[What's Next?] Time Crunch
Contributor
Written by
Cait Levin
September 2013
Contributor
Written by
Cait Levin
September 2013

Some of you may have noticed that you didn’t hear from me two weeks ago on my usual day to post. The reason is one I’m sure you are all familiar with, and one I’m hoping you can help me solve. The truth is, as much as I hate to say it, I just haven’t had the time to write. And I don’t mean I haven’t had the time in the last few days or the last few weeks. I mean I haven’t had time in, like, a month.

Normally this wouldn’t really bother me, but I felt like I was on somewhat of a roll and then all of the things in my life that aren’t writing—teaching, studying for the GRE (don’t EVEN get me started), and the day to day errands and checklists I have to get through just haven’t left me time to write. In fact, they’ve hardly left me time for much of anything (I finally got around to watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last night, TWO DAYS after it actually aired! It was awesome, btw.)

The point is, I’ve been meaning to prioritize my revision work so I have time to finish this thing and take the next steps, but when I think about what I have to get done in a given day, my writing just hasn’t been making that list. It’s not even on the first or second back up, if-I-had-an-extra-hour-I-would-do-this list. There’s just too many other things to get done.

So my question to all of you this week is this: How do you make it a priority? When you have other things that definitely have to get done, how do you prioritize the writing, the thing which is never actually due, so to speak? The thing with no hard deadlines? Let me know your strategies in the comments below--I could use some help!

Cait Levin is the Community Manager at She Writes. You can read more of her blog (when she stops watching so much Dawson’s Creek and actually writes more of a blog) here.

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Comments
  • Yehudit Reishtein

    Carson, I agree with you about postponing checking what the kids/husband/phone/dog requires waiting until the timer rings, but I always had three exceptions: bleeding, smoke, or water pouring out. 

  • Carson Gleberman

    Oh, Linda, yes! I have thought so many times, no Virginia, it isn't a ROOM of our own we need so much as a DAY. We feel so bad not meeting the incessant and always urgent needs of family it is very hard to honor the highlighted time. I find if I mark the calendar and go to my favorite coffee shop I get tons more written. Yes, an errand may be overlooked, a delivery missed - but the world keeps turning and I have more pages to show for it. I call these my "office hours" and they are much more respected than when I close the door at home.

    When I can't do that, I set a Howler timer for half an hour (free here: http://www.freemacware.com/howler-timer/) and squeeze in what I can. The Howler makes it easier to not answer the phone/postpone the kid or spouse question/not get distracted. Whatever it is, if it isn't bleeding it can wait 23 more minutes.

    A more intense way to take your writing work seriously: join NaNoWriMo. (nanowrimo.org/‎) Once my family knew I was doing it, they got behind me. And I got to 50,000 words! (Many came out in Editing December but no matter.)

    A third thought: every week my husband picks one night when dinner is all up to him. I don't even plan what it is. That's a solid hour and half of productive time.

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    I usually find pockets in my day or week to work on content. Sometimes a slow internet connection can be frustrating, but if I have at least 30 minutes to work on 1 thing, like a blog entry, a "hub" on HubPages.com, or a work-in-progressI feel like I've accomplished something.

    I usually work in the morning, when my daughter is either sleeping or reading. Since my husband is off on Mondays, that is my full work day. The rest of the week, I work my writing around the home-schooling schedule I've set up with my daughter. Usually get in a couple of hours the rest of the week.

  • Susan Holck

    I have written and published many academic articles. I agree that it's possible to spend periods of 15 minutes (I might say 30 minutes, but still a relatively short time) on such content and writing style. But since I have embarked on an entirely different style of writing, that of a memoir, I find such short periods just don't work for me. Perhaps it is because I am a relative newbie at non-scientific writing, but I find memoir writing and other creative non-fiction writing to be much more demanding in terms of creativity. And I can't just turn on the creative spirit for a 15 minute stretch. It doesn't work for me.

  • Yehudit Reishtein

    U agree with the people who say, just make writing a priority,BUT I also recognize that carrying through with it is the hard part. A few years ago, I read a book by Robert Boice in which he studied very productive academic writers. He said that the ones who wrote and published the most were the ones who wrote 15 MINUTES EVERY DAY. The ones who only wrote for two hours at a time did not write or publish as much.

    I tried it and it works! You can always find 15 minutes in a day. Even if you had no time all day (and there are jam-packed days like that), you can squeeze in 15 minutes at bedtime. (And if all you have is 15 minutes, set the timer to make sure you get to your next commitment. Sometimes, when things get flowing, the 15 minutes would go on for two hours, but the minimum of 15 min per day WORKS. 

