By Ken Walker
Although I didn’t intend for it to happen this way, I dashed off this blog post after spending a week out of town on a book project that is proving to be more rewrite than edit. The trip meant taking time away from a looming book-editing deadline.
In the past, that would also mean lapsing into sheer panic. Thanks to a more orderly system of scheduling my work, I slotted time and met my deadline while keeping my sanity.
This turnaround began in early 2014, after an extended slump in business. While it didn’t exactly happen this way, it was as if the Lord walked in and said, “So you had a bad (2013). What are you going to do about it?”
After thinking it over, I realized I needed a better way to track my many ghostwriting and book editing jobs. I opened up an Excel spreadsheet and listed potential or pending projects. Then, I noted when to call or e-mail co-authors, editors, and other contacts during the year.
However, a month later things were still slow. I realized that I needed to heed advice I had heard years before: to not just list projects but estimate how much time they should take.
So, I set up another spreadsheet and started planning my month. This did two things:
1) It allowed me to approach tasks on a more orderly basis.
Instead of trying to spend several hours completing the first draft of a challenging feature, I would schedule no more than two hours to start the story one day, and another hour or two the next. In two or three sessions, I could finish.
The month I started doing this, I learned the last person I needed to reach to finish a story would be in Florida for two weeks—without a cell phone. I wrote as much as I could, then scheduled that call later in the month. Not only did I get the story done on time, I turned it in two weeks early.
2) It enabled me to operate in a more businesslike manner.
A common weakness we creative types have is our sensitive, caring nature. That makes us better, more sensitive writers and editors. But it also leaves us vulnerable to abusers, pretenders, and people who think we should do this for free. If we fail to see ourselves as a business, no one else will either.
In addition, I sometimes get “Can you do this in two or three days?”-type inquiries. In the past, I often dropped everything to do such jobs. Now, I don’t automatically say “yes.” First I check my schedule to see if I have the time.
Lest I mislead you, I still fight feelings of being overwhelmed when facing multiple deadlines or wondering how to complete so many different tasks. Yet, because I am more organized than in the past, I’m more peaceful, too. And you know how much more productive you are when you’re not in a panic.
Experienced. Award-winning. Skilled. For years, Ken Walker has been shaping stories—thousands of them—for books and articles in various venues. He uses his writing and editing talent now to help edit and refine authors’ material, as well as coaching bloggers and other writers on how they can improve their material. In recent years Ken has co-authored or edited more than a dozen health-oriented books. This specialty began with co-authoring Winning the Food Fight, a book that emerged from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, an Emmy-Award-winning mini-series on ABC.