As a writer, I feel I’m always thinking about time. How long till my next release. How long since my last one. How to find more hours to write. How far in advance to schedule in edits. What time should I reveal my cover.
When you consider writing a career as opposed to a hobby, writing becomes a job. Just like in the workplace, it’s important to have deadlines, and sometimes sticking to those can be tough.
This week, I made a decision to pull out of a writer’s group that I’m a part of. It wasn’t something I chose to do lightly, and it’s not something I’m happy about, but sometimes you have to do what’s best for you to declutter your write life!
Here are some of my top decluttering tips. These are just things that have worked for me; they won’t necessarily apply to everyone:
- Cut down on social media. Yes, it’s a no brainer, isn’t it? But the amount of Facebook groups and twitter chats you can find yourself involved with can end up sucking the time from your life. This morning, I went through and cut out all the unnecessary Facebook groups I’m in from my list, leaving just the most important ones. That way, when I am spending time online, I’ll be more focused in the places that count.
- Schedule more social media. I know it seems like another very easy step, but by allocating two hours a week on a Sunday night, in front of the TV if I feel the need for it, I can then have a week’s worth of posts all lined up and ready to go. That means I don’t need to be online as much during the week. Which brings me to …
- Stay off social media until 3pm. I’m sure you’re noticing a theme here, right? Social media! It’s a windy rabbit hole and once you start the trip down, it can be hard to get back out. I’m unsure if this one will work for me or not, but I love the idea that maybe I could reclaim some hours of the working day by using it as a reward at my least product hour.
- Focus on your peak productive hours. What’s this? A step that doesn’t involve social media? For me, I know that around 3pm, I hit a wall. A typical work day for me starts at around 8am and will finish anywhere between 6pm and 9pm. During that time, I know I seem to write more/get more words down between 5pm and 8pm. I also know that I’m more self-analytical and edit better between 8am-11am. The middle of the day I find I lose interest in my own work, or I need to switch to a new project if I am having a day spent purely on writing, because I get exhausted. Sounds lame, right? Who gets exhausted after only three hours? But I think when you get as emotionally involved as I do, and indeed as most writers do, it can become draining bleeding over the keyboard for hours at a time. That’s why I need to check out and do other work (I’m also an editor, which fills a lot of my days).
So yes — by focusing on my strong activities during my peak productivity times, I’m getting more focused writing sessions.
- Writing every day. Some days, I don’t want to write. Some days, the very idea of letting the words flow from my mind to the keyboard has me pressed up against a wall screaming ‘I don’t wanna!’ For me, I find that the longer I stay away, the bigger that mountain becomes, until suddenly I’m standing at the foot of Everest and wondering why I ever intended to climb that thing That then puts me in a mad spin as deadline approaches, and I end up in full-blown panic mode, which involves a paper bag, copious amounts of wine, no sleep and lots of tea (quila). The more frequently I write, the easier the words flow, and the more productive my time is.
- Don’t leave it till last on the list. As I mentioned above, I run a freelance editing business. Because I deal with so many wonderful authors, it can be so easy for me to leave writing till last on my list. ‘I’ll just do X, Y, Z, and maybe A, B and C, if I have time, and then I’ll write.’ Sound familiar? Even if it’s not work-based, but writing based (e.g. I’ll just finish this beta read, schedule some social media posts, oh, and I should book some marketing, what sites are good these days, oh, aren’t geraniums a lovely colour!) it can be so easy to put the thing that counts last. And yes, everything else is important to. But make sure you’re not letting writing become the final item on your to-do list.
- Set specific goals — but little ones. I do have an annual goal, but I find a weekly target is more achievable than a monthly one, or even a novel-length one. That way you can take into account the ups and downs you have in the week ahead. You know what your schedule is and how much it fluctuates. You also decrease your feeling of failure if things don’t go your way. Instead of ‘I didn’t make deadline for when I wanted this draft finished’ it’s ‘I didn’t make this week’s 8K word count goal; but I got 6K, and next week I can pick that up.’ I also have a friendly group on Facebook (not one of the ones I just suggested you un-join!) where each week, we all put in our writing goals for the seven days ahead, and then at the end of the period, we write in with how we went. If you’re interested in joining, you’re so welcome, and can check it out here.
- Stay away from the drama. I’m not a drama person by nature (in fact, I’ve just started yoga. It’s so lovely and peaceful. If you write, you should try yoga! Join me!), but it can be hard to avoid some of the negativity and drama that floats around the Internet when it comes to the writing community. It’s natural; after all, it’s an industry largely reliant on digital sales, and no one feels as safe paying out another person as they do when they’re doing so from the comfort of their computer. Away from real life.
Weile I’ve never been directly involved in digital drama, if I see a post come up in my feed, I now make a point of turning away and closing the window or the app. No one needs that kind of negativity in their lives, even if at times it can be kind of like watching a train wreck.
- Don’t just talk about writing — write. Sounds simple, right? It’s an easy life lesson, but again, when there are so many writers’ groups, in person and online, and so many chat sessions, it can be hard to then find the time to write. Up until this morning, I was a member of two writers’ groups, both which involved at least an hour’s travel each way for me. That meant two days per month when I was talking about writing — but not writing. And until I’m spending some/enough time writing per month, it doesn’t make sense for me to be spending this extra time talking about it. I’m not saying I’ll bow out of writing groups for good, and I love them, and can’t wait to rejoin, but until I have my own life together, it doesn’t make sense that I add stress by taking more time away from writing with another non-writing activity (and in 2016, when I am more on top of it all, I can’t wait to join writing groups again!).
So, there you have it. My nine steps for write life decluttering that I am currently employing. What about you? What do you do to stop the intensity of it all?