Thursday, June 9, 2011

Writing Time Management for the Harried Home-Writer

I am the last person you would expect to see this post written by. But as a writer who can have a hard time staying focused, writes or participates in four blogs, tries to stay on top of social media, chores around the house, the last minute substitute jobs and squeeze in half a dozen book reviews a month, I might have a few suggestions.

I might not have kids, but I have enough to replace them. Ha! Someday this list of activities is going to need to be scaled back, but until then…

Here are a few suggestions (10 to be exact), but please know they aren’t mutually exclusive and you might find that NONE of them work, but you won’t know something unless you try, which brings me to number one…

1) You won’t know something unless you try

You won’t know if you can write a 1000 words in a day or edit for hours on end until you TRY. The best way to figure out what works is to just do it. If it doesn’t, maybe you will figure out what WILL work. Trial and error.

2) For the times you work, turn off all social media

During those times, no matter how long or short, turn off the social media. For me I exit out of Tweetdeck. It automatically loads a new tweet when it comes through, so I often get rid of it. I do leave the internet connected, because I’m weird and like the chocolate in the freezer, if it’s there I don’t want it.

3) Set time constraints

I literally work in 15 minute increments. I set the timer, don’t TOUCH my email during that time and edit for 15 minutes solid. I can easily be distracted when I’m editing, and this FORCES me to keep my tail in the chair and work. 15 minutes is an easy goal for me to reach and when I reach it, I give myself a little reward.

4) And no, it isn’t chocolate

When those 15 minutes are up, I can then check my emails or blogger feed. I have set a goal for myself to get my WIP edited by the ACFW conference. At the pace I am at, that means I need to be editing at least three pages a day or more, five days a week. Which means my blogging day (Friday) has been taken over to do my edits. So during those moments between 15 minute sessions, you’ll most often find me blogging. I take a few minutes and write a post, start one or answer a comment. I have over two weeks scheduled for OEA and almost all of next week done for my personal blog. Keep these breaks realistic. 5-10 minutes at the MOST. Otherwise you can get carried away.

5) Set a writing time

This one might be harder for many moms and working writers to put into action, but I bet if you look, it’s not as hard as you think. I write everyday (or rather work on my computer) from 7:30 in the morning until about 2 in the afternoon. I blog, check my social sites a couple times and work on my writing. I try to stay off of Facebook as much as I can during that time. During blogging, I keep my time short, though I don’t view it as detrimental to my writing time as Facebook. If it starts infringing, it’s back to the bottom of the list.

6) Work in short sequences of time

This pretty much goes hand in hand with the 15 minute session tip. If you can’t find a few minutes during the day to sit and WRITE, then have the computer out in the open and give yourself permission to scribble something as you walk by. If you are going to be serious about this, then you have to be willing to write on the go. We don’t always get the perfect sit down and write time we want.

7) Set priorities

What is your goal for today? Write 500 words? Edit a page? Then make sure you do it. Because if you get too far behind on your goal, then you will be even LESS motivated to work on it the next day. No one expects you to answer an email the minute you get it. Your fiction is more important and if you have 15 minutes to work, don’t spend it checking email.

8) Keep moving

During those periods of writing, keep moving. Every hour or so stand up, move around and keep the blood moving. You are more prone to want to work longer if you take a few breaks to move around. So start the laundry and then power walk back to the computer. ;-)

9) When life happens…write anyway!

Picture this…I have a perfect day of writing planned. Then the phone rings and someone is sick and I need to sub. First...THANK GOD for the work, then…oh BEHIND ON WRITING. Some days are not going to be writing days and you have to give yourself permission to accept that. But don’t give a flimsy excuse that this will just have to be a “no writing” day. And if it is a “no writing” day, then hope you get a good day in tomorrow. If you can legitimately scrounge up even an ounce of energy to work, you need to do it. Develops good stamina for a deadline someday. ;-)

10) To avoid spending those 15 minutes staring at the screen…

Have a few notes from the previous day on what you wanted to work on today. When I start my edits, I go back and read what I changed the day before (usually five or so pages.) Fix spelling errors, awkward sentences and keep going. You’ll be on a roll. Chances are you will spot mistakes from the day before. Repeat this process every day.

What are your suggestions for writing in time crunches?


Anonymous said...

