Thursday, October 17, 2013

Time Management

Unless your day job is actually writing (and if it is, I've got my jealous face on), you probably have a hard time finding hours to devote to the craft of literary creation. Most of us have a lot going on--a job, school maybe, kids, and general life interruptions. There's a lot on our plates, so how do we add an extra helping of "author time" on there?

Lots of writers have their own systems, but if you are anything like me, I'm pretty sure you struggle with finding the balance that's necessary to live a normal life but also write, edit, publish, market...even the dreaded query letters. And lots of successful authors have shared their tips, so what qualifies me to add my voice?

Nothing really. Except that I'm busy and I successfully write at the same time. But to appease your need for adequate ethos, here's what I've got going on: I am a mother to three toddlers, ages 4, 2, and 1. I homeschool them three days a week, and take care of the house they destroy. I'm a full-time student, graduating this semester with my Bachelors from Brigham Young University-Idaho. I'm a blogger (obviously), and I've written two novels while in school and with children. My first was accepted and published by Malachite Quills Publishing, I have a third novel half-written with a co-author, and I'm self-publishing my second.

Okay, you get the idea. I'm busy. And to be perfectly honest with you, I'm stressed a lot. I have freak-outs
on a regular basis, and can often be seen rage quitting and having a Netflix marathon instead of doing...anything. But I still manage to get it all done, and I figured I'd share how to see if it helps you at all.

Also I like lists, so that's the format I chose for my tips:

1.) Make lists. No, seriously, you gotta write down things that jump to your brain. Trying to cement a thought in your brain to get to later never works for me. If I don't write it down somewhere, it usually dies the death of a lost sock--gone until you realize too late that you need it.

2.) Speaking of writing it down, use a planner. It can be a physical planner, it can be on your smartphone..tablet...thing...but get one. I use a regular planner because I'm cheap and refuse to pay for a smartphone.

3.) Be specific with your plans. For example, when I'm juggling schoolwork with other things, I make a detailed chart. In red, I write when something is due (day and time). In black, I write when I plan to actually do it. What this allows you to do is break up all the work you know you'll have to do that week, and then see what time is left over. If you're finding that even after meticulously breaking everything down and sticking to it, you're without hours to write, see what can go. Can't get the laundry done one day? It's fine! Which leads me to...

4.) Sacrifice some things. Usually my first sacrifice is housework. My house isn't a dump, but sometimes we have to dig through the clean laundry baskets for our clothes. Sometimes the kids' toys aren't organized. As long as its habitable and more or less organized, I can let things go. The one thing I never sacrifice is family time. Ever. Family comes first, so I work around that. But you'll have to see what you can let go. Maybe TV at night, or you stay at your desk and write during your lunch break instead of going out. I sacrifice sleep...a lot. Six hours of sleep is my norm.

5.) Be dedicated to writing when you can. Sometimes I plan for a "writing block," but more often than not it
will sneak up on me. One day the kids will all zonk out at the same time for naps, and instead of eating snacks and catching up on my Hulu shows, I give myself a pep talk and write. When we writers are crunched for time, sometimes we don't have the luxury of "feeling it." I'm a big proponent of writing first, editing later. Just get it out--whatever scene you're feeling the most--and go back to revise later if you need to. Something is better than nothing (most of the need a good crap-o-meter to write the way I do. Sometimes mine is broken, but thankfully I'm blissfully unaware.)

6.) Motivate yourself. I hate to admit this, but maybe you will relate: My best motivation is jealousy. It's so petty, I know, but when I see another writer doing really well because they worked hard, guess what it makes me want to do? Yup! Sometimes I'll read a YA novel, and it gives me that "I can do this!!!" feeling. That doesn't work for everyone, so whatever motivates you, find it, and then use it. Songs and poems and meditation don't do it for me. I need a kick in the butt, personally.

The bottom line is you have to be dedicated to doing it. If you don't plan out your tasks for the week so they are evenly spaced out, you end up with crazy days where you can barely find time to eat, and then you feel burned out and on the days you do have free time, the last thing you want to get into are obligations.

Another honest moment here: I'm not writing right now. I've got too much going on with the release of my book, marketing, school, and my kids, that I just can't focus. I spend my free time sewing Halloween costumes and watching Netflix. And that's okay sometimes! You don't have to write every day--if you need a break, take it. But if you decide to write, then commit and do it, I say. Lunula was written in 7 weeks during the only break I got between my three semester school year. Inito was written over a longer period of time because I had to put it away one semester and pick it up the next break. But I was editing and marketing Lunula even then.

So for what it's worth, I hope that gave you something helpful to use. I haven't figured out anything magical or revolutionary. Usually when people ask me, "How do you do it all?" my default response is, "I don't sleep!" That's not exactly a solution I can write a best-selling how-to book on, but it is the truth, and it does work for me.

So how about you? Do you have any time management tips?


  1. Excellent post! I actually do write full time, and your advice is spot on. What makes it so good is the fact that it is adaptable. Kudos on the homeschooling and everything else. With your drive, determination, and the talent I see in your writing here, I am sure you will succeed. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Jessica! Right on for being a full-time writer! It's not an easy gig, that's for sure!

  2. Thanks for the post! I'm always struggling with this even though I have too much free time at the moment since I'm only working part-time. I guess because I currently work at home, it makes me not focus as easily. Like "Oh, I'll write in one hour. Let me do blah blah blah for a bit." I think the idea of having a physical planner would help me a lot. I've recently discovered the Pomodoro Technique which I keep threatening to try (25 minutes writing, 5 minute break, repeat for 4 cycles). Today's the day!