Last week I talked whined about my loss of eight hours a day writing time because of a new job I’d taken. (Loving the job, by the way.)
My friend is now spending all her time taking care of her 92-year-old mother, and she’s lost most of her uninterrupted writing time.
Another friend just took in stepchildren and can’t find her purse, much less time to write.
There are a ton of ways the universe sucks up your valuable time, and it got me thinking.
I’ve been formulating some ideas on how to squeeze more productive writing time into my day, and here are a few creative things I’ve come up with:
Make a cheat sheet. I subscribed to MasterWriter last year, but your built-in dictionary and thesaurus will do nicely to find that one word that hits the right pitch, a name that escaped me, a phrase that works, and other invaluable tools that help. So I took an hour the other day to review my writing and notice words that I use – a lot .
We all do this – my writing tends to be emotionally descriptive, so I have a lot good number of “she gazed, looked, stared…” and I need to find new ways to describe that tension. I also use the word “went” and struggle to find more active ways to describe the motion of the story. I highlighted quite a few things on my latest ms that I can improve.
It now looks like a top-secret codebook with blacked out phrases. But I digress.
I made a list of alternative words, phrases, and ideas to use and I put scribbled them into my writing notebook for future reference. As I’m writing in my limited time I don’t have to stop my train of thought – I can either look right then and correct it or skip over it knowing I have the answer close by when it’s time to edit. (I have yet to determine which method works for me. I suspect in time I’ll stop the temptation to look and get the perfect word, hence getting more words down in the time allotted. But we’ll see.)
My WOS sister Robin gave me this great trick: if you are in the habit of using the word “was” a lot consistently in your work, perform a find and replace function and replace every single “was” with the word “PICKLE” (don’t forget the space before and after was or you’ll get words like “washed” in your selection. This method also works for any word ending in “ing”, but that gets a little tricky (nothing, something…). You’ll see the error of your ways quickly and can move shift from passive to active, especially if you make a cheat sheet ahead of time.
If you find you suddenly have a block of time, as little as twenty minutes, here is what I recommend:
- Announce you need (to whoever might be listening, even the dog) twenty minutes of uninterrupted time.
- Close the door, turn off the phone.
- Turn off your email and web browser and set a kitchen timer nearby.
- Sit in your chair, close your eyes.
- Breathe slowly three times, flex your fingers.
- Set the timer. The loud ticking will remind you how little time you have and your brain will kick into overdrive, knowing how little much time you have to make this happen.
- When the timer pings, stop.
- Save your work.
- Breathe deeply three more times.
- Go do whatever it is you need to do, and let it all percolate.
Like coins from the bottom of your purse or a man’s pocket, the time adds up. Even if the rest of the world demands your time, you can still get back to what you are born to do: make stuff up.