Let’s assume you’ve put together your writing calendar for the year or maybe for the next couple of months.
You have a story idea and you sit down to write. Then the phone rings. Then you get an email. Then your favorite show is on and then when you look up the clock says it’s bed time and you have only written your name on the page.
Yes. You don’t have the luxury to write. Guess what? Neither do I. True that I am a newspaper reporter so I write all day but I do also write fiction and wish, like my fellow writers, that I had time to just write.
But that isn’t that case and quite frankly, it shouldn’t be. Very few writers have a chance to write all day but, then again, at one point they all had day jobs before they became best-selling authors.
I’d like to think that’s where we are now. We are in that phase before we join that inner circle of writers who have all day to write. But until that happens, we have to squeeze it in. We have to be productive with the time we have and work diligently toward our goal. How do we do that? Here’s some tips I’ve collected through the years and have seen in articles and other blogs. Not all of these may work for you but there is no harm in trying.
- Be specific, have a goal
With the rare pockets of time that writers have, there needs to be a game plan. The more specific the better. What has worked for me is telling myself that in those 30 minutes I have between interviews, I will edit the scene I wrote last night or that chapter I wasn’t happy with or I will write dialogue, etc. One of my other writer friends divided her time so that she would write in the morning before work and then spend some time editing at night. Over time, she developed a habit and the pattern helped her finish her novel.
Usually when I know I have a pocket of time, I look forward to it because I know that those 10 minutes will be more productive than the 1 hour I have spent staring in the screen wondering what to do next.
- Get rid of everything you don’t absolutely need
By this I mean everything–email, voicemail, cell phone, PDA (people still use these?), tablets, etc. For that limited amount of time you are out of pocket for everyone in the world. Hide if you have to but concentrate on what you’re doing.
Worried about angering people? Let them know that that concentrated time is off limits. But you have to stick to your guns on this. For example, on Mondays when I work a later shift, I do not answer the phone or respond to text messages. That’s because that is my writing time and those who need anything from me know that that is not the best time to reach me. Guarding the limited time you have is important. If you don’t, you may not have any time at all.
And while we’re at it, get off of Facebook.
- Location, location, location
If you have a short pocket of time to get some writing done and you’re at work, don’t do it at your desk. Being at your desk gives license to your co-workers to come talk to you or for folks to come find you or any variety of scenarios. Location is key.
The same happens at home. You’re at the computer and the kids need something, the spouse has a question, and that dog also needs attention.
So what do you do? Move. Leave. Go somewhere else where you are not easily accessible. The washroom, the laundry room, the break room, your car. The measure may seem extreme but when you have ten minutes to get something done, interruptions are your enemy.
- Above all watch the clock
It happens. You have 20 minutes so you decide to do a character sketch. You become so enthralled with it that you look up and you’re late for your next appointment. (Can not tell you how many times that has happened to me.) The best solution is an egg timer or for you super techie folks the timers on your phones or tablets. That works, too.
It’s important to stick to the schedule since you are not yet part of the inner circle who writes all day. The laundry still needs to get done, the meeting is still happening, etc. So honor what is still important in your world and balance it with what’s important to you. One way to do that is to watch the clock and be mindful that, while the world revolved around you for the brief time you had to write, it has to return to normal. In this way you are a super hero with a secret identity.
So how is the writing going so far this year? Done with a chapter or short story? Click the comments link and tell me how it’s going!