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The Time Is Out There

The Time Is Out There, Guest post by Susan Petrone. Includes giveaway!


One of the biggest complaints I hear from other writers and would-be writers is that they don’t have enough time to write. Look, I get that it’s hard to find time to write. Most of us are arguably overbooked, and time to yourself is scarce, particularly if you have kids. It often seems that the world isn’t made for people who like to sit by themselves and spin stories out of thin air, and yet that is what some of us are called to do. But I can honestly say that the time is out there if you know where to look. I’ve just published my third novel (The Super Ladies) and also co-own and write an ESPN-affiliated Cleveland Indians blog, hold down a day job, teach writing as an adjunct for a small liberal arts college, and have a 12-year-old. This isn’t said to brag but to demonstrate that I’m with you on the being overbooked part. I will also admit to being decidedly lazy. What I’ve learned is that finding time to write is about balancing priorities and constantly battling my innate desire to procrastinate. Herewith, some suggestions:

The Time Is Out There, Guest post by Susan Petrone. Includes giveaway!
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1) Use set schedules to your advantage. If you have children, especially little ones, rejoice in the fact that they have a fantastically firm schedule. For instance, if you know they’re going to take a nap every afternoon for 60 minutes, boom, you have 60 minutes to write. If they have Girl Scouts or baseball on Saturdays at 10:00 am, well there’s your writing time. My daughter is on the swim team at the YMCA. I get a lot of reading (and writing, in a notebook) done when I’m hanging out at her practices or swim meets. At work, I’m in charge of running our monthly speaker series. Once my work is done, I sit down and take notes during the speaker—notes or thoughts on whatever book I’m writing next. If the time is there, take it.

2) Do one thing at a time and embrace it. I work with a faculty member who is sometimes referred to as “the Machine” because she is so insanely productive. She publishes and presents constantly, runs a couple of major grants, and still has a family and a life. The day I discovered her secret was when I stopped by her office to ask a quick question and she replied “I’m working on X until 11:30. Let’s talk then.” And that was it. She sets a task for a specific block of time and focuses only on that task instead of letting herself get distracted by questions, emails, or that one thing you just remembered you need to do real quick.

3) Be comfortable not knowing everything that’s going on. I’m not saying that you need to cocoon yourself and ignore the news, but there are a gazillion competing demands for our attention. See what ones you can eliminate. For me, it’s television. Game of Thrones? Never saw it. The Sopranos? Didn’t watch it. Mad Men? Nada. Did I miss some cultural conversations? Yes. Did not watching buy me writing time? Also yes.

4) Put your phone away. I know this is a tricky one, and at the risk of sounding like a grouchy Luddite I will confess that I don’t have a smart phone. I have a dumb phone that makes phone calls in an emergency and an iPod that plays music and, if need be (and there’s wi-fi) allows me to text and surf the web. Here’s the thing—the times when I actually need to text or surf the web are much fewer in number than the times when I feel like texting or surfing the web. It’s much easier to avoid the temptation to waste time on the Internet when the Internet isn’t available. Writing in a notebook when everybody else around you is looking at their phone can make you feel like an oddball. It can also help you get a lot of writing done.

5) Pay yourself first. Financial advisors always say that you should pay yourself first—i.e., put money in your savings before you start paying bills. I work half time doing communications at a university research center. I’m off on Fridays, and every Friday I still wake up and think about all the household chores that need to be done, and I don’t do them right away. You can’t feel guilty for the time you’ve set aside to write. If your goal for the day is 1,000 words, get that done first. The laundry and dishes can wait.

6) The day has more hours in it than you think. I get antsy if I don’t write, and I get antsy (and cranky) if I don’t exercise. I go to the YMCA and work out four or five days a week, typically around 5:30 or 5:45 am. Yes, that’s kind of early, but those are genuine hours of the day. You can get a lot done when you wake up early, including writing.

7)  Take your writing as seriously as you want other people to take what you write. It’s a job. You have to take yourself and your work seriously enough to carve out time for it. The first person to convince that your writing is worthy of time and attention just might be you.

The Time Is Out There, Guest post by Susan Petrone. Includes giveaway!

Susan Petrone lives with one husband, one child, and two dogs in Cleveland, Ohio. Her superpower has yet to be uncovered.
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3 comments:

  1. WOW! This is one busy author! Great advice!

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. I enjoy being here because of your interesting posts, thank you!!

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