Most of us have to cram writing time into the leftover hours and minutes of our days. Maybe we have day-jobs we can't give up. Perhaps we have responsibilities that demand the majority of our attention—commitments to family, children, or friends.
Whatever the case, writing isn’t a full time occupation for most of us. We can easily accept we’ll give writing our “leftover” time before the book contract. But we think that once we have a contract and income, we’ll finally be able to make our writing career more legitimate and justify carving out more time.
And perhaps that line of reasoning is true to an extent. As a contracted author, I do feel the need to block out more time for the increased responsibilities. And now that I’m getting “paid,” I can lock myself away for writing-time without feeling as much guilt.
But . . . I still don’t have the luxury of tossing aside my other responsibilities so that I can focus entirely on my writing career. The bottom line is that it’s still just as hard after the contract to find writing time as it was before. Dare I even say, it’s gotten harder to find enough time? The process of publication has brought quite a bit more work, but I don’t have significantly more time in my schedule for it.
In fact, a couple weeks ago, I hit a breaking point. One gray afternoon after we had finished school, I sat down at my lap top to begin some writing work. My kids were running around me, in and out of the house, doing their jobs and playing, being noisy and just being kids. But I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t type but a few words without having to stop and answer a question or break up a squabble or something.
My to-do list was stretching far beyond my capability to handle. And I needed to work on my rewrites for my next book. The stress was pounding through my head. After the hundredth interruption in a five minute span (maybe I’m exaggerating a little), I finally laid my head in my hands and wanted to cry. I had SO much to do, but had so little uninterrupted time in which to work. How would I get it all done and do it well? Especially my rewrites which required so much focus and effort?
I was overwhelmingly discouraged. After having a pity party for myself the rest of the afternoon (I’m really good at throwing pity-parties if you haven’t noticed!), I finally cleared my head of the clutter and realized I needed to rethink my schedule. Here’s what I came up with:
Make better use of the quiet writing times.
Obviously my quietest times are when my children are in bed—early mornings and later evenings. Instead of tackling my inbox first thing in the mornings or visiting blogs, I needed to take advantage of the uninterrupted time in which I could focus on my rewrites. Anytime the kids are in “quiet mode,” I needed to use that time for the writing responsibilities that needed the most intense focus.
Work efficiently with the leftover time.
I’m learning to save the administrative responsibilities for other times. Even though it’s really hard NOT to respond right away to friends and readers (because I love interacting), I’m trying to wait. I can easily answer emails, write interviews, and respond to facebook messages during the chaos of the afternoons/evenings instead of during my quiet times.
Seek help from others.
I had to sit down with my husband and share with him my frustration with the current schedule. I needed to vent, but I also needed his help to figure how to make things work. We brainstormed. Should we hire someone to help watch the kids and take them to activities? Should he streamline his work hours or shift them around so that I could have more time?
Look for ways to carve out more uninterrupted time.
After talking with my husband, we were able to come up with a plan for how I could get a little more uninterrupted time, especially during the times he’s home and can take over the household and childcare responsibilities. Two hours here, a few hours there—all adds up. Those would be sacred hours set apart for working on my rewrites/writing and nothing else.
Re-evaluate the schedule periodically.
The busyness of this fall has taught me that from time to time I need to re-evaluate how I’m doing things. The schedule that worked for me last year, might not work this year. The important thing is to see when it’s not working and then look at how to maximize the time I have.
~Summary: We probably won’t ever be able to ditch our other responsibilities and hole away in a private cabin on a mountain top to write endlessly. We’ve got to make the writer’s life work with what we’ve got. Besides, it’s the real living (as chaotic as it can get) that adds richness and depth to our writing.
Have you ever had the dream that once you get an agent or book contract that you'd be able to make more writing time? While it might be true to an extent, what are you doing right now to find a writing schedule that works amidst the other responsibilities of life?