Today's post is the second of two in a series of time management. You can find the first post here.
STEP THREE: Plan ahead to take your writing with you.
About fifty percent of the time, the writing I do get done doesn't happen at the house. It happens when my doctor is running late for our appointment (which he always is), or I have an unexpected stretch of time to kill because the traffic gods bless me and my hour long commute to work only takes forty minutes, or I actually have time to take a lunch break. Some of these times are planned, others aren't. Either way, I'm often not at home sitting in front of Barrett II (yes, my lappy has a name.) So I've found ways to take my writing with me.
If you've resisted entering the world of technology or you like to draft longhand, this step is super easy. Bring your notebook with you so you can write on the go.
Most of the time, I can't read my own handwriting. And focused time in front of my computer is increasingly hard to come by. To compensate, I'm doing more and more of my "writing" (note taking, brainstorming, scene sketching, character development) on-the-go. Here are some apps I use regularly that help (rather than hinder) my writing. Also, because I'm still an unpaid writer and I'm cheap...erm....frugal, all of the apps I use are free through the iPhone app store (and most are also available for Droid.)
I'm sure there are more apps out there that I haven't explored yet. If you know some good ones, please throw them out in the comments below. (See this is where the whole community part of this whole blog thing comes into play.)
IT SHOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING, BUT LET ME PUT IT OUT THERE JUST IN CASE: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EVER, EVER PLAN TO DO YOUR WRITING WHILE YOU ARE DRIVING!!
We're clear on that, yes? Okay, good. Moving on.
STEP FOUR: Keep things simple. Have to have a simple plan of what you can realistically get done in the time that you have.
For example, you are not going to write an entire chapter of your new novel on your thirty minute lunch break at work. Well, you might, but it probably won't be very good. Also that leaves little time for, ya know, actually eating lunch.
But if thirty minutes is all you have, that's all you have. Stressing over that fact will not help you be creative.
STEP FIVE: Eliminate the distractions you can.
For me that means locking up our enormous, rambunctious black lab who has somehow conditioned herself to go bananas whenever I sit down at my computer to actually get things done. It also means turning off the internet and muting my phone. And beyond that understanding that there is rarely a crisis that's got to be handled during my writing time. My child has another parent, and if there's an emergency, even my muted phone will light up when people call multiple times.
Twitter is not a crisis. Even when the person tweeting you is @realjohngreen. Nor is that emailed question from your boss when you are writing after hours.
It also means knowing when writing is realistic. My daughter's highest energy level is first thing in the morning (how we ended up with a morning person for a child, I have no clue, but we did) and my husband needs to decompress when he gets home from work--which usually includes venting his spleen to his in-home therapist aka moi. Those are not going to be good times for me to try to get writing done.
Step 5.b. you should not be reading this blog during your writing time.
STEP SIX: SPEND YOUR WRITING TIME WRITING
On writing fantasy island where my buddy with the pretty hair lives, it's possible to go through the ritual. You know, you light the candles, find the right music for the scene you want to write, steep your favorite cup of tea (which you've freshly plucked from the garden in your backyard that you have oodles of time to expertly maintain), go through a few meditative exercises to empty your mind, spend some time on Pinterest looking for the exact setting you are trying to recreate for your story, and prepare and bake a tray of delectable cinnamon rolls to get you through the next eight hours you will spend crafting your glorious words.
Bitch, please. In the thirty seconds it took me to heat up my cup of grocery store generic chai, my kid chewed through the cord on my laptop. Twice.
You have precious few minutes. Spend them writing.
Social media is a blessing and a curse. There will come a point in your writing career when you need to devote time to pimping yourself. But that should be separate from your writing time. You cannot successfully do both simultaneously with one brain. Social media is not writing.
STEP SEVEN: Set a goal and be accountable.
And here I'm not talking about word count goals. I participate in NaNoWriMo every year and I LOVE it. I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo again this July. But straight up? Word count goals are bullshit. You are not doing yourself any favors by judging the success of your writing by the number of words you are able to vomit onto a page. We do not live in the age of Dickens where we get paid by the word. Quality matters. Not quantity.
