Many of us would like to spend more time writing our novel, short story, etc. But our hectic lives can get in the way. The only solution is to take stock of what we are doing and what is happening in our lives. What is necessary? What can wait? What can be scrapped?
I’ve reached that point again and am getting ruthless. Unlike some of you I don’t have children around the house – my son has been long grown up and left the nest. I don’t have a significant other – a partner. That has its downside when you consider all that must be done or at least organized – alone. In a nutshell, I’m juggling the house (regular housework and things that need repairing/replacing, snow shovelling, etc.), family and some friends (I’ll clarify the “some” shortly), what I call “self” (walking, gardening and reading – things I do for me), and my writing/editing/writing teaching. The latter is my business and maybe that is the key to getting at your writing. Under those four categories I prioritize daily.
However, stuff happens; sometimes you find yourself spending too much time on related (or not) things.
So what does a body and soul do to get writing regularly?
Here are a few pointers to get you thinking.
- The aforementioned treat your writing like a business, i.e., something that must be done.
- Divide what you do into categories. They don’t have to be the same as mine – whatever suits your situation.
- Prioritize – within categories and the categories themselves – this must be done on a weekly and daily basis.
- Use the three Ds to decide what to do with No. 3 – Delay, Delegate, Dump (or Delete). I use some of the suggestions by Alan Lakein in his book How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life (1989, available at www.amazon.com). My version is much earlier but he has lots of helpful ideas, including dividing your so-called “to do” list into A, B and C’s. A’s – obviously your top priority (i.e. writing) for what must be done, B’s for somewhat important but could wait before doing – you do these when the daily A’s are done. C’s – dump, delete. Here is where I put phone voice-mail messages from telemarketers and the like, even some friends (here it comes) – friends who appear suddenly out of the blue and wonder why I haven’t phoned them when it’s been years since I’ve heard from them – unless I want to reconnect. Have to be “ruthless” here. Maybe it will move up to a B.
- Juggling what’s left. For example in the writing/editing/writing teaching biz, I look at the overall picture, figure out what is most important and slot it into an A, what I have to do at some point into a B, and what I can dump into a C. And I do it by week and day. So this week’s (based on deadlines) priorities are: finish editing one client’s book manuscript, continue with the rewrite of my prequel mystery novel (including some research that has popped up as I write), my blog posts, some PR for my current short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (fortunately I have a writing colleague friend who put my marketing plan into Excel and my end is to critique one of her short stories – when she finishes it). This brings up another idea.
- Instead of directly delegating – do a skills trade with someone – but make sure for both sides it is on each others’ priority list. For example I am not going to babysit for someone so they will clean my house because I don’t babysit.
- Try to set a specific time each day, five days a week, each weekend to write, and decide what you are going to write before you start.
- Don’t work on too many writing projects at a time. I have a friend who did that until she realized she had to rein in what she was writing.
- For those with families to look after, insist on certain times a day (depending on your circumstances) for you to have undisturbed time to write. Yes, I did this when my son was still at home, albeit in his teen years his rock band sometimes practiced in my basement while I wrote. Although I liked their music, I used ear plugs when writing. There was a trade off. The band members helped move appliances and other kitchen stuff when my kitchen needed painting. Your trade-off may be if you have kid-free and spouse-free time to write, you spend other time with them.
- Limit your social media, email, texting, online group participation, and phone calls. Turn off your email account notification (or close your email), turn your i-Phones, etc. to vibrate and let voice mail take over when you are writing. And don’t answer your door unless you are expecting someone. I don’t always follow the email and door ones. But you can bet if the someone at my door is soliciting they get short shrift from me. I’ve sent those water heater company sales people scrambling down the front steps – with words alone.
Happy and productive writing.
Sharon A. Crawford