Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You Can Do It, I Can Help . . .

Time, time, time . . .see what's become of me . . .


I hear this a lot from people who think they might have a book hiding inside of them or who think they like to pocket it a little extra cash by penning a freelance article. "How," they ask, "How do you make time to write?"

The simple answer to is that writers don't make time to write.  Nobody does. There's no secret elfin factory manufacturing extra hours to the day. (But if there was, no doubt, the elves would chip away at hours and minutes and seconds and days in a tree like this.) We're all given 168 hours each week. How we spend that time is up to us. It's a choice. (Unless of course, you're my friend Sarah who's an auditor and works crazy hours this time of year. If you have a job which swallows your life whole, this time management post is not for you.)

Let's make something clear here: I am by no means the model student when it comes to allotting all the time I could to my writing pursuits. Like everyone else, I'm easily distracted.

But all that wondering about how to become a writer, all that waiting around for the magic key, kind of reminds me of that Mary Oliver quote: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

If you're really serious about being a writer, you need to at least put writing on your to-do list. And then, theoritically, you will do some writing and check it off the list. 

If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of to-do lists.I make pretty elaborate to-do lists for each week and am frequently disappointed when Saturday afternoon rolls around and I haven't checked off half of the things on the list. Because here's the issue: I fashion to-do lists with so many items that run the whole gamut of my lifestyle, when I looked at the long list I would get overwhelmed and inevitably I chose the task which requires the least effort on my part. 

Then last week I tried out a tip I found in the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens: only put two or three things on your daily to-do list. You have to select the very most important things you need to get done in the day (namely, anything you get paid to do) and anything you feel guilty about not getting done, like that writing project. Make each tasks as specific as possible. Don't say "start writing novel." Instead write "outline chapters 1-3." You can't list making supper, hauling in wood, checking the mail or whatever other everyday tasks you're bound to do anyway. (I do however have to list "exercise" on my task list.) I still keep the weekly to-do list and then divvy up my tasks in little bite-sized chunks each day. Let me tell you, it felt really good checking off things on two separate lists and having a completely accomplished weekly to-do list last Saturday evening.

Try it out. If you can wiggle writing time into those few all important tasks you need done each day, you might be pleased at how the words start piling up on the page.

2 comments:

  1. I just checked out a book from the library tonight called "pen on fire" by barbara demarco-barret, about this very thing! I can't wait to read it... when i have time haha
    keep up the writing!

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  2. Love the tips! I usually write a list of five to six items, but two or three definitely seems more manageable. I'm not always able to accomplish all five or six tasks!

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