Tuesday, February 6, 2018

No (Perfect) Time to Write

I was talking with a colleague recently and found myself saying, “I used to set my schedule based on the ‘perfect time’ to do [whatever]. Now I realize there is no perfect time, especially to write.”

Seeking the perfect time to write usually means we don’t feel like writing. The underlying fear is that if we don’t feel like it, we won’t write well and we’ll have wasted time and effort by trying. But writing is still 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration, and as with exercise, the feeling of accomplishment comes at the end of the workout, not the beginning.

If we agree that we need to make time to write, we can treat our work as we would any high-priority item. That means we don’t treating writing like an item on a to-do list but as a regular discipline. Here are some tips to move in that direction:

  • Develop a schedule. If your project has a deadline, you’ve got the end point so fill in the steps between.
  • Consider your personality. Some writers like generating prose first thing, when they’re not in “edit” mode, and editing late in the day, when their patience with bad writing has ebbed.
  • Consider your project. What are your goals for it? If you don’t track your goals, you’re not likely to accomplish them.
  • Consider your vocation as a writer. What are your goals for you? As before, if you don’t track your goals, you’re not likely to accomplish them.
  • Inventory and prioritize your projects so that if one loses momentum, you can switch gears.
  • Vary your genres to flex different writing muscles, develop a broader body of work and discover other writing talents.
  • When your schedule stops working, consider adjusting the day, time or length of time spent writing.
  • Consider the time you spend writing as an investment in your work and yourself.
Another implication of the fear of not having time to write isn’t time but volition, the strength of will to keep going. Writers throughout the ages have found incentives such as these:

  • Leave off writing at a place where you know what happens or what to do next in your piece, but don’t write it. This was among Ernest Hemingway’s habits.
  • Edit and/or revise the prior day’s work to prime the writing pump for today.
  • Keep a word count for each writing session to track your progress.
  • Periodically print a hardcopy of what you’ve written so that you can edit it on paper, and include the edits when you go back to the project.
  • Cultivate a relationship with your writing by noting the progress in your prose before and after editing.
  • Talk regularly with an inspirational friend and/or writing colleague.
  • Don't listen to the negative internal chatter that says you don’t have time to write; you’ll only talk yourself out of it.
  • Use downtime to plan. Think about what you’ll do next when you next sit down to write.
  • Take time to enjoy your work.
  • Celebrate victories, even when they’re smaller than your overall goal. You can’t complete a project unless you complete the individual steps to get there.
  • Give yourself time off. You need and deserve it.
The great thing about developing a writing schedule that fits with the rest of your life is that it doesn’t have to fit the whole rest of your life.

Do you have a writing query to share, email Word for Words.