Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

School starts here next week, and even *cough* years after my high school graduation, Labor Day still feels like a new beginning. I miss having the excuse to buy school supplies. Especially pens. Are you guys obsessed with pens, or are you all devout computer-only types?

My all-time favorite is probably still the Pilot Precise (V5, black or blue ink), used in conjunction with a spiral-bound notebook, unlined, with paper thick enough that the ink won't bleed through. My thoughts seem to unfold differently (better) when I write by hand instead of typing. I often compose first drafts of my submission letters that way; it's as if my brain keeps up with my hand/s better when the mechanical process of writing is slowed down.

I'm a serious list-maker, as I think I've mentioned here before. I often have multiple versions of the list going in different places (not always a great idea) because I derive so much satisfaction from writing things down, but it's really not the same if I'm typing the list-- too sterile, and too detached. It's harder to remember the items on the list, too, somehow, if they're not in my handwriting.

Most of my lists are of the to-do variety. I'm currently experimenting with the Auto-Focus system, which Erin Doland at Unclutterer linked to a few weeks back. It's working pretty well so far, but I find I still need a secondary list of the day's "musts," to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. But I do like it, and it's worth trying if you are looking for a new technique for keeping track of all the different parts of your life.

But I also love making lists of other things, and one of the most satisfying (personal) things I've done in the past several years is to do the "101 in 1001" project. There's a link here to a fancy sharing website, but I just made my own without getting all high-tech or social media about it. Part of what the "deadline" did for me was to encourage me to make time for all the "someday" items on my list.

I'm sorry about all of the "unnecessary" "quotation marks" today, guys. I'll move on to the grocer's apostrophe in my next post, I promise.


I didn't come close to finishing my 101 in 1001 list, but it got me out of a rut, and reminded me that weekends are not just for laundry and the grocery store. I'm thinking I'll do the project again soon.

Right now, though, with the new school year upon us (or already begun, in many places), I'm itching for some New Year's Resolutions. Here's a couple of mine. If you're inclined to join me, I'd love to hear yours as well.

-Get faster at responding to queries, especially the ones that I'm excited about! Too often, I set aside the really good ones because it's easier and faster to deal with the quick no's.

(An aside: Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency had a thoughtful post a couple of days ago about why she doesn't send rejection letters-- I assume she refers here to rejecting the initial query, not a manuscript she's requested from the author. I try to at least write a "this isn't right for me" form letter, so at least the author knows the query didn't vanish into an electronic black hole, but I'd really like to hear how you feel about all of this, being on the other side of the table.)

-Impose more structure on my work day so that I don't spend all day on email or phonecalls. Block out at least two hours a day just for reading, both client work and prospective client work. Get back to prospective clients while my thoughts on their manuscripts are still fresh in my mind.

-Find or DIY a notebook and pen combo that will fit inside my e-reader case, so I can keep better notes as I'm reading. Maybe then I can stop wondering what I meant by a Kindle note that reads like this: "I want to knww moe abt the crmny pls... also why j said hat in the last ch"

-Develop a more realistic sense of what can get done in a given week. Make a good list of the "musts," work through them diligently, and stop beating myself up about anything that has to be shoved to the next week.

-Twitter every weekday.

-Blog at least three times a week, unless I'm traveling. I am, as always, open to requested topics!

What's on your fall list? Tell me all your secret plans.


Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

I used to collect cool/quirky pens! And you know what's on my list!! :) e

Jessica Brockmole said...

Even though I'm pretty much a keyboard girl, I do have a hard time resisting school supplies. I really like a well-sharpened pencil. And I definitely agree about handwritten to-do lists. There's something so satisfying about checking off completed items with a bold flourish!

Unknown said...

When it comes to pens, I sometimes even go old school retro and get out my pen and ink fine nibs. Like you said, there seems to be something visceral and complete about handwriting. I do my character profiles, chapter outlines and general notes in a "writer's notebook" with thick paper, some with lines, some without.

As far as goal setting: mostly just increasing word counts, agent solicitations, etc. I also set last quarter sales goals for my day job.

Jessica Brockmole said...

I forgot to comment on goals. My youngest set off for school this year, and I really don't want to squander my delicious new alone time. I am determined to get myself on a routine of sorts to manage all of the responsibilities I've recently taken on, while still leaving me writing time. So, at the moment, my goal is setting a routine for myself that is expansive enough to allow for new projects and responsibilities to be added.

Anonymous said...

Well, I just quit my day job (wee!) so start applying for teaching positions for spring. And write every day, of course--an on-going resolution for me! And get through all of my house projects this fall--painting furniture, the kitchen, hemming curtains. Like you, I need to set a daily routine.
Good luck to all of us!!

Shoshanna Evers said...

You might want to consider automating some of the tasks on your To-do list - for example, you can write and schedule blog posts ahead of time (writing all three on Sunday and then scheduling them to go up during the week). You can also schedule Tweets to go out a few times a day, and then check in for your @ replies and live-tweeting.

As for responses to queries... I've been the non-recipient of non-replies to queries, and I'm not a huge fan of it. Like you said, you never know if they actually got the query.

My goal for the rest of the month is to finish a non-fiction book I'm putting together and have it ready to go by Romanticon!

Amy said...

Courtney-- I'm with you on PENS, especially 0.05mm size...
And I have a paper drill and japanese book binding instructions-- easy "sew" binding. Come on over and make a book. Have I shown you my sketch book?