1. Write down your goal.
Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, discovered in a study that we become 42% more likely to achieve our goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis. Your goal ought to be measurable and have a time limit. Mine this year is to submit 100 poems for publication or to contests. We’re writers, so writing down our goals ought to be an easy warm up to creating our masterpieces.
2. Tell someone about it.
We all know about accountability partners. I don’t need someone to kick my butt if I don’t write. I honestly would hate if someone called me up to nag. No, my accountability partners need do nothing but listen. The shame of not following through after I tell someone I will do something is enough. I am my greatest motivator. On the plus side, it’s nice to hear people cheering you on as you report on your progress. I told Facebook. You can tell your friend or partner. Or your dog. Someone.
3. Sign up for free writing enewsletters.
Combing through the Internet for contests and magazines who accept your work is a pain. Good news! There are people who will do half the work for you. My supportive hubby actually signed me up for two writing enewsletters – so sweet. We both go through the newsletter and find opportunities that pique our interest. My top picks:
Both are free to subscribe. They send you an email several times a week with a quick synopsis of the opportunity and links to the site of the publisher or contest. It will look something like this:
As you see, there may be ads, but they are not obnoxious and well worth it since it’s a free service. Both Authors Publish and Freedom With Writing put a special focus on opportunities that pay the author and have no entry fees. Can’t guarantee every opportunity will meet those criteria, but so far most have.
Another benefit of subscribing to enewsletters is they provide natural writing prompts. I never knew I wanted to write a utopian short story, or a prose poem about Alzheimer’s–until the submission guidelines suggested it.
4. Put the deadlines on your calendar.
It’s no secret that we get more done with a deadline nipping at our heels. Contests and themed magazines are brilliant at giving me this incentive because they have natural deadlines. So mark up your calendar so you have to look at the deadline and work it into your week. I prefer Google Calendar, so I can copy-paste the submission info and links into the event details. I also color code all my writing deadlines so they pop out. Google Calendar sends me reminders on my phone and email. This may be the only time in my life I have consistently run ahead of schedule on my writing contests. Let me tell you, I have made many a sprint to the post office 5 minutes before closing for the NFSPS contest in prior years!
5. Track your progress.
It’s a good idea to track your submissions anyway so you don’t break rules about multiple submissions or forget who is considering what and when to expect to hear back. So I was already tracking my submissions in Excel. This year I decided to take it further. Every can drive or fundraiser at my school growing up seemed to feature a giant thermometer on a board by the office. Did you know you can actually create these in Excel? There are dozens of tutorials on Youtube.
So I’m not holding a can drive, but a poem drive. It is unabashedly hoaky, but I get a little thrill every time my thermometer inches up. It creates a drive in me to look for the next contest and fill it more. If you don’t like the traditional thermometer concept, keep your bragging list pinned to your fridge, by your desk, put quarters in a jar and take yourself for ice cream later.
A lot of these are common tips, but they are common for a reason – they work! 2019 has been one of my most productive writing years yet.
What tips do you have for productivity?