Time Management for Writers: Finding the time to Write
From to , I was a newspaper reporter. Those two decades established patterns and work habits that often make it immensely difficult to control my writing life. I persist in trying to gain control of my time, my stories, and myself. Of course, I recognize that this is a laughable notion. That desire to exercise control — over gravity, the weather, people, our lives — is one of the hallmarks of Homo sapiens. Writing, like any creative endeavor, is a desperate attempt to wrest control, to impose order on chaos, to stop time, to play God if you will.
Time management is one of the most important self-improvement techniques, but one least utilized by journalists. Reporters feel enslaved by the clock when, in reality, they can seize control of their time. What did you write? Here are some practical approaches and a list of resources that can help.
Break down your next story into its components: A daily story consists of interviews, focusing, planning, drafting, revising. Assign time estimates to each step. Then keep track of the actual time for those steps. Check out Time Tool, a computer program that allows you to create jobs and track the time you spend on those jobs. It will take you time and experience to be able to estimate accurately. Invariably, the jobs that we think take a long time can be accomplished more quickly, while the tasks that we think are a snap take more time than we thought. Develop a more accurate gauge of your time.
After all, what can an editor do between the assignment and the delivery of the story except worry and pester? Talk about powerless! Set your own internal deadlines. As a Washington reporter working under tight deadlines, I realized the chances of making a factual error were high, so I set my own deadline. The tips given here is very helpful and worthwhile. I no longer keep a long to-do list, I have few things and I prioritize like crazy. Most of them have superficial and sometimes even erroneous information. Instead, get a good book on writing from an accomplished author.
My problem is blocking interruptions. Yet that creates distractions that get me sidetracked. Often turns disastrous. Learning to forego answering the phone and just letting it go to voicemail, but then there are emails that keep me sidetracked too. Also have time setting aside time for reading and learning the craft. I try blocking time but it always seems to get muddled. Your post is encouraging. So many things I need to focus upon and merely get done.follow
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More discipline and less concern about not getting something done. Great ideas, thanks for sharing. What do you normally do to re-focus after an interruption? What does work for me, at least some of the time, is to try to notice and label distractions e. Ali, this is terrific! I really like your approach, and the fact that you have tailored it specifically to writers, whose needs are truly different from those of, say, CEOs. I am going to share this with my writing class. I would also say it feels especially hard now having small children but I also have that much more creative inspiration and longing for meaningful ideas to take form and help to shape their future sphere.
Thank you, Ali!
Hope you and your laptop enjoy lots of focused writing sessions in your back room now. I always enjoy reading your blog, and I also learn something. I agree with the above article. One of the hardest thing I find is increasing my word count and looking at my word count constantly. I try to only check my word count at the end of a writing session, otherwise I end up paying more attention to it than the actual words!
I realized late last year that I actually wrote less after I started to consider writing my job: keeping schedules for it, writing in lieu of allowing free time, stressing myself over too many deadlines than I could handle. When the creative, enjoyable, expressive, almost impulsive aspects of writing are extracted from it, it becomes a chore.
This blog post helped! For me, there needs to be a balance between having some structure e. I never plan any more than by deciding a few themes I want to incorporate — often at least one will continue from the previous novel in the series or occasionally an even earlier one. I edit as I go, developing the themes into threads that run parallel chronologically in the plot.
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At some point I decide where I want the story to head and write a scene near the end. It worked better than the way I originally wrote it. It seems to work for me. Ali, I really enjoyed the way you finished each of your points with an actionable tip! But I find that writing to be stilted, unimaginative and boring. Thanks again for sharing your blogging style again.
I agree that downtime is really important. Lunch breaks can be a fantastic time to write — in fact, I think any time slot in your day that has a natural start and end point works well, because it helps you focus. Good stuff. I find the planning part the hardest. I actively resist it … procrastinate by doing almost anything rather than attempt the left-brain, analytical actions of figuring out a plan for a non-fiction book or project. Any tips?
If you need to move scenes around, you can simply change the chapter heading on the card and move it into the deck. If you get stuck on the plot, brainstorm for solutions on paper until you find another avenue that works. Always update those cards as you add chapters. And set a minimum word count per day. This will get you working towards a goal. The budget word count will vary around your routine.
If you have small children, write when they nap and write 1, words per day. If you have more time, make it 2, words. Before you know it you will have a first draft written. I encountered the same issue when planning for a historical fiction piece I was working on last year. Writers tend to lean naturally more towards the creative sides of projects, so I was able to really enjoy the planning part of the story by integrating the necessary research into my more right-brained plotting.
Hope this helps! Although I am a fairly left-brained thinker and I like linear outlines, I find that mindmaps are great for just chucking ideas down on paper and freeing myself up to be a bit more creative in my planning. From a mindmap, you can develop a linear outline, or put points onto index cards — whatever works for you. You might also try mindmapping aka brainstorming to generate initial ideas and to start forming connections between them. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here!
Keep up the good work. I have been meaning to write something like this on my website and you have given me an idea. Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page. Time Management for Writers? What To Do.
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