Even though it's been a hot summer, I've had this impression for months that I'm staring up at an impending avalanche. No snow is involved, however; just a pile of tasks that could daunt the most skilled organizer. On days I feel more like running for my life than tackling my to-do list, I have to remember that only two things will save me from my self-imposed danger. Prioritizing and getting to work.
Prioritizing is what gets the important things done first; think of it as helping you get the worst of that snowdrift out of the danger zone so you can pick at the icicles later. How do you do this? Decide before you look at your list what is most important to you and why. Since I'm a professional writer--meaning I sometimes get paid for my work--I prioritize my tasks this way:
1. What do I have a contractual obligation for? If I have a contract for a book or story, it gets done before anything else.
2. What can I get paid for? If my publisher might like the next book on my mind, I put it higher on the list than one I've got no market for yet.
3. What will support my other books? Sometimes, I will stop and write a short story in one of the universes I have novels in to submit to magazines. This is both writing and marketing!
4. Is there an opportunity I need to jump at?
5. What's going to further my dream? Sometimes, this might have to force itself higher on the chain. For example, I have a trilogy I think has a good chance with one of the Big Six. I've not had time to write it yet, however, so I've earmarked several months in 2012 for it.
Here is my avalanche:
My publisher is interested in a second Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator book. Another publisher has the first in my Mind Over Mind trilogy, which came out in August. I had the chance to pitch a book I've been working on to my ideal publisher for it. I had three anthologies I want to write for. I have a book coming out in April (Live and Let Fly), and I have an idea for a book that I think could get me an agent.
It sounds like a huge, impossible mass of work--and avalanche ready to happen, right? However, because I have it prioritized, I could handle these in sequence:
--Mind Over Psyche, the second in the trilogy, went out in March
--April-June, I worked on Neeta Lyffe II, putting it aside in June to finish Discovery to pitch to Ignatius
--in July, while finishing Discovery, I also wrote a story with the main character from Mind Over Mind to send to the anthology. The other stories will wait until October
--in August, I am alternating between Discovery's polish and Live and Let Fly's edits
--I will finish Neeta II in September
--I start the serial stories in November (and they will be pretty automatic once I finish the set-up)
--I will write Damsels and Knights Jan-April
I conquer each task by priority, and while other things may pop up, they will get put in their proper spot (or disregarded if they don't make the priority list).
Sometimes as writers, we're tempted to give in to the stereotype that as creative people, we cannot bind ourselves to a particular task. That attitude gets you buried under the avalanche. You can identify your priorities, so before you take on the tasks, figure out what's important to you, set priorities, assign tasks and go!