Monday, November 9, 2009

Organizing my sleep-addled self

When I first learned I would be doing an MA in writing, numerous people warned me I would write more than I ever had before.

I didn't believe them. I'm a little thick like that.

I figured I often spent 3 hours a day writing. How much more could a course force me to do?

Well, a lot. I wouldn't say I work more than 3-4 hours a day, but I also go to school for 6 hours a week, and spend an additional 3 hours a week traveling. Plus there's weekly talks by visiting professionals (agents, writers, publishers) and time spent getting to know my classmates. On top of all that, I am required to read 1-2 books a week for class. I read another book a week, and take notes on it, to prep for a paper due at the end of the term. I need to critique seven of my classmates assignments every week. And that doesn't count my own writing. Each week I'm given two writing assignments, one of which I submit for a class critique. I'm supposed to reflect on the critiques I receive, and note what comments are similar from week to week. I am then expected to revise my assignments for submission at the end of the term. Oh, and I'm supposed to be working on my novel in my spare time.

Freudian slip... there's a lot of "supposed to"s in that previous paragraph. Uh... yeah.

Actually, I think I'm doing pretty well with my work, but I am constantly making to-do lists in my writing notebook. And along the way, I've discovered a useful tip which I'd like to share.

In the evening, when I am finished writing for the day, I make a list of all the writing I hope to accomplish for tomorrow, in order. I try to set my most challenging and creative assignment for first thing in the morning.

In the morning, if I don't have a list, I find myself checking my email first thing, or sneaking a peek at Twitter. But if I do have a list, I almost always get right to work. Early in the morning I find I'm often too tired to argue with myself.

This tactic, small as it is, has helped enormously in making sure I accomplish the writing I need to, and also don't back down on the hard assignments.

Do you have any tricks for disciplining yourself to do those challenging or non-fun tasks?


  1. I like your organizational tip. It sounds like it works well for you. I'm intrigued, though, because it is exactly the opposite of my style. For me, I need to write the list (or prioritize the list) just before I start the tasks. If I write it the night before, then I stress out over all the things I have to do and I can't relax and go to sleep. But if I start the day with list making, it energizes me and gets me going on my tasks.

  2. Perhaps it's because my memory is so bad. I feel like just getting the list on paper and out of my head is a huge accomplishment. =)