Going back to the beginning about being honest with yourself about your writing, be honest about what it is you need to accomplish. For me, a lot of the time that isn't a number of words so much as it is getting to a certain point in the plot I've outline for myself. Or getting through a grueling revision I'm not quite sure where to begin.
You've got to eat that elephant one bite a time. *shudder*. I hate that analogy. But it makes a good point.
Find a way to be accountable that works for you. Maybe you're good at to-do lists and something as rewarding as crossing off an item is all you need to make it happen. Maybe you've got a kick-ass CP that you can commit to getting pages to by a certain deadline. Or maybe you have a dog that really needs a walk and will lovingly grace your carpet with a special gift if you don't get your thirty minutes of solid writing done in thirty minutes, as opposed to an hour because you stopped to dick around on Twitter every ten minutes and lost track of time.
STEP EIGHT: Accept that into every writing routine, a little writer's block will fall.
Some days your writing will suck. Maybe you've got life happening and you can't get in the groove. Maybe your kid gets sick and you've got to reprioritize for a little while. Or maybe you just deserve a break.
And that's all okay. No, really, it is.
But part of Step Eight is also going back to Step One and getting honest with yourself. Don't make excuses not to write. If you're not going to write today, that's okay. But own it. Your dog isn't eating your writing career. You are.
SOME OTHER THINGS I DO THAT YOU MAY THINK ARE CRAZY:
1. We don't have cable. Or DVR. Seriously.
I have never seen an episode of Jersey Shore. I don't know who Honey Boo-Boo is. And really, I don't think I'm missing anything.
2. I survive on about four hours of sleep a night. Voluntarily.
My husband goes to bed at 10:30 like clockwork. I'm usually up until around 2. And we both get up between 6 and 7 for the kiddo and work. I could go to sleep when he does, but I don't. I like to read instead. It's relaxing and it's something I do for me. And when I don't take the time to do my reading, I am a cranky bitch. I'd rather be a little groggy and relaxed than well-rested and pissed at the world. I catch up a little bit by napping on the weekends when I don't have some kind of writing deadline, but there are weeks when I'm running on a grand total of 28 hours sleep. That said, I don't do any reading prior to that 10:30 time unless by the freezing of hell I have spare time to kill. And usually if such time does magically appear, I try to spend it writing instead. Like when I was at the vet with my cat for three hours on Friday.
3. I wholeheartedly embrace Pavlovian Conditioning.
You know that whole psychology experiment with the dog and the meat tenderizer and the bell and the saliva? Yeah, that ish works for writers, too. If there is something I really want to do--like buy a new album or go out for drinks with my girlfriends, I make myself meet a goal first. And if I don't meet it, I don't get my reward. And I'm a hardass about it because my writing is important to me.
4. We never have people over because our house is a crazy writer's lair.
I am not a neat freak and I never have been. Neither is my husband. We have to do a certain amount of maintenance for the sake of the kid and, ya know, not living like that dude in Silence of the Lambs, but otherwise, we live in Clutterville. We're both okay with that for now because I need to be writing when I could be dusting or seasonally organizing my closet and when he's home, he tries to take the midget off my hands so I can write. Thus, our house is gross, and we rarely have people over.
Like I said, these won't work for a lot of people, but I thought they were worth mentioning.
For those of you going "oh none of this will work, I'm just not wired that way"--around here we call them pantsers--I'll do a future post called Crisis Writing that may work better for you. In the meantime, give this a shot. One of my best friends and CPs is a hardcore pantser and a lot of this works for her anyway.
On July 8th, we're going to focus more on the feels aspect of the writerly journey. Specifically how you help your loved ones understand (and respect) writer weirdness. Then later next month, we'll come back to that AP Time Management stuff I mentioned up top.
What techniques or tricks do you use to manage your writing time?