If you can't measure it, you can't manage it

Tuesday, May 29, 2018
My computer is full of recorded ideas that have not been fleshed out, projects that are halfway finished, or finished and looking for a home. Sound familiar?

As a member of a writer's group, I've found the support and encouragement I need to work on/finish these projects, and I'm making progress. But recently, it seems like my computer hides files and documents that contain the perfect paragraph or description of a sunset or character sketch I know I wrote, but can't find.

Earlier this year a writer friend asked for advice regarding which project to work on next. He had made a list of the projects, and determined that the simple act of making a list helped him organize the tasks at hand. Viewing his options meant that he could measure them, and then manage them.

I decided to follow his example, and realized that naming them and placing them in one folder titled WIP (Work in Progress), also made me feel more organized. I discovered that I have seven major projects I'm working on, and my list looks like this:

Novel 1 Contemporary - Finished but not polished
Novel 2 Eco thriller - Plot hole problem that I recently solved but haven't actually written
Short Stories - A bunch, one in particular that I just figured out how to finish, and another one with a complete plot, but needs more depth and emotion
Poetry - Way more than I realized, with one group/collection going out in a few days
Nonfiction article/book 1 - Women's History
Nonfiction article/blog/book 2 - Minimalism
Nonfiction book/article/blog 3 - Education/Teaching

My work has been divided into the seven writing projects listed above, coincidentally, one for each day of the week. I made a folder for each one and inserted all pertinent files, which took much longer than I thought.

All of the projects are rather lengthy except some of the short stories, which I'm close to finishing. I don't always work on a regular schedule, and don't necessarily start one project and work until it's finished. I tend to jump back and forth between projects.

If I have an hour, I can pick one and knock off some writing that puts me closer to my goals, instead of spending time trying to find that perfect description of a sunset I know I put somewhere. Adding five pages a week to any of these projects means 260 more pages at the end of the year.

If I don't write, I can submit to literary journals or promote something on social media. There is no shortage of projects, so there is no shortage of work to be done. But now that I can measure it, I can manage it.
Mary Horner is a certified medical writer, teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges, and earned the writing certificate from UM-St. Louis.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--Organization? Isn't that a four-letter word?

The best method I have is beginning each writing piece with the word "submission," which means I have a bunch of things to wade through every time I'm looking for a WIP.

Folders would be better. Unfortunately, "I'm Sioux, and I'm a chaos-aholic."

Renee Roberson said...

This is such a great point, Mary. I don't even want to think about all the WIPs I have on my hard drive right now. It's a great idea to take some inventory, as I'm trying to pay off a few bills right now and there are some parenting articles on my hard drive that I could probably shop around for a little extra cash! Time to suck it up and open a spreadsheet, I guess. I hope you revisit this idea in a few months and let us know how the project management is going!

Mary Horner said...

Oh, Sioux, it's not perfect at all, but I do feel it's more organized than it was, and that's a step in the right direction! And Renee, I need to gather lots of various facts and create a spreadsheet for my historical project, but I'm still in the "going to do it" phase! Thanks for your comments!

Margo Dill said...

This is actually excellent advice. I love that Works In Progress folder. I think I'm going to do this. Thanks, Mary!

Mary Horner said...

I hope it helps, Margo. I may not be as organized as I would like, but I feel more organized than I did!

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