Today the Sisters welcome guest blogger Kathy Weyer. Kathy is one of Robin’s old critique partners. The two met at a writer’s conference one memorable Mother’s Day weekend a few years ago and stayed in touch. We’re excited to have Kathy join us and share some of her time management ideas. Writing is an adventure best shared with friends.
How many of those precious twenty-four hours do you use to write? Whether or not you work outside the home or have complete freedom during the day, the time just slips by, and we never have enough hours to write. There is always Something Very Important we put ahead of our writing time.
Let’s see if we can put this in writer terms. Using a writing analogy:
Act One – What does your protagonist (you) want?
Who is she, what does she want, and what’s in the way? Another way to answer this: What’s the payoff for greater efficiency – more money, more clients, completion of that chapter, peace of mind, a submission, entry into a contest, a new agent?
- Picture a scene in your head describing your perfect writing day. What does it look like, smell like, feel like?
- Finish this sentence: “I can devote myself one hundred percent to my writing when…”. Ask yourself if the “when…” really exists. (“When the garden is finished, when the kids are gone, when the house is clean, when I retire, when the stress at work lightens up, etc?”)
- Now, like any good writer, figure out the pros and cons of her predicament. What’s at stake, and what’s the payoff?
(P.S. A garden is never finished, the kids are never gone, the house is never clean enough, and, believe me, the stress is always there.)
Act Two – Identify the conflicts and the antagonist. What’s in the way?
Say you find you have a blissful two hours to spend any way you want. Your mind will kick in and you’ll say, “I should do errands, do some cooking, get those pants hemmed, weed the garden, change the sheets, do some laundry, work on a project for my career…” Is it possible for you to sit in front of the computer without your inner housekeeper nagging you about what you should be doing? (My therapist once told me not to “should” all over myself.) Most people obey the inner voices out of guilt. This is the antagonist, and she must be vanquished.
Some people can ignore all that nagging. Me? Not so much. Here are some ideas to put your antagonist in her place:
- Make a calendar that schedules in time for regular tasks, and, while you’re at it, schedule in time for you to close the door and write. “Mondays I run to the dry cleaner on my way to/from whatever. Tuesdays I do this, Wednesdays that…” Instant Guilt-Be-Gone. Everything in its time slot. (Yes, it does work with children around. They get used to the regimen and it helps shape them, too.)
- Are you able to work in your messy cluttered writing space without distraction? Yes? Then by all means, skip this step and sit down and write. If not…
- Purge your writing space. Clear the decks, buy some fresh flowers, some file folders, boxes, books, scented candles, music, inspirational pictures or posters, and make your work space inviting and comfortable. On the inside, it will be cozy and creative. On the outside, your potential intruders can be met with an ugly sign giving the very clear signal that you should not be disturbed.
- My friend hangs a picture of Dorothy in her ruby slippers wearing an angelic smile and pigtails on her door when it’s okay to disturb her. She turns it over to the Wicked Witch with the green face when she’s serious about working alone.
- This is your haven. Use it. Others must obey.
- Our to-do lists are longer than our memories, so make a list – a very long list. Separate the items into four quadrants: Urgent (like the world would end without this not getting done immediately), Need to work on (nagging bits), Delegate (a VERY important quadrant), and Projects (those that can wait, like filing). You decide how you want to tackle each of these quadrants. Vow to accomplish one item a week or something manageable.
- You might think about bundling all the errands and hiring someone to knock them all out. Maybe take all the rips and repairs to a tailor (how much is your writing time worth?) A teenager with a new driver’s license in the neighborhood would be happy to make a few bucks taking in and picking up the dry cleaning, a few groceries, or running to the library (or bringing back a Starbucks of your choice for the working writer.) Those three errands, at least in my life, would take up the better part of an hour. An hour you could be spending with your characters deep in your story. Getting it off your mind and onto paper will help in itself to sort out all the must-do’s.
Act Three– Climax and Happy Ending – Overcome obstacles and get what you want.
Ah, your protagonist finally has the knock-down, drag out confrontation and her life changes for the better.
- Throw away what’s no longer necessary and find ways to vanquish your enemy. Do things like buy a stack of birthday cards, sympathy cards, congratulatory cards, or just basic cards that you don’t have to rush out and buy. Keep them handy.
- Grocery stores are now delivering.
- Some dry cleaners will pick up and deliver.
- Find a restaurant or a caterer that pre-makes full dinners and has them ready for you to heat and serve. I have found they are no more expensive than buying and cooking my own, and the time you save will help your heroine solve the mystery, catch her man, or plot her revenge.
- Make a menu calendar for the week, if you are responsible for family dinners. Buy all the ingredients and spend the weekend pre-cooking as much as you can and freezing, or package in bags ready for the slow cooker.
- OR make a child or a spouse responsible for making dinner one night a week so you can spend the time writing.
- OR, and this is a fun one, partner up with a neighbor. You each make double what you were making for your own family and take it across the street or next door. Gives her a night off, too.
- OR, another fun one, have the kids spend the evening together so you have one free evening to write (or reacquaint yourself with your significant other, which isn’t a bad idea, either – more fodder for the book). There. She has vanquished her enemy and writes happily ever after.
Kathy Weyer is a reformed Human Resource executive and Marriage and Family Therapist. She has worked in several hospices as a grief and bereavement counselor. She has published several articles in national magazines and just finished her first novel set in San Diego, where she lives with her husband, two dogs, a bird and five turtles. See her website at www.kathyweyer.com for more about her and to read a sample chapter of her novel Stitches.