Making Your Schedule Work with Your Writing

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ASK THE AUTHOR

What books that you’ve read have influenced you most as a writer? –Maggie McLain

Aaron: Hard to say. There are several books I’ve read that I’ve loved that have not necessarily influenced my writing style. I think more in terms of authors than particular books. With that in mind, I’d say Flannery O’Connor has had the greatest impact on my writing, and some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works. Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien, Bret Anthony Johnston, and Cormac McCarthy, too. If you want books, I’d say A Good Man is Hard to Find, Corpus Christi, The Great Gatsby, The Things They Carried, and The Road.

Al: Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama showed me the power to take readers to different worlds and to stretch the power of imagination. Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Bar series for it’s out of the box thinking.

MJ: For me, it’s the childhood stories with female heroines. Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wizard of Oz.

Making Your Schedule Work With Your Writing

AL: Illustration: My father-in-law, a preacher, once got slapped for a comment he made in response to a lady’s statement: “I don’t have time for that.” Don: “We all get the same number of hours each day. You have time to do what you want to do.”

Fighting the time game will wear you out and discourage you.

MAKE WRITING THE IMPORTANT THING

  • Writing is a harsh mistress. It is demanding of time, wants all your thoughts, and begs for attention.
  • Living is a harsh boss. Life must be lived and managed.

Illustration: Commercial—camera pans down a residential street. Audio reveals people are watching television. Camera stops on one house. No television, but there is the sound of a table saw. Switches to an interior shot of a man making something out of wood. Instead of sitting and watching television he is making something.

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • Writing is not optional. You must do it.
  • Sometimes writing is not writing. Research counts, reading counts, but these should not replace writing for long.
  • You will never “find” time to write–you must make it.
  • Once you make the time, commit to it. Stick to it. Be flexible when life happens, but you must prioritize.

Times to write

  • The morning:
    • Pros: Get it done first before life gets in the way, fresher mind, less weary from long, hard days.
    • Cons: Might not be a morning person, still sleepy, sluggish morning brain.
  • The afternoon:
    • Pros: Brain is up and going, other work is out of the way
    • Cons: Lots of things come up at this time–picking up kids, making phone calls, laundry, etc.
  • The evening:
    • Pros: Other work is out of the way, no longer a distraction, can work quietly after business hours, fewer interruptions (after kids go to bed)
    • Cons: Weary after a long day, easy to shrug off and say “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

BE PROACTIVE

  • Three choices:
    • Inactive. Do nothing.
    • Reactive. An action taken without benefit of thought.
    • Proactive. Deciding what needs to be done and doing it.
    • Be conscious of your choices.

STOP IT

  • STOP the unproductive busy work.
  • STOP interruptions.
  • STOP time sharks—people who eat up your time.
  • STOP trying to make every area of your life perfect. You will be making sacrifices. Of course, that’s true for any important endeavor. Simplify your life.
  • STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP. Every day is different and new.
  • It’s not about being fast; it’s about being productive.

Practicality–Where does the time come from?

  • Give up another hobby.
  • Scale back television and other “relaxation” activities
  • Make time in your work day (show up early, stay late)
  • Shave time from all other activities (5 min less “get ready” time, 5 min less “bill paying” time, 5 min less television, 5 min less eating = 20  min to write).
  • Quit your day job: ONLY IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT! To do this, you must be making money writing, and you must have a savings. If you have a family, consult with them before taking this step.

USE “DOWN TIME.”

  • Keep a notebook handy (or smart phone) for ideas, names, questions, research.
  • AL: Illustration—My first encounter with a published writer. Heard my daughter’s name and out came a notebook. She said, “I may use that in my next book.” She was still working while doing a book signing.
  • Remember that some of your most important writing will happen when you’re driving, showering, or dropping off to sleep. A great deal of writing happens away from the keyboard.

TAKE TIME OFF

  • Be a good steward of your health, your brain, your and your imagination.
  • The power of the “walk away.”
  • AL: I have times when I worked 7 days a week. Deadlines don’t you know. I now try to take half of Friday off and all of Sunday.

LEARN TO SAY NO

  • People will use up your time and not consider it theft.
  • This is true for fulltime writers. AL: You’d be surprised what people ask me to for free.
  • ‘Nuff said.

ELIMINATE TIME WASTERS

 

  • Television and videos can be a time thief.
  • E-mail.
  • Phone.
    • Just because it rings doesn’t mean you have to answer.
  • Teach others to respect your time.
    • It is amazing what a closed door can do. Or if you’re at, say, a Starbucks, put on a pair of headphones.
  • Do remember that there are things more important than writing.

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