Episode 38: Making Time to Write Your Novel
Today, we talk about your creative time, the time when you are primed to write your best. It can be the middle of the night or just after lunch. Identifying this time and creating a schedule that will keep you on track are some of the most important things you can do for your writing career.You can listen to the episode right here. The transcription is below the player. Feel free to add your comments using the comment section below.
Episode 38 Transcript
Note: Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and humans, as such, it may contain errors. Please, double-check the audio file before quoting anything from this page.
00:00 [JT Pledger] Hello again, kids! In this week’s episode, I want to cover schedules, creativity times, writing best practices, and carving out the perfect time to write. Stick around, we have a lot of information to cover before you get back to your day.
00:39 [JT] Let’s jump right in, shall we? Starting with creativity times, I firmly believe that we all have a slightly different time period during the day when we are at our most creative. For myself, this is the dark hours of the night into the wee hours of the morning. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about a day job, so I am free to sit up all night working on my projects as I see fit.
Creative Time is Quiet Time
01:10 Before I started working for myself, though, I had plenty of day jobs, some night jobs and a few jobs where I could get called in at any minute. However, my creativity time has always been long after sunset. I like the quiet of the night. I don’t have to worry about phone calls, constant emails, or the hustle and bustle of the busy day outside my window.
01:39 When I was working, this really cut into my creative time. I am sure most of you can identify with that. I would have to work and eat and sleep and somehow find the time to write. Back then, of course, I was under the impression I had to write every day to be successful. I know better now.
02:02 That still didn’t stop me from putting words down, working and sleeping, I mean. As luck would have it, I also suffer from a form of insomnia. It isn’t constant, but I do have bouts monthly where I won’t sleep for a few days or more. I began using this time to write as much as possible to get projects completed.
Figure Out When Your Creative Time is
02:28 Knowing when your creativity time is, though, is important. You need to understand your own body and mind and find out when the best time for everything to line up is. Perhaps you are like me and you prefer the solace of the quiet night. Maybe you prefer the early morning time right before the day officially starts. Some writers I know even prefer to work during the middle of the day. Everyone is different, and there is a beauty in that, I think.
03:02 Sit and think a minute about when you like to write. Forget, for now, the times you have where you can write, and focus on the time when writing feels the most rewarding. When the stars align and your mind is in full focus mode and your body is willing and ready to sit there for a few hours pumping out words. This is your creative time.
Make it Work for You
03:30 Once you have this time figured out, we need to make it work for us. This is easier said than done, though. So, let me give you a few tips and pointers.
03:41 Your schedule needs to be prioritized for writing. With that being said, there are some things that will always have a higher priority. Your kids and spouse, for example, will always come first. Work schedules are also more important because you need your job to pay the bills and have food to eat. There will be things for each one of us that become more important than writing. Though, this list should remain small and it should also be accommodating to your writing.
04:20 Let’s look at the family situation first. I firmly believe that your biggest support system should come from those you see every day. Your kids should be excited that their mom or dad is writing a book. Getting them involved in the process only helps to cement the necessity for what you are doing.
Family: Job #1
04:42 Your spouse should also be supportive and accommodating. They need to understand that your dream of being a published author means sacrifices. They should not only support your dreams but help to make them happen.
05:02 If you find yourself in a familial situation, I suggest you sit down and have a family talk about your goals and sacrifices. Far too often we find ourselves wanting our spouse or kids to just know, or understand. The truth is, though, unless you express your concerns or feelings, they won’t have any idea. Dad just runs off into the den for a few hours ignoring everyone. That’s how they will see it anyway.
05:35 One night over dinner, start the conversation. Ask questions, ask for support and understanding and explain what you are trying to accomplish. The biggest topic to broach and plow through will be about your creativity time and your schedule.
05:53 For example, if you are a night writer, like me, your family needs to understand that you will be going to bed late. Or they should keep the volume on the television down while you are working before they go to bed. You can (and should) have this talk a few times. Once to get the ball rolling on your new schedule and again periodically to make sure everyone still understands and supports your endeavors.
You Must Have Something to Talk About
06:22 Of course, it is easy to have a schedule to discuss, so let’s talk about making a writing schedule now.
06:31 I personally have three schedules. I make a daily one, a weekly one and a monthly one. You don’t need to be that detailed unless you want to. I suggest you at least do a weekly schedule though, as they are easier to change instead of trying to lock yourself into a month-long commitment.
06:53 Before you make your schedule you need to understand that things will come up in your day-to-day life that will cause you to alter your plans. It may not happen often, but it will happen.
