Tools: organization systems…

Welcome to 2019 dear reader! One of the new things we’re doing this year is we want to use an FMP Instagram account to feature pictures related to the stuff we’re doing, and some pictures meant to provoke stories and ideas in the minds of our viewers and readers.

I’ve thought about using some of my toy collection in the pictures. But, it’s hard to do when you don’t have a schedule, and even harder when your tools (my toys) look like this…

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So… one thing I’ve been working on is organizing.

It’s a little too common to hear people saying “I don’t have time to get organized”.

If they actually took the time it would pay off.

It takes an investment of time, and often money, to get organized. But, every time I compare organized work to unorganized work, I find I can get more done when I’m organized. That initial investment pays me back fairly quickly, and well.

In fact, some of the benefits can be quantified (as I’ll show below).

In the Instagram example there are two kinds of organization we need: physical, and planning/chronological

Physical organization

It’s costing me some money (about $9.00 per container), but I’ve found a solution for organizing the bits and pieces I’ll use for the pictures.

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This method is costing money, but makes things much easier to find.

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And this technique is flexible, I can alter and expand the organization as I go.

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By taking this time now I’m making myself more willing to make the scenes and do the pictures.

And when I make the pictures, I can do them faster and easier. Because I can find the stuff I spend less time searching for the stuff.

I can even improve my pictures because I can see options I might forget otherwise.

Planning and time organization

As much as I love my bins and boxes I’ll never get around to doing the pictures if I don’t decide to do them and decide when they will be finished and posted. I also need to keep my decisions in front of me while I work.

My favorite tools for this (at the moment) is my Google calendar and task list. I can see how much time I have to get things done, and when things are due. They also help me figure out what parts to do when.

The tools help, but you have to get into the habit of using them and doing the thinking.

When you do the thinking, and then incorporate your decisions and plans into your calendar and task list, you are committing yourself to action. Committing yourself to action improves your chances of completing the task. Remembering that commitment (which your calendar/task list helps you with…) strengthens that commitment, and your probability of success.

Does it really help?

Yes, it really does. In fact, you can put numbers on it!

I finish 90+ percent of the things I put on my calendar, and maybe 50 percent of the ones I don’t

I can also get my pictures done faster, and as they say… Time is money. If having my toys organized saves me two minutes per picture, and I only do one picture per week that is a savings of 104 minutes over the course of a year (about 1.67 hours…),

If you figure 1.67 hours at the $15.00 minimum wage folks are talking about these days, that organization saves you $25.05 per year. Since I value my time above minimum wage, I save more. And, these numbers are for one picture per week. Some posts will have four or five pictures (plus pics for the blogs, etc.). When I figure in the value of my time and the multiple pictures per week, I’m definitely saving the cost of my boxes this year….

Getting and staying organized takes an investment, but doing it allows you to spend more of your time and money doing what you want and need to do in the long run. Saving that wandering and flailing around is worth it. So… I supposed I should get back to getting things organized and ready for the months (and books!) ahead.

If you have an organization technique you want to share, or a question about organization, let me know in the comments. I love responding to comments. And of course… See you next post!

Change and ‘normality’ (one round of many)

A few months ago two really important things happened at the same time: my wife graduated with a doctorate in instructional design and I released Johnson Farm: my first novel, my first nanowrimo win, and a book that I was forced to admit really did need a sequel (and after I promised myself I wouldn’t do that…).

We were done and life was going to get back to ‘normal’ (yes dad I can hear the laughter from here…). I jumped straight into the second book. After all, being a writer is what I do. Unfortunately it’s never that simple…

  1. In becoming a full time writer I decided to create my own publishing label and that needs regular attention, just like the writing part.
  2. As much as I hate to admit it I do have a life outside of books (gasp! It scares me too!)
  3. I went full time on the writer me and invented the publisher me while my wife was working on a doctorate.

When combined these facts mean that Farangian the full time writer, and Forever Mountain Publishing, had never known life without a grad student in the house. We have spent the last couple of years in a ‘make it work’ mode. And, while it’s good we can do that, it’s not really a healthy thing to do long term. So, about a month ago I gave myself the task of reanalyzing and making things work better in a ‘normal’ life (I know, there’s that word again…). That meant stopping the blog for a couple weeks, stopping the writing for a couple of weeks, thinking, reorienting, and then starting the whole thing up again with a new plan (it also meant my wife hiding the swords, axes, fire arms, plasma cannons, and so on until it was done…).

