A writer's thoughts about time: 3 tips for time management as a writer

Why I feel qualified to talk abut time management as a writer

In the last three years, I've written and edited and published two novels, four novellas, and have another novel in the final throes of the editing process and am currently also engaged in a lengthy work of serial fiction. 

That's in addition to my day job as a Special Education teacher in the local public school, and my other full-time jobs as husband and father to my son and two rescue labs.

Making it all work is difficult sometimes, but I think the key to writing under my, or any circumstances, is to understand the nature of a writer's time, and maximize your effective use of time.

I'm going to share my ideas on the subject (which is why I established my bona fides at the beginning), but it's important to note that while I'm nearly perfect and entirely brilliant, what works for me may not work for you ... so take everything I say with as much salt as you feel is necessary.

1) Writers write, so find/make/steal the time
People are generally surprised to find out that I'm a writer, and always ask something along the lines of, "That's amazing ... where do you find the time?"

I don't find the time, I make it. I carve chunks of time out of my already busy life, and guard them jealously.

The next thing they say (if they haven't wandered off to find someone more interesting to talk with) is, "I have always dreamed of writing."

That's awesome! I always want to say that I've always dreamed of being purple or trying my hand at brain surgery or subsisting solely on bacon for a month ... but not as much as I dreamed of becoming a writer, which is why I'm a writer, and not a purple brain surgeon, living on nothing but bacon.

If you want to be a writer ... WRITE!.

2) Write every day ... if that works for you
One of the biggest tyrannies in the writing world is the stated rule that you have to write every day in order to be successful (or even to call yourself a writer).

My personal belief is that this scares/keeps away more potential writers than do worries about writer's block, never being published, and landsharks.

If everybody who spouted this 'rule' did, in fact, write everyday, we'd all be buried in piles of newly written books tall enough to be seen from space.

I think it's an easy (possibly lazy) way to say that writers should write, and that establishing routines for that writing is important to being successful as a writer (by which I do not mean cashing ginormous royalty checks, so much as finishing books).

I have routines for my writing, but do not write everyday ... never have, and I probably never will.

3) Writers have many different jobs, and they all take different amounts and qualities of time ... this can work for you

As a writer, I have lots of different 'jobs' that, in a perfect world, all work together to make my writing better and also get human eyes on the pages.

It can be tough to juggle all of those jobs effectively, since some of them are much more fun than others ... but the good news is that I've found that the different jobs have radically different needs, in terms of the amount and quality of the time I have to invest/spend/devote to getting them done.

Creative writing of a first draft of anything is the most expensive kind of writing time for me: I prefer to do this kind of writing when I have at least two to six hours of private/quiet time. This often translates to a stolen day (or half of a day) when nobody is home but me and the dogs.

Editing time for my work is slightly easier to come by: I like to have an hour or more, and for it not to be filled with interruptions (although I can handle talking with people and helping my son with homework during this kind of work).

Research and story mapping/planning is something that I can do with 10-20 minutes chunks of time, using big pieces of paper and pen and a wifi connection: I've done this in McDonald's, in the ski lodge, even during my lunch break at work.

Social media management is almost the easiest job I have as a writer (which is a good thing, because I only do it because I have to ... writer's want to tell stories, not talk about themselves or their books ... we're introverts, look it up). I can post updates about my current writing projects or thoughts about writing on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ in a minute , and crank out a blog like this one in a half hour of stolen/found minutes during the day (or in the early morning with my first cup of coffee).

Reaching out to local vendors is something I tend to do on Fridays for some reason. About every 2 months, I send a group email to local stores that sell my books, asking if they need more copies ... I also make them aware of what I'm currently working on, and the schedule for any upcoming releases of printed material. This takes me three minutes that I tend to find between stages of making Friday night dinners.

Mailing and invoicing is drudgery, pure and simple; nobody becomes a writer so they can do more shipping and accounting work, but it's a part of the gig. I keep a box of books in my car so that when I hear from a vendor who would like some copies, I can stop off at the post office on the way home from work some afternoon. I force myself to send an invoice for each shipment as soon as I get home (I do it by email, and have a form that I use, so it's pretty quick).

Taking/making notes is a nearly instantaneous thing for me; an idea comes to me, and I either jot down a note, or record a memo with my iphone ... I do this all the time in a couple of seconds between whatever else I'm doing (it's cheap and easy writing work for me).

What does all of this mean to you and me and 'them'?
These three tips have been working for me for a couple of years and a couple of novels so far; they might work for you.

Becoming (or being) a writer firstly means giving yourself permission to call yourself one ... after that you have to find and manage the time necessary to do the writing, to tell and share your stories.

I'd love to write full-time, but that doesn't seem likely from where I am right now, so I have worked out this system to mesh my writing with the rest of my life ... that being said, your life is different from mine, so you have to find which adjustments to make, and how to make them.

The 'them' I refer to in the section heading above is your audience ... your readers. Finding the time, making the sacrifices, making it work, is all about you, but also at least some about them. I love writing, and/but a part of that love is wrapped up in knowing that other people read my stuff and enjoy it.

Finding a way (or ways) to manage your time as a writer, along with everything else going on in your life, will result in better writing ... better stories (or poems or songs or whatever) to share with your audience.

I write my novels during the summer months, and edit them with an eye towards publishing the new one around January first each year ... not because I have to (I'm an independent writer and publisher, so the only deadlines I face are the ones that I set), but because establishing and maintaining some level of control over my writing/editing/publishing process (all of which relates to time management) makes me a better writer and storyteller.

My other writing projects are shoehorned into the rest of the year as/when/how they fit. The schedules of my work, my wife's work, and my son's work (school and activities and friends) are a big part of determining when and how much writing work I can get done in any given week/month, but we all work together because it's a priority for me, and them.

Although you may (probably will) end up managing your time as a writer differently than I do mine, if you find the time management method/balance that works for you, you'll be a better writer, and share better stories with your readers.



1 comment:

lividlili said...

All good points. Thanks for the article! Now, I must go carve out some time for myself...