It amazes me how much I’ve achieved when it comes to writing all considering. I mean how one is supposed to maintain a steady flow of thought transference these days is at times almost beyond me. And it’s not just having to go to work six days a week. There are those niggling issues that we all have to deal with that can occur with zero notice. Having just rolled up your sleeves ready to go it and finish that damned paragraph at last, suddenly you find out that some payment went out from your bank account that shouldn’t have and hey presto, bye bye another hour as you sit painfully on the phone trying to sort it out AAAAAGH! Just imagine what it must have been like for the likes of William Shakespeare way back in the sixteenth century sitting down to write with no social media to attend to, mobile phone or e-mails to distract. It was probably damned quiet then as well.
With so many external influences trying to deprive and rob you of this most passionate of addictions, it has to be about completely applying yourself to ensure there’s enough time and space in order get the job done. Here are a few tips on how to win the daily battle.
1: FORM A CONTINUAL CONNECTION WITH YOUR DESIRE TO WRITE.
I feel it running through my veins every minute of every day. I think about it before going to sleep and in the morning when I’m half awake. I absolutely cannot stop myself. It’s a glorious combination of compulsion and process that holds me in the moment while the rest of the word buzzes around outside.
2: ALLOCATE AN UNMOVABLE WINDOW OF WRITING TIME AND FORM A BRIDGE BETWEEN EACH ONE.
During the day, my job starts mid-afternoon and finishes in the evenings leaving me with the mornings free when my brain is at its most active. After preparation for work, if my luck’s in I’ll get three hours to focus on writing. Now that doesn’t sound much but think about it. Three hours times seven days a week times for weeks a month is actually eighty four hours concentrating solely on writing.
Look at each day and see where you’re going to get the most out of it then aim to widen that window using it as effectively as possible (see below).
Try and write at the same time every day and get a rhythm going. I call it my ‘second heartbeat’.
One of the most irritating times is when I have to stop typing and go to work, especially when writing freely, effortlessly and brilliantly. Blaaaagh! Yes yes yes. I know! Work is the fuel in your car and without it the journey can’t continue. Even so, I just can’t get away from that feeling of extreme reluctance when it comes to closing down the computer for another day.
However, you can still make sure your brain is still plugged in to the process while being away. There will definitely be times when you simply don’t have to think about what you’re doing and switch back over to contemplate writing. This also applies to travelling, either long distance, to and from work or even the shops (driving aside that is). When you’re away from the inner sanctum of the work space this is also an excellent time to let your subconscious do its thing and let new ideas pop into existence. It’s also a great time for list making, organising and prioritising tasks.
Having left your work-space, keep that energy and thought process alive until you return, ensuring that when you sit down to write again you are ready, fired up and good to go with all guns blazing.
3: MANAGE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA.
I WANT TO WRITE!
I demand that I am able to write. There will and shall be writing time!
These days sometimes it’s best not to think about how much writing one actually gets done compared to the amount of time spent on various websites. I have two WordPress sites, three Facebook pages, two Twitter accounts, Google Plus, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Goodreads, YouTube and Flickr. Then to top it all there’s Amazon Kindle, Amazon Createspace and Nielsen to watch over. Mercy! It’s ferocious, plain and simple. People suggest that you simply can’t live without one of the million other websites that are essential if you are self-publishing such as Pintrest, Tondo or Instagram but you surely have to draw the line somewhere. Enough is enough right? I’m on strike! I refuse to start up another site guaranteed to sap hours of important writing time from my existence while I set up my profile and work out how to get that damned banner to fit! No no no no no!
If you do have to do some major work on a website then set aside some time to do it and get it out of the way in one go. When it comes to replying to comments, adding contacts and sharing new posts, do it during a time when you aren’t doing much else. For me it’s the time when I’m back from work, knackered and just want to put my feet up.
4: AS YOU APPROACH YOUR WINDOW KEEP AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA AT ALL COSTS.
If possible switch off your phone during your window. Avoid the temptation of clicking on your browser icon at all costs having started up your computer. Checking social media and e-mails can wait. Going onto your social media will also destroy your train of thought even if it’s for a few minutes. If you do end up wandering into the valley of the shadow of distraction then kiss goodbye to at least half an hour or more of valuable writing time. Sometimes I’ll end up checking my various accounts knowing that I shouldn’t have and getting irritated with myself as the minutes tick quickly by.