Great post Casey! It's nice to hear that it's not only me who finds themselves distracted by emails, blogs, twitter etc.

Sometimes no internet is ideal. The best chapters for my novel were written on paper, next to a pool in sri lanka. No access to blackberry, facebook, twitter, etc etc. Problem is, I find it too difficult to re-create this at home. Something inside me resists! Am I addicted? : )

Anonymous said...


When I give myself a word count goal, I tend to be less creative. My writing ends up sounding pretty boring. I'm better off if I ignore the numbers and just write.

Sandra Heska King said...

Excellent suggestions. I carry a notebook with me everywhere. I also take it out to sit in the yard for up to an hour--even before the rest of the house wakes up. Away from in-the-house distractions. I get a lot of ideas that way, too.

I'm also one of those stop-and-scribble types. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

The internet is such a temptation. Sometimes I wonder if I need to just crawl in a hole until I get good at writing and am ready to pursue publication. :)

Casey said...

FREYA, I completely agree on the 'net. When I get away from my house and go elsewhere where I know I don't want to hook up to the WIFI, I get my best work done. No temptation. ;)

WDENMAN, good for you for knowing what you need! That is excellent and because we are all different, it is fantastic you know NOW what you need to do. :)

Casey said...

SANDRA, good for you! I'm a terrible note book writer and like to get thoughts down fast, so always good to hear when others make that work. Laura Frantz writers her first rough draft entirely by hand.

SHERRINDA, right there with you. Who invented the thing anyway??? :-)

Julia said...

I began thinking of my blog as a type of bookmark on the web...for later. Its a good thing, but my own writing needs to come first.

I think for me I have to realize that this is a season and like you mentioned trial and error. Sometimes when your kids are little you need to use little chunks instead of trying to find big chunks. That's what I learned the hard way. My kids don't take naps and I homeschool so that means I need to find what will work for me which right now is writing at least M-F (usually weekends) 8:30-9 pm. Early morning works well for some. I think when the kids hit a certain age you either need to learn to work well with interruptions or start becoming an early riser or a night owl. Anyway, just my thoughts. These are good suggestions, Casey.

Something else that works for me is stopping in the middle of a scene or even the middle of a sentence. Much easier to get back into it the next day. But this might not work for some.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

As a mother with young kids, finding time to write has been a trick. I have found myself ebbing and flowing in the process. I really appreciate your suggestions, Casey. They make a lot of sense. I am finding that what works for me is that when they are both in school (both will be full time this year), I set an hour to write, no interruptions via the internet (I don't have it on, unless it's for research). As much as I want to, I am realizing that I can't set word count goals right now, because other house things still need to be finished (I can't serve leftovers every night).

I also have one day that I really try to devote to writing, not scheduling doctor's appointments, coffee with friends or anything else, unless it absolutely cannot be avoided. Then, I plan leftovers for that night so I can write for as long as possible.

Thanks for the great ideas!

Casey said...

JULIA, I actually thought a lot about you when I was writing this post. And I agree, I can't worry as much about networking as I can about doing a good job with my writing. But because I love doing it so much, I don't consider it a chore. :)

JEANNE, sounds like you've got a great schedule going for you. Working with what works best for you is the only and best way, because no two schedules are going to be exactly alike. And oftentimes the best ones are taken from ideas from many other writers.

Thanks for the comments today!

Kenneth said...

Great post, Casey. I waste so much time because I don't think I have a section long enough to sit down and write. Those little spaces would work much better. Think I'll get myself a timer. :-) Thanks for the insight!

Beth K. Vogt said...

Great post! I particularly like the idea of ignoring Twitter and FB and email while I write. It's so distracting and pulls me away from my WIP!

Casey said...

KENNETH, 15 minutes can work wonders, because we don't have to think about 15 minutes, it's a nothing time frame for us. Good forth! :)

BETH, email, FB, twitter, etc, work as great rewards. We just have to keep them as such. ;)

Joanne Sher said...

Absolutely EXCELLENT post Casey. SO many wonderful pointers here!

Casey said...

Glad it was helpful Joanne! Thanks for stopping by today!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

These are super! I'm definitely going to use some. Thanks!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, so much good stuff in here, Casey! I'll have to revisit bunches of times to soak it all in. :)

Christine Murray said...

I write in 25 minute stints with a five minute break at the end. It works for me :)