Writing While Holding a Job Down at the Same Time: Maintaining That Second Heartbeat

DSC02240a5816It 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.

IMG_1753d58161: 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.

IMG_2115b51864: 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.

IMG_1905a51866: 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.

DSC02243a581610: 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!

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31 replies

  1. Hiya Cassie – Cheers for dropping by. Finishing the first draft is one of the biggest stages crossed off the list. Congrats on that one for a start! I am more driven than ever as it’s in my nature to leave projects unfinished.>>> Keep at it Cassie and let us know how you get on. Anything I can help you with let us know 🙂

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  2. A good list of recommendations! I can very much relate to this. It’s so incredibly easy to get bogged down by everyday tasks. In the end, the only thing standing between you and your writing is you. 🙂 Now if I could only can convince myself to ignore the hoovering and not check my browser/social media feeds constantly!

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  3. Thanks for dropping by shehrinakamal – my cooking’s gone downhill lately as well. Oh well it’s all in a worthy cause I guess at the end of the day. Love your blog btw – Keep rockin’ 🙂

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  4. Nice post and plenty to take note of in order to find that elusive quality writing time. Particularly liked ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Distraction’. I spent 5-months in China in 1988-89 and have noted the massive change that has taken place there in the intervening years. How is the air? Be well, David

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    • Hiya David >> Thanks for dropping by David. Its all about fitting as many new apartment blocks into every conceivable space as the population continues to go crazy. Its 4 days of bad air then the da feng comes along and saves the day then by the end of the week the smog is back. Its clear at the moment contrary to the BBC. I did a post on it but I found it too depressing to keep up. Have a wicked weekend bud! Andy

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  5. Hi Andy, not sure if this is another blog of yours I am reading,still nice tips for writing, especially the social media part. I was so distracted by social media from time to time and it can be difficult for me to write. I usually write after dawn with wine and good music as they create a surreal ambiance for me to write so I can concentrate. Thanks for the tips.

    VPN was also my weapon of getting on the social media websites and it was not always a smooth process as the Chinese government seems to detect many are breaking the fire walls through VPN and that they tried disconnecting us from the VPN access back in in 2013. Good luck with your writing career anyway!

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    • Hiya Julie – Its the same site. I just removed the rant about the pollution in Beijing. It was like an itch that needed to be scratched. In the end, once I’d done it I realised that it was almost too negative to be up. Anyway re the writing process >> Do you really start the day off with a glass of wine? LOL I agree, the mornings are a much better time to get anything creative done. Cheers for your wishes and the same to you Julie.

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  6. You really wrote an outstanding article Mr. Andy Smart. You really are astute when it comes to writing and what makes you prolific and tuning in to your personal preferences is like tuning into a channel on a radio. When you get it fine tuned well enough, you play beautiful music.

    Paulette Le Pore Motzko
    Creator of the blog
    Totally Inspired Mind : Where Positive Minds Congregate

    http://www.TotallyInspiredPC.wordpress.com

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  7. Hi there Paulette >> Phew thanks so much for your kind words. I think when you are possessed by something then there’s no problem channelling it out into words. When you feel nothing then you’re doing something wrong. Drop it and follow the energy. I love your website btw Paulette. Very glad to be in touch.

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  8. When I was working, I would jot down ideas and start writing things in notebooks. Nothing ever was completed. I managed to retire early and it still took many years for me to actually sit down and write something from start to finish. So, I am in awe that you’ve been able to publish books, balance so much social media and work six days a week! I do believe that you are thriving in a foreign culture and it has really tapped your creative juices.

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    • In the UK I couldn’t get anything together. I actually wrote a number of blog posts and saved them for while I was there. A lot of the time we were doing 12 hour shifts or was too tired to do anything. I used to sleep in the car outside where I worked. In China I work for a wonderful company and they let me work in the afternoons and evenings until nine. Mornings are normally all mine unless I have to cook the evening meal ha ha. How’s your writing going then? Blogging aside that is.

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      • Andy, I awoke this morning to get back to editing the book and, as you can see, I’ve been chatting away here and visiting blogs for the last two and a half hours. I’m having problems because of my obsessiveness – in the fact that I am rewriting every chapter rather than just editing – because nothing is ever just right for my liking. This book may never see the light of day, but thanks for asking…Clare

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      • Generally I don’t think many people realise what an author goes through to get their books into pint. I used to record my achievements every day. I’m really enjoying blogging but it does get in the way if you’re ‘writing writing’ if you know what I mean. Evenings are my allocated blog time though sometimes I cant help myself. How about you? Actually I feel like I’m keeping you from writing. Rewrites are always worth it. How many are you on now then?

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      • There are 58 chapters (some are quite short)and I am now stuck on Chapter 8 and I don’t dare go back to 1-7! Whenever I post (usually it’s Friday or Saturday), I always begin the next day responding to comments and visiting the latest posts of the people I’m chatting with. I’ve been all over the planet this morning. I really feel that blogging keeps my writing tuned up, even the comment component of blogging is helpful.

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  9. Great post Andy, and very thorough.Time management is the most common topic of discussion amongst all the authors I know. I really don’t know how you cope with so many social media sites, but it’s obviously working for you. I admit, I allow too many ‘other things’ to take up a lot of my time, and have been trying hard to be much stricter with myself recently. Well done in listing all the important points in your post. It was an interesting read.

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  10. I been reading a lot on other sites about discipline and structure that form good writing habits. I like that you have listed and broken them down to the nitty gritty not just a superficial mention. I am trying so hard to cultivate some of this “good behavior”. But the urge to write comes at such random times I have taken to keeping a notebook on hand so I don’t forget that which inspired me as I worked through the day. Best wishes for your continued success with writing.

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    • Hiya Singledust. Yes yes definitely keep a notebook and write down every single idea you get. If you dont write an idea down you may well forget it. Normally you might remember it a few days later and that’s it. Once you have written down your idea then your brain can move on and engage something else. I love it. It’s hard not being random and I’d dearly like to at times. I envy people who can just blog about anything but at the same time we have to stick to our own styles. Thanks for your kind words though maybe we can watch each other and enjoy seeing our ideas blossom at the same time 🙂

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  11. Appreciate your feedback on this. I don’t even know if I have style as yet since blogging is something really new to me. I used to journal a lot in my younger days, but life got in the way of me putting my thoughts down and I regret not being consistent in my writing. I am using this platform to discover more about myself and my abilities so any feedback such as your helps me tremendously. Yes I am certainly following your posts and reading as much as my time will allow me. I have Chinese ancestry but have never felt a kinship with the country or culture as I grew up in Malaysia in a predominantly Malay setting. but your writing has given me a new perspective and I realise I had been too judgmental before. I am not really sure about the random post thing yet as i think sometimes random thoughts can be gold. But I think I am trying to be more consistent in what I would like to blog about. It would be mind blowing if I could even inspire one person to write a single line! Here’s to our ideas blossoming and touching lives. That would make me complete. As always thank you for reading the ramblings of my jumbled mind. Happy day to you Andy. Best wishes, Gina

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  12. The social media one is my crux. That, and getting side-tracked by too much research into topics that are peripheral to the actual task of finishing a damn chapter. Good list!

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    • Hiya Jordan — SM is such a time killer. When I hit the road in 2005 all I had was my cheaper camera and an e-mail address – Ah how simple it was back then. Cheers for dropping by.

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