Writing is important to every blogger. As busy people, we can struggle to make time for it. That’s why we need to refi ne our approach as we go along. Each time saver is something that works for me, which I’ve arrived at through trial and error. I’m aiming to bring them all together in a book eventually. In the meantime, I hope you fi nd this new selection helpful.
Make a start
It’s easy to put off writing because conditions are not optimal for it. The available time window may seem too short; there may be distractions; we might not be feeling in the right mood. Perhaps we feel daunted by the thought of trying something new, such as working in a less familiar genre. Instead of letting these thoughts loop in our heads, burning up precious days or weeks, we should make a start, however imperfect. We can work well within time constraints by matching the most appropriate writing task to our given circumstances.
We may yearn for more time at the keyboard or with the notebook, but when we get those chances, our health and wellbeing should always come fi rst. Writing for prolonged periods of time can be quite unhealthy. Some writers believe they can only produce work in huge binges. Whether or not that’s true, it isn’t very good for them physically or mentally, or for the people closest to them. Writing doesn’t require us to suff er. Let’s thrive instead! We should take exercise; move around; do some work standing up; lift our eyes from the screen and vary their focal length; rest our wrists. We know illness is a huge waste of time, so let’s avoid it as best we can.
Don’t edit prematurely
Each stage in the writing process makes its demands on our time. That’s why it can be important to stick to what we’ve planned for any given session. In particular, when we’re composing work it’s very tempting to go back and edit what we’ve already written. If we happen to spot an error or think of something we’re desperate to include, that’s fi ne. However, the proper time to carry out a line edit is when the fi rst draft is complete and has been put aside for a while. If we spend time on it prematurely, the edit won’t be very eff ective and we’ll have wasted time that could have been spent drafting new material.
When I tutored an especially large creative writing class, I asked the learners to spend part of the session working in groups. One or two were taken aback, as they considered writing a solitary pursuit. But the rest were glad to produce some intriguing hybrid pieces there and then. When we collaborate, we can make much quicker creative decisions. If you get the chance, try it. It works best with three or four people, as this avoids a tug-of-war between two egos. Notice how we can speed up our short fiction writing when we really want to.
Leave pick-up notes
Many writers continue working until they reach a satisfying place to pause. Not everyone has that choice, of course, as other areas of our lives demand attention. In any case, this can be a fl awed approach. It’s easy to continue working when we don’t realise we’re tired, so while we’re still generating copy, it may not be our best work. Pausing mid-stream, we know where we’re heading. If we leave three or four lines of instructions for ourselves, picking up where we leave off will be easy. This makes effi cient use of the decisions we’ve already made but don’t have time to execute immediately.
Focus your online activity
Unfocused scrolling online is probably our biggest collective waste of time in the present era. Let’s not pour our heart and soul into a technology that won’t love us back. But we can use some of that time and emotional energy to help our writing instead. As we learn the craft, questions will pop up that the internet can help with. We can throw some of them to our online network or watch a short tutorial on YouTube. We can aim to gain some useful knowledge, insights or inspiration from our time online.
Write a ‘bio’
People who might publish our work often ask for a short biography, including details of our writing ambitions and experience to date. Even if we think it’s too soon, or we’re unworthy, or we haven’t got enough accolades to shout about, this can be a great exercise. Condensing our own story, fi rst into 100 words, then into 50 words, enables us to see both where we’ve come from and where we’re going, with crisp clarity. It helps us visualise how we wish to project ourselves as writers. Anything that pinpoints the purpose of our writing will avoid our wasting time on the wrong projects and propel us towards our goals.
Batch your admin
In the fi rst article, I suggested batching research tasks together so they don’t interrupt the writing fl ow too much. Similarly, batching organisational tasks and regular chores will get them completed more effi ciently, which can generate more time for writing. If we’re aiming to get work published, having a regular slot for marketing and publicity takes the lurking dread out of these tasks and even makes them enjoyable in their own right. They still need our creativity, albeit to diff erent ends. Finding time for activities that support our writing, as well as for writing itself, can be a great morale-booster.
File your notes carefully
Most of us have experienced doing some preparatory work on a project, only to discover later that we can’t fi nd those initial notes. To ensure this doesn’t happen, it’s worth investing time in setting up some basic fi ling protocols. Of course, it can be harder to get back to relevant notes that were written before we knew a project would be set up. This is where dating entries, numbering pages and indexing our general notebooks and journals can pay huge dividends in terms of efficiency.
This may seem a surprising suggestion, given that we’re constantly told to submit only our best work for publication. But it’s not always clear where striving for excellence ends and pointless perfectionism takes over. Let’s think of it as two diff erent skill sets. Striving for excellence uses our developing skill set, whereas perfectionism is about over-employing our existing one. The latter may feel comforting, but if we stop spending extra time on work that’s essentially fi nished, we can use it on something more productive instead.
Allocate time realistically
As ambitious writers, we want to complete lots of projects. The way to do this effi ciently, though, is not to assume we can write a novel in eight weeks or knock out a collection of short stories or poems in a fortnight. That will just cause a practical mini-crisis that drains our time and energy. The better way is to record how long certain writing tasks take us and allocate time for new projects accordingly, perhaps allowing an extra 10 per cent for unforeseen events. When we fi nd the time we actually spend roughly maps on to the time we’ve allowed, it builds confi dence in our ability to plan any project, however ambitious.
We often want nothing more than to get our heads down and write. That’s great, but it can only take us so far. Thinking a little beyond our current project saves time because it shapes our actions and steers us in the direction of our overall goals. Even with limited time for writing, we’re less likely to feel frustrated if we have a workable plan. It can also be helpful to visualise our writing life beyond our next change of circumstances. We’re more likely to grasp opportunities if we anticipate developments and know what we want. To conclude, our challenge isn’t solely about securing more time for writing. It’s also about thinking holistically, considering where writing fi ts into our wider lifestyle and how the diff erent elements of that lifestyle can enhance each other healthily.