Today’s blog post is brought to us by an excellent writer, fellow editor, and good friend of mine, Christi Martin. Check out her byline at the bottom of the post, and join us as we learn about boosting our writing higher on our priority trees.
If you’re like me, at the end of the day, you just want a break. Writing is important, but today you’re just too tired, and the items on that tedious to-do list are starting to pile up. After all, if you have time to write, then you have time to do the dishes, or take the kids to soccer, or call that friend you’ve really been meaning to call, if only you could remember. Excuses begin to flit rapid-fire through your mind, and in your exhausted state of frustration, you end up binge-watching Netflix instead.
We have all been there. Prioritizing is hard. For those of us who aspire to be writers, sometimes the task seems at best too lofty and at worst, impossible. Urgent tasks, those which are most pressing, are always the ones which take precedence. Unfortunately, for most of us, writing is not urgent. Contrary to what we might think, transitioning our writing from hobby to priority doesn’t mean shirking our other responsibilities or trying to squeeze writing into an already overburdened schedule. It does require, however, taking a look at how we spend our time to determine where writing really lies on our priority tree and taking measured steps to accomplish our writing goals.
We will never know how much information and art the world is missing from people who intended to write a book, but just never got around to it. For those who aspire to get to the end of their life without that particular regret, here are a few tips.
1. Set Specific, Concrete Writing Goals and Deadlines
Take a good look at your long-term and short-term writing goals. If your goals are too ambiguous, rework them to include a task and a deadline. The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to not only understand what you want to accomplish, but also when. When you have decided upon a long-term goal, it is easy to lose track of your progress if you don’t also set specific short-term goals. Make sure that these short-term goals also include the task and the timeline for when you want to get it done. Breaking large projects down into smaller sections with their own deadlines makes them more manageable and creates a structure and urgency for your writing.
2. Identify and Say No to Time-Wasters
Everyone wastes time, and everyone does it differently. Time is wasted when it is spent on things that don’t help you to accomplish your priorities, whatever they may be. If you have decided to make writing a priority in your life, identify your worst time-wasting habits (for me, it’s social media) and begin to replace them with items on your to-do list or more beneficial tasks. I used to spend my fifteen-minute work breaks browsing social media, until I realized how much time I could get back by doing something more productive. One fifteen-minute break every weekday turns into sixty-five hours over the course of one year. Now I spend my break more wisely by paying bills (mobile apps!), brainstorming story ideas, or going on walks. Whether it is a necessary task, a creative expression, or physical exercise, these things enable me to pursue my goals and be more refreshed and ready to get back to work. Time spent on these smaller tasks in the normally wasted minutes during the day allows for more time to devote to writing priorities.
3. Schedule a Time to Write with No Distractions
Once you have cut down on time-wasters and carved out more time for your writing, the next step is to actually clear a spot in your schedule. When I first got serious about finishing a novel, I set aside one hour per evening to write, with the goal of writing one chapter every two weeks. The hour was flexible, sometimes I wrote in the afternoon and sometimes I wrote after dinner. As long as I got my hour in, I was making progress. The first draft of my novel, at about 80,000 words, took me approximately one year and two months to finish.
It wasn’t difficult for me at that stage in life to find quiet time alone. For many of us, however, finding a quiet place to focus is often difficult at most hours of the day. With too many distractions, that one hour of writing could easily be whittled away by other important things. If your family or roommates fill your dwelling with a constant buzz of activity, consider these options:
- Relocate to a quiet local coffee shop or library.
- Keep your home’s writing space “off-limits” to little ones, pets, friends, or other family members during your scheduled writing time.
- Listen to movie or videogame soundtrack music to help you focus in a busy environment.
- Turn all distracting electronics off or on silent mode, or leave them in another room.
Once your writing space is distraction-free and your writing time is scheduled, you are ready to write!
4. Keep Accountable with a Writing Buddy or Community
Sticking to writing goals can be difficult and discouraging on your own. Connecting with others who share your affiliation for and commitment to the written word may be the motivation you need to get started and see your project through to the end. If your friends or closest colleagues aren’t the writing type, though—don’t despair. There are local writing groups, conferences, contests, online communities like Scribophile and WritersCafe, and even programs like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) available to help you accomplish your goals. Many of these groups allow for varying levels of commitment and include members in a vast array of genres. The most important thing is to get involved and get writing!
- Reprioritize your writing by setting concrete goals and deadlines.
- Cut out time-wasting habits and replace them with healthy habits that help you accomplish your priorities.
- Determine a regular time and place to write without interruptions.
- Join a community of writers—together we are better!
Writing is about learning, sharing, and growing. When you choose to make your writing a priority in your life, you are taking steps to better not only yourself but also the world around you. Embracing that mindset is a necessary step to fulfilling your writing goals.
If I have time to write, I have time to grow!
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An avid blogger and fiction author, Christi Martin is a Christ-centered communicator dedicated to writing as a practical tool and art form. You can find her blog at http://hispurposeprevails.blogspot.com/