Finding Time to Write, Part II, from a Dot-Net Novelist

After talking with some friends I’ve decided to devote another blog entry to this issue of finding time to write.  We’ll tackle your writing space next time.  My friend Jennifer generated a schedule of her day, studied it, and realized she doesn’t have 30 minutes to spare.  And this has been the case for several others.

Let me make a quick aside:  I’m going to be targeting my own demographic in this blog: Working parents with kids in school.

  1. If you’re a single guy who can’t find time to write, then you probably don’t want to be a writer;
  2. If you’re a retiree who just has to master that sand-wedge, then you probably don’t want to be a writer, either.

But even if you want to do this, the 79 things on your to-do list, your stubbed toe, your lost car keys, and your toothache may be creating a situation where you just want to sleep:

So, after you map out every hour of your day and  realize that there isn’t any wiggle room,  you’re left  with two choices:

1)    Give up (in which case you can quit reading now)

2)    Prioritize.

Look at your list.

Give this some thought.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

It helps if you picture Hannibal Lector saying it: “Tick tock, Clarice.”

Decided yet?

Hum the tune from “Jeopardy”.

How about now?

Yes?

Good.

Now make a list of everything you do.  This should be easy-peasy.  Just use the ol’ hour-by-hour schedule and cherry-pick the actual activities.  It’ll look something like this, except in your own handwriting:

  • Wake up
  • Go for a jog/bike ride
  • Cook breakfast
  • Eat breakfast
  • Drive to the office
  • Do your daily tasks at the office (w/ lunch)
  • Drive “home”
  • Sit in the carpool line
  • Help somebody (sick friend?  buddy with a flat tire?)
  • Go to the grocery store
  • Kids’ homework (incredibly time-consuming these days)
  • Socialize*
  • Cook dinner Eat dinner
  • Kids’ homework (reprise)
  • Ball practice, dance practice, book club,  Bible study, etc
  • Mediate arguments, fist-fights and bar-room brawls
  • Pay bills
  • Watch a good show with the family (unless the in-laws are over: In that case you just found your time).

*Do not give up time socializing, whether it’s lunch with friends, talking to parents in the carpool line, or an ol’ fashioned happy hour.   Socializing is real damn important.  To be a successful writer you have to have something to write about.   Now why – you might ask – would you need to rub elbows if you plan to write about preserving sea oats on the coast?   It’s because you have feelings about sea oats.  And not everybody feels the same way you do about them.  You need to get out, talk to people, find out their opinions, and listen.  Listen hard, especially if their opinion is different from your own.

Okay.  You have your list.  Now put it in order of importance, using simple numbering: 1, 2, 3 …, with 1 being the most important item.  Don’t stress too much over this.  You basically know.  If two items are “tied”, just pick one.

The next step is to pick out an activity to drop.

Any one of the low priority items will do.

Let’s say you cook dinner for the kids each night.  You might be able to shift gears on this one.  Ask your spouse to cook, or put some frozen lasagna in the microwave.  Whatever you decide, try it for 10 days.  This will enable your experiment to span across a weekend.

And now the fun part:

Make an appointment with yourself.  Put your 30 minutes on your calendar, complete with a reminder card like they give you at the doctor.  Tell your spouse and kids and parents and inmates and aunts and uncles that you have an appointment.  You’ll be amazed the impact that the word has.  People will shift their schedules to allow you to shift yours.

Now the first time slot may not work out.  And if it doesn’t, don’t worry.  Go to the next thing on your low-priority list and try that for 10 days.  Eventually something will pan out.  It did for me, and I’m an idiot.

In the meantime, you’re probably gathering wool and/or ideas for your book, story, article, etc.  As these ideas spring up you need to remember them.  I recommend keeping a notebook.  A lot of men and women carry gym bags these days; that’s a good place for pen and paper.  Likewise, women carry purses and men carry laptop cases; those are perfect places for a journal.

Here are a few other ideas to chew on while you do this:

  • Record your thoughts on a tape recorder or a smart phone.  Most cell phones have voice recording apps.  This is something you can do in the car.
  • You might see a bumper-sticker like my sister-in-law did:
      • “Ass, Grass or Cash: Nobody Rides for Free!”
      • Every writer has got to write that one down.
  • Call your home answering machine and leave messages for yourself.
  • Send emails to yourself.
  • Write letters to yourself (and Santa).

The bottom-line is this: Don’t rely on your brain for memory.  I never do.

Until next time, remember that you can see the fruits of my own writing labor if you choose to buy a copy of Fire Always Burns Uphill for the Nook or the Kindle.  Remember, Amazon.com has just unleashed their new Fire tablet.  Until next time, folks, peace …

 ∞ Kindle Version (from Amazon.com)

 ∞ Nook Version (from Barnes & Noble)

.

© 2011, Alan Keith Parker, All Rights Reserved.  If you steal my work you’ll hear from a lawyer!

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