Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Budgeting Your Time

I was reading the blog of my friend, Yasmine Phoenix, this morning. You can find it at http://www.yasminephoenix.com/blog.

Yasmine was talking about the demands on a writer's time. She said something that I think is worth quoting: "You must work on writing every day if you want to be published. How many of us have the stamina, the determination to learn the craft and write every day, regardless of whether we feel like it or not?"

Yasmine's blog hit me at a time when I'd been thinking about this very subject. It started on Saturday when Shelley Bradley talked about the demands on her time made by a job, a husband and a child. She doesn't have the luxury of sitting around for three or four hours waiting for the muse to strike. She writes in very small segments--thirty minutes to an hour at a sitting. She also has eleven published novels.

I know another writer who doesn't sit down to work until her husband and children are asleep. She writes from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM. EVERY NIGHT. That hasn't stopped her from publishing several books.

It's about priorities. In thinking about it, I've decided that the issue has two parts: budgeting your time AND focussing your efforts.

I've said before in this blog that, in the beginning, I had to write at the same time every day and in the same place. It wasn't just about establishing a work pattern. It was about training my mind and body to focus on that computer screen to the exclusion of all else. It meant not permitting myself to get distracted.

It wasn't easy. There were times that I was tempted to cruise the Internet, play a computer game or just turn on the television. That's when I developed the strategy of establishing a daily goal of pages to be written. After a while, I amended that to a weekly goal so that I could have some flexibility. I can still remember lots of times when I stayed up until 3:00 AM on Sunday night to reach my goal for the previous week.

It's not easy. And it's not for the faint-of-heart.

Part of the reason that I'm thinking about this now is because I'm entering a new phase of my writing life. I still have work to be done on the novel that's sold, but I don't want to lose focus on the writing still to be done.

I'm working on an urban fantasy right now. I have about 8,500 words (maybe 10%) of the novel finished. I'll admit I'm cheating a bit. I'm using characters I had already developed for another novel. This gives me several advantages: I know the characters already so it's easy to slip into their POVs. Additionally, I love these characters, and I'm really excited to be writing about them again. The words are flying off my fingers. I sent the first three chapters to my agent on Monday morning. She's going out-of-town so I don't expect to hear from her before the end of the month.

As excited as I am about the new project, I still need to figure out how to balance working on the story that's not quite finished with the story that's dying to be told.

I guess what I'm saying is that everyone expects that one day they'll arrive. They'll reach their destination, the milestone they've been working toward.

I've discovered that--as in any journey--you reach a destination, only to find your next destination is still waiting up ahead. For every milestone you achieve, you have another waiting. Success is a moving target.

But, like any dream, it starts by establishing your goals and breaking them down into component pieces of viable size to be worked on EVERY DAY.

Good luck.

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