Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Some Alternatives To Writing Every Day

This past week someone on Twitter brought up the question of whether or not it is really necessary to write every day. His point was that not everyone has the time to do that.

Well, since he mentioned time...

How Writing Every Day Can Help 

Writing every day is extremely helpful if you are working on one particular project, because it helps you to stay in the world of your book. You can keep a little flow thing going.  It's even good in terms of time management, because you don't have to keep bringing yourself back up to speed with characters, setting, and whatever it is you're trying to do.

Writing every day can also help you avoid letting yourself--or those around you--develop a mindset that you only write when every other thing in your life has been done. It also helps you avoid accepting a lot of discretionary, volunteer tasks. You have to limit those because you write every day.

But Let's Get Real

A great many new writers, and even published writers who don't make a living writing:

  •  Have day jobs that put food on the table, a roof over their heads, keep them alive.
  • Are the main caregivers for children.
  • Have day jobs and care for children.
  • Are caring for family members in the extended family, often while holding down a day job. And dealing with children of one age or another
  • Have chronic health problems of their own and also working day jobs and/or caring for others
Writing every day just isn't a possibility for many people. Suggesting they should be doing that not only does them no good, but can seem exclusionary. "Writers need to write every day. You can't write every day. Therefore...draw your own conclusion."

Can Writers Do Something Every Day?

You probably read. Read something every day that pertains to your writing.
  • Read in your genre. Pay attention to what is being done by other writers. Pay attention to what you like and, more importantly, what you dislike.
  • Read articles on craft. Pick up a copy of Writers' Digest, The Horn Book, or other publications that relate to the type of writing you do. Read what you can, when you can.
  • If you write short form work, read publications that publish it. Learn who is publishing what.
  • If you're working on a project that requires research, or even just thinking about starting one, do some reading for that.  
Maintain an "idea journal" in which you only have to jot down an idea or a situation, if that's all you have time to do. If you can find some kind of journal software, even better. You can search those and find similar ideas you've entered so you can pull them together when you want to do something with them.

Try to maintain a writing area, even it it's not an office or even a desk. When you have opportunities to write, write in the same place-- a particular chair in the living room where you work with a laptop or a notebook will do. Set aside a shelf for your writing books and magazines, any books you've been using for research.

Check out your schedule for the upcoming week (or weekend), looking for time when you can write. It's not necessary to have an eight-hour shift for writing. Small units or segments of time will due very nicely. 

What About Writing Every Day To Create A Writing Habit?

How many people have really done that?

My more rabid followers know that I'm a fan of psychologist Kelly McGonigal, who wrote The Willpower Instinct. She isn't a big supporter of promoting habits for changing behavior. Habit works best, she says, for small tasks that don't require a lot of people in the first place. Which is why so many of us have no problem brushing our teeth. Writing demands a lot more of us than keeping our teeth clean, though.

In my own experience, whenever I've felt I had a traditional write-every-day habit going, something jumped the border between my personal and professional lives and writing went out the window for a while. Habit just hasn't been that helpful for me when life problems strike.

Pursuing That There Goal--An Alternative To Writing Every Day

Kelly McGonigal talks about what she calls "automatic goal pursuit." For writers this would mean that instead of focusing on a behavior--I must write every day, because real writers write every day--you focus on an ultimate goal, say a particular writing project you want to complete. You chip away at that, however you can, instead of worrying about whether or not you're writing every day.

Producing something is the goal, not the process we use to produce it. Though there are plenty of articles, books, and workshops out there claiming to provide the secret to the perfect writing process, the real secret is that the perfect writing process doesn't exist.

I Have Some Experience With This, People

For instance, this week I have a seven-year-old house guest* arriving today and staying into Friday. I lost part of yesterday to guest prep. But I hate to lose a whole week, so I'm trying to plan some small tasks that will support some of this year's work goals.

  • I got this blog post ready to post yesterday and scheduled a couple of tweet pitches on Tweetdeck for a Twitter pitch even on Thursday when I expect to be away from home most of the day. Submitting work is a goal.
  • I've loaded my iPad with some essay and short story reading that will expose me to some new markets or some craft writing. Writing short form work is a goal.
  • I'm slowly plugging away on a YA mystery this year, and I'm using a blueprinting system I learned at a workshop taught four years ago by Wendy Maas. I've printed out the blueprinting I've done so far so I can add to it at odd moments during the week.
Hmm. I'm definitely not trying to write every day. What I do appear to be doing, though, is pushing myself toward those goals.

Oh, my gosh, I love goals so.

*My house guest was struck down by a stomach bug last night, so we'll never know how well I would have done with the plan I'd made for his stay. However, I now have some found writing time. Instead of reinventing the wheel (something I always find time consuming), I'm going to stick with working toward goals, as I'd planned, maybe leaning a little more heavily on the blueprinting then I would have if he'd been here.

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