Know Yourself, As a Writer (By Tiberio Garza, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant)

 

Know Yourself
As a Writer

By Tiberio Garza. P.O.W.E.R. Consultant

 

Let me ask you some questions. How much time do you spend writing each week? How well can you estimate the time you need to complete a particular writing task? Would you underestimate or overestimate your ability to complete a writing task by an hour, a day, a week, or even a month?

 

One of the most valuable strategies is to know yourself as a writer – what writing you have done, what you’re currently writing, and what you will write. As a writer striving for productivity, you need to reflect on where your time is being spent and the effort being made. The better you can measure yourself according to a writing task, the better you can effectively manage time. The goal is to understand what can be achieved per week given your writing skill and daily time allocated to writing.

 

One tool you can use to get to know yourself as a writer is to keep a log of where you spend your time. You can start by logging everything you do in one day, from the time you wake up until you go to bed. Practice logging events during the day, such as the time you awoke, time spent at work, time spent with your children. The goal is to become aware of how you use your day – is time made for writing? From your one-day log you can see where your time and energy are going. If most of your day is spent on email or social websites, then maybe you need to re-direct how you invest your time and energy in order to get writing done.

 

Once you have a sense of where your time is being spent, I would encourage you to keep a log just for your writing. Record when you start writing and when you stop. You can add informative columns to your writing log such as “how my writing went” or “my next steps will be…” These columns are great to help you understand your feelings/thoughts about writing and ultimately to gain insight on yourself as a writer. Writing logs are also great for providing direction and keeping the focus on your writing goals. Briefly, there is a goal to your writing and its purpose is to orient you toward success. Creating a column for your writing goals is always helpful. Another idea is to color code your writing log to indicate whether the project you are working on is for yourself, for work, and/or for others. Columns described are visually illustrated at the end and can serve as a jumpstart into your next writing session.1

 

If you are still not convinced, consider the following advantages to keeping a writing log:

 

1. It gives you a sense of how much time it takes to complete writing tasks (e.g., a journal article manuscript or a conference proposal).

2. It gives you a sense of how much time is being devoted to different projects for yourself and/or for others, especially if you formulate a color code legend at the top of your writing log indicating each project.

3. It gives you a sense of what times of the day you are most productive as a writer.

4. It gives you a sense of accountability for the time you spend on your writing.

 

Modifying wisdom shared by Sun Tzu, a Chinese author of The Art of War, and applying it to writing, we see the importance of knowing ourselves in relation to writing:

 

If you know the enemy [writing roadblocks] and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles [writing projects]. If you know yourself but not the enemy [writing roadblocks], for every victory gained [productive gain] you will also suffer a defeat [productivity hardship]. If you know neither the enemy [writing roadblocks] nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle [writing project].2 (p.14)

 

Sun Tzu’s wisdom applied to writing means if we are not reflective about who we are as writers, then we can easily find ourselves adopting unhealthy writing habits and allowing them to flourish. Allowing unhealthy writing habits to flourish can add hardship to our overall productivity. By knowing ourselves as writers and replacing unhealthy writing habits with productive habits, we gain confidence and trust that we can finish our writing projects well.

 

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2 Tzu, S. (2011). The art of war: The oldest military treatise in the world. (L. Giles, Trans.). Alberta, Canada: Theophania Publishing. (Original work published 1910)