Monday, October 10, 2011

Structuring Our Writing World

Today, everyone is busy. Technological advancements, meant to make our life easier, tend to take away precious hours. Job and family commitments can multiply and eat us alive. Often there is precious little time remaining for our writing careers. To find a suitable balance, we must create structure in our lives.
Balance does not imply that every aspect receives and equal slice of the proverbial pie but rather adequate attention. Meeting one need may require ten minutes while another demands three hours. Before we begin slicing and doling out our time, we must first determine what components are truly important.

The best way to accomplish this task is to form a list. What do we value? What goals must be achieved? Consider the very basics first. Sleep and work (if we are employed) will take the greatest chunk of our day. Add family commitments to the list. If married, this includes our spouse! Don’t forget household chores or omit physical activities or relaxation. Finally, list all aspects of writing, from creating to promoting.

Before we divide our valuable time, what can we eliminate? Do we need to curtail certain activities? Are there duties that can be passed along to someone else? Once our list has been reduced to manageable levels, we can divvy the hours, remembering that we only have twenty-four at our disposal. 

Now that we understand what we’ll do with our day, we need to determine when we’ll accomplish each item on the list. While certain tasks remain unmovable, we should design our schedule to showcase our best side. Avoid regulating family to a time when we are exhausted or exercise to a slot we’ll only ignore. Our writing time is no different, and whether it’s the middle of the night or right after lunch, we should schedule it during our peak performance hours.

Ironically, there will be days when we are unable to follow our schedule. The life of an author can be quite chaotic at times! However, we need a base on which to build. It’s easier to alter an existing schedule that to create a new one each day from scratch!

A calendar is an author necessity! It is the only means by which to keep track of commitments, both in the real and virtual world. Miss one or two appearances and we’ll soon discover no one wants to book an irresponsible author! Setting two appointments for the same time slot is another disaster we want to avoid. A calendar will keep us on track and ensure we don’t miss family or work commitments either.

Since each new day presents a different set of tasks, maintain a to-do list. This will prevent that unique item from slipping through the cracks and into oblivion. Compile the to-do list the night before and don’t be afraid to write down future tasks for the days ahead. If we tackle the most important items first, then we know they will be completed. Interspersing a few five-minute projects throughout the list will speed our progress and buoy our sense of accomplishment in the process.

By now it’s obvious that we need to establish a framework in all areas of our life. With structure, a schedule, and a to-do list, we are better prepared to complete our writer and author duties. We are more likely to write for two hours if we’ve designated a time and placed it on our list than if we simply intend to make the effort at some point. Through repetition, many tasks will become part of our daily routine. Once we’ve established a pattern, accomplishing our goals will be much easier!

Our greatest enemies at this point are distractions and time stealers. Situations will arise when a diversion momentarily derails our progress. Unless it’s an emergency or has the potential to change our life forever, we shouldn’t focus on distractions. Time stealers are much more subtle. Ten minutes on a social site turns into thirty; an email sends us on a frantic goose chase for an hour; a phone call eats up our entire afternoon. We must be on the lookout for distractions and mindless time stealers or they will consume all of our carefully laid plans.

Authors and writers exist in a unique world, one that can be quite chaotic at times. However, we are happier and more productive when there is balance and structure in our life. Designing a schedule that can be easily followed sets us up for greater success!

What are you doing to organize your life?


  1. Funnily enough, I just bought a white erase board calendar. It's been a god-send for keeping me on track with my commitments to my blogs.

  2. This is very important. I know ten minutes can quickly turn into thirty so I'm like you, I write lists. They help. I also set time limits. I have a stop watch and when times up, it's up.

  3. Putting stickies by my computer with notes to remind me of things I need to do. :D

    Yes, my area is really pretty with all the different colors.

    The notes are essential because I tend to get too wound up in my writing that I forget to do the other essential things in my life.

  4. Everyone seems to be scheduling and organizing today. If only....

  5. I always write my poem before I put it on line. then half way through I change it . so much for organisation.


  6. Great blog post on a day when I was thinking, it's not such a big deal if I meet my daily word goal...right?

  7. Can I eliminate my job? That would solve a lot of problems.

  8. I used to write lists. Lots of lists. I used to keep a calendar. I used to be employed. Then I got laid off from my job. I quit making lists. I threw the calendar away. Thanks to my glorious unemployment I write every day when ever I am moved to. I've found that my writing output has increased about fifty-fold. I hope to never write another list.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this blog post. Thanks!

    Resources For Writers

  9. I do get distracted someday and I find it's the days I dont' want to do what I've planned such as another round of edits.

  10. Do we really have to include chores?

    I am trying to get organized and create a workable schedule right now.

  11. I have such a small writing place in the small duplex I share with my disabled daughter, I need to buy a cork board so I can keep track of things! I've tried a calendar, but there's not enough space in the little square. I've GOT to figure out something!

    But I don't set deadlines for my writing. When I get going on a project I write, and now force myself to stop when my brain and body rebel!

    A great post on a day when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, as so many of us do in this fast-paced world. I have to not let it get to me!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  12. You really spoke a lot of truth here today. Even not working I find it difficult to find the time to do everything that I want and need to do.
    My post today deals with an aspect of this topic. I've decided to eliminate blog awards due to the time it takes to organize and maintain them. That's time that can be used for other things. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.
    Managing time is about making some sacrifices that are not always what we like or are popular with others, but we have to assess priorities.
    You pinpointed it here.

    Tossing It Out

  13. I have a window right next to my computer. It's covered with post it notes. I need a calender that I can fix to a window :-)

  14. At the moment, I'm working on organizing my work space. Turning the office/guest room into "my office" and the grandkids' room into a guest room/grandkids' room. Since the grandkids and guest are intermittent and I'm at my desk every day, it's a better use of space, don't you think?

  15. Things have been super chaotic lately, and the only way I'm surviving is my day planner! :)

  16. The chores I'd like to pass on include dishes, mopping floors, cooking, shopping, laundry . .

    My kids refuse to be the maid :)


  17. Anne, I used to use one all the time.

    Eddie, wish I had that freedom.

    Ann, I feel overwhelmed most days.

    Lee, I discovered there are some things that just aren't worth the time and effort.

    LD, I think so! When we were foster parents, I lost my office. I'm so happy to have it back now.

  18. Great stuff, thanks! I have been getting better organized lately and practicing tuning out distractions. I'm a work in progress...Getting there!