If you want to do... you have to say yes to no!
You don't find time to write. You make time. Nora Roberts
20 thousand words.
I do have an affiliation for numbers that form patterns and have meaning.
I have just completed twenty days of drafting. I'm writing a novel and have just past 20,000 words. And in 2020, a year we will all remember because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has not been a thrilling year.
This year has been insane.
I spent this year training how to teach online. As all teachers around the world, we learnt to do this in record time. I'm also currently looking for a new teaching position as my contract ends this year. Looking for a job takes a lot of time: drafting cover letters, researching the school and filling out applications.
In fact, life takes up a lot of time. The administration of our life eats up time ferociously. My days and weeks are filled with paying bills, going to appointments, completing tax returns, managing a budget and making shopping lists.
Currently, I’m on a break from university and using my free time to complete some writing courses.
I'm a life-long learner. I believe that as a writer, learning your craft is just as important as writing. I always allocated time to read about the craft and to complete courses and workshops. There are so many fantastic online courses with the Queensland, NSW and Victorian Writing Centres. I am certain that the writing centre in your city or town has them too. My go-to for great courses on writing is the Australian Writer’s Centre. They are world-renowned for their courses with many alumni achieving publishing deals. I have also discovered some great courses via other writer’s blogs such as Jessica Brody’s Writing Mastery Academy, Gabriela Pereira’s DIY MFA and coursework with Savannah Gilbo. Masterclass Online is another one I have subscribed to and enjoy. Masterclass has a number of writing courses across different genres presented by literary greats including Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates.
I'm also completing a Master of Letters in Creative Writing. I'm currently on a semester break before I start my dissertation next March. I’m using the spare time to continue my learning, drafting my novel and working on short stories to build my repertoire for publications and competitions.
Where do I find the time to write?
How do you do all you do?
These are questions I get quite a bit. Sometimes I hear myself as I share my life and it does sound unreal. But it’s all true and be assured, I do have time to rest. I still get my seven hours of sleep each night. I still exercise and I still socialise with my family and friends. I also watch the occasional movie or TV show.
And that, my friends, is the secret.
How I can do all I do.
I say ‘Yes’ to ‘No’.
I heard a writer once say, in fact, I hear this comment all the time, ‘If you can spend two hours watching TV, you have the time to write.’ Plus, time to learn and time to read.
I simply limit my screen time.
This includes social media which I still enjoy and partake in as part of my author platform.
The following is a brief list of how I manage my time. To find the time to write, read and learn. Maybe it might help you to get started. Maybe it might inspire you. Maybe you’re just curious and want to know how I do it.
I get up every morning during the weekday at 4 am and write for 30-60 minutes. This depends on how many times I hit snooze, or if it’s my turn to walk our dog. As I'm not at university at the moment, I add in another 60 minutes of writing in the afternoon.
Each afternoon, after I get home from school, I make a cup of peppermint tea with brewed lavender flowers and a little honey (as a pick me up). I start the timer for thirty minutes and read. Usually a novel. This helps me get out of my teacher’s headspace and into my writer’s headspace.
I also try to read one short story a day, usually during lunchtime at work or if I’m waiting for an appointment.
I compartmentalise my week. I allocated specific evenings to complete specific tasks for a specific time. I'm getting better at allocating the right amount of time and tasks to allocate each day. At first, my to-do list was huge. I started biting off more than I could chew. Lately, I have started to fine-tune the number of tasks I do so I can successfully tick off each task each day. Having a realistic and manageable to-do list helps to increase your motivation, commitment and sense of achievement. My diary is prioritised in order of importance. Most importantly, I have stopped beating myself up if I don’t always stick to it. It’s just a guide. A road map of time management.
on Tuesday and Thursday evenings I work on short story writing. Writing short stories is my training for my long-form writing.
on Friday evening I draft my article for this blog. On Saturday morning when I wake up, I polish it and schedule it for the following week.
on Wednesday night I do a Yoga class.
I make sure I schedule in exercise and when I have to do housework. I clean and my husband cooks each night and does the washing up. It’s fair and easy to remember what we are responsible for and, there’s no ill-feeling regarding unbalanced responsibilities. We actually worked out the time it took for our allocated chores and discovered it’s pretty equal in time. This meticulous planning is the Capricorn in me and, it also satisfies my Catholic Italian guilt.
Most importantly, I limit my screen time. I only watch about one to two hours of TV per week. That’s right. It’s not a typo. Two hours per week. In regard to my social media, I limit this to one hour per day: thirty minutes in the morning (in the car when I get to work) and thirty minutes in the afternoon after I have read and gone for a run.
This may sound like a military roster. Maybe it is. But it does work for me. You need to find a schedule that works for you. It will take time and adjustments until you find a schedule that fits into your lifestyle. It is also important to know that you have to be flexible too. Life has a way of throwing spanners in the works and tipping it all upside down. For me, when this happens, my schedule is always there for when I need to re-group again.
All you need to remember is this one thing:
If you can watch two hours of television per night, you have time to write.
Oh, and one more thing. I do have a strict bedtime: 9 pm. I can’t fight this one. My body controls it. Smack bang at 9 pm I'm out for the count.
And, finally … I do apology for all the naff clichéd puns.
The Six Golden Rules of Writing: Read, read, read, and write, write, write. Ernest Gaines
Image courtesy of IZF at Dreamstime.com