Are your writing problems: wine, waste paper, or manure?

Authors wear at least three hats – writer, publicist, and business executive. Instead of investing time and money in another seminar on how to manage your time more effectively, consider reading Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. Don’t shake your head no, keep reading!

Set priorities
In Chapter One of Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Linda Almquist receives this advice on setting priorities when she begins a new job.

“There are three types of problems. A few problems are like wine; those situations improve if you delay decisions and let them age. Most problems are like waste paper. You can ignore them because they don’t matter. Unfortunately like waste paper, they tend to be messy when they pile up. And some problems are like manure. You must identify them quickly before they stink.”

Most of us are so swamped by our “waste paper” problems, that we ignore the “manure problems.” For example, I dribble away my time agonizing over the position of pictures in blogs and the color of the background on ads and slides. I should spend more time on my “manure” problem – getting a larger audience to read my novels. That means I should spend my time scheduling more and diverse speaking and blogging engagements and more time editing my next novel.

Change your work activities as if you were dieting
You can lose a lot of weight rapidly and you can write a lot a 48-hour writing frenzy but these spurts of effort may not be the best approach to keeping weight off or to a long-term writing career. In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Linda Almquist loses weight because she makes lots of small choices, in terms of food and exercise, everyday. Similarly, setting aside time (even only a few minutes) to “work on your books” every day is smart. While you may not be able to accomplish much writing on a novel in fifteen minutes, you can outline a blog in that time.

You are more apt to attain small achievable goals (such as losing a pound a week or writing twenty pages per week) than larger goals with artificial deadlines (for example losing fifty pounds before your class reunion in six months or writing a three hundred page novel by Christmas). In both cases you have to stick to your weekly goal, every week for months to see results. Patience and old-fashioned “stick-to-it-iveness” are virtues.

Create your own action plan
= Keep notes on how you spend your time on writing and publicizing your books for a week.

= Analyze your time usage, in terms of what you accomplished.

How does your time usage align with your writing goals? If you don’t have defined goals for your writing, you’ve just uncovered a “manure” problem.

Are you surprised by how much time you spent handling trivial (“waste paper”) problems or surfing the web?

= Set workable weekly goals and stick to them for months.

Maybe part of your plan should be to read Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. Then you can decide if Linda Almquist follows this advice as she checks out allegations of medical malpractice against two diet doctors in a medical school rife with battling cliques. Her schedule is thrown out of whack when she finds one diet doctor dead and starts receiving threats.

Bio: J. L. Greger, a biologist and professor emerita of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, can’t put her past behind her. She puts tidbits of science and snippets on the culture (good, bad, and ugly) of medical schools and science labs into her medical mystery/suspense novels. So far that’s Coming Flu and Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. A third is on the way.

Learn more about JL Greger at her website (http: and her blog ( called JL Greger’s Bugs. Coming Flu ( )
are available from Amazon in paperback and ebook formats.

Great advice, Janet. I need to pay more attention to that myself. Best of luck with the new book!


jrlindermuth said…
Good advice, Janet. Too often plans are like New Year resolutions. We have good intentions, but lack the ability to stick with it. Keeping track of the rewards might help. I like the analogy of "manure" problems.
Janet Greger said…
Thanks John. I used to give this advice on setting priorities to my grad students: Is it wine, waste paper, and manure? I thought it might be an addition to a novel so I included it in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight.

Thanks to Marilyn for hosting me.

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