Balancing time as a working author

Successful writers have mastered a key element of the writing process.

It’s not characterization, or pacing, or voice, or outlining. All of those are important, but there’s an essential cornerstone that the best authors lay.

Time management.

When I give classroom presentations about the steps to becoming a writer, I tell students the final step is the most obvious: write. Inspiration and research and outlines are helpful, but they’ll get you nowhere without sitting down at a keyboard or blank page to put down words.

It’s all comes down to taking the time to write.

My latest work-in-progress, “The Mountain of Dempsey Molehill,” has an outline. It has plenty of inspiration and ideas jotted in a journal. Its characters are fleshed out with backstory and maps for how they’ll grow during the book. But it doesn’t have many words on the page. I haven’t followed my own advice. I haven’t buckled down to write.

As always, there are plenty of excuses I could make. My car had to be taken in for an oil change, then taken back for brakes, which turned into a bigger job than expected and involved some odd hours lost in finagling rides to and from everywhere. My day job is smack-dab in the middle of its most stressful time of year (in the newsroom, we call it Progress, which consists of publishing four weeks of extra 30+ page broadsheet sections about area businesses and services). We’re also approaching magazine production week, which falls squarely on my shoulders.

But a voice in mind still whispers, “You have to make time to write.”

“I did make time,” I want to argue. “I scheduled ten days off in April to jointly tackle Camp NaNoWriMo and the A to Z blog challenge. It’s not my fault I was asked to postpone that time off to work on Progress and the magazine.”

But the whisper replies, “No, that’s not your fault. But it is your fault you aren’t making time any other day.”

“I picked up a part-time design job that eats all of my former writing time,” I want to complain. “We need money, and writing isn’t much of a moneymaker at present.”

The whisper says, “Nor will it ever be if you don’t focus on it.”

It’s tempting to wallow in writerly self-pity. But I’m in the position every writer everywhere has been in. Time is precious. Many day, it’s hard to come by. And when a spare few minutes do turn up, it’s tempting to faceplant into bed for extra sleep, or curl up with a book written by someone else for comfort, or take an extra-long bubble bath.

Yes, every writer has been there. The difference is, successful writers manage their time; they don’t let time manage them.

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