You might have an amazing idea for a plot, a passion for the written word, a drive to publish a book and all the latest technology at your fingertips. However, a book can’t write itself, and certainly not if you are missing the most necessary thing: time.
Let’s face it – most of our time is spent unconsciously, not purposefully and intentionally. Maybe, you sit down to watch one episode of your favorite TV show, but you suddenly find yourself amidst a three hour watching marathon (darn Netflix for auto-starting the next episode during the credits!). Perhaps, your device is your vice – you spend countless hours scrolling, commenting and online shopping. Or, even our best laid plan to wake up at 7:47am every morning (with more than enough time to get ready for work) always inevitably ends up being a race, after pressing the snooze button too many times. Whatever you find takes up that precious time, the first step is realizing you do have some of it – and that you just need to manage it better.
Lots of books have been written about how to manage time: who and what is worth devoting your time to, the value of time, and so on. While there are various methodologies on time-management, there are some principles and suggestions that tend to make the cut:
- Plan a weekly and monthly writing schedule for yourself. There is a huge difference between saying to yourself “Tomorrow, I will find an hour and a half to sit and write”, or writing a task in your planner or phone calendar: “Tuesday, 10-11am, Writing Session”. (Writing it in your phone calendar also gives you the advantages of setting an alarm, to ensure you won’t forget.) You will inevitably be more committed to a task that was scheduled for a specific time than trying to play it by ear. Proper management of time relies heavily on preparation, order and organization, so find your preferred method of recording your schedule and stick to it!
- Define your writing tasks. Scheduling time to write is not enough. It is equally important that you define what you want to accomplish in the time you have. Try to avoid wishful thinking and stick to smaller, more reasonable goals; otherwise the time you sit down to write will often be met with frustration. Give priority to smaller tasks and leave longer and more complex tasks for later.
- Writing time is time booked. Have you scheduled a writing session for yourself this weekend? Then, commit to that schedule! Booking time for writing should no longer be viewed as free time. Keeping writing as a priority in your schedule assures that you will be able to continue carving time for it. If you let your time be taken by other activities, you will feel less inclined to prioritize it in the future.
- Work with your own personal circadian rhythm. The best time to write is when you feel you can devote your full focus on the task at hand, without distractions. For some people, that is first thing in the morning, when the mind is clear and you have more than enough time before you have to start the day. For others, the nighttime is the most creative and lucrative, after the day’s work is done. Those that gravitate toward either part of the day will find that they are full of energy and motivation during that time period – energy and focus are the markers of a good time to establish your habit of writing regularly.
- Choose an inspiring setting. The quality of your concentration will be directly affected by where you choose to write. Choose a place that gets your creative juices flowing and relaxes you. Some like to have a private office at home, others prefer busy places like a cafe or a library; others find that a nature setting like the beach or a park stimulate the senses.
- Organize your writing chronologically to the plot. The plot or your novel will probably span between days, weeks, months and maybe even years. Organizing your plot as a timeline can help you build organization for your writing prompts, and help you keep track of when in time you last wrote. Inconsistencies in plot are a common mistake that first-time writers make, so organizing your writing chronologically (even if you plan to tell the story out of time) can help give you a better picture of where you need to fill in the blanks in each of your future writing sessions, and give you better perspective of what you have written in your plot timeline so far. In the body of the manuscript, highlight or mark mentioned days and dates in color. For example: “Two days ago we were sitting in the cafe…”, “I haven’t heard a word from him for a month”, “How can you leave the house in the humid month of August?”; this can also help you cross-reference between your chronological outline and your story.
Scheduling a time to write, in a space that is conducive to creativity, is your best chance at getting ahead in your book writing journey, and giving something that is important to your self-expression the priority that it deserves.