    Jeanne's comment about finishing with a leading sentence or two is similar to a trick I often use. I just don't finish the last sentence I write. I end with something that will cue me for the next session: He looked healthy, except for...  OR I am almost in a trance--how did we get ... OR Her best idea was not to...

  • Clara_W

    I understand 100% how hard it is. After a long day at work, I need a few minutes watching TV. It helps my brain to recover. But I set myself a limit: 30min to 1 hour, that's it. Of course I have to account for the gym (in which days, I don't watch TV), etc etc It's all very flexible.

    I also try to write as much as I can when I can, so that if I don't write the next day, I'll still meet my deadlines.

    Speaking of which, I  set myself weekly deadlines and I put them in a high priority. I never miss my deadlines, even if I have to work late to meet them.

  • Jeanne Nicholas

    One way I get myself to write each week is to make reasonable commitments.  I ask a beta reader friend to review what I've written.  I put her on a schedule to receive my work on Mondays and get back to me by Thursdays.  Then I revise it based on her input.  This way we are on a schedule and I have commitments.  Each week I finish 10 pages in Word.  It may not always work but I've been successful having that commitment with another person.  Also, posting a chapter each month online for some small group is a good way to commit and write.  They provide feedback and I get some deadline to meet.  I'm great with deadlines.

    Another way to write successfully is the egg timer method.  Sit at computer with a one hour timer.  When that timer is on you are not doing anything but writing.  When it goes off....get up go get a drink, hit the restroom, pet the dog, goof off in FB for 20 minutes.  Then set it again for another hour.  If you are only doing one hour a day...booyah...your done.  Make sure to write a few leading sentences at the bottom of your draft that will start you off tomorrow...like...

    1.  They go to eat dinner at Antonio's Italian restaurant.

    2.  She talks about her mother and the messy divorce.

    3.  They fight over the bill.

  • Sherry White

    I place no rules on my writing. I write when I write.

  • Cait Levin

    Wow everyone! These ideas are so great! I definitely like the idea of the highlighter also, or of just blocking time in my calendar that is meant for writing that I commit to. @Susan, I'm the same way, I need to have at least an hour or I feel like I didn't really get anything done. 

  • Susan Holck

    I have a lot of difficulty writing if I don't have a reasonable chunk of time set aside to do it.  I just can't sit down and write for, say, half and hour.  Some people can.  I try to block off as much of a day as possible - I like the idea of using the yellow highlighter!  I don't answer the phone unless it's my daughter. I don't read emails (that's rough sometimes.) I work through a meal. And if I can get a chunk done like that then I feel less guilty about spending other days dealing with the other necessities in life (like the GRE, which I am lucky to have behind me, some 40 years later!) Also, I've finally set myself a deadline of finishing this damn memoir by June next year. I've paid for the six month course "Write Your Memoir in Six Months" and the cost of that plus the accountability involved should help - I'm hoping.

  • Linda Griffiths-Gish

    This past summer I read the book, "The Paris Wife."  It was written by Ernest Hemingway's first wife and covered their courtship and marriage and the beginnings of his writing career.  Every day he would leave their apartment and go to another apartment they had rented just for the purpose of his being undisturbed to write.  Meanwhile, back at home Hadley (the first wife) was busy shopping, cleaning, cooking, paying the bills, tending the baby, etc.  The thought occurred to me that I would really, really love the opportunity to do that - be completely absolved from any responsibility so that I could immerse myself in the story I was trying to get down on paper.  Is this a possibility for ANY woman writer with a family or would this tend to only happen for men who have a devoted spouse willing to shoulder the family responsibilities alone? 

  • Mohana Rajakumar

    Do you love your project? If there's a passion to tell that story, it will get done, even if only a little at a time.

    If you haven't built the momentum to get to the point where the story takes over until you push over into the next stage, it may not be you, may be the story.

    Try writing something new instead. That always jolts me out of a rut. You'll go back to the other one. Happened to me - 6 ebooks and 10 years later...