Start With Time Commitments
07:06 When you make your schedule, the first thing to put down are your working hours. Whatever your day job has you clocking in for, write that down. You will be able to see when your days off are and what hours you are working the rest of the time.
07:22 Once you have your work schedule down, you need to think about the family commitments. Do you cook dinner, or clean up? Maybe you are the one that gives the kids their baths or you do laundry every Thursday after dinner. Think about everything you must do to keep the family unit rolling along. You don’t want write it on your schedule yet, though.
I Love Lists
07:46 I suggest you first make a list. On a separate page, write down all of your commitments. Once you have your list complete, read it over and look for the things that have a specific time requirement. Sally needs to be at soccer practice every Wednesday at 4 pm, for example. You can’t change that. On the other hand, you can change the day of the week you do laundry or the time of day at least. First, focus on the time commitments you can’t control, add those to your calendar.
08:21 Now you need to think about the random commitments. Date night with the spouse or someone’s birthday is coming up. You don’t want to be the one surprised by things that happen every once in a while. So, write down your anniversary, or your dog’s birthday. These will be rare occurrences, but they are still important.
08:44 Now you need to take a good, long look at your calendar. When is your creative time? Compare that to your current schedule. Does it work? If so, put down the times you want to write on your calendar.
Fill in the Blanks Around Your Creative Time
09:03 Now, you can go back to your list and write down all the non-time critical commitments. Make them fit somewhere else. The laundry example is perfect. If you normally do laundry after dinner on Thursday, perhaps you can move it to Wednesday morning, or Saturday afternoon. Make these responsibilities work within your weekly schedule so that you leave nothing out.
09:28 Don’t forget to eat and sleep. Some find it helpful to write these times down, too. If this is you, put them on your calendar. Otherwise, you can skip it.
You Can Make it Work, Even at Work
09:41 Now you have a full schedule that is optimized for your writing time. But what about those of you that have a creative time that didn’t work for your new schedule? Perhaps you are at your day job during the creative time? This is when things become tricky. Perhaps, though, you can change your work schedule. Is there is another shift you can work? It might be beneficial to talk to your boss about making a swap.
10:11 If it isn’t feasible to change your work schedule, then you will have to get a little more creative. For instance, if you have allowed two hours a day to write, but your work schedule doesn’t allow you to write during your creative time, then you might need to adjust your schedule so that you write for 5 to 8 hours on your days off. Still accomplishing your writing hours, just in a smaller grouping.
10:39 Once you have your schedule planned out, you can talk to your family about it. Open lines of communication are key. Ask questions, answer questions, find out if there is anything in your schedule you have forgotten or left out.
The Goal is a Win-Win Situation
10:54 In the end, though, hopefully, you have a writing schedule you can work with to optimize your creative time, still put family and work on a front burner, and make the most out of each and every day. Support from your family will be crucial to making this happen.
11:14 So, you have your schedule, you are optimized for writing when it is best for you and you have the support of the family. Now what? Well, it is time to write, of course.
Don’t Get Distracted
11:24 Distraction-free writing is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. We can refrain from visiting our social media times and we can turn off our cell phones, but there will always be something to try to distract you. So, we need some writing best practices.
11:43 Before you sit down to write, you should make sure you and your space are prepared. Have your notes, pens, and pencils ready, your computer booted up and logged in to your writing software of choice and don’t forget your tea, or coffee or water. I like to have a couple of snacks nearby as well. Eating cheesy poofs while writing is bad for my keyboard, but it makes my tummy happy. So I also have a few wet naps and a can of air close to keep my keyboard from turning orange.
12:16 Next, you want to take care of anything that may distract you. Go pee, wash up, finish the dinner dishes. Whatever it is that is on your mind that isn’t about writing, take care of it first. When you are ready, it is time to sit and start writing.
12:33 The less distractions you have, the more productive your writing time will be. Because of this, you need to be physically and mentally prepared. This is your creative time after all. Don’t let it slip away because there is a new cat riding a Roomba video you think you must watch.
Taking Breaks is Important
12:52 Don’t be afraid to take regular and frequent breaks, either. Getting up, walking around, stretching and refilling your coffee cup is just as important as typing out your words. I don’t think you need to set an egg timer to remind you to get up every 45 minutes, but if it helps, do it.
13:14 Nothing I have covered today is easy. You will need to make sacrifices for your writing, and those closest to you will need to understand and make sacrifices of their own. Make the sacrifices, though. When you are all done with your writing project, everything will be worth it. You’ll see.
13:37 Until next week, kids, have fun; write words.