The Checklist for the Organized Non-Writer
I like checklists. They remind me that I’ve actually done something when my wired up brain is so intent on searching out things to be pissed about. Sometimes, also, things can get overwhelming and having them sorted out manageable action by manageable action can remind you that it’s all doable.
And that’s exactly what makes the checklist for the writer being completely useless:
1) Nothing is a bite-sized task.
2) It’s not linear step-by-step (but also, thank God for that.)
3) It’s really hard and unpredictable to get something checked off.
After a bizarrely emotional few months in which I struggled to see the purpose in life itself, I tried to pull back onto my feet in the usual way. By giving myself a to-do list and a few little chores a day, I could bring myself to feeling competent and get little reminders of what success feels like. But doing the web comic felt repetitive, always one step behind. I was too tired and unfocused to write a blog. The novels needed to be reread, and the fact of the matter was I simply just didn’t care. I didn’t care about creating or writing. I slept and worked all the time, and living felt like I was just moving forward for the sake of it. Couldn’t stop, yet no reason to keep going.
I decided what I needed was a checklist. I felt like my writing career had turned stagnant. What’s the best way to fix that? By figuring out what I needed to do to move forward. So I sat down with myself and created a sort of "What Must Be Done" list to give myself goals and feel like I wasn't the stagnant woman I felt.
- Finish a novel. Fifty-thousand words in, I could do it a page a day by September 8.
- Second Draft - Read through for pacing, flow, and mark down any big picture issues like character arcs, dynamics, intrigue, conflict, tension, and continuity. Sept. 13.
- Get some space. October 13. (Work on another novel.)
- Third Draft - Zoom in on specific scenes that are the weakest in the book. Oct. 18.
- Fourth Draft – Focus on word choice, dialogue, clunky sentences, consistency in style. Oct. 23.
- Contact Beta Readers. Nov 1.
- Fifth Draft – Respond to readers’ critiques. Feb. 7.
- Repeat betas, writers groups, etc. Professional Edit?
- Polish Edit. May 18.
- Jackson Hole Writers Conference. June 30.
- Edit from Writers Conference. July 16.
- Query letter.
- List of agents.
- List of comparable titles. (Read contemporary books in the genre.)
- Submit August 1, 2019.
- Create a marketing “persona” of my readers.
- Create a budget and marketing plan for existing and pre-existing projects.
- Gather more of a returning “costumer” on my social media page.
- Visit more conferences.
- Rebrand Stories of the Wyrd artwork to be consistent.
- Get new headshots.
- So on and so forth.
- So on and so forth.
As I went on, I started to seek out things I might be excited to do. My list got longer and longer and many of it became “redoing” work I’d already put in, or getting off track until I became greatly overwhelmed.
For me to finish Take the Wheel the way that I want, I will be waiting a year to see any results, and even then, just because I can check something off doesn’t mean that it’s done with. There’s too many variables and room for quality control. And the main point is, the first thing on the list will take a while, while anything I can do "out of order" is also a huge time commitment.
Even dissecting it into subparts still doesn’t make you feel accomplished and missing the little deadlines I have (4,000 words a week) can give my heart a pretty hard twist.
I’m a hater of formulas and think everyone should experiment with their path to success, that no little “checklist” is going to help you get there. But seriously, why don’t I have some little dude telling me what to do step by step? Why does every choice have to be so difficult? Every step like I’m carrying a thousand pounds?
Failure, whatever that means, leaves you in the same position you started. Often just as blind or lost as Day One. The truth is, I’ve checked off most items on this list in my life several times, and at the end of the day, I don’t see my progress, even if the little list said so.
Let’s face it. As a motivational tool, this one isn’t a great one. It’s just a reminder of how slow and uncertain the process is. I wish there was a means to feel like you’re actually getting somewhere, that event he backtracks felt like moving backwards rather than just twiddling your thumbs in dismay of being a part of the void.
On the other side of things, I get to check writing a blog off my to-do list today. Three days late.