent task.
A written business plan that forces you to identify your niche, your market, your core strengths and your goals.
Is any of this as fun as writing? Of course not. If it were, we'd be database managers, accountants, file clerks, or project managers.
So how do you start? Identify one goal. Then begin writing the story that is you achieving that goal. Research, outline, draft, edit, and polish. When you're done with that story, move on to the next.
Just as in writing, perfection is not necessary. And NEVER let anyone make you feel foolish because you had to ask. When someone reads your work, do you belittle him or her when they ask, "How'd you do that?" No. The ask is a compliment. Now go compliment an organized friend and ask for help.
Before you know it, you'll be back to the dream that is the writing life. 
Are you ready for a successful 2011? 

Ruth Heil is a freelance writer and former office management consultant.  Learn more at
www.thewritebeat.com or read her blog at http://thewritebeat.com/BacktoBasicsBlog/blog1.php

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
I think my head might have just exploded a little.


Great tips. Thanks!
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
Too many sparkles, Terri? :P
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, Jon, there are NEVER too many

Jan. 13th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
I haven't filed a tax return in twelve years.

Am I bragging, whining, or simply building the suspense?

But yes, the days when simply writing a good novel
was all you really had to do
have long passed.
Jan. 14th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
I haven't filed a tax return in twelve years.

I don't blame you. American tax returns are complicated :(

Jan. 15th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC)
Whenever I've had a taxable income,
and they owed me money,
it was worth the trouble.
Jan. 13th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for both the information and motivation. I've been complaining about these tasks for the past few weeks, and I do know I have to change my attitude and figure out a way to manage this along with the creative part of writing. These words helped!
Jan. 14th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks for stopping by, Pat :)
Jan. 13th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
Wow. My eyes went a little googly ~ clearly I need to start practicing my organizational skills. :) Thank you for the great advice!
Jan. 14th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
Lol, I feel like that most days :)
Jan. 14th, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
I certainly didn't mean to overwhelm anyone. I truly mean it when I say the worry is more work than the tasks. One thing at a time. Creativity takes priority, but just like I find it's easier to be creative when I've got an outline, it's easier to write when I no longer have to worry about the things I'd previously been putting off.
Jan. 14th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
Re: comments
I find a to-do list helpful too :)
Jan. 14th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Good advice, Ruth. I used to track my freelance writing along with my desktop publishing business in QuickBooks. Since closing that business, and now working as a freelance editor, I track income and business-related expenditures on the simplest of Excel spreadsheets--and have been complimented by two different accountants as to how organized I am! You're right, it's not hard--it's just making yourself do it!
Jan. 14th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
Little and often, that's the key, I think :)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 15th, 2011 10:19 am (UTC)
Re: Comments
You too, Ruth :)
Jan. 15th, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)
Neat post~ I guess I'm ahead of the curve. Well- on this end of it. Not pursuing publication or anything right now.

Computer filing has got to be the most painful (well for me and several computer or like devices), which reminds me I need to flash all my 2010.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



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NJ Writing groups - compressed

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