Tag Archives: Time Management

My Long and Lonesome Road

Lonely RoadI drive fifty-five miles to work each day (Uphill both ways! In the snow! Get off my lawn!). In seriousness, I’ve always had long commutes. This commute is actually somewhere in the middle, and there are good reasons for why I chose it, but it does lead to a lot of lost time five days a week. When you trying to kick-start a writing career by night, that lost time adds up. You’ve got to find a way to make that time productive.

I started on audiobooks years ago. What was an interesting novelty the first time I tried it in college (hey, Leonard Nimoy is reading this Star Trek novel! Awesome!) became a matter of preserving my sanity after my long commutes began. It’s a lot easier to cope with a five-mile backup when you’ve got an engrossing story keeping your mind occupied.

At first, audiobooks were a nice supplement to my reading, a way to keep from going crazy on the road as well as to feel like all those hours weren’t going to waste. As my time spent writing increased and my free time correspondingly dipped, audiobooks have all but replaced reading physical books or ebooks for me. I would estimate that 95% of my reading is done via audiobooks now. I generally only read with my eyes if I can’t get a book I want on audio (or if I can’t stand the narrator) and even then, I have to REALLY want to read that book.

Sad as it is, after spending many hours a week listening to audiobooks (and the occasional podcast) and working on my own writing for still more hours, I rarely want to pick up a book or e-reader in the meantime. I’d rather do something that doesn’t have anything to do with words.

But audiobooks are not the only option for making use of time in the car. Some writers turn that time into productive writing time by dictating their stories into digital recorders. You can transcribe the words yourself later or use software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. There are even services where you pay people by the word for transcription of digital audio files. I’ve tried dictation, and have never been able to make it work for myself for any length of time. Any sense of accomplishment I get by putting words down in the car via dictation is lost when I have to spend an equal or greater amount of time transcribing the words later. I’ve heard great things about Dragon, but I’ve never had the patience to teach it to recognize my particular vocal patterns.

But that’s just my view. Many writers swear by dictation. Kevin J. Anderson writes all his books this way, dictating his first drafts on long hikes in Colorado. Now that’s multitasking! For myself, if I find that I’m in need of help to break up a writing logjam, I use a different method. I’ll forego my audiobooks for a commute or two, opting for music instead. The monotony of the road and the creativity-unlocking aspects of the music usually helps me figure out where my story is going wrong, and I’ll often have whole chapters outlined in my head by the time I arrive at my destination.

Whichever method works best for you, remember that a long commute doesn’t have to mean the death of productivity.

About the Author: Gregory D. LittleHeadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. The sequel, Ungrateful God, will be released Summer 2016. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens and A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

 

SLICING THE CAKE

A Guest Post by David Heyman

“Honey, where are you?”

Physically I’m in the store with my wife, where she is asking my opinion of an item she’s seen. In my mind though – I’m on a far-off snowy plain, trying to get my heroine out of the scrape I’ve written her into. This is the world of the writer and their family, and it’s one I’m betting most of you are familiar with. Managing the scales between the time and energy we give to our writing and the time we give to other demands can be one of the more difficult challenges an aspiring writer can face.

It’s commonly called the work/life balance, but for us it is a more complex beast – one more properly named a work/work/life balance. We all have lives that include family, friends, pets and the many activities that make life worth living. These are all wonderful, but they rightfully expect an investment of your time. Then most of us have the job that pays the bills, taking care of that rewarding life and keeping the road ahead of us clear. That job also makes demands on your time, demands that can be harder to negotiate with than Fido.

Now you want to add writing, but for most of us writing no mere hobby. It doesn’t fall into the ‘pursuits’ section of that life category. No, writing for us is our second job – the one that might not be paying bills yet, but someday….

Something’s gotta give – somewhere a sacrifice must be made.

cake

I always view my time as cake. I cut a piece of cake for my family, one for work and one for myself. If I want to write and that’s going to use some of that available time, then someone’s piece of cake is going to get smaller.

My advice: make sure you are the one making the sacrifice. Cut into your cake, not someone else’s.

Want to write on your lunch break? Sure. You can bang out that scene while you have your sandwich. Write during that boring dial-in meeting where they never call on you anyway? No, that time is committed to the job that pays the bills. Writing after play time with the kids and TV time with your spouse? Sure, but discuss it with them first.

You are the one who wants to be a writer, the big time sacrifice must come from you. Video game time, Game of Thrones watching time, Facebooking time.

Your time.

I would caution not to take all of your time, though. Don’t take away the sleep you need, or the time you exercise to stay healthy. Reserve some time for yourself to de-stress, to recharge and get the creative juices going again. Moderation is the key.

Each day is a cake that you choose where to make the cuts and choose the sizes. Your job, your friends and families all have their plates out, waiting to be serves a slice of your time.

How you distribute those slices will have a big impact on your support system going forward – and you will need that support to succeed.

David Heyman:

Dave writes both novels and short stories in the various genres of speculative fiction. His other passions include his family, gaming and reading about mountaineering. Sleep is added to the mix when needed. You can visit him at daveheyman.com

Fail to Win

A Guest Post by Sam Knight

Did NaNoWriMo kick your butt? It did mine. Again. I failed to win. It’s great! I never realized how easy winning could be!

Wait! You read my title wrong didn’t you? It’s okay. It’s that whole Oxford Comma thing. We’ll figure it out one of these days.

I guess I should explain myself, now that I’m pushing the edges of your attention and agitation.

