Creating a Schedule: The Productive Writer

July 27, 2013 — 2 Comments


Validation is good. Trust in yourself is better. Your relationship with your writing is the most solid ground you have. – Sage Cohen

I have conflicting ideas about productivity as a poet. I know that I am supposed to view poetry as art–existing in another realm apart from the marketplace. I also know the reality of the hours I spend each week writing, the stack of finished pieces I have waiting for submission, and the investment I made in my writing education. My hope is that a well-thought-out schedule and defined goals can free me from the constant task of analyzing the marketplace and wondering what more I can be doing.

I recently discovered Sage Cohen, a poet and freelance writer, who has written a detailed book about managing time, setting goals, staying organized and staying on task. Her freelance background is evident in her practical advice and bulleted checklists of tips. This is not a fill-in-the-blank workbook. It does not contain writing prompts or specifics on how to submit poems. The book has, however, been extremely useful to me in highlighting where my process, goals, and organization system are weak.

My goals are defined, but I don’t do enough to break them down into smaller steps (particularly tracking submission deadlines), and there are multiple suggestions from Cohen about how to do this, as well as how to stay organized with each step. She begins with a chapter on setting your compass or blueprint–your goals that will direct how you spend your time.

You have probably heard the phrase “Pay Yourself First” in a budgeting sense, and Cohen suggests that you should follow this philosophy with your writing, completing your own work before you spend time corresponding or using social media. Cohen covers how to navigate in and out of the “zone,” and how to conquer fear.

I particularly liked Cohen’s discussion of the writing schedule, which should encompass more of the writing life than just writing and submitting. Community building and writing education should also be included, as well as enrichment activities. Ideally, a writer’s schedule should not just be a week-to-week plan but a multi-month or annual plan that will address all of the goals set in the compass chapter. Cohen has many suggestions as to how to organize electronic files, use spreadsheet software or online calendars to integrate your ideas.

Cohen addresses publishing (and includes quite a bit on freelance gigs) in one chapter, but she does not push publishing as the only means to recognition. “Validation is good. Trust in yourself is better.” She is wise to say that publication should only be pursued after you have your feet firmly planted on the ground.

The book’s greatest strength is its succinctness. So much material is covered in two hundred pages, but it is easy to skim. Writer’s Digest (WD) published the book and uses it as a text for one of its online classes, so if this book is particularly relevant, the WD class might be worth looking into. I am not affiliated with WD, and I have never taken an online class with them.

Chapter titles:

  1. Harnessing Potential
  2. Claiming Your North Star: Platform
  3. Thinking Productive Thoughts
  4. Putting Vision Into Action
  5. Capturing, Saving, and Repurposing Ideas
  6. Reinventing Your Relationship With Time
  7. Scheduling Time and Tasks
  8. Tapping Your Source
  9. Putting Information at Your Fingertips
  10. Navigating Transitions
  11. Embracing Fear
  12. Writing in the Margins of a Full-Time Life
  13. Virtual Vigilance
  14. Mastering Your Momentum
  15. Revising, Finishing, and Building on Success
  16. Publishing and Landing Gigs
  17. Sustaining Meaningful Relationships
  18. Going Public
  19. Spreading the Word
  20. Skipping Down the Hall

2 responses to Creating a Schedule: The Productive Writer


    Thanks so much for writing about this book. You inspired me to start reading it and I’m only 20 pages in but finding it amazingly useful!

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