Tuesday, January 29, 2013

From To-Do to Ta-Da, Part 2

It’s a good crème rinse day. So what If my hair is flat from conditioner? As my former neighbor Betty K. used to say when she was tempted to gloss over the housework, “Who sees it?”
I’m not going anywhere. All my excuses are used up. I’ve already worked out twice this week. I’m low on groceries but not out. I filled the gas tank yesterday. There are no errands to run. I have nothing to buy; nothing to see; no one to meet. I put on my worst pair of jeans this morning, because…well, by now I’m sure you’re getting the idea.
I’m staying home because one of my urgent assignments is to prepare magazine submissions. Simply told, that means researching magazines, finding contact information, matching my ideas to their publications, crafting queries, and at least outlining the articles I’ll write if the queries are successful.
I’ve never submitted to magazines and find it daunting; however, that has become irrelevant.
Today’s organizational focus is my computer files. Specifically, I’m opening every Word file that might be relevant to my upcoming article blitz and making a list of what they’re all about. You might think the filenames would tell me, but you’d be giving me too much credit. What, exactly, is “Publicity Notes 120412”? What might be the content of “Article 82912”?
This morning I found 24 Word documents in which I began a query, an article, or notes for an article. That’s not bad, even though the keyword is began. Though none of the pieces are finished, these discoveries have spared me from a far worse starting point.
So, creating yet another Word document, I listed the other 24 by filename and content. I have a separate list of target magazines, so the next step will be to match the queries to the article notes and then match the topics to the magazines.
The other day I bought a 2013 Writer’s Market, which was a good move. This well-known reference includes nearly 350 pages of information on consumer magazines and trade journals. Luckily, when I went through those sections page by page, I had the sense to highlight magazines that seemed compatible with my subject matter. So part of today’s project is to note what page they’re on so that I can find them again among consumer categories from “Animals” to “Women’s” and in the trade section, “Advertising” to “Veterinary.”
So, the laundry’s caught up. Dishwasher’s been emptied. It’s time to dig back into the aforementioned project. The good news is that cutting a path through the confusion of files sitting in my “Documents” folder has enabled me to see logically what I have to do next. And, of course, it’s a good crème rinse day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

From To-Do to Ta-Da, Part 1

Overwhelmed? Desk a mess? Too many projects? Deadlines looming? Not sure what to tackle first?
Overeating to escape? Oh, maybe that was just me. Yesterday I downed yogurt, two kinds of fruit, cereal, a peanut-butter sandwich, cheddar chips, meat loaf, cheese, celery, a trail mix bar, a light beer, and a popsicle. I could have kept going if I hadn’t fallen asleep. Much of my frenetic eating had one purpose: to distract me from the challenges waiting in my office.
When I started this post, I wondered if I could stand to begin one more new document. I have so many unfinished Word files that I can’t remember what I named them. I start a new file when I get a new idea, and yesterday I had plenty of ideas.
We just got a pub date for the memoir I co-authored with my brother. Mr. Joe is due out in seven months, and we have begun the publicity campaign. Here I sit in the deep Ohio winter, wearing my sweats and fuzzy slippers, faced with our mission of creating a buzz--but not facing it alone. I am oh, so glad that Joe is in it with me.
Oh, you thought the publisher would do this? We’ve talked about these roles before: the publisher publicizes the book and the authors publicize themselves. Joe and I also have a publicist who makes our job easier, but many responsibilities still fall to us, the authors.
Yesterday Joe and I practiced interviewing techniques. We discussed what content to develop for our electronic press kit (EPK) and even touched on possible new projects. He is investigating websites related to books and has started a blog.
I started a gazillion Word files and ate.
Today had to be different, yet my brain was still in such a rat race with itself that I couldn’t think. So I stopped. I stopped and did what has never failed me: I took the time to get organized.
1.       Before I could be recruited for “Hoarders,” I cleaned off my desk. I moved everything off the top and ran a disinfecting wipe over the surface. I looked at every folder, sheet of paper, and sticky note, discarding what I could. I filed folders away and put books back on the shelf.

2.       I made a to-do list. This solution is tried and true, but many times I have to be facing disaster before I remember to try it. The length of the list doesn’t matter; its purpose is to separate the tasks that have become one big jumble and help us identify the most urgent ones. Here are mine:
Gather or create (with Joe) material for electronic press kit
Choose book excerpts
Write query letters
Send promised photos to horror website
Research magazines
Develop articles (with Joe)
Keep blog going
3.       I started working the list, my mind finally calming at the idea of one task at a time. For me, it’s the only way to work. And, for today, I can check off the last item on the list.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Touch Typing

So Write! is a blog about writing. Oh, all right, it’s usually about writing. Every now and then I stray from my focus and tell you the latest on the Kardashians—but not today. Today we talk about getting the words onto the page.
Today I celebrate touch typing.
If you’re of a certain age, I don’t have to explain touch typing to you; chances are good that you learned the skill in high school or college. Younger readers might have learned to type in junior high or even in one of the lower grades as formal typing instruction moved downward to accommodate the need for computer literacy.
If you don’t know what I mean by touch typing, it’s a method of typing quickly and correctly without looking at the keys. You learn to place your hands on the home row and then reach for the other keys, always returning to the home position. Touch typing is like riding a bike: it relies on muscle memory. With practice, your fingers know what to do and you can let your mind drift where it will.
Some writers like longhand. They work best when their pen or pencil makes contact with a sheet of paper. Some like writing by hand because it’s slow. I like touch typing for the opposite reason: it gives me the ability to keep up with my own thoughts, which often fly in multiple directions.
Writing is fun when the process doesn’t bog us down. I can text and even spell creatively when I can’t find the right key on my phone, but thumb-typing wouldn’t cut it for the long haul. Two-fingered typing and hunt-and-peck work for some people but handicap others, and they’re hard to unlearn. Speech recognition hasn’t taken off the way some proponents predicted, but with patience it can work. The point is that writers put down hundreds of words, thousands of words. The word count for a book can exceed 50,000 or even 100,000 words. It’s a tall order.
Typing I and II were the only business courses I took in high school, but they paid off. It wasn’t because of computers—they were not in use by the general public back then--but because of the careers I’ve chosen, most of them related and most having to do with putting words on a page. First I was a teacher; next I became a newspaper reporter. I was an editor. Now I’m a writer.
A court stenographer named Frank Edward McGurrin is credited with inventing touch typing in 1888. I’m grateful to him and to all the Business Education teachers who have taught and advocated this skill. It works for me. How do you get your words onto the page?

Shameless promotion: Soon you’ll see a new blog titled Mr. Joe’s Sweeping Thoughts. There’s a link on my website, www.janecongdon.com. The blogger will be my brother, Joseph Barnett, a former school custodian whose memoir is due out this spring.  Mr. Joe: Tales from a Haunted Life is a fascinating story of ghosts both literal and figurative. Joe is a talented storyteller, but typing 91,000 words isn’t his idea of a good time. I co-authored Mr. Joe by helping him get his story onto the page. You’ll be glad.