Friday, November 20, 2009

Finding Time to Write - Day 3

My next guest is Tamara Kaye Sellman ( who works in several different areas of the publishing world (writer, editor, literary outreach, networking).

"For me, the schedule changes radically everyday. I'm one of those people who has ongoing projects as well as one-time projects. I used to be more "organized," meaning I slotted certain hours and days to do certain kinds of word, but everything varies so much that I just have a feel for prioritization now. It all gets done, and on time, and I rarely have to work outside of my normal hours (8:30am to 4pm). I've learned to be flexible with my time after years of juggling and so it's no longer a stressful thing to do so, but I remember a lot of anxiety about getting it all done. Probably it's worth adding here that I say "no" to a lot of things all the time (and refer
clients or projects, when I can) when I feel like I have too much on my plate.

"Deadlines determine much of it for me, but also, the work I do for others almost always comes first (that is, I won't work on my own novel manuscript if I have an editing project due).

"In addition, my number one time management tool is the Google Calendar. There, I color code the category where my work fits (such as purple for my creative writing projects, orange for my blogs, teal for my writers' community outreach work); this way I can reduce the schedule by day, week or month, at a glance, by focusing only on one project, or I can look at all of my projects together to see what's coming up. I also share calendars with a couple of agencies and that helps me to see what things are going on in their world so I can plan accordingly.

"As a working mom, I also build in my kids' activities here as well as my own appointments AND time off that can't be taken away; this way, I guarantee myself some recharge time during the week that's not just a harried lunch break at my desk. I also never answer emails on weekends or work unless I absolutely have to or am traveling.

"The writer needs to figure out what it means for them to be organized.

"For me, it's piles of paperwork kept in their assigned places (traditional files for active projects don't work for me), a well-kept Google calendar, and the discipline to keep things on schedule (while being flexible in the face of personal necessities like caring for sick children or working around lagging sources).

I" think a writer knows they are organized when they can sit down in their workspace and aim their focus on the work at hand without being delayed by the administrative tasks that surround it.

"Arriving at that organizational zen is really more a matter of mindset than anything that can be made physically apparent. I can have a hugely messy office and still be organized in my thoughts, after all. If you haven't already figured it out, I'm not a proponent of clean desks and tidy offices! And I don't know a busy editor or a writer who cares that much about office clutter. To do so would take too much time away from the real work.

"But if you can't work in a slightly chaotic world, you may need to rely on hanging files, electronic reminders in your Blackberry, a rolodex: really, whatever it is that keeps you on target. Only you can know what that is for certain.

Tamara Kaye Sellman

Thanks, Tamara, for being my guest today.


  1. Love reading these posts. I find completing things frees up my energy. If I am feeling blocked, I stop and look around at whatever is hanging over my head and start completing, maybe by declaring it complete as it is, often by taking the next little step inviolved. My energy rises and I am happily writing again.

  2. Hi J.B., thanks for stopping by and sharing your tip for freeing up your energy. I'm glad you've been enjoying the posts and getting something from them.