The organized writer. Oxy moran right? Not for me. I love organizing. AND I’m creative. I read that author Annie Dillard realized writing down her thoughts gave her physical access to the contents of her mind. That is why I organize. I thought I’d write a series of posts about how I do it. I use a combo of high tech and low tech organizational tools. I’m hoping you will share with me what you do too.
“If only I had the TIME! I would write a book too.” “I have no time to write.” Blah blah. Bull. Don’t get me wrong. I know you have a life. Maybe you have a family, a day job, a significant other, fun things you want to do. Hmmmm…. Do you think people who write consistently don’t have these things?
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Big Magic, “People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of this because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kind of extra sacrifices for it. Unless you come from the landed gentry, that’s what everyone does.”
You aren’t missing time.* You can find time (in the most inconvenient places in your day, I know, but you can find it.) What you are missing might be the passion. If you want to write, if you really want to, you can find the time. It just might mean to need to get better at managing your time. (Apparently I’m in my tough love mood today. I love you! Roll with it.)
A day can easily get away from you. Hell, years go by in a flash these days. So you have to take the clock by the hands, take control. No one is going to make the time happen for you. People who say they don’t have time to write I’ve found fall into a couple categories:
1. They are legitimately busy and let all other things take priority.
2. They have time, but having that time is actually more of a problem.
Too much time can sometimes hinder and not help.
Do you find yourself in either of those categories? There is good news.
The solution is the same for both issues. You need to set aside time, block it out, whether that is every day, a few days a week, once a week, whatever works for you. You need to take charge of the time in your day and make a commitment to yourself and your writing.
Okay mental commitment made? Good. Let’s do this.
The high tech way:
The calendar on your phone/computer- If you have a Mac computer and an iphone, the calendars sync up. Every Friday I look at my calendar for the next week, decide when I will be writing and I block out the time in my calendar. My goal this year is to write every day. And sometimes that might mean I have to get up early to get an hour of writing in or stay up later that night or work on my lunch hour because I have plans that night. You can even put an alarm if you want to really annoy yourself.
The low tech way:
Moleskine planner-You can use whatever paper planner you like of course, but I love my Moleskine! I have a daily planner and every day I write in the time that I will be writing.
My printed out star chart! –Okay this may be a little grade school, but I need rewards. I give myself a star every day that I write. How does this help with time management? It motivates me and I want to see a star on every damn day so I’m going to find the time.
Kitchen timer- This is Elizabeth Gilbert’s idea! Get a kitchen time (or use your iphone). Set it for 30 minutes. Do your craft for that long. Stay focused. Guess what? You only have to do it for 30 minutes. You can do that. Sometimes we get so bogged down in all we do we can get overwhelmed when we think about trying to find the time to write a whole book, but can we find 30 minutes in a day? Hell yeah we can. This teaches us discipline. It teaches us that we don’t have to wait for when we have nothing to do one weekend or for our schedules to be clear of everything. That won’t happen. I believe so much in small spurts. It’s the only way I can really work.
The basic idea with all of this is: schedule your time and trust working in small amounts of time.
Elizabeth Gilbert touched on something else in Big Magic that I firmly believe, something that drives me everyday. We have no control over two things that are key to traditional success: talent and luck. But we do have control over how hard we work.
I don’t figure out when I’m writing on the fly. I don’t play it by ear. I do not trust myself to do that. I need to know before hand. This way there is no “the day got away from me” excuse. And for me when something is written down, I’ve made the commitment and as silly as it sounds, I don’t want to let myself down. Books don’t write themselves. It’s about getting your butt in the chair and just doing it. Whenever you can.
This is what I do to find the time the write. What do you do?
***I know there are exceptions to this. I do recognize that there are instances where you really may not be able to make the time and even if you could it’s not advisable. ie: sickness, death in the family etc. This is not what I’m talking about here.