Monday, October 3, 2011

How To Balance Your Writing Schedule

Someone suggested in the last post I wrote that maybe I could come up with some suggestions on ways to help maximize your writing time. It's funny, because after the last few weeks I've had, where I've really only found time to write about 500-800 words a week, I don't feel super qualified to write this, but maybe there is something in here that you may not of thought of. Hopefully it will help you (and maybe even me) balance writing with your life.

First, it's important to set your priorities. And that may not be writing. For me that's my daughter/family and work. Those are things that are necessary,especially in the case of work as it pays for the roof over my head. In the case of my daughter, because I'm already gone at work 8-9 hours a day, I don't want to take any more time away from her. Then there is my Spanish class. It's important that I learn Spanish for myself and for my job, so that has to come next. This used to be the writing area. And so now, writing comes last. But that doesn't mean I don't ever do it.

Second, set realistic goals. Some authors say they won't get up from their computers until they get 1,000 words down a day. That's great. That's also assuming you have an hour a day to purely write. My suggestion is that you look how long you're aiming your piece to be. 50,000 words? 75,000 words? Set your goal first. For me, I usually shoot for 50,000 because I write YA. I usually go over that, but it gives me something to use as a guideline. Then think realistically. Can you do 5,000 words? In a week? That's much more doable. You could have a really good Saturday and knock out 3K in one sitting. Then spread the other two out over the week. At 5K a week, you've hit your target word count in 10 weeks. 2 1/2 months. Not bad at all. Less time? Spread it out even more. But then at least you have progress. If it takes you 6 months to write a book that's okay. Look at George R.R. Martin. That dude took years. And I also don't believe you have to write every day to reach your goals.

And there are ways to carve out that time. Are you a morning person or maybe don't start work until 9 AM (I fall into neither of those categories), try getting up a half an hour early to get some words down. Have a free lunch hour? Maybe you can get in 300-500 words. Put the kids to bed? Maybe you've got another hour before you have to get ready for bed. That's usually what I look for. If your child is involved in multiple activities, take a laptop or even a notebook with you and jot down ideas or even write if you can. The biggest problem is distractions. When you do write, don't answer the phone, don't answer the door, and DON'T have the internet open. Dedicate your time, whether it's 10 minutes to wrap up that chapter or a full hour to really lay down some quality words.

Another culprit....TV and/or video games. I always thought about how much more time people would have to pursue their interests if they cut back on TV or video games. I have 2 shows that I watch every week and dedictate 1 hour to each of those shows (Vampire Diaries & the Amazing Race). Everything else I DVR and watch when I have time. So needless to say, they tend to pile up, but then when I do sit down to watch TV, I have plenty to pick from.

And for me, as it will be for you after writing a book, there is a lot of other work to do. Being that my writing time is limited, I focus on a different project that I can do in small pieces without feeling like I'm getting nowhere. Right now, I have some short stories open on my computer and I'm working on editing them and getting them ready for a release. I can do it in bite-size pieces and make some decent progress with only 10-15 minutes of work. I've made a personal goal to perhaps to release that this month. That keeps me moving forward.

Third...understand your limitations. I love to write. It's my favorite thing to do. But it doesn't (yet) pay my mortgage. In my current situation, I'm making healthy money off of something I love. So if I can't write for a few days or even a week, I try (though it's hard) not to beat myself up about it. It will get done. I have the drive and desire and when I find the time, even if it's takes awhile, I'll reach my goals. Someday, if writing takes over as my offical full time job, it will receive the 8 hours a day of dedication that it deserves, but even then...it's not possible (in my mind) to write 8 hours a day straight. I would bet my other hours would be made up of administration/social media/advertising/etc.

I'd love to hear your suggestions as well. How do you make time to write? Anybody have the weirdest place they've written? Mine aren't so strange...I've written while in the waiting room at the doctor's office and in the bathroom while giving my kid a bath.

5 comments:

  1. I confess to writing while driving my car.

    I never text or hold my phone, but at stoplights, and in long lines of bumper-to-bumper traffic through my sleepy-small town, I've scribbled out lines of dialogue.

    My main trick of pumping out drafts is to do it by setting a timer in Dr. Wicked's 48 minute sprints. Or at 4:30 a.m. before my family rises, I shut off everything, except music & write.

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  2. I think if you want to be a serious writer, you need to dedicate the time to do it and you cannot let your writing lapse. Like dieting or exercise, one day off leads to two, and before you know it a week or more has gone by without writing. Getting back into the swing takes twice as much work if you simply had not quit.

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  3. Well I think serious is definitely relative to your personal terms. That probably works for you. I consider myself a serious writer, but I can't possibly write every day. I do something related to my writing career every minute I have free, I feel like, whether it's writing itself or working on connecting online thruough the blog or social media.

    I have traditionally published friends that go to coffee shops on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week for a couple hours and that's their writing time because it's the only time they can fit into their schedule. I think if you keep at it regularly and make progress that you're taking it seriously. If you've been writing the same novel for 10 years, yeah, probably not.

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  4. Setting aside some appointments to make way for writing is one way to find time to write your book. You can skip one night of gathering with friends and instead allot your time to write your book. Or, instead of doing your groceries, ask a loved one to do that one time for you. It is not bad to ask for help just to have time for your book.

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  5. Excellent thoughts. As a busy mom/writer/full time employee, it gets hard for me to deal with the advice that stresses that we must write everyday. Sometimes that's just not realistic. I tend to work in streaks, becoming very productive for a week or two and then waning for a bit. I think though, that part of this is our creative processes at work. It's OK to take a break from putting the actual words down. Our minds are still "writing" our stories.

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