You want to write, but unfortunately, at the moment, you have a life. A very demanding one. One of those kinds of life’s where you don’t know how to squeeze in more writing time, and you are too attached to your sleep to give it up. I have one of those lives, too. I stopped giving up sleep when I stopped having children. I have walked into too many walls from the exhaustion that comes from having young babies that scream all night and other children that slip into warp speed in the daytime. I now value my sleep time too much to skimp.
But I also am one of those people who has to write or my life feels wrong, perhaps you are one of those type of people, too. I can work hard all day long crossing off the “to do list,” and feel like I have accomplished nothing because I didn’t write. As far back as I can remember, I have always dreamed of being a writer, and I need to create stories, or I slump into depression. So, what is one to do?
“One Thing” Principle
According to Gary Keller, who wrote The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, narrowing your work to focus on one thing is vital to business success. Keller advocates to stop doing everything else and do that one thing. An example of a businessperson who focused on one thing until he had it right is Steve Jobs. In 1976 he focused on one product, Apple 1. That single focus of Apple transformed the technology field. This principle of focusing on one thing can revolutionize business or, in our case, writing.
“But,” I hear you say, “you have to work. You have bills to pay. You have family obligations.” That may be true, but what would happen to your writing if you wrote for fifteen minutes or a half an hour a day? Would doing that one thing every single day for ninety days dramatically change the production volume of your writing? If you aren’t writing right now, it would be more than what you are doing. Words stack up the more that you write.
Keller claims that if a person puts in fifteen hours a week on the one thing most important to them that individual is on track to achieve the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell popularized. This concept states if a creative applies 10,000 hours in one discipline they can achieve mastery. If you are in the place to fast track your writing, carving out fifteen hours a week dedicated to your craft may be the answer for you.
Prioritizing through Efficiency
Prioritizing writing requires commitment, and if you have a life, it might not be at the very top of your list at the moment, but it could get there. Let me explain. I teach writing at a local college, and I wanted to start to focus more on my novel series. Book five really needs to come out. I have been slow in writing it, and my fans are forgetting about me. L
I read The ONE Thing and committed to being serious about writing. I was one of those overcommitted one’s who decided that I could commit fifteen hours to my fiction writing. I don’t like to track my progress by word count. When I do word count, my writing becomes sloppy in an effort to reach my quota for the day sooner. Instead of tracking by words, I track by time. I use the stopwatch feature on my phone. Every time I stop to talk to someone in the room or answer the phone, I push the stop button. When my eyeballs are on the screen, then I push the start button.
One thing that is important to remember once the plan is in place is –life happens. So, it helps to adjust accordingly. My plan was to write four hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and make up the difference by doing an hour or two on the other days. The plan was beautiful. I was scheduled to teach on Mondays and Wednesdays for work. I would do my other job half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I had even scheduled to write first thing in the morning. I had already experimented and figured out my peak writing time. All was set until the Tuesday before school. I was informed that I would be teaching an additional class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and my first class was that Thursday.
There went my perfect plan. I would argue almost every writer has their plan messed with in some way. It might not be a boss adding more work like mine did, but it could be a family member getting sick, or having health problems, or some other random time stealer. What is a writer to do because, after all, if one doesn’t write one is not fun to live with?
Should we give up our dream? I don’t think so. We have to look for another way to make our dreams come true. One area to look at is for ways to free up your time. When I was a young stay-at-home mom, one way I freed myself from all the demands was institute a mandatory quiet time in my house. Not optional. If one of my young children thought they didn’t need a nap, that was fine, but they still needed to read books or play in their room quietly during the hour nap time. For the most part, this system worked. I had to just make sure the older child had a book they liked.
Now that I am in a different stage in life, the demands are different, but the principle is still the same. I ask myself, how can I free up my time to write? Actually, what I really asked is how can I meet my requirements of a teacher, do a good job, using the least amount of time?
Your question most likely will be framed differently, but the essence you are looking for is how you can have the time to write. What needs to be done with the reality of the time stealer to free you up?
One of my writing clients had the problem of an ailing parent that she wanted to be there for. For her, the priority was to be there for her parent, but she also wanted to write. She finally came up with the plan that she would go to a coffee shop and write forty minutes before taking care of her parent. This plan respected both her need to be a good child and her need to spend time with her parent. Because she honored her need to write first, she was able to be in a better mood when she spent time with her parent—a win-win solution.
For me, teaching four classes was a lot of work. I couldn’t take away the hours I taught, but I could look at all the other time outside of class, and how to streamline it. I started asking myself where the most time went outside of class with that job. My first answer was making copies for class. I thought about how to save myself time of scanning worksheets and filling out the forms for print. I now print out all the worksheets at the beginning of the semester, which saves at least twenty minutes of my week.
In asking the question again, next I noticed it was answering student emails. I came up with a plan to reduce the email. I delivered a lecture that I thought would fix the problem and have been able to reduce the emails by 80%, which saved me hours a week. I am now looking at how to teach better, so I have less confusion from the students and less stress for me or them.
You most likely aren’t teaching but have something in your life that is taking up more time or more stress than it needs. What would happen if you became curious on how you could streamline your efforts?
There is a way you can reduce your workload and carve out time. My husband works at a shop, and we were able to brainstorm a way he could work on his side business and keep his boss happy. For example, when he is doing work that doesn’t require much thought, he thinks about his side business problems and brainstorms solutions. The secret is not the exact actions I took, or my client, or my husband. The secret is asking the right question and looking for ways to either make the reality not take up so much time or a way to be creative in making writing fit in your life in a way that works.
Catalina Romance by Anastasia Alexander
Who Will Charissa Choose?
When her niece becomes gravely ill, Charissa can only afford the needed treatment if she returns to the reality TV show Millionaire Engagement. Known from the previous season as the “Dumped Before Dinner” girl, Charissa dreads her role as its new star, when all she really wants is to swear off men and live a Walden Pond life. That dream is dashed when she’s placed inside a whirlwind of cameras recording every move of her dating experience with millionaire bachelors flown to her on California’s Catalina Island.
So many gorgeous, rich men vying to win her love . . . Will she pick Forester, the sexy, buff, neat freak from the tough side of LA? Shawn, the laid-back Wisconsin dairy farmer with the amazing blue eyes, who shares a similar background? Maybe Andrew, the handsome, big-hearted, successful insurance guy? How about Rocco, the tall, dark, Rhode Island Italian who lives life, full-out? Perhaps she’ll select Brett, the talkative financial whiz? Or, charismatic Jared, who teaches her to ride a horse?
In her exploration of self-discovery, adventure, and the real struggle of finding love in the midst of money, fame, competition, and heartache, how can Charissa possibly choose?