Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A Would Be Writer's Thoughts on Time Management

With my day job turning into one of those drawn out, nail-pullingly frustrating, not to mention stressful, experiences (ah, the joys of project launches) I'm sad to say I haven't been getting a lot of story-writing done. Having competed a draft with Kaiju sized narrative problems smashing everything in sight, I have to admit inspiration is a bit thin on the ground. One thing I've realised is I still haven't committed to a schedule for writing, and that's a major part of the problem. In comparison, my "must get healthier in 2014" decision is going really well, exactly because I have stuck to a schedule of going to the gym the same three days every week and planning my meals for every single day. The mantra has been "Don't be lazy", but it only seems to be spurring me on with the fitness plan and not a lot else. That whole getting up early to write thing has not lasted, as sleepiness has won the day in the mornings.

So the first thing I have to do is come up with a plan on when I do writing and making sure it's achievable. And what use is a blog if you don't get to use it as an idea board for these kind of things. Who knows - maybe it will help some other poor would-be-writer one day to do the same. My ego can dream.

One of the biggest mistakes I've made is to feel bad about not writing at times when it just wouldn't be possible, so I think it will help to make firm decisions on when I definitely won't be writing. With the lodestone of a day-job, that instantly wipes out 9:00 - 18:00, Monday - Friday (assuming extra hours will not be needed often - a girl can hope). Then there's travelling to and from work. I've tried to write in transit before and the jostling of buses and/or trains has much the same affect on the creative juices as it would on a can of Coke. So that means 7:30 - 9:00 as well as 18:00 - 19:30 is out. Then of course I need time to make dinner and eat it, so out goes 19:30 - 20:30. So, if I go to bed at 22:30 on school-nights, that leaves potential writing time as 20:30 - 22:30, Monday to Friday. So in theory, that's two hours, five times a week. In reality though I will need downtime so let's call it one hour that I can theoretically write each day. Huh, this whole making time thing turns out to result in very little time...

Then we have the weekends. Now, in theory you'd think I'd have plenty of time to write on these days but I've found two things that consistently get in the way: housework and The Blerch. Chores are irritating, particularly the "have to clean the bathroom/kitchen/floor/laundry before it becomes too hideous to face". It always takes longer than I expected and cleaning seems to be the ultimate self-replicating chore; the more of it you do the more of it you find needs doing. Then there's The Blerch. I love Matthew Inman for coming up with that; the perfect explanation of why I end up lying on a couch, Netflix binging and eating cashew nuts (health kick remember) for hours on end. The Blerch tells me I've earned a rest, some time to turn off and the worst thing is, it's right. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to not allow yourself time to unwind. The problem being that once I start "unwinding" (read watching all the Jonathan Creek episodes back to back) I tend to not be able to stop.

In theory I can do more writing at the weekend. I'm just going to have to make myself do it. Because no matter what they say, writing at times is a chore that you've just got to make yourself do, regardless of how you feel. I mean, if you want it to be your career (which is surely a goal of many a word painter) then it's going to be kind of like work sometimes; not very fun, monotonous and frustrating. But I can't get out of doing stuff for my day job because I don't feel like it, so why should writing be any different?

*Big sigh as realisation dawns*

I need to start treating my writing as just as much a job as the actual paying work I do during the week. I need to fit it in when all I want to do is lie in bed with the TV on and my Xbox controller, a tub of Pringles and a litre bottle of Diet Coke next to me. This means I have to do a set number of hours of writing a week, so even if I can't write one day I do it on another. It's what I've been doing with the gym, where I go either on a Saturday or on a Sunday morning, depending on other plans, so I know it can be done.

So after all this thinking the schedule should be:

M - 1 hour of writing (21:00 - 22:00)
T - Gym in morning (7:30 - 8:15) / 30 minutes of writing (22:00 - 22:30)
W - 1 hour of writing (21:00 - 22:00)
Th - Gym in evening (18:30 - 20:00) / Day off from writing
F - 1 hour of writing (21:00 - 22:00)
S - Gym in morning (9:00 - 10:30) / 2 hours of writing (16:00 - 18:00)
Su - 2 hours of writing (11:00 - 13:00)

That's 7.5 hours of writing a week, with the option to do more at the weekend. So at roughly 1000 words an hour I should be able to do 7500 - 8000 words a week. Not too shabby. The real test will be to see if I can keep up with it but I already feel more confident knowing when I'm expected to write. I will post updates here on progress - that alone might make me keep up. I also need to come up with some form of reward system - but we'll leave that for another post.

*Update: Tonight, Monday, I have indeed managed to write from 21:00 until 22:15, including finishing this post off. Winning!

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