Instead of highlighting my favorite Top 10 of the past 70 essays, let’s focus on how you can replicate what I’ve learned! It’s all structure and consistency. Once you’ve built a structure you can use when you have spare time to invest and have honed your discipline to remain consistent, it’s possible to succeed. Before explaining those details, here are 4 WordPress shout-outs to new subscribers, likers, and commenters: Pam Gaines, Defining Yellow, Fractured Faith Blog, and Dawn!
Let’s start with the day I’m writing this essay.
I’m sick. I have a sore throat, my sinuses are acting up, I’m a little dizzy, and I’m feeling the rumblings of a headache. If I didn’t complain out there to the ether, no one would know. As a writer, my word choice could imply more aches than usual, otherwise for musicians or programmers or any sort of industry, it doesn’t matter what condition you’re in, you’ve still gotta do the work. How?
You’ve gotta maintain a structure.
I use Trello, but you could use anything, so long as it works for you.
This is the structure I currently use that works well for me. I will probably modify, change, or destroy this structure in the upcoming months or years. For the past few months, this has worked for me. Here’s how it works. If I publish essays daily, that means I need to know what days are accounted for and what still needs to happen. In the left column, labeled “Published,” are essays that are 100% done. In the right column, “I Don’t Get Bored, I Get Planning,” are essays that still need tending. I use five tags with mostly-arbitrary colors:
- Idea [Orange] – I have the inkling for a concept for this essay. It could be as miniscule as a title, or it could be something that someone said. The most important thing to remember is that ideas are not sacred. Some ideas are thunderbolts that I might write about within 30 minutes, others, I let marinate for weeks or years.
- Written [Red] – I have begun to write this essay. I keep this flexible, so it could mean that the essay is half-written on my smartphone or tablet using Writer Plus, or it’s a draft on my WordPress site. I currently have 18 drafts, but ideally, that should be closer to 5, because drafts don’t give you anything except regrets.
- Picture [Blue] – Now we’re getting somewhere! Here I’ve completed the visual element, be it a photo, drawing, or picture, and it’s either online or a photo that I’ve tweeted to myself so I can quickly downsize it to post online. I use the 600×450 format because it looks decent on most devices and is hard to steal without permission.
- 90% [Green] – We’re just about done here. I might need to take a final editing pass if I wrote it on my smartphone or tablet, if I wasn’t feeling particularly confident about it, or there might be a few things I need to address first. When I begin to collaborate with proofreaders and editors, I might use this more than I do currently.
- 100% [Black] – It’s in the can. I don’t need to work on this essay anymore. I don’t usually go back to edit my older essays unless there’s a glaring mistakes, so I move this essay to the “Published” column and when its publish date hits, I move it into the archive. It’s off my Trello, out of mind, and another essay pops up to replace it.
I first learned about Trello through working professionally with project managers. It’s a tool professionals use to accomplish their tasks, and it’s free, so I’m using it. Speaking about careers, I operate Better Zombie as though I were managing a project. One requirement for the Project Management Professional certification is having over 4,000 hours of project management experience. It’s a lazy excuse to say “no one will hire me to become a PM if I don’t have PM experience, and how can I get PM experience without a PM job?”
Do it yourself!
If you want to be a professional programmer, you’ve got to invest the time and effort into learning your craft. Yeah, the job market sucks for everyone, get over yourself. Instead, focus on what you can do with the time you have, either as a college graduate that’s gotta work minimum wage jobs before getting their first big break into programming, or the unemployed individual that’s gotta get another shot. Now I’m not preaching this as The Structure. It’s just without any planning toward your goals, you are going to fail.
I don’t want you to fail. You’ve read this far after all. I appreciate that.
So you’ve established a structure that works well for you. It’s something that you can maintain without much effort. It’s easy enough for you to grab and go, refer to throughout the day when you’ve got an idle moment, and isn’t such a pain to maintain that you drop it. Now, as that previous sentence implied, there’s another piece to that puzzle. You’ve gotta be consistent with it. You’ve gotta push forward toward your goals as often as you can. Ever sit in a boring meeting? I use that time to push forward my next draft into a published state.
How do you do that? Well, you work toward your goals every single day.
This is how I track how many words I’ve written each day.
I wrote 3069 words on January 14th. I highlighted it in yellow because it’s also the most amount of words I wrote in January. I only wrote 180 words on January 18th so I highlight it in red. I would like to avoid these, but you know how life goes. You can’t feasibly use every minute of your time to work toward achieving your goals. Shit just comes up that prevents you from doing anything at all. This cold, for example, is still here. Once I’m done with this essay, I might still exercise, but I’m definitely taking it easy so it doesn’t get worse.
I was talking with a professional copywriter a few days ago.
During our conversation, he told me that when he collaborated with other copywriters, he preferred working with people that were good enough that were consistent over the copywriters that might only occasionally write. It’s getting over that perfection mentality. You get so stuck on a certain word choice that you don’t finish the sentence. You get so choked up over how difficult a phrase is in a song that you never finish it. Part of that consistency is learning to say when something is good enough to call “done.”
While this could apply to creatives, it also applies to professionals, as well.
Copywriting is the act of marketing words toward certain audiences. Technical support is all about selling a solution to customers. The more persuasive you can be, the easier it is. The fix may not be ideal for time or budget so if you can package it in a particular way, the customer is more likely to accept it. I see most of my peers taking this too far and becoming living scum, however, using these tactics does not directly imply that you are scum. My biggest professional success is in my consistent communication.
I don’t let people “guess” because when they guess, it turns out poorly for me.
They may “guess” that I’m not working on their widget. They may “guess” I’m being lazy. Instead, I direct them toward my professional structure on where we’re at with their situation if it’s not something that’s immediately solved, and I update them on a schedule that they buy into so they can feel relieved. Is that manipulation? We try so hard to consider ourselves to be pure. I’m not a greedy person driven by money, however, everything in life takes money so if I can use any available tool to accomplish my goals, why not?
Every day, you should press forward toward your goals.
The last thing that might set that into motion, after you’ve established a structure that works well for you and evoked a discipline to do the work consistently regardless of your condition, is to hold yourself accountable to that. I watched some anime this morning since I felt terrible. I alloted myself that time, guilt-free, because I knew that I would need to be in better physical shape than I was in order to write this essay. Learning balance, too, I know not to overdo it. No binge-watching anything without having earned it!
This leads me to my conclusion.
Not one of these essays helped me achieve financial autonomy. Did I waste my time? No. Each one helped me develop my skills in some small way so that one day I might achieve my end goal. I must learn to write better in order to write “The Story” properly.
I am 70 steps closer to reaching that goal.
Now work on your goal.
Note: My favorite essay of the last 70 was “Let’s Say No” because this entry in the Sammohini Arc of “The Story” helped me realize the power of fiction: take some actual event and exaggerate the details to get to that event’s truth. I am fond of every other essay, however.