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Come and see the Incredible Juggling Writer!
So I’ve been thinking a lot about project management this week, as I am coming to the end of a very hefty manuscript that I have devoted 100% of my time to over the last month in a powerhouse effort to complete in time for a publishing competition. But whilst I’ve been writing this one big important project, other ideas have come slowly creeping into my head. Thus far I have resisted the temptation to put anything more than notes down about these other works and maybe do a little research here and there, but I’m starting to wonder, would it be such a bad thing to have more than one story on the boil?
When the novel I am working on is complete, I have to begin once again to split my time between studying for my Master’s Degree, attaining my teacher training certificate, working and writing, and it is not a balance that I enjoy at the best of times. Taking the month of July off to focus on my books has been the best decision I’ve ever made, because not only have I produced a huge, intricate and (dare I say rather excellent) manuscript for a fiction contest, but I have had the time to become involved in huge promotional opportunities for my other stories and met some fabulous people by networking online. The problem now is that I don’t want to stop doing that, but I know that life is about to start getting in the way again.
So here’s the question I asked myself: how do other people do it? How does this incredible juggling act work wherein life goes on but work is still produced regularly?
To begin my journey to the answer, I recalled an excellent quote from the infallible J.K. Rowling. When asked “How did you do it? How did you write a book and raise a baby?”, Rowling simply answered: “I didn’t do housework for four years.” If she could raise a small child and produce the massive web of detail and imagination required for the Harry Potter universe, then surely I can deliver a few monthly essays, teach some classes and still get my words down on the page? The technique is simple really, and built on one sole principle: Something’s got to give.
The question then becomes, what can you get rid of in your life that will give you more time to write? As I said I have been lucky enough to put off university work during July due to the lack of deadlines, but unfortunately it is not a permanent solution to increase my writing potential. Give up work? I gladly would, but I might have to win the lottery first to cover the rent. Give up television? Ah, now that one I can do happily, especially since there’s never anything worth watching anyway. In fact, since I stopped putting on the tv first thing in the morning I have saved myself at least 2 hours a day of distracting, inane drivel, working instead on other things that needed to be done, which leaves me time later in the day to write. A good start to the process has been made.
Give up family and friends? Sometimes I’m sure we’d all like to, no matter how lovely they are to have around most of the time. The key in this particular area of the juggling act is to instil sympathy in your loved ones for you, the poor struggling writer, as you try to achieve your dreams. Then, as tactfully as possible, you excuse yourself for your set writing time, shut the door and barricade it with something heavy. Okay, so maybe you don’t need to go that far, but here are a few useful phrases from the Writer’s Essential Phrasebook (if only there were such a book) that might come in handy:
“Hi! Great to hear from you! I’ll ring you back in ten minutes, just got to get to the end of is page.”
“I’m doing my 20 minutes writing time now, so I’m going to sit outside/in the bedroom/bathroom/with the dog to write. Save all your questions and problems up, and in 20 minutes’ time you can bother me as much as you want.”
“Yes I know my dinner is on the table, but I’m having a really great idea and if I don’t get it down on paper right now I can’t write a best-seller, and you can’t have that Ferrari/mansion/butler you’ve always wanted.”
The important thing about using this technique is to do it in small bursts (i.e. please don’t leave your children starving whilst you scribe six chapters) and DON’T WASTE THAT TIME PROCRASTINATING. For one thing, if you only have 20 minutes spare in the whole day and you don’t get any words on the page, you will not be happy with yourself, and you will inevitably feel less inspired to continue writing (a dangerous path towards Writer’s Block if you ask me). The other thing is if you tell your husband/wife/mother/cat that you don’t have time for them because you are writing and they come into your room and see you playing paper basketball with the waste paper bin, they are never going to leave you in peace when you actually do have a great idea that you’re working on.
My own conclusions from this escapade into time management are that when life gets busy, it’s far better to write a little tiny bit every day than nothing at all, so I’m going to grab my moments where I can, and try not to neglect anyone or anything important in the process.
As always I welcome your thoughts on the matter writer pals!