There are also a tonne of irritating time-wasters that can occur when signing into you your various websites that will destroy your writing time if you don’t defer. Like today I realised I forgot to transfer a voice recording from my phone to the computer the night before. So I attach the phone to the computer only to find that it can only be done using iCloud. I then find my iCloud password doesn’t work to I need get it e-mailed to my mail box. I live in China so I need a VPN to get onto most sites. I then discover that my VPN activation code doesn’t work which means I need to sign into my VPN website and get customer support EXCRUCIATING! I often get locked out of Twitter as I have to use a VPN to sign in and the server thinks something strange is going as do my e-mail accounts. It goes on!
Its time thrown down the toilet like this that people just don’t appreciate when they hear that you’re an author. People have absolutely no idea the amount of strife an author goes through on a daily basis. A finished work is far more than a physical work on so many levels.
5: MANAGE YOUR SPOUSE OR PARTNER.
There’s nothing worse than the ‘other half’ interrupting your flow insisting that you need to do ‘this’ or ‘that’ today when you really want to get on with the writing. You know them better than anyone so anticipate impending demands and at that predicted moment cleverly defer them to another time outside your writing window. During the week they may have already mentioned that they want to do something pointless at the weekend so you will therefore have ample time to prepare for it. Also, come to an understanding about boundaries and your window. There’s no way anyone can maintain a train of thought for long if the other half is in the background distracting you.
6: COMPLETE ONE TASK AT A TIME.
As a writer focus completely and utterly on doing one task at a time and doing it well. Let go of other things and don’t bother multi-tasking. Forget them. They are on the ‘to do’ list waiting to be crossed off another day. Whatever you’re writing, apply yourself completely, becoming totally absorbed in that one thing. I like my own space and find talking to myself a superb way of focusing and bringing my attention to a deeper level.
7: MANAGE YOUR DAY JOB.
If you get a say or have some control how and when you work then organize it concentrating on creating that window of writing time every day. The last job I had in the UK I could choose my shift pattern including what I did at the weekends. Before that, as a teacher or manager I’d try and get as much admin done during office hours. Avoid doing unnecessary tasks that no one will notice or thank you for. If you’re in management then delegate as much as possible.
8: MANAGE YOUR HOUSEHOLD CHORES
I’m not saying leaving your house in a total mess but there are countless ways of minimizing time spent on this. Determining factors may vary but if you can focus on doing less while giving the illusion that you’re still getting the job done then go for it.
Get your groceries in once a week. In fact, if you can try and do everything once a week (and the hoovering once a month).
9: GET UP EARLIER.
This sounds harsh but apart from work, for me the single most irritating part of the day is the getting up process. What a complete waste of time! Even rolling out of the sack fifteen minutes earlier will make a huge difference to your window. Set your alarm and readjust to your slightly earlier routine.
10: PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE.
Think of the things you need to do every morning and do them in the evening. This is not only a huge time saver, but the resulting feeling of control and satisfaction when you ‘rise and shine’ is quite liberating. You may feel that it’s a real bind at first but you’ll soon get used to it.
11: IS THERE ANYTHING IN YOUR SCHEDULE THAT YOU DON’T NEED TO BE DOING?
Its easy to add things into the non-writing list of chores that really don’t need to be addressed. Look closely at what’s ahead and see if there is anything unnecessary or maybe you could put off for another week. You maybe surprised at what time you can suddenly create if you look at things objectively. When you realise you just saved a whole morning its a joyous moment.
12: PERSEVERANCE AND DETERMINATION.
We’ve heard the old ‘never give up’ story a million times but it’s true. The problem is that in our moments of self-doubt, when things go wrong and we feel weak, it’s easy to fail to be in the moment, to forget to knuckle down and fight back. Remember that life fluctuates in waves from one day to the next. Remember to instill your determination and willpower into your daily process and connection with your writing.
13: TAKE A BREAK.
Yes it’s a total pain in the backside. The last thing anyone wants to do is stop writing and it’s contrary to most of the above. However, there are times for everyone when sitting in front of the computer for hours at a time definitely takes its toll. Listen to your body and intuition and have a day off. Don’t even bother going into your work-space. Do something completely different, preferably outside. I’ve recently learnt the hard way, pushing myself too hard. At the end of the day the only thing that suffers is your writing.
14: REFLECT ON YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS THEN MOVE FORWARD.
If you have the chance, at the end of every day take time out to reflect on any achievements or tasks you have completed regarding your writing. By taking time out I mean get away from your work-space and out of the house, either walking around the block or sitting out the back with a ciggie and a beer for half an hour, whatever.
It may be finishing a paragraph or chapter. It may be finally nailing down your cover design or tightening up your blog site. Whatever it is give yourself a pat on the back and acknowledge that now you can move on to do something new. In doing this you are reminding yourself that you are in a perpetual state of motion with your writing and it is channelling through your being like a river with a strong current and white water.
Good luck and may your writing be amazing!