Last year I set a goal for myself of writing 50,000 words in a month for NaNo, as many writers do. I had made it easily before, so I saw no reason why I wouldn’t again. (Well, maybe not that easy, but nonetheless…) I failed. I got about 36,000 words in on a story that I gave up on and threw away.

Yes. I threw it away. It was that bad. I know of no other piece of writing I have done (since I got out of school) that I felt was throw-away bad. I’ve still got the idea, so not a total loss, I guess.

But I learned a valuable lesson!

I can’t set an impossible goal for myself. If I do, I will fail. Very simple math.

Wait! I said Nano was easy, done it before, do it again… How can that be an impossible goal?

Well, let’s look into that, shall we? What is NaNo, really? It is a fire lit under the butts of people who need to get crackin’! And you surround yourself with others of a similar ilk, so that you can succeed! It’s a good thing!

But it was not a good thing for me. Why? Well, I’m what you call a professional.

Okay. Maybe you don’t, but I like to. Here’s my point. I didn’t need motivation to write 50,000 words in a month. When I took on that challenge, what I really did was take on a third full-time job.

When I “won” NaNo, it was my second full time job. I was a writer, that’s what I did, so I wrote a novel in a month. By last year, I had moved on past that stage in my career. I had a bunch of irons in the fire. NaNo was just another hot potato to juggle, another metaphor to mix, and I literally could not keep up.

I thought I could. I dictated my story at my kids’ sports practices. No games, just practices. 36,000 words dictated 30 to 45 minutes at a time, three to four times a week. For a month. That means I managed to put, at most, around sixteen hours into NaNo. It was about all the time I had!

No wonder the story sucked.

But meanwhile…

I was working on all of the other things I had to do. In fact, whenever I had a free moment I could have been working on NaNo, I didn’t. I procrastinated. And I did that by working on other things I really wanted to.

In November of 2013, I failed NaNoWriMo. And I felt a little crappy about it. But then I discovered a strange side-effect; I won. All of the other things I had been working on came together, all at once.

Really!

I finished up, edited, formatted, converted, and self-published THREE illustrated children’s books, a short-story collection, and a novel between November and January. Five projects. Five. Done, finished, completed, and moved on from forever.

Why?

Because I failed at NaNoWriMo. Because NaNoWriMo was too much pressure, so I didn’t work on it, I ignored it and did other things I really needed (wanted) to do. And they got done. They ALL got done.

So this year, what did I do? I set an impossible goal for myself. And I failed! But I did it to win.

 


A Colorado native, Sam Knight spent ten years in California’s wine country before returning to the Rockies. When asked if he misses California, he gets a wistful look in his eyes and replies he misses the green mountains in the winter, but he is glad to be back home.

As well as being part of the WordFire Press Production Team, he is the Senior Editor for Villainous Press and author of three children’s books, three short story collections, two novels, and more than a dozen short stories, including a Kindle Worlds Novella co-authored with Kevin J. Anderson.

A stay-at-home father, Sam attempts to be a full-time writer, but there are only so many hours left in a day after kids. Once upon a time, he was known to quote books the way some people quote movies, but now he claims having a family has made him forgetful, as a survival adaptation. He can be found at SamKnight.com and contacted at Sam@samknight.com

Time Management… Not!

do_notMy son used to try to bargain with me all the time, “I’ll do this chore. I promise. Just let me go have fun now and I’ll do it when I get back. Promise!” Ha. It would get put off and put off and further bargained until everyone involved had forgotten what he was supposed to do and he had done nothing but have fun. I’ll own the bad parenting involved when I fell for it time and time again.

Writing can be like that too, “I’ll write today, just as soon as I ____.” But, then you get caught up in the alternative action or sidetracked into another tangent or you lose all motivation you may have felt initially. It’s an easy trap to fall into as my previous compatriots have mention in their posts this month. It’s easy to find excuses to not write and hard to be the only person cracking a whip that says, WRITE.

I’m sure it helps to have an editor/publisher/agent keeping you on task (which Quincy brings up), but what if you don’t? What if you are your own boss (as Evan mentioned) or you’re a habitual procrastinator, so habits are hard to form (as Matt talks about) or perhaps you’re better at making lists than crossing them off (as Kristin discusses) or you’re tragic at prioritization (as Jace does). In other words, what if you’re like me?

The posts I mention all have great points they discuss and I need to incorporate them all. I do. Really-really. So, I appreciate what they have to say and hopefully you found them useful too. I do know what I need to do. It’s the doing it that’s hard.

Instead, I’m going to make some suggestions on what NOT to do and I shall endeavor to not do them myself this year.

Don’t look at your email before you write. I get sidetracked every time and can waste hours on it. So, first write.

Don’t reward yourself BEFORE you earn it. I reward myself with movies, TV shows, video games and reading. But that reward is only a reward if I wrote first, otherwise, it’s really an excuse to not write. So, first write.

Don’t wait for a chunk of time in order to write. Even ten or fifteen minutes can be productive and it’s better than nothing. So, just write.

Don’t wait for the mood/muse/creative spirit to strike before you write. It will show up if you’re plugging along. Maybe not right away, but you can edit crap. You can’t edit what isn’t there. So, just write.

Don’t give up. Like Matt said in his post (linked to above), the one thing that works for everyone is to not give up. Everyone’s vision of success is different and the only person you need to satisfy is yourself. So, just write.

I wish everyone the best in achieving their goals this year, by doing and NOT doing what you need to succeed.

If anyone has some more NOT’s for the list, please share 🙂