Going forward

Now we’re at the point where everything is moving forward again. I’m keeping semi-regular office hours (I still get book ideas at 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning, but I try not to be working on work stuff while I’m spending time with my wife in a non-work setting). I’ve reworked my weekly schedule so that things like website maintenance are less likely to be forgotten (I know I still have catching up to do, but at least it’s regularly on the plan and starting). And, I’m back to writing and putting out the blogs.

Things won’t change too much here. My blog at FMP is about writing: the mechanics of writing; life as a writer; the publishing process; and other things or interest to writing and publishing people. Words Mean Stuff is about words and ideas. That might sound like the writing blog, but from here on out it is about words and ideas about life: Making positive choices, finding meaning, and other “humany” stuff that words represent.

I will talk about books and projects that I am working on in both places, but I will try to talk about them in context appropriate ways. I will also talk about crafting stuff from time to time, in contextually appropriate ways. What I’m not going to be doing (well, I’ll try not to, but I’m not perfect) is ranting and spewing hurt feeler negativity. Those things happen in life, but I have no desire to speak of them here.

These blogs are about ideas and communication. You need a safe, open forum to talk about those things, and that’s what I’m going to make here. Speaking of talking… I love comments and discussion. So, dear reader, feel free to comment on the blogs, or share them if you find an opportunity and find the blog post worthy.

That’s it for this one dear reader, time to stop talking about and start doing! See you next week.

Blogging vs Books: Similar but different

As a writer and Editor in Chief I have to wear a couple of different hats in the process of getting a book out. Similarly writing a book and writing a blog post are both writing, but there are some real differences.

A blog: writing in the now

Blogposts tend to be things that are on our minds when we’re putting them up. To be effective they are generally about things happening (or at least on our minds) right now. If you’re blogging about something that happened when you were five it is probably because it has something to do with something that’s going on right now. It probably has some current purpose that you are trying to achieve.

Blog posts have a sense of immediacy. They are generally meant to be read shortly after you wrote them. This has effects on the writing process. You don’t have a year to get a blog post out; you want it out now. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t edit your post (PLEASE EDIT YOUR POSTS!!!). It means that you are going to have less time and work in your editing, fortunately you also have less to edit.

Blog posts are shorter (hopefully much shorter) than a novel or self-help book.  A blog post (hopefully) is simpler in terms of themes. There is a real difference between editing a 600 word post with one theme and editing a 50000+ word novel with multiple subplots and shifting points of view. This means editing a blog post can be simpler and more straight forward (I’m hoping you can maintain continuity for a page or two…). Keep your posts simple and to the point, that way you can edit them well and get them out there.

A book: longer, thicker, and more complex

A book has a lot more words in it (usually). If it’s worth reading it also has a lot more ideas in it. That means there is a lot more that can go wrong.

A book will probably have a different voice, sound, and feel than a blog post. You could have blog posts in a book, but the book has a lot more going on than a blog post (or most series of blog posts). There are (probably) going to be some differences in language used and (definitely) major differences in editing.

A blog post with 600 words and one main idea may be editable with a couple of hours work. A 50000+ word book is difficult to completely read in two hours, much less completely edited. Checking punctuation, point of view, continuity, and all the other aspects of good editing are going to take time no matter what kind of book you’re writing.

In fact some kinds of editing (worky icky line editing for example) are best left until you have the have the real ideas and writing part of editing done. Yes, fix that dropped quotation mark when you find it, but don’t obsess about finding all the dropped quotes, commas and periods until you are done getting the ideas and words in place. Until you get the big stuff in place dropped punctuation, misplaced capitals, and other issues of the sort are going to keep happening. Fix them if you see them, but don’t go hunting for them until there’s nothing else to fix.

You are going to have to put real time and effort into editing a book. (Well… you could just put in an hour or too in… if yyou only want a fewy people too read it… and then never read anything you write… ever again!)

You can get your editing done in a number of ways, but sooner or later it boils down to time and skill. Either you have to take the time and learn the skills, or you have to get someone with the time and skills to do it (better yet do both!). Either way if you want to write a (successful) book it is going to take time and effort, and not just in the first draft.

I don’t want to be “Mr. Bringdown” dear reader. I just want your projects to be the best they can be. You need to do the work or find someone who will (hint… editors and publishers help with that…).

Writing and editing are what I do. I want our writing (yours and mine) to be the best it can be. So I’m going to let you get back to work dear reader, and so will I.