Time management is the biggest obstacle I face. Is that true for you too?
Remember, writing is one of the things you HAVE to do, like brushing your teeth.
First, I made a schedule of all my obligations. From the time I left for work until the time I finished dinner, every minute seemed to be filled, and I couldn’t take anything out. After all, I couldn’t blow off my job or I’d be fired. I had to drive my children to and from their after school activities. I should to spend time with my family and maybe feed them. The dog needed to be walked. Laundry happens. And so on.
Next, I had to figure out what I could outsource. My family pitched in. My husband took over some cooking and the kids helped more. I didn’t walk the dog each night. (But I did want to still walk him a few days because that was my only exercise.) That left the later evenings free, but my brain was mush close to bedtime.
So, I scoured the schedule again and realized I had an open window when I waited at the children’s activities in the later afternoon. I tried a few times to write fiction, but my productivity was only a little better than it had been when I’d tried the evenings. I used that time to take a walk (exercise) or to read my textbook.
Finally, I tried to write on weekends, but I found myself rusty by the following Saturday. Besides, I only had so much time because I still had the house, family, textbook to read, papers to write, etc.
Maybe I could put off all my writing for the summer … my heart sank.
I came to a realization. As much as I guarded my sleep time, something had to give. I began setting my alarm 30 minutes to an hour earlier. I could check email and social media for 15 minutes. Then I had to write.
Of course, it soon became clear that I needed more sleep. I began to go to bed earlier. Sometimes, I’d take a nap in the car while the kids were at their activities. (Don’t judge me.)
And it worked. It turned out that when I was on a roll with a project, I had more stamina and could write here and there later in the day. With regular writing, I also took better advantage of weekends, doing some longer stretches. I learned a lot about what type of writing I could do and when. Turns out that I could write rough drafts and go through the early pages with my critique group, but thorough revisions had to wait until the summer when I had larger stretches of time and the mental capacity.
During the first year I tried this, I wrote 3 manuscripts.
Each subsequent year hasn’t been as productive as that first year. And when I’m really stretched, sometimes manuscripts sit on the back burner while I focus on a vignette: a small piece of prose or a poem. I’ve found that online prompts spark my creativity. Some of these pieces wind up in small journals and anthologies. They add up, and so many of them are in my vignette collection to be published by Vine Leaves Press in March.
I know my story isn’t your story. Maybe your kids are much younger, or you’re holding two jobs or …
But, if you’re struggling to make the time, I hope that the following advice can guide you.
- Remember, writing is one of the things you HAVE to do, like brushing your teeth.
- Once you’ve decided writing is non-negotiable, schedule it in somewhere consistent.
- Okay, here and there you might break a writing appointment. Don’t beat yourself up.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t have to do everything.
- If you don’t have a supportive network, I’m sorry. But that means don’t be an apologist when other things fall a little behind. After all, you had to write.
How do you manage your writing time?
Connect with Theresa: Blog | Website | Twitter
Check out TIME & CIRCUMSTANCE