Getting your time to work for you

Most of this week for me has been splitting time among a few projects, with notable progress on each. Especially notable was that two of them had felt somewhat stalled, so to have broken through that wall and kept going was quite the endorphin rush.

Since I was feeling rather accomplished about this relatively minor feat, I put out on social media how nice it was to have done so. A number of writing associates offered up congrats and encouragement, as well as one person who asked “How do you find the time to do all this?”

I’ve gotten this question before.

How DO I find the time? How does any writer?

I guess the simple answer is: I make the time, whenever I can.

Some writers are able to have a designated window of when they work. Maybe they wake up a little earlier than they need to and write for an hour or two before they need to get ready for the day job.

Or they have mini writing sprints at the day job; 10 minutes here or there, during the second cup of coffee or lunch, what have you.

Or maybe they wrap up their day with writing before going to bed.

It really depends on what works best for you.

As much as I’d love to have a big block of time each day to be all about the writing, some days that just isn’t possible, so I make do. I have a little downtime during the day job, so I try to squeeze something in when possible.

But I’m also trying to get in better shape, so a certain amount of my day might involve an hour-plus at the gym or going out for a run. This in turn means I’d have less time to write, but if I don’t exercise, I’ll feel lousy mentally and physically, which in turn won’t help me be productive for the writing. If that means a slight extension of how long it takes to finish a project, I’m okay with that.

(One exception – if I’m on a deadline, all bets are off and it’s all about the writing.)

Sometimes it’s not about how much time I have to write, but how much I plan to write in that time. More than once I’ve sat down thinking “I want to write at least three pages today.” If I write three, great. A lot of the time I’ll push myself to do at least a little more, depending on how productive I’m feeling. Anything beyond the original objective is a bonus.

It’s all about setting up your own goals and expectations. Be realistic. What do you think you can accomplish each day with the time you have to work with? You know better than anybody how you operate, so plan accordingly. Write for an hour and see how far you get? Set an achievable goal (the aforementioned three pages) and see how it goes?

It’s easy to feel negative when you see other writers proclaiming things like “Woo-hoo! Another dozen pages done today!”, and all you could manage was two or three.

Don’t. Everybody runs at their own pace. Like I remind myself when I take part in a race:

It’s the distance, not the time.

It’s more important to do this – and finish – on your own terms, rather than pushing yourself too much and running yourself ragged, resulting in collapse and/or burnout. And I’m not just talking about running.

Know what you want to accomplish, and knowing how much time you have to do it, you can plan accordingly.

Repeat as long as necessary until the damned thing’s finished.

Until the next draft, where you go back and find the time to do it all over again.