Making It Work

Pre-post Announcement: Y’all, I finished grad school!! Saturday was my last day of classes. I can’t even believe this two year nightmare…um, I mean journey…is over, but it is and I am free!! I just had to share 🙂

It seems like something we all struggle with as writers is where to find the time to make the words happen. Time is something no one ever has enough of, and it’s particularly strange and unwieldy for writers due to such inconveniences as blocks, research and prep work, and inspiration or the lack thereof.
I thought I’d share what my approximate schedule has looked like this past year, just to give you some ideas for where and when you might be able to fit in words. I always learn better by example than by just suggestions, so take it for what it is.
The disclaimers: I am not married, not dating anyone, have no kids, have no pets, and don’t have a roommate. Therefore, on a regular day, no one can intrude in my schedule except the people I allow in (friends, in crisis or for preplanned activities, etc.) although my landlady’s dog and the assorted people in and out upstairs make a valiant effort at disrupting my crypt-world.
Morning: all the usual waking up things, play on Twitter, sometimes blog time, and then Be Somewhere- either at work, at my internship or, on Saturdays, at school (now done forever let’s all party!!!)
I am the sort of person who doesn’t work all that well in lengthy, focused blocks. Or rather, I do, but then there’s usually a period in between where I can’t focus to save my life. I combat that by being extremely efficient, and then switching over to personal things for a bit. If I’m at work, I check my personal emails, sometimes respond to some, draft a homework assignment, or spend my lunch break writing. When I get to do this, it makes my whole day more productive because knowing I’ve been able to accomplish 500 or 1000 words already is a huge boost. If I was more of a morning person, I would absolutely write early in the day for that same reason.
Evening: usually recovery time. I do housework, make supper and watch tv, play some more on Twitter, etc. This is when I read articles on craft via Twitter links, usually seven or eight of them a day. Reading about other people’s projects and productivity is often the push I need to get started on my own.
If I have homework, I often do this first. Not only is it harder not to feel guilty about writing if there’s homework looming overhead, but I know my own laziness: if I’m sleepy, I’m much more likely to fight it off if I haven’t written yet than I am to fight it in favor of getting that homework done!
I often get more done by engaging in writing sprints with Twitter friends. It’s easy, just announce a time, usually a half hour amount, and get some other to join you in writing for that half hour. Whoever writes the most wins! Simple, no cost, and fun, not to mention a huge productivity booster.
This is also the time I have to CP. If it’s just reading and make general comments, I save it for before bed, but if it requires detailed work I also finagle it into this window of work time.
I live my life by lists. I also am not good at doing “a little bit of everything” every day, it just doesn’t mesh with my style. So, in a normal week, on a Monday night I’m staring at a list that includes two CP projects, my own WIP, edits or a piece due such as a short story for a showcase and blogs, reading 5-6 journal articles for school, and usually at least one if not two papers.
I’m more likely to break it down so Monday is read all the school things, Tuesday is write all the school things, Wednesday is write all the fiction things and CP, Thursday is revise and submit all the school things, and Friday is another write all the things day, than to divide the tasks evenly across the week. I’m much more productive going for broke on each project individually than cumulatively.
However, I don’t like to be away from my WIP for very long or I lose momentum, so I do have a minimum daily word count – 1k- to keep me engaged with the piece. Sometimes I get it done over lunch or down time at school (very rare!), occasionally I’ll do it right when I get home from work, or sometimes it’s the first thing I knock off the to do list to get me pumped up for getting to work. Lots of times I save it for the end of the night, for above mentioned reasons and also because if it’s going really well, I have a terrible time stopping and shifting to school mode and that messes with my ability to get things done on time.
So, there you have it – some ideas about managing schedules, commitments, and chunks of time to help you get things done. I realize that compared to some I have it easy, because I don’t have anyone else to worry about, but at times it feels like this is also a negative since there’s no one else to cook, clean, run errands, or even remind me when it’s nine pm and I skipped supper because I was too excited about what I was doing. Two sides to everything, after all.
This schedule is also dramatically different from when I was working a 50+ hour week my first year of gradschool – needless to say, I only drafted 2.5 books that year and revised one, since the time crunch was significantly bigger, and that’s different still from when I was just working full time before I went back to school. I graduate next week and will be interested to see how my time management changes when I’m back to a more “normal” living/working arrangement.
What’s your schedule like and how do you manage your time?

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