  • Evalyn Lee

    No joke.  Yellow highlighter in my diary.  The hours I'm supposed to be writing/researching.  Mapped out.  Open my diary -- yellow blaze -- that's where/when I'm supposed to be working.  When I don't do it -- I have to face the yellow block of TIME I WASTED!!!  That time has been from 4:30am to 7 for a few years, that's shifted because my family is finding me way too cranky five years in without enough sleep.  Moved it to afternoons -- I suck writing in the afternoon, but am making myself do it now.  I put in the hour before kid event/drive/etc or after -- in yellow.  It's there.  If I'm not writing/revising, why not?  Other thing: one of those pocket monthly diaries -- whole month, and I write down chapter file/draft on day I've worked on it.  To have one place in my life to see what work I'm actually doing that I 'want' to do -- as opposed to the list of things I have to do for my life and family.  Had to face the fact I was giving myself too little time to succeed.  Very sobering.  So -- make doing the work one of your top three priorities on every single one of your to-do lists.  If you don't, figure out why you aren't doing it -- is there a way to block it down into smaller more manageable chunks.  First draft vs. redraft.  Hope vs. despair.  And a writing group/friend really helps to manage that feeling of the sucky suckiness of the WP (work in progress).  Routine helps and being honest with myself about why I'm not doing the work -- helps, fatigue, sadness, TMS (too much shit!) going on in my life..I am always reminding myself that a novel is written one word at at time..so what if that time may be a lifetime, hey, you never know before I die I may have finished the book! 

  • JoAnne Braley

    A professional man might just say:

             JUST DO IT!

    The professionals,  who are well-known,  say they MUST write each day.  One says he must write five pages.  Another says he gets up at five in the morning to have the time to write.  Set a time...knock out something you do not REALLY have to do...get someone else to do it.  If you really love writing and want to be successful, write every day.  I do not write everyday, and have not finished anything, nor published, except poems, as they are short.  I've gotten good grades, responses, and applause reading my stories, but...(see, I'm not even finishing this) 

  • Fajr Muhammad

    I have trouble prioritizing my writing, even though in my head it is a priority. I'll find that when I sit down to write and look at my word count tracking sheet, days - weeks! - have gone by. Lately I've resolved to just do it and to break my writing down into manageable chunks. Writing a thousand words a day wasn't feasible so I set a word count and first draft deadline and how much I would need to write to meet that goal. That has helped me to not feel overwhelmed. 

    I'm hoping that by being consistent at the start will trickle down and create an unbreakable routine. Hope that helps!

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    I used to think that way, too, and then someone said to me, "You have the time, you're just not making it a priority."  At first I was defensive, but that person was right--there are hours in the day and though we have obligations, we can choose on a given day or within a given week how we spend those hours. Maybe you wear dirty clothes for a day or you don't shower one morning or your apartment is disgusting or you don't meet a friend for coffee, but you get an hour of writing in. I started writing in bits and pieces, then realized it was such a priority that I started hiring a sitter once a week (I'm an at-home mom, so at first the idea seemed ridiculous to me).

    It is hard, for sure, but you can do it. Good luck! 

  • Vanessa Kachadurian

    Time is never on our side, we have to prioritze work/family come first and everything else follows.  The list changes everyday, some tasks moved at the top and then others added on the next day or week.  If it is not a time sensitive matter, I usually put it under "to do withing 30 days" otherwise my work/family and health come first.  But I do try to write and read up to 8 hours a week, having proper supportive devices and a company / employer that is flexible on time is also a great help.  Thanks for the great article. 

  • Kay Rae Chomic

    When I worked full-time, I dedicated eight hours a week for writing my first novel. Two hours in the morning on Tues & Thurs, and two hours on Sat & Sun. Doable, reasonable, and achieved. If I decided to try writing 10 or 12 hours a week, I didn't even get my eight hours in! Something psychological going on there:-) Maybe if you can identify a day, or number of hours on the weekend to write, that might help. For me, less was more. For another approach, I have a friend who hates to garden, but likes her yard to resemble a garden. So, she pays herself $20 per hour, banks the cash in a special account, then does what she wants, when she wants, with that money.

  • Jett Wilson

    The first thing I do is something you hinted you might not do in your post - I set a deadline. If I am writing for someone else I make sure the client sets a deadline in the first convo. If I am writing for myself it shines like neon on my calendar :) and I do my best to stick to it. The other thing is ... while it sounds good to say set aside an hour a day to write, I don't think it works well that way. Something else in the day will always throw you off from a small amt of allotted time and creative juices need a better jump start than that. So, I try to cram errands & all the other daily stuff in the same day or same part of day and then I try to take a huge block of time just for writing. Example, might do emails/errands in the a.m., have lunch then nothing but writing in the afternoon. That way my focus is solely on it. It has to be treated like a job or the project will never have priority enough to get finished. Just two suggestions. Hope it helps. Good luck!

  • Karen Banes

    I do freelance writing for a living so it's more a case of prioritizing writing my book over the stuff I have to write for other people, (while homeschooling my two kids & doing everything else required to survive). The book is oh so neglected at the moment. My plan (and it is just that - haven't implemented it yet) is to get up an hour earlier every morning and just write the next chapter. No doing paid work, no lesson planning, nothing but book writing. There's no telling how it will go. I'm not optimistic about my ability to get up any earlier. If I was it would be hope triumphing over experience!