March 13th, 2008
So, we talked about what to do to start your writing for the day, but how about how to finish it at night?
Here are some tips:
- Round out your thoughts. Leaving a thought half-finished often means losing it altogether between writing sessions. The writing doesn’t have to be perfect, but make sure you’ve got the complete idea on paper. Those little guys are tricky and take any opportunity to wander off–so make sure they’re at least penned in before you leave them on their own.
- Use a Teaser. While, yes, you’re going to want to make sure you haven’t left any ideas hanging and ready to blow away overnight, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to leave yourself a spring-off point for the next day. Something that points the way to the next thought. Half a sentence of a transition. The title and first sentence of a new blog post. The name of your next chapter. Something that will remind yourself where you were planning on going when you sit down the next day. I do this with sewing, too–I never put it away without first threading the needle and taking just one or two stitches with a new length of thread, so that the next day, I can sit down and immediately just GO.
- Save everything. This should be obvious, but … just in case. Make sure, before you shut down the computer, before you stash your papers away in a drawer or a briefcase, that your work for the day is secure. Don’t assume that the sleep-mode of your computer won’t lose your work. Don’t leave the papers on the floor for the puppy to chew on. A fireproof vault, if you have one, wouldn’t be out of line, if you ask me.
- Backup! Did I mention how important backups are? When I’m working on a big project, I copy my file(s) onto a little flash drive every day, so that the worst I’ll ever lose, barring catastrophe, is one day’s work. For files that I might not touch every day, I try to do a computer back-up at least once a month (though I should be doing that more often). There are automated systems that can take care of this for you, too, so there’s really no excuse not to. Keeping a copy of your computer’s database off-site somewhere isn’t a bad idea, either. In case of emergencies, you understand. (Oh, and do regular blog back-ups, too!)
- Make sure your words are clear. Don’t assume that you’re going to be able to interpret that scrawl in the morning. Right now, while it’s fresh, is the time to make sure that what you’ve done so far is at least legible–no half-written scrawls or cryptic notes like “Joe Fresno Orange” that you’re not going to be able to interpret later on. I had a professor in college whose lectures were so jam-packed with information, it was almost impossible to keep up with the notes. (These were the only times I ever wished I knew shorthand.) The only way I could be sure I’d be able to read them was to go directly back to my room and rewrite the 6-10 pages of notes right then while the lecture was still fresh in my head. If I waited until after lunch, there was no way I’d be able to read the notes. (Did I mention this was before laptop computers?)
- Neaten up your desk. You may be one of the people who works best in the midst of clutter, but even so, take a minute to shuffle your notes together, to clean out your coffee cup, to put your pen away. It’s (usually) easier to start the day fresh at a “fresh” desk. I’m not saying it has to be perfectly neat with every paper corner aligned–unless it’s my desk–but this is akin to the difference between climbing into a neat bed and climbing into one that’s still the rat’s nest of sheets from the night before. Sure, the bed itself is just as comfortable, but there’s something nice about starting fresh.
What other tips do YOU have?