Recently, I’ve been hearing the same complaint from a vast number of fellow authors. “There’s just not enough hours in the day to get things done.” Family, day jobs, unexpected visitors, even the weather can devour the finite hours we need to brainstorm, design, edit, promote, and write. Some days are simply frustrating, while others are down-right impossible in terms of accomplishing anything at all. We begin to wonder why life keeps messing with our passion to create. On the real bad days, we may even question whether it’s worth doing at all.
I feel your pain …
As a writer holding down a separate day job, I feel that some look upon my endeavor as a trivial hobby or extravagant, self-indulgence. Hence, Rule #1 – Communicate. Let friends and family know that writing is serious business, a second career, your job. As such, try to establish some solid and non-negotiable ground rules to make better use of the time you set aside to write. Once your stance becomes crystal clear, you may be surprised at how quickly those around you fall into line.
Rule #2 – You need to establish your own space. Granted, only independently wealthy loners can ever really count on an ideal writing environment, free from all the pesky noises and interruptions that distract us from concentrating on the task at hand. However, I’m willing to bet there’s a space inside your family abode that you can appropriate to help get the job done more effectively. Now, I know the couch in front of the tv is comfortable … that’s exactly why everyone else is right there with you. Do yourself a favor and take a stroll through the house if that’s where you write. Is there a room in which you can move some furniture around to create space? (Definitely choose one with a locking door, if possible.) Now, get yourself a nice chair, desk, or whatever makes you comfortable, put it there and use it. It may sound like a no-brainer, but I suspect there are many of us who haven’t yet taken this step. And don’t say there’s no room. A friend of mine actually rearranged his master bathroom and put a desk inside of it. The bottom line—do what ever it takes to get the job done. If writing is truly important to you, this step will go a long way in helping you become more productive.
Rule #3 – Prioritize. In your mind and your heart, being a writer is really what you want, right? It’s time to adjust your habits and mindset to reflect that. Granted, your family, and providing for them should always take precedence over all else, but after that, make writing and everything associated with it a priority. Fit life around your writing, not the other way around. Talking about doing so won’t get it done. Take action by putting yourself on a strict schedule then stick to it. Learn to say no, both to yourself and to others. Maybe you love American Idol … sorry. You can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything you want. Cut the fat out of your daily routine and get the job done. Oh, and don’t forget to reward yourself once you’ve accomplished a set goal.
Rule #4 – The notebook. Buy yourself a small one that you can carry with you at all times, then use it. Jot down thoughts in the elevator or at the kids hockey game. You’re bound to forget some really good ideas that pop into your head if you don’t write them down. Also, maintain a current list of what you need to accomplish so time isn’t wasted when you do sit down to work. Remember, the key to efficiency is to form good habits … this is one of them.
And finally, Rule #5 – Time itself. Let’s face it—we all burn the candle at both ends. A writers journey can get really rough at times. I know from experience how easy it is to become discouraged. Yet, us writers tend to stick together. Remember, you are not alone. I’m here to remind you that you are resilient and capable of doing even more. Try getting up an hour earlier every day or stay up an extra hour at night. Better yet, try to do both. It’s all about what you get used to. It may prove to be difficult at first, but after a week or two your body clock and stamina will adjust and your productivity will increase markedly. This new block of quiet time you set aside specifically for writing will be your very own.
Remember, the words you write matter, so try to adopt these changes into your daily routine. If you can accomplish just one of the rules listed above, a net gain will show up in your work almost immediately. Three or more, and you’re really on your way. Who knows, you might even see your productivity double.
If you have any other suggestions for our time-strapped troops, please contribute. You may really help a fellow writer in need of some good advice. Also, please feel free to leave a comment if you found any of the suggestions above helpful. Have a writerly day.
All the best, AB
AB’s Five Step Program to more and better words: Communicating writing’s importance to those closest to you, creating a private territory for it, fitting life around it with some priority setting, using a notebook to capture ideas when you’re not in writer’s mode, and borrowing time from the comfort of your warm bed.
What an inspiring, no nonsense, ‘do-able’ list of suggestions! Following just one can make a difference. Following all of them at the same time might actually bring formerly impossible writing productivity results into the realm of reality.
I feel encouraged: an odd yet very pleasant sensation. 🙂 Thanks Al!
Thanks for such an enthusiastic response, Anne. 😉 It’s always a pleasure to hear from you.
I hate/love it when I read something and realize I already knew it. However, it is truly appreciated to see everything set out in one post. Thanks so much and I look forward to more!
Sounds to me like you’re already quite productive, Sean. Thanks for stopping by.
You’re definitely spot on with the list here, great job!
Thank you, Kate. Glad you stopped by.
Great advice, you really put these issues in perspective.
Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Sammy. Always a pleasure hearing from you.
Great article. Really enjoyed reading it. I’m thinking about putting a desk in the bathroom. 🙂
Thank you, Quirina. Looking forward to letters from the loo. 😉
Hi Al. Thought I’d do a little snooping about my new friend, and what a little gem I’ve found :-). Thanks for sharing all the wisdom and advice – yes, they all seem obvious and we know we should follow these simple rules, but many of us don’t. I think I’ll find getting up an hour ealier a bit problematic, but staying an extra hour late at night, especially the hours when I am lying awake wondering why I can’t sleep. I think I’ve just got myself some extra time for creative writing :-). For that I have you to thank!
Thanks, Junying. I’m so glad you found this weeks post helpful.
Like the whole essay, Al, but my favourite point is number three — prioritize. How many times have I said, “Awwww, I’ll do double tomorrow. Tonight, I’m going to catch this flick I’ve been meaning to watch. I’m just too tired to focus on something that requires real attention and mental acuity — like writing.”
Thank you Jason. We are all guilty of wanting to put the tough stuff off and have some fun. I believe that it’s necessary to do so from time to time, as a reward for being disciplined. Perhaps the key to it all is striking that perfect balance…an elusive beast, indeed.
I’ve written all my life – since before I could walk (long story) – but it’s only recently in my 35 years that I’ve learnt that self-discipline is a massive factor in becoming a writer. The list you compile in your blog… I could tick off everyone that I have managed to achieve on it!
However, I did go one step further… I actually split with my girlfriend of 2 years to achieve my aim of becoming published/accepted this year!
She wasn’t best pleased.
I am writing a lot more, however, with no distractions around me.
I don’t recommend it to all though! 😉
Again, great blog, Al, and I shall be linking it on my blog roll!
Wow Jody … it seems to me that you made the ultimate sacrifice for your craft on that one. I can’t help but feel impressed that you would go to such a level in order to attain success. I congratulate you on achieving your goal.