How to Write a Novel to the End: Making Time to Write
Do you never have enough time to write, let alone to make writing into an actual business? Depending on your situation, that may be a reality, but be careful when deciding what you can and can’t do. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you give it your all. An old saying comes to mind here: faint heart never won fair lady.
Carving out time to write takes sacrifice and sometimes a paradigm shift.
It takes time to build a small business, perfect the craft of writing, pursue publication, create a platform, market a book, and deal with hundreds of mundane tasks. If managed well, time becomes a tool for you can use.
Eliminating Time WastersI asked a group of writers to identify what disrupts, interrupts and wastes their time. Here are the results, in no particular order:
- Online games
- Obsessive social networking
- Excessive researching
- Excessive reading of blogs
- Household chores
- Writer forums
- Phone calls
- Computer and technical problems
Identify your own personal time wasters. Track in writing how much time you are giving them, and you may be surprised. It’s truly amazing how frivolous activities can expand, pushing aside the more meaningful endeavors we want to pursue. It’s easy to unthinkingly create your own time crunch.
See if you can uncover and address your motives for spending your time in these ways. To change your life for the better, identify the underlying issues. For example, feelings of inadequacy can lead to procrastination, and depression might masquerade as tiredness. Or you could simply be doing too much.
Once you know a problem exists, you can address it. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. Habits take willpower and time to form, and the same again to break.
You will probably have greater success if you substitute a positive behavior for a negative one. Shifting the reason you play online games to make them a reward for hard work, for instance, puts them in their place, which helps you limit their use. Establish a reward system by substituting another activity, like reading a chapter in a book, and you’ll downplay the power of an addiction.
Remembering your goals brings them into sharp focus. This is why some writers use visual aids like bulletin boards to remind them of what they want to accomplish.
Saying yes to your goals on a daily basis helps you say no to time wasters.
Challenge yourself to free more time to achieve your goals. Since we’re all individuals with different projects, situations, and needs, saving time looks different for every writer. In general, look for ways to cut corners, combine or eliminate tasks, and delegate chores. I’ve given some tips to consider implementing, below. Use or adapt what works for you and leave the rest.
- Dedicate at least half an hour once a week brainstorming ways or implementing tactics to do things more efficiently. Think of this not as time wasted but as time well spent.
- Group similar tasks and you’ll spend less time changing gears. When you start a new task you usually have to spend time on little things like opening a new computer program, logging in to a website, or dragging out supplies. Reducing the number of times you have to repeat these actions might seem a small time savings, but it adds up over time. Also, each time you shift focus, there’s the need to reorient mentally. Regrouping too many times in a day can make you feel scattered.
- Avoid social sites except at times you designate. If you have to use a timer or program like Anti-Social or Rescue Time to limit your access to the Internet, do it.
- Likewise, avoid your email account except at times you designate, say once or twice a day.
- Try to find an audiobook version of a title you need to read for review, endorsement, or research, and listen to it on a cell phone or other portable device using an audiobook reader app. You might be able to perform routine chores or run an errand while listening.
- In the same manner, listen to podcasts while folding laundry, taking out the trash, and doing other mundane chores.
- Think twice before writing an email. Would a phone call be faster? Can you condense what needs to be conveyed into a couple of sentences, instead? Does the email need to be sent right now or should you wait until you have more information?
- Evaluate the groups and forums you participate in. Choose just a few and you’ll be able to better develop those relationships, which is far better than hitting many in an ineffectual way.
- Cut clutter. Whether it’s your computer, your internet presence, your office, or some other arena that needs decluttering, invest the time and you’ll function better, which saves you time in the long run.
- Simplify everything you do. These days everyone is busy and getting busier. Resist the trend.
Implementing at least some of these tips should help you discover more time to write and maybe even the chance to catch your breath.
Managing Your Time
To manage your time well, take careful inventory of your upcoming activities, strike out whatever is unnecessary and doesn’t support your life as a writer, then prioritize the rest.
While deciding what to strike out, remember that there’s a difference between wasting and spending time. No one can be on task all the time, so successful time management must always be about striking a realistic balance between rest and duty.
When setting priorities, be careful. Writing can consume time and attention that rightfully belongs elsewhere. Don’t let preoccupation with your writing steal from your relationships. Part of supporting you as a writer means that sometimes friends or family do have to wait. However, if that’s happening all the time, an adjustment needs to be made, and by you.
On the other hand, if you believe others are genuinely wasting your time, then establishing healthy boundaries is in order. The book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, is one resource that may help.
Some interruptions, like computer and technical problems, lie beyond your control. Teach yourself to roll with the punches, and you’ll save the time you would have lost to frustration. Accepting the things you can’t control will help you move on. Maintaining your emotional equilibrium helps balance a disrupted day.
Other responsibilities can take priority at times. When this happens, knowing the current focus of your life saves a lot of frustration. Set a date to reevaluate your priorities and you’ll wind up back on track sooner.
If you feel that life is in the way, review your priorities and make some choices. Letting go of activities that hold you back is as important as starting ones that advance you. Sometimes a total overhaul of your schedule is in order. Picture what happens when an electronic truck thunks into a wall. Without being re-positioned, it won’t go anywhere new.
Before making life-changing decisions, however, look for feedback and support from those closest to you. We all need the leveling influence of others.
Managing your time can be a real journey, but making the choice to move in the right direction puts you on the right road sooner.