Time, time, all round and yet there are never enough hours in my day.
Who can’t relate to that sentiment? For writers, especially, it seems we have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Life interferes with our carefully laid out schedule. And if you’re anything like me, you feel like an utter failure when the Schedule goes flying out the window because of family, school, illness, the non-writing job, etc. I myself have been struggling to get everything writing-related done because my planned spring break schedule of writing the rest of my web serial and getting ahead on edits with two different books was sunk by the iceberg illness. But when you’re too sick to write coherently, you need to rest and recharge.
The same thing goes for when our other high priorities demand more time than we had originally planned. Writers who are working, parenting, and still managing to write at least one book a year: I applaud you. I especially applaud those parents who choose to push out their writing schedule in order to spend more time with their families. Family, work, and school should not be placed behind writing. We don’t want all the other important areas of our lives to suffer simply so we can succeed in the single area of writing.
What we want and need is balance. That is what gets me through my time trials. No, I’m not working on my book but I am succeeding in X area of my life. For me, it’s usually school. Right now it is not practical for writing fantasy to be the number one priority even though I love it. Giving my all in school is my top priority. I know this and I know and plan for it to move up the priority food chain once I finish my degree because I will have more time for writing. For other writers I know, it’s their day job or raising their families or even spending more time with God that is the higher priority.
But we are not failures for giving the proper priority to things other than writing. Some writers firmly believe that you must write X number of words a day or X number of pages a week or X number of books a year in order to be professional and not an amateur or hobbyist. And they mean well, I’m certain that they do, but the wonderful thing about writing is there is no one way to succeed. What matters is we keep trying and we keep writing even if we go a week or two without writing anything in our book. Some of us write faster than others so 1k a week is a measly output from our perspective but that’s a triumph for others. Some of us are great at outlining and others prefer pantsing it and still others go for a balance between the two. The point is we are all different.
Personally, I believe you are a professional writer when you start publishing, it doesn’t matter whether or not you can make a living on writing. So when the time trials come up and you reach the end of your day or week and you look over your writing to-do list that ended up turning into a “You Wish” list, don’t feel discouraged. Don’t feel like a failure. We only fail when we quit. Priorities change with the needs of the day or the week and our writing time, precious as it is, is often the only thing we can sacrifice in order to meet those pressing needs. This does not mean we are not taking our writing careers seriously. It means we have perspective.
When the time trials grab you and tear up your writing schedule, here are some things that I’ve found helpful:
- Focus on the most pressing need first. If there’s going to be a break between your pressing needs, use that time to jot down notes for your current writing project, read over your last written work if possible, or simply read someone else’s book and recharge.
- Sit down at the end of the day (or week) and figure out which writing project can be put on the backburner for longer than planned until you finish your most pressing needs, this should leave you with your “must finish by X date” project instead of spreading out over multiple projects and your high priorities.
- Tell yourself it’s okay to move your writing schedule out. It seems simple but if your deadline is self-imposed, not giving yourself any wiggle room can be extremely stressful.
- Don’t feel guilty. You are a writer, you love writing, and you want to succeed. When faced with time trials, you always have the hard decision of letting your writing take a lower spot on the priority totem pole in order to meet the more pressing needs or continuing to divide your attention between needs and the want of meeting your writing schedule and having both suffer because of it. Choosing to adjust your writing schedule is hard but in the end it will give you a better book than rushing through and making mistakes that you wouldn’t if you weren’t too stretched out.
- Finally, celebrate the victories no matter how small. Victory sweetens everything even when you still have a lot more to do. It’s also encouraging because you proved to yourself that you still got it and you can still meet your writing goals even if it’s not as many as you had hoped for in the beginning. For example, I have a huge To Do list and I’m behind a bit but I have achieved a victory by finishing the revisions for Tiger’s Paw and now I’m only one editing round away from prepping for publication next month.
What tips or suggestions do you have for fellow writers who are struggling with time trials and juggling priorities?