In my previous post on this subject, I covered fear of rejection and emotions as being possible reasons for not writing your book, but one of the biggest problems we face as writers is time management. There is always something else we think we should be doing – it’s as if that inner demon is telling us that writing isn’t a proper job and we must do the laundry first or mow the lawn, or something other than writing. However, the clock is ticking and, as I mentioned before, life soon passes you by before you realise your dreams.
I’m not a writing coach or special guru, but I am a writer and face such a dilemma every day. What I can give you are ways I’ve found to get round this problem, and tips I have learned that you may find useful.
Important – Set Goals
Before you start you need to set yourself goals. I have always been a firm believer in setting lots of small, achievable goals in all aspects of life: exercise three times a week, clear the cupboard out by the end of the day, write one article a week, and so forth. Whatever your goals, if you make them too hard and put too much pressure on yourself – such as to exercise every day – you know you won’t do it. But if you do realistic ones you will feel a sense of accomplishment which will spur you on to do more. If you don’t set yourself any targets, how will you ever achieve anything?
Make a Plan
As someone said at a seminar – know your ‘why’. Why do you want to write your book; what is your message; what is your goal? Unless you know why you are doing something, you can’t move forward with it. Establish your reasons and draft an action plan; it doesn’t have to be very detailed, and it’s not a plan about the contents of your book, but a plan of things to do to ensure you complete your first draft. It could just be the next two steps, or everything you need to do, from conception right through to finding an agent; you need something to aim for in order to get clarity in your head. I found this very useful and it will help you with the actual writing process, otherwise you will just drift on as normal.
Establish a routine
Once you know where you are heading, you will find you have more resolve to try and get there, which leads to finding ways to manage your writing time. I confess that I gave up work to write full time and still found reasons for not getting on with it, but I’ve written far more than I ever have once I’d established a plan. Remember, though: things don’t always go to plan and you have to be flexible, but without one, things don’t happen at all.
Jobs – These niggle at the back of our mind and we feel guilty for writing when there are things that need doing. I set myself a day to do all my housework and jobs, leaving the rest of the week guilt-free. If you work full-time this is harder, but you can take the same approach. If you know when you will be doing your chores, you feel less guilty when writing.
Social Media – I set myself a goal to finish my regular daily chores and do my social networking by 10am and then it’s writing time. If you struggle with staying off Facebook and Twitter, turn your internet off at the router while you are writing. If you have to use it for research, either do that first or make side-notes in your book so you know to go back and check later. If you can’t turn your internet off, close your email and other programs so you are not alerted when messages come in. There is also software you can get to stop you from using social media, but as I haven’t tested them I cannot recommend any; an internet search will find them. Give yourself set times for social media otherwise you will constantly become side-tracked. One thing leads to another, but rarely back to writing.
Use a Diary – Get a week to view diary and plan your week ahead. Look for gaps where you could write and book it in. Use your mobile phone to set reminders to bleep you at those times. It’s a simple idea but it’s quite effective; it’s so easy to lose track of time when we lead such busy lives.
Where to Write – I can write anywhere: in the dentist’s waiting room, in bed while my husband gently snores beside me and even in the lounge while the TV is on, but not everyone can. Sometimes I do need peace and quiet. Find yourself a writing corner somewhere – a garden shed is a handy place – but if you’re easily distracted by noise or by other things that need doing, a good tip is to take yourself away from the house altogether. The library is an excellent place to go and this ensures that you give quality time to your writing and that you also feel you have purpose.
Writing buddy – Find someone else who writes and be accountable to each other. Set yourself targets. When you have to make excuses to somebody else, other than yourself, you’re more likely to ensure you reach them.
Kick-start your Writing – If you need to get yourself into writing mode or need a break from your book, try short story or poetry competitions. There are plenty of free ones about, such as those in Writing Magazine. This helps train you to work to deadlines, keep to word counts and to set themes, but take care not to use it as another reason for not writing your book. I have got hooked on doing short stories, but at least I’m writing something.
Please feel free to share your handy tips on how you manage your writing time.