Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Business of Writing: Budgeting Time

I’ve discovered that an important aspect of developing writing as a business is the tricky issue of time management. Budgeting time is more than merely a daily or weekly schedule posted above your desk. In today’s post I will share a bit of what I’ve learned about budgeting time to write.

Finding Time to Write
“If only I could find the time to write!” Sound familiar? Most of us have said it…or at least thought it at some point. A friend of the family gave us advice on retirement a few years back. Lowell said, “Retirement is like having a baby. If you wait until you can afford it, you’ll never do it.” Writing is like that. If you are waiting for “next week when the kids are at camp” or “in the fall after school starts” or “once I get through the holidays.” Well, you get the picture. There is always something on the horizon ready to snatch time to write away from you.

Here’s a little food for thought: What is your most productive time? I’m a morning person. I like to block time in the morning for reading my Bible and writing. Think about the Bible example…that is one big book. If I waited for time to sit down and read it cover to cover…well, it wouldn’t happen. I read for about ten or fifteen minutes every day. And it works. Fifteen minutes a day is all it takes to read through the Bible in a year.

My friend, Katharine Grubb wrote a book called Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day.  Cool, huh? In it she describes carving out those moments to write. She is a busy homeschooling mom to five children. Here is her blog post about that experience. You really should check it out. And if you’re serious about writing, you’ll want to consider joining her FaceBook group by the same name: 10 Minute Novelists. There you will not only learn to manage time, you’ll have access to a wealth of knowledge, ongoing chats, authors sharing tricks of the trade, and you’ll connect with people in your genre. You’ll also be able to find editors, beta readers, and other supporters of your writing.

Are you familiar with best selling author, Tom Clancy? Tom Clancy was an insurance man. He sold insurance then owned a small insurance company. He wrote his debut novel, Hunt for Red October, in his spare time at the kitchen table. Tapping out the story bit by bit, Clancy started the novel in 1982. He sold it in 1984 for $5000. It was a start.

What is it that made these writers successful? Certainly not a 9 to 5 writing day. Not the blessing of incomparable wealth so other people could manage their lives while they indulged in writing. Nope. Budgeting their time into consistent chunks is what works. This leads to the next point, look for recurring time slots.

Recurring Times
Consistency is the key to budgeting your time. It is better to know you will write for two hours every Thursday night than to constantly be looking for a time slot to claim in your already busy week.

I learned this while writing my dissertation. I was working full time as a teacher, I was carting three active girls to all of their activities, I was serving regularly at our church in various ways, and I was committed to having family time and at least one meal together every day. So how did I manage? My middle daughter was in the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra. They practiced every Sunday afternoon for three hours on the University of Cincinnati campus. I drove Danielle to practice and spent her practice time working on my dissertation. Three hours may not sound like much, but because I planned for it, I packed a lot in to a little time. The bonus? I didn’t stress over not writing through the week.

Another trick I’ve learned is to block writing time on your calendar or day planner. Sure enough, someone will ask you to do something for that very time. “We really need you at the meeting.” Stick to your plan. I have found if someone really needs me, they’ll change the meeting time. I don’t say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t meet with you because I want to write that day.” They will trample you down like a herd of elephants

Simply look at your planner and say, “I have something scheduled then. Is there another time?” Protect your writing time.

Writing Retreats
Does the sound of writing retreat sound like heaven to you? I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if I could get away from everything and simply write. It can happen.

You can save your pennies and rent that cabin hideaway in the mountains. Near the ocean? It’s your retreat. You pick.

However, most of us don’t have the luxury of taking off a week or so to indulge in our writing. Plan your own retreat. For example, I like to sit outside to write. My retreat might take shape like this: “On Sunday afternoon, I’m going put my iced tea in my cooler, take my computer out to the deck, and write.”

What makes it a retreat for me? No television or phones, a quiet, peaceful setting, a comfortable place to sit, and sweet tea.

I know writers who have a weekly retreat at their local coffee shop. Sometimes writing groups gather together for a weekend retreat.  Use your imagination. Writing retreats can be a great kick start to a new project or a wonderful place to dig into the messy work of revision.

To make the most of your time, plan.  Create a plan to write. Know what your goals are for writing on your mini retreat, then work the plan.

Planning Your Writing Time

Budget your writing time to include time to plan your writing. I allow about a half hour every Sunday evening to look at my calendar and make sure I know what I’m doing for the week.

In the early stages of writing you may create an outline of your proposed work. If you’re a pantser, you may have a nugget of an idea and plan to write five pages a day or something like that. If you know what you expect of yourself each time you sit down to write, you will meet with greater success.

You will need time for research. This is not as difficult as it used to be when you had to trek to the library for everything. Now you simply type a word in your search engine! Still, research is key. I’ve heard budding writers say they are writing fiction so they don’t need any research. Ha! I keep a running list of missing information as I write. Would daffodils be blooming then? Do they grow that far north? What songs were popular in that time? How do you tell the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool? You don’t need to interrupt your flow of writing to get those details. Keep the story going and make note of what you need so your research time can be productive.

Plan time to revise and edit. I lump revising and editing together here. They are not the same but I put them in the same bucket because these represent time you must set aside to make deliberate changes to your manuscript. You can do this in small sections or chapter by chapter in the early stages, but you will need to block substantial portions of time as your work builds. Revision is messy. I need lots of time and physical space to revise. I find myself using diagrams, maps, post it notes, calendars, and colored pens to make necessary revisions. All that and my manuscript is on my computer! But because I need time and space, I can’t plan revision to take place the day I’m having a guests for dinner or having a grandchild over to spend the night.

Plan time to study your craft. This is extremely important. Part of your time as a writer needs to be spent learning more about what you do. I read four or five blogs of successful authors every Monday as part of my ongoing learning experience. I also use some of my “retreat” time to read books about writing.  In fact, I am going to share two books every novelist should have on the shelf in next weeks post.

1. Consistent times to write
2. A plan to use your time wisely
3. Time for research
4. Time for research
5. Time to study your craft

Does it sound like a lot? Not to worry. Start with number one. The rest will come.

How do you budget your writing time? Share your ideas for scheduling here. Treated yourself to a writing retreat? We want to hear about it!

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