Do you waste time? Sure, we all do. How can we not with all those new time saving (::snorts::) gadgets always within reach, just waiting to snatch up our attention. We’re human, not machines; we’ll never be 100% efficient, but we can maximize what time we have for writing by exercising some self discipline.
Did I just write that load of bull? I’m the ultimate procrastinator. It took me ten years to write my first novel, and then a good 3-4 years to learn how to write. I’m a slow learner (still learning). MuseItUp Publishing contracted that novel. Since that time I’ve been a busy new writer. I certainly don’t have more time, not with a full time job and volunteering at a horse rescue every Sunday, but I have reformed my procrastinator ways to better manage what time I have.
Start small. Set realistic goals or you’re just going to get frustrated and give up. Within an hour of signing the contract I was already looking into blogs (I’d heard of those—didn’t know much about them though. By the way, I’m a 33-year-old cavewoman.) Next came the website. Once again, it was like the blind leading the blind (pardon the cliché). I didn’t know anything about website design—so went with a template. Now this was nothing like choosing a blog and switching some stuff around until it looked nice. Oh no. This arrived as an innocent looking zipped file which opened into hundreds of html files. I didn’t even know what I was looking at. I almost cried.
Then I got down to the business of learning a little bit about html source code. (I didn’t know it at the time, but this came in handy when I decided to self publish the first novel in my second series and had to learn how to create ebooks.)
Next came Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and an assortment of other forums, of which I still probably don’t spend as much time on as I should; however the day only has 24 hours.
Once the new author thing became less scary, I started to explore the idea of self publishing on Amazon and Smashwords. Really, there isn’t that much more work to do for self publishing than there is for small press authors. Both have to guest blog, as well as maintain Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads accounts. Basically, you must get your name out there regardless. With self-publishing there’s also the need to hire a cover artist and editor, and learn how to format ebooks.
How did procrastinator me managed this?
I started to keep track of my time, studying where I used my time and how much time I spending on certain sites and activities.
I set goals—I soon realised goals are my friend.
I studied my habits to find my biggest time wasters and tried to cut them down by a half. As I said earlier, were human and need to take breaks and escape the sometimes harsh routine of writing. We still have to enjoy writing.
Biggest time wasters.
- TV—I used to watch a lot of TV. Now there isn’t much to watch so it’s no longer a problem.
- Reading (oh yes!)—as writers we need to read since it helps us better our own work. However, it is much easier to get lost in someone else’s book instead of working on our own. I try not to read other books while I’m drafting something new unless it’s for research. Once I’m finished a draft or have a large chunk of chapters done, I’ll go fire up my e-reader to save my sanity.
- INTERNET (oh Twitter and Facebook—I’m talking to you) The internet is both my greatest tool and worst enemy. I’ve read in other places that writes should unplug while writing. However if you’re a writer you still need the internet. It’s good for research, promotion, blogging, communicating with editors and other authors. I now try to live by one simple rule—no random browsing allowed.
- One other thing to remember is that while promotion is key to both indie and small press writers, all the promotion in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t find time to write and build up a healthy back list of titles.
- Learning to say no to friends and family when they want to do something during your writing time is perhaps one of the hardest things to learn. If you’re serious about writing, you need to treat it like a job. You wouldn’t leave your day job in the middle of the afternoon to go to the mall with your friends, would you?
Things that helped (me)
Outlines—I’m not saying you have to follow an outline like it’s an exact science. I just find them a good starting point.
Daily Word Count—don’t drive yourself crazy with this one.
Have more than one project on the go—this helps in case writer’s block strikes. I find my Muse works better if given free rein. I won’t force myself to work exclusively on one story when another is demanding to be told.
Organization—I’m not talking about your house, I’m talking about your computer files so you can easily find your newest blurb, bio, synopsis or whatever else someone has just asked you for. (This one took me a while to realise. You can spend a big chunk of time sifting through all you documents.) This applies to your email as well.
When you do have time, use it. Do you have a little time in the morning before work? Maybe you have a few minutes at lunch. Can you squeeze in a little more work before bed?