Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Putting the Joy Back in Writing

by Edie Melson  @EdieMelson

Have To, Need To, and Want To!
I have a love/hate relationship with lists. They definitely keep me organized and on track, but they also highlight just how many commitments I have. 

To combat the downside, and keep me moving forward, I’ve found a way to categorize my writing tasks through a 3-tiered approach.

I call it my Have To, Need To, and Want To system. It’s the definitions of the writing tasks that determine where they fit in this. Today I’m going to share those definitions with you, along with examples.

These are my non-negotiable tasks. There’s really no wiggle room for these because they affect either my income, my reputation, and/or someone else’s income or reputation. For me, the usually include:
  • Blog posts I write for money or as a regular contributor to a professional site—like Guideposts and Novel Rocket.
  • Daily social media updates. These are the updates I schedule every morning, but they’re divided up part here, in the Have To category and part in the Need To. I tell myself I HAVE TO schedule a minimum of 5 updates a day, 5 days a week. I’ll share the Need To part later.
  • Articles that I’ve been hired to write.
  • Certain blog posts on my site. My Have To posts are Monday’s Social Media Monday and one post minimum for Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Writing that’s been contracted (like for a book) or on a proposal that needs to go out.
These are the things that I know I need to do, if there’s any way I can. They're also the things I let slip if something important with my life comes up.
  • Daily social media updates beyond the HAVE TO five—I feel a NEED TO schedule 12 – 15 per day, 5 days a week.
  • Additional blog posts on my site. I feel the NEED TO have new content 7 days a week on my blog. That means I NEED TO write a large part of that content.
  • Contests that I feel would move my career forward.
  • Commenting on social media and blogs.
  • Finding new people to connect with through social media.
This part of the list is what fuels my joy in writing. If I’m only ever doing the HAVE TO and NEED TO, my time writing is in danger of becoming drudgery. So I try to make sure that I hit at least 1 thing that’s designated WANT TO. These include a lot of different things.
  • Poetry—I think writers can improve by playing around with poetry.
  • Short Fiction—again, it is part of improving my craft.
  • Photography—I know, it’s not writing per se. But I use my photography directly in my blog and in other parts of writing.
  • Research and brainstorming for new projects.
All right, this is how I look at my writing life. Do you have a similar system or something completely different? Do you have a system at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


Is your #writing to-do list taking all the joy out of writing? Tips from @EdieMelson (Click toTweet)


  1. Edie, this brings great clarity to one of the most important parts of any writers life. I've always heard that the person who doesn't read is as handicapped as the person who can't read. I would argue that the same statement is true when the word "read" is replaced by the word "write." Drilling down to both, it all comes back to our priorities. Having blurred priorities can be as dangerous as having as no priorities. What good does it do to carve out time to write then spending all that time only doing items on our "want to" and "need to" lists? I'm finding that the life of writing is as fought with rabbit trails as any other - maybe more. Taking time to be COMPLETELY CLEAR on writing priorities is easily the difference between meeting and missing goals. I'd put this post at the top of the list of everything I've read that you've written. Powerful medicine, my friend.

    1. Jay, these are great thoughts! Thank you so much for stopping by, Blessings, E

  2. Edie, I love this! My system is generally (metaphorically, actually) to write all my tasks on little slips of paper, put them in a basket, shake them up and then see what tumbles out. Then later I find three of them smashed behind a sofa cushion. Sigh. Gotta get a handle on this.

    1. Rhonda, you are a woman after my own heart - poor thing. That way of coping is why I found this way. Thanks so much for stopping by and for being such a cool part of the team here on The Write Conversation! Blessings, E

  3. In the need to dept, I now have a seventh feature I will be adding to my blog, one for each day of the week. One is a guest post, one iw recipes which takes next to no time and I can queue up in advance, featured books, which again takes next to no time.... book reviews are short(ish) Sunday devotions are short(ish) too—it all takes mostly coordination on my part, only one full post to write, but as per Social Media Guru and my friend Edie (wink wink) has encouraged me, it is paying off in building my network!!!

  4. Hi Edie:)

    I like the system you adopted. I battle balancing my time.

    For me, blending my writing and photography "have to" and "need to" lists make it really daunting—on top of being a part-time caregiver. At times, I would get really frustrated, but I know the Lord does not want me that way. He has me right where I am supposed to be, doing what I am to do for the time. The best thing I have learned is to give Him each day and accomplish what I can:)

    BTW…..CreativeLive is a wonderful online website where you can learn tons about photography for free. I have taken lots of their classes. The instructor teaches and I write notes on small lined journals from Barnes & Noble. I have bought few classes too. But, your desires may be just to find time to get out and shoot.

    Thanks for all you do especially for the BRMCWC! ~ Judy