Not many of us can magically make more writing time appear in our days. As much as we’d like to wave a wand and change minutes into hours, we're often stuck with what we’ve got.
I can whine and complain about how little I have, especially of uninterrupted time. And to be honest, I find myself whining a lot more than I’d like.
I struggle every day to find time to fulfill my ever-increasing writing responsibilities and balance them with the full time job of mothering and teaching my children. Yesterday, fellow writer, Heather Sunseri, asked a thought-provoking question in her post: Can one work a full time job and write?
It's a tough question. But for me it boils down to organizing my time. Just this week a friend told me, "The reason you can manage all that you do is because you organize your time well." She went on to say that because of all I'm doing, she was inspired to squeeze quilting back into her busy life.
So, how do we organize our time better? Here are 8 tips:
1. Maximize the time we have. We can’t wait to write until we have an office, until it’s perfectly quiet, or until we have uninterrupted time. When our designated writing time comes around every day, we have to sit down and put our fingers on the keyboard for each and every precious minute we have. In other words, we need to stop making excuses and just write.
2. Minimize distractions. Yes, we need to stop making excuses, but we can also ruthlessly eliminate as many distractions as we can. No, we can’t lock our children in the closet during writing time, but we can shove our internet connection there, keep the TV off, and have our coffee and snack at hand so that we have no reason to get up once we’re down.
3. Mark daily or weekly goals and meet them. At the back of my plot notebook, I’ve been marking down my daily goals. Before I start my writing each morning, I jot down the word count I hope to accomplish. On those days when the words are slow it’s especially helpful because it keeps me going, even when I’m tempted to close up shop.
4. Multiply the momentum. There are times when the words trickle like a dry stream and times when they flow like a rushing river. We should write through both but capitalize on those times when the momentum is high. If I can occasionally have extended writing time, my muse has more opportunity to gain speed and stay with me in the following days.
5. Model seriousness toward work time. If we demonstrate a level of commitment and seriousness toward our writing, eventually others will follow suit. I prioritize my daily writing time. When I stick to my schedule day in and day out, my family can see that I take my work seriously. Because I respect my writing time, they do too.
6. Mobilize support from family and friends. Maybe family and friends won’t “get” our writing, but the first step is sharing openly about the importance of writing in our lives. I’ve explained to my children why I’m passionate about writing and given them concrete ways they can help me preserve my writing time. My husband tries to help me carve out more time. And just recently I had a friend watch my children so that I could write without interruption.
7. Make sacrifices. We can’t do everything, even the good things. I’ve made a commitment to head to the library every Saturday for extended and uninterrupted writing time. That means I’ve had to say no to fun activities because I’m dedicated to keeping my work hours.
8. Muster self-discipline. The foundation of productive writing time is self-discipline. I push myself to write something every day of the week (except Sundays). Even when I had weeks of illness this past winter, I continued to write through it. A little bit every day, eventually adds up to a completed book.
Summary: If we waved a magic wand and suddenly found ourselves with more time, would we really use it to increase our writing time? Let's be honest. It's all too easy to fill extra time with other things, to squander it, to let it slip through our fingers.
When we start to complain about the little time we have for writing, maybe first we should ask ourselves, are we good stewards of the time we already have?
Are you a good steward of your writing time? What are ways you've learned to manage your writing time? What has or hasn’t worked for you? I’d love to hear your tips!
P.S. I've added a new page at the top of my blog: Helpful Writing Books. I took an informal survey on Twitter this week and asked writers to weigh in with their favorite writing craft books. Based on the responses, I've compiled a list of approximately 45 different books. The list has been helpful to me. I hope it will be to you as well!