How does a married mother of two find time to write a novel and blog, while working 40+ hours a week, and make it look seamless?
I haven’t got a clue.
What I can tell you, is how I manage to do these things as efficiently as possible; which sometimes, isn’t so efficient. It’s taken years of trial and error to come up with a system of getting things accomplished, and I can’t say it’s entirely fail-proof. But in my busy household, this is what works:
1. Marry the right spouse
If you happen to be single or divorced and managing all of these things, skip to number 2. Your abilities are on par with a superhero and well beyond my level of comprehension.
But if you are married, nothing spells disaster like a spouse who doesn’t support you. Lucky for me, I married a rare and exquisite gem (back off ladies, he’s mine).
Being a writer means many moments of staring off into outer space. It may seem like we’re doing nothing while our better halves are scrambling to take care of rambunctious children and folding laundry at the same time. To the wrong person, it might look like we’re shirking responsibilities. A good spouse knows it’s all part of the process and happily supports the time necessary to fall nearly comatose in thought. Mine goes so far as to cook – and he is a mighty fine cook at that. *Dreamy*
2. Set Limits
Having grown up in a family of entrepreneurs, I know a thing or two about long hours. Writing and marketing a book is no different than starting a business from the ground up. It takes commitment, time, concentration, sacrifice and determination. But what is important, is not forgetting what you’re doing it for.
There is a rule in my household: I don’t take calls, make calls or conduct any business between the hours of 5 and 7 pm. This is officially designated family time for me and deserves my undivided attention. If a highly virulent strain of bacteria has suddenly turned the population into flesh-eating zombies, you’ll simply have to wait until 7:01 pm to inform me of this little factoid.
It’s not often easy, when you’re just getting into a piece and the ideas are flowing like mad, to sever the nerve impulses from your brain to your fingertips. It’s like someone shutting off a movie just before the murderer is revealed. But if you don’t set limits for yourself in the beginning, it will become increasingly difficult to establish them later on.
3. Take advantage of technology
I’m not a techie person in the least. As a matter of fact, if you asked me what version of Windows or Explorer is on my computer right now, you'd be met with a blank stare. I couldn’t tell you and wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to find out. But even those of us with techineptsis (yes, I made up this affliction) can benefit from the technology that’s available.
Before my iPhone, I was a lost soul. There was no good way of keeping up on my Twitter, Facebook and email accounts. All of my time in the evening was spent catching up on a barrage of responses that I could have been doing sporadically throughout my day. Even if you’re working full-time, you can take advantage of lunch and breaks to check email, tweet or update your Facebook status. It’s a great way to keep up on things and free up some time later in the evening.
A digital recorder is another glorious invention, particularly if you have a long drive like I do. It’s great during traffic jams. Sure you may look like a schizophrenic, talking to yourself as you feverishly dictate notes, but it can’t be any worse than the guy sitting next to you, cursing like a road-raging fool.
Netbooks or iPads are another fantastic tool for getting it done. Some authors prefer a pen and paper to jot down their thoughts. But for those who don’t mind typing them out, these devices are small enough to tote anywhere; and convenient enough to compile all your thoughts together, versus weeding through a stack of messy papers that will have to be typed out anyway.
4. Get organized
I cannot emphasize this enough. There is an expectation when you begin to market yourself; a consistent presence that your fans and followers anticipate. At times, this can be overwhelming and leave you feeling like there’s never a moment to actually write. The key word here is consistent. You set the times that work best for your schedule and stick to them.
If you keep a weekly blog, then keep a weekly blog. It’s disappointing to a fan who religiously checks your site, to find last week’s stale post still lingering at the top. Keep it new and fresh by establishing a day of the week that you intend to post. Jot this day on a calendar as your official ‘blog day.’
Twitter is the ADHD of social networking. Your followers want to see you every day, and sometimes multiple times in a day. The same goes for Facebook. Fortunately, you can satisfy both simultaneously. With programs like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, one post can populate multiple sites and help maintain a presence for your followers as well as your friends. My favorite is Select Tweets. By noting #fb at the end of a tweet, you can select what goes to Facebook without clouding the newsfeeds. Future tweets are another option, but if you’re constantly bombarding your followers with pre-programmed tweets, chances are, they’ll lose interest.
5. Don’t give up.
You may have moments like I do when you think to yourself, What the hell am I doing this for? It seems like a lot of work! Unless you’re starting out as a newbie writer, just about everyone knows the odds of becoming a world-wide bestselling author are about as frequent as stumbling upon a pair of Manolo Blahniks under $200 (I’m talking about the genuine Manolos here). I suppose it happens somewhere in the world, but not nearly often enough, and to no one that I’ve ever been associated with. So why would a writer go through all the trouble?
For many writers who are truly passionate about the craft, it’s like asking a painter why he paints or a surfer why he surfs. Neither necessarily do it for the money, though they may well need the money. Like any talent, writing incites the same level of calm that a lifelong smoker might feel from the first morning drag. We immerse ourselves in another world that is often times less stressful than the one in which we live. Writing is a safe and imaginative means of venting frustrations we have throughout the day. So even if you’ve endured your share of rejection letters in your attempts to finance your beloved pastime, remember what took you down this path to begin with.
How do you find time to write in your busy schedule?