How many times have you said to yourself or someone else “I’ll write when my kids are older” or “I’ll get to that next chapter tomorrow” or “If I could just find the time, I could be a writer”? This particular question comes in many different incarnations, but it is always the same message; you want to be a writer, but you “can’t” find the time to write. Even if you have a full or part-time job, small children or an ailing relative to care for . . . if you want to be a writer, you must carve out time to write. The only way to be a writer is to write. There is no way around it. You must put your fingers on that keyboard. If writing is truly your passion, you will make the time. So how do you make the time to write? Good question. How would you feel if I left off right here because I had something else to do? Let’s take a look at a few ideas for time management for writers.
First things first: Writing is a job; you have to treat it that way. It is not something you can just do when you feel like it. If you can write only when you are inspired, be sure you are inspired each day. And if you are serious about becoming a successful writer, take out your calendar and write down the time you plan to commit to writing just as you would any important appointment (doctor, dentist, etc). Don’t tell yourself that you don’t have the time. Take a good hard look at how you spend your time–discover what is eating up that time. Do you surf the internet? Do you watch TV? Do you spend a great deal of time on personal calls? Why let those distractions get in the way of your writing time? Turn them off! Tune out! Don’t spend time, even on the worthwhile social media sites, when you could be writing! Turn your attention to the task at hand. Take the telephone off the hook, or record a message on your phone announcing that you will not be picking up the phone between _________since you have reserved that time for writing. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a little mood music in the background, but if you find that limited time makes writing a challenge, there is really no room to be watching Days of our Lives while you could be writing. Treat your writing like the job it is. Create a workspace that is organized and free of clutter. There is no bigger time waster than searching through a pile of papers for the notes you made on a character or scene and can’t seem to find now.
Once you have established that this is, in fact, a job–the job you have chosen– and you have organized your workspace, it is time for the next step. It’s time to set some goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Be realistic here; don’t set the goal of writing the next blockbuster. You may actually do so, but try to stay on this planet for now. Make your goal measurable; “I’m going to write for an hour each night, each morning, or whatever works best for you” is a reasonable goal. Be specific with your goals. “I’m going to spend half an hour on research and half an hour writing dialogue” is specific. So remember, measurable, realistic and specific goals.
Now it’s time to prioritize. Some successful authors write down everything they need to do and everything they want to do. Decide what is most important to accomplish and create a tracking system. There are several good recommendations for tracking systems. One is to use a poster board with 3 columns. The columns can be labeled anything you want so long as they reflect the order in which you complete your tasks. You can use such titles as: Due now, due by: and waiting list; you can get more creative if you like: this ship has sailed, ship departing, ship in port; however you like it, the message is: this is important, this is coming up and this can wait. You might use sticky notes for each individual task for ease of rearranging. Another tracking system a friend of mine uses is to keep work in a plastic drawer system. He labels them: research, in progress, editing, ready to submit and submitted. You can also keep a notebook of each of your writing projects with details on where and when it was submitted and when you expect a response. Any way you skin this cat, the point is you need to prioritize your tasks and you need to keep track of them.
Next, it is time to make a schedule. Once you know what you want to accomplish, map out the time to do it. The first step is to find out where all your time goes. Does this sound familiar? You had all these plans to get your writing done, you had your goals set out and then the next thing you know, it’s time to hit the hay. Not only did you not get your writing done, but the laundry is still in a pile and the dishes are still in the sink and you feel like you accomplished nothing. So what happened? This is the time to tune in. Write down everything you do for a few days. EVERYTHING. The cup of coffee with a friend; picking up the dry cleaning; taking the kids to school. Write it down; write down how long it took. You will be surprised at how much time you actually waste. You can’t see it until you write it down. Once you see it, you will be able to streamline your day. While you are setting your schedule, make sure you set aside time for yourself, time with your family, time for your daily chores and time to write. It’s important to take time for yourself to reenergize and also to take time to spend with your family so that when you do take the time to write, you won’t feel guilty closing the door on them.
Your response might be, “I do all of this and I still can’t get to my writing!” Are you letting your insecurities keep you from writing? If you don’t finish your novel, it can’t be rejected, right? Is it better to be a wannabe than a failure? The only failure in writing is to stop trying. If you are still reading at this point, you must want to be a writer.
My early education came during the short lived phenomenon of sight-reading. Without the aid of phonics, my greatest creativity was in the area of spelling, which was not greatly admired by any of my teachers. All my creative writing papers (sprinkled with red circles for spelling errors) appeared to have broken out with the measles. However, with my passion for the stories I wanted to tell, my fear of the written word vanished. Do not let the fear of failure prevent you from fulfilling your dreams. Give yourself permission to write badly at first. When I have been forced to abandon my writing for any period of time, such as when I am on a book tour, when I return, I write pure garbage, and yet through that process, I find my muse has returned and I’ve given myself something to work with.
The only thing barring the success of anyone with the passion to be a writer is giving into the obstacles rather that overcoming them. If I was able to become an award winning author, so can you.