5 Ways to value and protect your writing time

By Julie Tyler

If you’re reading From Nothing To Novel that means you want to finish your novel project and make it damn good. We have no doubt that all our readers have talent beyond measure, ideas galore, and a fail-proof vision for success.

What we writers could always use more of is time. But ain’t nobody gonna give it to us for free. Ain’t nobody gonna come up and say, “Well, here ya go, darlin’! Uninterrupted writing time, just for you!”

We have to make time. We have to carve it out of our days. We have to assign a value to it. We have to put barbed wire around it.

I don’t know about y’all, but for me writing is so enjoyable and so vital to my heart and mind, that I can’t live without it. And I certainly don’t intend to. Over the years, I’ve become a master of time management, an agent of self-discipline, so that I can pursue my passion.

Today, I offer 5 ways to value and protect your writing time.

#1 – Quantify your ideal writing time.

Decide for yourself how much writing time per day or per week works for you. First, take a look at your work schedule, your social life, your hobbies. Where can you best fit your writing time? Maybe it’s first thing in the morning or last thing at night, while your family sleeps. Maybe it’s thirty minutes on the train as you commute to and from work. Maybe it’s all day Saturday and Sunday until you drop.

Whatever it is, you decide and then work out a schedule that you can stick to.

#2 – Become skillful and efficient at your job. 

Our jobs are very important. It’s our livelihood, people depend on us, and we’re making valuable contributions to the world. But we have to keep our work life and writing life separate.

When you’re at work–whether  at a corporate office, a classroom, or even outdoors–be at work. Finish your daily responsibilities, be available to co-workers, meet your project deadlines, and brush up on job-related skills.

Then when you’re done, claim ownership over your non-working hours, by designating a portion of them as your Official Writing Time.

setting#3 – Set up a kick-A$$ writing space.

The environment where we chose to write is as important as the time we spend writing. Set up a writing space that allows you to concentrate and get into the Zone. Maybe you like to be tucked away in a home office in complete silence. Or maybe you like to stroll to a nearby coffee shop where you’ll be surrounded by customers and even other writers.

I mostly write from my fabulous nook, where I can scribble on my chalkboard, set my own music playlist, adjust the thermostat or open the windows, and have access to everything in the kitchen. But I find that I can write just about anywhere, and often enjoy scoping out new scenery.

Wherever you write, be intentional about making the space work for you.

stage#4 – Take meaningful breaks from writing.

With writing at the top of our priority lists, we shouldn’t take time away from it for just anything. At the same time, we shouldn’t tether ourselves to the computer and miss out on life’s other joys. We need to treat our time as the most precious non-renewable resource we have and use it wisely.

For example, exercise is a very satisfying way to take a break, as both Whitney and I have posted Jogging around Miami Beach and going to my ballet class keep my body strong and my mind centered. I also enjoy philosophical discussions with my S/O and find that exploring different topics strengthens our relationship. Recently, I saw a theatrical production with a fellow writer, and from the vantage point of my seat right on stage (pictured), I renewed my commitment to storytelling. Attending a friend’s business launch inspired me to take my own ventures seriously. Visiting my family, including a squirmy little nephew, always reminds me that life is a miracle indeed.

And the list goes on. The point is, when opportunities arise to participate meaningfully in life, I say “Ohhhh, yeah!” and take ’em. Other opportunities that are just, “Meh,” such as boring TV shows or happy hour at a venue I don’t like very much, I allow to pass me by while I keep typing.

#5 – Team up with fellow writers.

We all know that writing, for the most part, is a solitary activity. But humans are social creatures who need social interaction. One way to align your social life with your writing life (and vice versa) is to make friends with fellow writers and team up with them to peer review your projects and take meaningful breaks from writing.

Join a writers’ group or start your own, as I wrote several weeks ago. Ask a writer to meet you for a “writing lunch,” one of the activities Whitney and I used to enjoy with our friend Deidre when the three of us lived in Knoxville. A “writing lunch” is like a business lunch, but way cooler. It’s when you spend the first third of your lunch eating and chatting, another third writing or brainstorming, and the final third debriefing with one another and planning your next “writing lunch.”

I could talk all day about how the simple acts of sharing food and ideas will change your life, but suffice it to say you need to set up a “writing lunch” with someone as soon as possible. 

Do you have ideas for valuing and protecting your writing time? Are you thinking about increasing its value and adding more protections? Share your ideas in the comments below!


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