Thursday, September 5, 2013

Are You Making Time to Write? by Jan Christensen


As writers, we have unique time management challenges. We have to be our own motivational speakers (we’re notorious for talking to ourselves, and I’m sure a lot of it is about doing our writing) and our own coaches. We don’t have any bosses unless we work directly for a publication, and money can be iffy, so it’s not the best motivator for us. There is some other, undefinable something that drives us, for sure. But sometimes that’s not enough to get the story or novel written.

Here are some tips to help you find time to write more.

Make it a habit to write every day, and if possible, at the same time every day. This is the number one tip to help you meet your writing goals.

Realize that you will never be caught up with everything in your life, and just do the best you can. Yes, try to plan. Yes, prioritize your to-do list so the really important things get done every day. But there will always be more email and snail mail. There will always be more housework, more laundry, more errands to do. There will always be doctors to see, other appointments to tend to, and emergencies, big and small (but hope not too often) to take care of. Simply aim to make this day, this hour a good, productive one.

Use a calendar, a to-do list and a notebook to keep everything together. Only one of each is best unless you have a work calendar/to-do list and a household calendar/to-do list. No more than two though, and most time management professionals recommend only one calendar, one to-do list, and one notebook.

To free up more time for writing, pick something on your to-do list and cross it off without doing it. There is probably something there that you really, really don’t need to do and still have a great life. Maybe more than one. How many times have you said you’d do something to please someone else but have been putting off because you really, really don’t want to do it? What will happen if you toss it back at that person, or if you delegate it to someone else?

I don’t know about other writers, but I find that after spending an hour on writing or editing, my mind begins to wander. Studies have shown that most adults can stay on task for between fifty and sixty minutes at a time; then they’re ready for a break. My second biggest tip today is to sit for no more than an hour before getting up, moving around, and doing something different for about ten minutes. A timer works well to help you accomplish this. It’s a great way to get in twenty to thirty minutes of exercising every day. Two or three ten minute breaks will do the job. Use other breaks to do small household tasks, or stand up to make phone calls. Use a timer for your break, too.

I think this is enough to get you started. Remember the number one tip—start writing every day at the same time and go for an hour. For even more time management ideas, check out my blog at www.janchristensen.com/blog. And good luck!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Texas. Her published novels include Sara’s Search, Revelations, Organized to Death, Perfect Victim, and Breakout. She's had over fifty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years, two of which were nominated for a Derringer Award. She mainly enjoys writing mysteries, but every once in awhile steps out of that comfort zone and goes for something else, blogging about personal organization and the writing life, for example.

Jan wants to give away one copy of Organized to Death to a lucky U.S. or Canada resident  who leaves a comment on this post before midnight Friday, September 6th (Mountain Time). The winner will be announced here on Saturday.

To learn more about Jan and her mysteries, visit her website and blog. You can also find her at Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Jan, thanks so much for being here today. I'm giving the daily writing resolution a try this month and next....call it a warm up for this year's NaNoWriMo.

21 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Cross off doing something without doing it - I like that idea!

Mary Aalgaard said...

All good tips. I need to implement the writing every day at the same time practice! I have done some purging of outside volunteering and commitments. That should also help. Love the title to your novel!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm going to work harder at scheduling writing time this year. It's easier for me when summer's over, so now is the time to establish the new habit.

Jan Christensen said...

Alex, I saved time by stealing that idea somewhere else. Would love to know what you crossed off today. (There are really no new ideas, are there?)

Jan Christensen said...

Mary, that is my best tip ever--when I worked outside the house, I did it right after dinner. Now I try to do it first thing in the morning. If I don't, I usually don't do it later. Good luck!

Julie Luek said...

I just read a post where a writer says he writes 1000 words every day-- be it in his journal or on something he's working on or even a letter to a friend. I think that's a good discipline and your great tips add to that "how to".

Your books sounds fantastic too!

Jan Christensen said...

Pat, thanks so much for having me here today. Hope you can work out a great writing schedule for yourself. Nowadays, I try to do it first thing since I consider it a top priority. Good luck to you, too.

Jan Christensen said...

Hi, Julie, thanks for commenting. I know a lot of writers who have the goal of 1,000 words a day, and I'm one of them. When things are going well, I can usually do that word count in about an hour or an hour and a quarter. I just write until I have the count. Others pick at the goal all day long, and that works for them. Each of us has to find the best way for US. Good luck to you!

Elaine L. Orr said...

Very good tips, especially the part about standing during breaks. When I sit a lot to write, every now and then I move my food in a circular motion. I used to take long plane rides, and a physical therapist said this was the best way to prevent clots that come from inactivity.

Jan Christensen said...

Thanks for coming by, Elaine. It took me a moment to figure out what you meant about moving your food around when you write. When you mentioned that it's good on plane rides, I finally decided you meant you move you foot or feet around. LOL Very good advice. Although at first I was picturing you putting your food in different rooms so you'd have to walk around to eat them, like a progressive dinner. Writer's imagination at work.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I pictured Elaine's keyboard surrounded by an assortment of snacks.... :D

Carol Kilgore said...

Sshhh...don't tell my writer self. I'm sneaking away from my WIP for two seconds to comment on Jan's post. Great post! I'm going to start marking off one item on my to do list every day. Guess what I just marked off - 'answer Jan's email' - LOL! I'm just kidding :)

Jan will understand ... she's my friend and CP.

Hi, Patricia!

Jan Christensen said...

Carol, get back to work!! LOL Really, thanks for coming by. Hope your WIP is going well 'cause I want to see it soon!

Yolanda Renee said...

Honestly, I get the most writing done when I'm doing laundry. In between loads, I'm writing, and when the washing machine stops, I get a break, and then I'm back at work with a clear mind. Amazes me each time, because I hate laundry! Great advice, and so true!

Jan Christensen said...

Yolanda, that amazes me, too. I guess if you want to get more writing done you should take in laundry--ask your neighbors for the dirty clothes! That old expression comes to mind--whatever works.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Jan,

Great advice for every writer! I believe in working each morning for several hours and taking regular breaks. Very important for brain and body to be in motion. I also use my calendar to make notations.

Joan O'Callaghan said...

I felt that you were speaking directly to me!! I'm glad to know that it is normal for your mind to start to wander after sitting at the computer writing. Does your book contain tips for avoiding distractions like the sudden compulsion to check e-mail?

Jan Christensen said...

Thanks for commenting, Jacqueline. I'm glad to know you're taking care of yourself by taking those breaks!

Jan Christensen said...

Hi, Joan--ORGANIZED TO DEATH is fiction, and it's about a professional organizer, so it doesn't get much into time management. But every Monday I blog about organizing our lives and time management, so I do address distractions there some of the time. Stop on by every week and see if more of my tips will help. www.janchristensen.com

Arlee Bird said...

All good tips that I need to take more to heart. Even though I already know these things it doesn't matter if I'm not doing them. I need to get down to writing more. Maybe I'll finally make that list I've been meaning to make and cross a bunch of stuff off of it.

Lee
Wrote By Rote

Jan Christensen said...

Lee, there's something so satisfying about crossing things off your list! I know some people who put things on theirs that they've already done for the day, just to be able to cross them off. Good luck going forward. One day at a time.