Every author who has ever lovingly tapped away at a keyboard or typewriter, or who has even used the old fashioned pen and paper method, will agree that finding the time to write can be a challenge. Planning is the greatest weapon in your arsenal against the fight of daily demands like work schedules, meetings, family time, laundry, dish washing duty and life in general.
In the vague and distant past, I once heard an invaluable phrase:
If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.
It is one of those wow phrases that stuck in my mind, as though glued to the inside of my scull with peanut butter… graphic, but effective. Now it’s glued in yours too. Writing, for all its whimsical and romanticised portrayals in film and television, takes dedication and applied effort. Making time for it in our busy lives is a challenge in itself.
So, what can you do to attain your writing goals? First, sit down and set some goals for yourself. How long do you want to take to complete your writing? Decide the length of your project, fifty pages or one hundred and fifty pages; it’s up to you. Envision the finished product. The process you follow will depend on how far along you’ve already come. Is your novel a vague idea in the annals of your mind, or are you already a few chapters into it? Are you a plotter or a panster? Your creative process will define how you proceed.
Plotters could outline their storyline, screenplay or whatever. For example, break up the ideas into different chapters with general guidelines for what happens in each chapter and how many words are roughly going to be assigned to each of these. Pansters, like me, will figure it out as they go along. This is no excuse to not plan your writing schedule, though. Set aside time each day to work on your writing. Early mornings or late evenings are best, when the world is quiet and there are fewer demands on your time. Play it by ear to work with your individual schedule. Be it five minutes or sixty, set aside time each day if you can.
To help you with this, I’m including a link to a wonderful downloadable calendar, courtesy of The Writer’s Store. A free tool, simply download it and print it out, then put it up where you can see it daily. The challenge is to not break the chain, hence the name, the Don’t Break the Chain Calendar, and to cross off each day you’ve worked on your latest project. I find it a very useful motivational tool. Choose a time each day to set aside for your writing and then set an alarm to remind you, as even the best intentions can be thwarted by losing track of time.
Next to focus on is your working environment where you plan to write. Is your space cluttered and untidy? If you have dirty dishes standing next to your computer or typewriter, bills, old newspapers, or perhaps a pile of unfolded laundry is waving at you from the corner of the room, you are going to be easily distracted. Take the time to clear your space and I guarantee that it will also clear your mind for your creativity to shine more brightly. Turn off the blaring television and, if you enjoy background music while you work, have your favourite music playing softly in the background.
Personally, I find background music a distraction, but not everyone feels the same way, I’m sure. Ensure that you are not hungry or thirsty before you begin. As simple as this sounds, it can be a huge distraction. Choose a comfortable sitting position; good posture is important to prevent that crick in the neck or that aching back from long periods bent over the keyboard.
Be sure that you have sufficient light to work without straining your eyes. If you like, light a scented candle or burn some incense to fragrance the air, anything to make your writing time feel special and, dare I say it, sacred. Just be sure that you extinguish any candles or incense upon leaving the room, and don’t leave a naked flame unattended. Remember, this is your time to create something special that is yours alone and writing is a truly special gift, so enjoy the process.
You’re now set to start on that masterpiece and I can guarantee that, at the end of your daily session, when you mark off another day on your Don’t Break the Chain Calendar, you’ll feel like a million bucks. For more tips, please check back regularly.