Another week under my belt using my time tracker and here’s what I’ve learned:
I’m spending too much time on writing projects that will pay me.
That sounds pretty dumbass, but bear with me for a minute.
I’m not against being paid for my writing. Quite the opposite — in 2017, I only submitted my personal essays to literary outlets that paid. There are some fabulous lit mags out there that don’t pay in anything except status, but goddammit, I was sick of giving away my prose for free.
[Poems I still send to non-paying markets. Because poetry. But I’m thinking of re-evaluating that position.]
As someone who’s paid her bills for 40+ years, I get very uncomfortable without an income stream. I suspect that’s why I’m inclined toward paying work. But what about my reason for quitting the day job? What about finishing my memoir of reuniting with my blood family? I’m halfway there, having published about 50,000 words’ worth of stories that can be chapters in that memoir.
Except that they can’t, not as they are written. I need to integrate those stories into a chronology with an eye to how they fit with the memoir’s themes. While I can send those individual stories to paying markets and be pretty sure they’ll make a few bucks, writing a whole book is a risky proposition economically. It’s a boatload of work with a small likelihood of a return.
For the past few weeks, I’ve pushed the hard memoir work aside in favor of easier, simpler, paying projects. Last week, similar to the week before it, I worked 36 hours on writing. But instead of the minimum 15 hours I set as a goal for working on the memoir, I hit a measly 3 hours.
[Image description: color coded spreadsheet tracking time spent writing]
I’m a slow writer. If it took me less than 40 hours to write a ten page story, I’d be very surprised. (Side note: I’ll be able to figure out how much time I really do spend on a story if I stick with the time tracker.) But because of the Law of Circular Logic, I’m likely to paid for new stories because I’ve been paid for my stories before.
A book manuscript is much more work than a story, and there’s no telling if it will ever be published or make dime one, even if you have a long list of short-form publications. It’s a huge gamble to spend valuable time on it.
Yet recklessly, this week I VOW TO SPEND MORE TIME ON THE MEMOIR. Yep, I heard that you’re more likely to meet your goals if you announce them publicly. Oh wait, I also heard that announcing your goals publicly makes it less likely that you’ll meet those goals.
The time tracker is like a food tracker. It shows you what you’re really eating. Or writing. Want the template? Fill out the contact form below with the comment “spreadsheet” and I’ll send it to you. And thanks for reading! Here’s a cute photo of a groundhog chilling out in a pipe.
[Image description: Groundhog chilling out inside a large metal pipe]