Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stop Writing!

Maven Darcy BurkeHow's that for time management? When I started writing seriously a little over two years ago, my writing plan was the "catch as catch can" variety. This meant I wrote (and did all the things that go with writing - research, plotting, craft honing, etc.) whenever I could. I kept my laptop on the kitchen table or on the island and maintained a "drive-by writing" schedule. I actually wrote a good deal of Glorious that way and, strangely, it worked.

What didn't work about it is that I felt as if I never had enough time to write because I was always doing it in snippets. The truth was I hadn't prioritized the rest of my life in order to accommodate the writing. A few months ago, this finally sank in and the answer, surprisingly, was: stop writing.

What I mean is to allow yourself to be "done" for the day. You could always write more. You could always clean more (but who wants to!). You could always do anything more. But, there are only so many hours in a day (cue Bill!) and you have to prioritize (see Maven Erica's Monday post).

It's very, very hard to stop writing (or whatever it is you love to do). Some days it's almost impossible, in fact. But there comes a time, when you simply must focus on other things: family, paying bills, bathing, eating. You laugh, but how many times have you waited to eat until your head was pounding and your stomach started to devour itself because you Couldn't. Step. Away?

I began to incorporate writing tasks into my to-do lists. Instead of:

1) Laundry
2) Balance checkbook
3) Grocery shopping
4) Writing

I got more specific:

1) Finish scene with Wroxton and Tess
2) Read Maven Lacey's scene
3) Map next scene
4) Laundry
5) Balance checkbook
6) Grocery shopping

Notice how the writing stuff moved up? No accident! I find that if I do my writing tasks first thing, I don't feel harried later in the day for having not written. And by not written, I mean not written enough. You have to recognize your limitations and accept them. My mom says things are much more complicated nowadays because people just have more to do. You might think that's a "good old days" nostalgia idea, but she's right. Even she has more to do now that she's retired!

Since I've adopted this technique of stepping away from writing when I've accomplished my daily goals, I actually feel more productive. Writing to daily goals increases my production, for sure, but it also helps the other aspects of my life that maybe get ignored (okay, sometimes I still forget to eat!).

How about you? Ever step away from the ball to increase perspective or productivity? What tricks keep you sane in the neverending tangle of things to do?


Erica Ridley said...

I totally agree with this!

When in first-draft mode, I wake up early, brush my teeth, grab a cup of coffee, and plop down in front of the computer. I don't allow myself to do anything else (no answering the phone, no shower, not even breakfast) until I've cranked out that day's wordcount/scene goal.

And then once I'm done, I'm done. The rest of the day is for my day job, my errands, my down time, etc. Guilt-free.

Well said, Maven Darcy!

Bill Clark said...

there are only so many hours in a day (cue Bill!)

Well, if you insist... :-)

Vicki Lane wrote in her blog:

When Erica takes over the world one of the first orders of business must be more hours in the day.

I think that's the answer!

(I posted this on Erica's ruminations of 9/10, on Jacquie's of 9/11, and I shall probably post it again on tomorrow's Maven's ruminations as well. Clearly this is the solution to all our time-management problems!)

Wendy Roberts said...

I agree, more hours is definitely the way to go LOL!

lacey kaye said...

Ok, weird! I just had this ephiphany last night will listening to Eastside RWA's speaker Susan Mallery.

Me, five!

Vicki said...

Great stuff! Since I'm at the day job, ummmm...during the day, I started going straight to the computer when I get home. I don't do anything other than change from the work clothes. Okay, I pet the babies and then I write.

Once I'm done then I'm free to spend time with Science Guy and watch TV or read a book.

Once in a while I slip off track but I try hard not to.

LOL, Bill, we do need her to take over the world. Just think of all the wonderful things, I mean she could change. :)

Celeste said...

It's funny you should say this. I've always had the "I can write as soon as I get _ done" syndrome. And inevitably, balancing the checkbook becomes a three-hour affair because I can't find a receipt, and before you know it hubby's home and wanting me to knock off work. Only I can't because I haven't written yet.

This week, I put writing on the front burner for the first time in... okay, for the first time ever. I did NOTHING until I had written. And amazingly enough, I had a thirty page day, and a ten page day today. And one day spent yacking with my critique partner about her new release (step AWAY from the internet, Nina, no use worrying about reviews on day one!). It felt AWESOME to put writing first. And yeah, some things went to the wayside, but I found my hubby was happy to help with the checkbook, and my son volunteered to do the dishes because I was so happy and nice to them all.

This is really great advice!!

Tammie said...

Hey I'm up for more hours!

Great post, I started out with the "I'll write when everything is in its place/done" Ha- like that ever happens.

Plus getting away from it for a bit gives you the opportunity to find, create, experience new material!

Jacqueline Barbour said...

I love the idea of putting writing before other daily tasks, though so far, I've never been able to implement it. That's mainly because my creativity tends to spend several more hours in bed than the rest of me :).

And Bill, extra hours in the day won't help. Haven't you heard that work always expands to meet the time available? If we had 26 hours a day instead of 24, we'd just find two hours' worth more of things we had to do :)!

Darcy Burke said...

Celeste - you nailed my problem! I would start writing when the kids went to bed at 9:00. While I'm a night owl (or used to be anyway), most of the time I was too tired to do anything effective.

And Tammie, you're so right about the time away - make the most of it! Vicki, sounds like a great plan!

Bill Clark said...

And Bill, extra hours in the day won't help. Haven't you heard that work always expands to meet the time available?

You're right that the Peter Principle is pretty inexorable, Jacq. But my understanding is that when Erica takes over, she will provide the extra hours only for those who can demonstrate a worthy purpose for them.

I believe applications must be filled out in triplicate, and then submitted to the Council of the Wise (which so far consists of Erica - Chairman and World Dominatrix for Life - as well as the Mavens, Vicki, and moi). Extra hours will be liberally granted for writing, quality time with pets or family, walks on the beach or in the woods or fields or mountains, and blogging. Applications for extra time for doing the dishes, overtime at work, paying bills, grocery shopping, retail therapy, and being snotty to other people will be denied out of hand.

Questions? Feel free to send them to Miss Erica or any Council member. Printed guidelines will be distributed as soon as Erica has finished drawing them up. Meanwhile, you may want to consider some of the tips in the Mavens' Time Management series.

And keep in mind: Tempus fugit! In delay there lies no plenty. Carpe diem. Improve the shining hour. Gather ye rosebuds. And, above all, write on!

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens