Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Ain’t Got Time To Bleed

By Joe Moore

From the movie PREDATOR:

Poncho: You're bleeding, man. You're hit.
Blain: I ain't got time to bleed.

image You love to write. You think about it all the time and believe there’s a book in you. Everyone thinks your story ideas are great. You’ve written a few chapters. Your spouse likes them. Your dog likes them. But you never seem to have enough time to get serious about your writing. You keep saying that if you had the chance, you could be a great writer. You just need the time.

Does that sound familiar? Don’t think you’re alone. Most of us felt the same when we first started. We had an overwhelming desire to tell a story. We couldn’t wait to sit down at the keyboard and let the ideas flow. But we couldn’t sustain the routine. Every time we tried to write, life got in the way. The day job that pays the bills. The chores. The errands. The family issues. Shopping. TV. A million distractions. So how does a wannabe writer find time to produce that first manuscript? How can he or she manage to get it done?

Usually the first big roadblock to staring a writing routine is to take on too much. If you have a day job and a family and a thousand other responsibilities, writing is probably not your first priority or second or third. It’s not smart for you to sacrifice those responsibilities by trying to write. Doing so just might cause a negative reaction with your family and friends who suddenly feel that you’re ignoring or slighting them. The goal is to schedule your writing time so it has the least amount of impact on the rest of your life.

First, carefully review your daily routine and find where you can find some time for writing. And here’s the secret. Keep it small to start with. Like I said, don’t try to take on too much. Make it reasonable. For instance, if you determine that there’s only 30 minutes each day just before you go to bed to write, then that’s your writing schedule. It’s not how much time you have available, but how you maintain and manage your schedule. This brings us to the second point.

Let everyone know your writing schedule. All those affected by the schedule must be aware that it exists. Family, business associates, neighbors, friends, whoever. Let them know that the designated time is your time to write. Lay down some rules that you are not to be disturbed during your official writing time. Eventually, they will accept it and the schedule will become part of their daily schedule, too.

Third, you need to stand by the rules and your schedule. Aside from emergencies, don’t break the rule. If it becomes obvious that the rule is not really a rule, you’re doomed. You might as well not have a schedule in the first place.

And fourth, make sure YOU stick to the schedule. The first time you give in to temptation and do something else besides writing, it will be easier to give in the next time. Pretty soon, you’ll be back to wishing you had time to write but don’t know how to work it into your busy schedule.

Always remember that at some point in his or her life, every published author had to find time to write. No one I know was born with endless amounts of hours to write books. We all had to make the time. When I first started writing, I would get up at 4:30 each workday and write for two hours before showering, breakfast and off to the day job. That’s how bad I wanted to be a writer.

Four years ago, I quite my day job to write full time. You can do it, too.

Now that you’re “hit” with the writing bug, find the time to bleed. It’s worth it.

How did you find time to write your first book?? What was your schedule? If you’re just getting started, what are you doing to find the “cracks” in the day to write?

19 comments:

  1. Great advice, Joe. Early on I was counseled to write to a quota, and have ever since. For people with day jobs and responsibiities, try to write daily but work toward a weekly quota. Find a number you can hit easily and up that by 10%. That's your goal each week. Whatever it is, you'll have a book completed at a definite point in time.

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  2. Wonderful post and comment by James.
    I never allowed myself time then two things happened.
    My Bucket List and forced early retirement forced me to about writing, "It's now or never."
    I'm a night person so I write late all my friends and family are asleep somewhere (they have what they call 'normal' lives)so I have no interruptions (or excuses).

    Mary
    Giggles and Guns

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  3. I still fight that battle every day. Now with a new(er) job and more responsibilities (10 to 11 hour work days, plus an additional hour's commute), it just gets harder. For the past few months my family has had several things going on (Baby girl graduating from high school and heading to college and my oldest daughter's wedding, July 10th) that all my time has been scheduled with other things, yet I forced myself to write the first 3 chapters of my 3rd manuscript.

    If I can squeeze those into my schedule, anybody can do it.

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  4. Still struggling with this. The easiest part of writing for me is the first draft. For whatever reason, I can easily adapt myself to writing in small chunks of time--15 minutes here, 15 minutes there; whenever, wherever. But I am an all or nothing person by nature, and rewriting is hard for me to do in small snatches. Haven't figured out a good system for that yet.

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  5. Thanks, Jim. And equally good advice from you.

    Mary, like your night writing, it’s important to not only discover the best time of the day to write, but to determine when you are your most creative self. For me it’s mid-afternoon.

    Wilfred, time management is the key and it sounds like you’ve found a way to master it.

    BK, I agree, you need bigger chunks of time to rewrite. The good news is that rewriting usually goes faster than creating the first draft. Try mapping out your schedule on paper and trying to address your needs visually. Sometimes that helps.

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  6. My writing time required a bit of searching and the creation of a strict schedule. Oh, I still break the routine now and then for “reflection time” when I really need to think through a scene or a character’s motivations, but for the most part, I stick to it as best I can.

    I found 20-30 minutes in the morning before work. It’s not much but gives a taste of what that day’s writing will be about. I also found I “wasted” my lunchtime when I could be writing. Between those, and at my typical rate, I’m usually 5-600 words into my daily 1k quota. (I actually try for 1200 words or completing the scene I'm on, whichever is higher). At night, after dinner and any “chores,” I dedicate an hour to writing. Some days (most actually) I go past that limit. Weekends I try not to work unless the scene is really burning to be written or only ½ finished. That time belongs to the family - though I often squeeze 15 minute blocks in when my wife isn't looking LOL. In a typical week, I push out 7-9k using less than 3 hours a day I "found" in the formerly wasted crannies of my life.

    One thing I've noticed since I became serious about writing three months ago... keeping a schedule and hitting a quota mark seem to get easier as my "grey muscle" adjusts to fit.

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  7. I guess I'm still in the just getting started phase. At first I was gung ho and getting up early at 6:30 every morning and wrote for a couple hours. I think the honeymoon phase wore off. The best time for me now is in the morning's after breakfast. That's when I the most creative And as long as I don't turn on the computer or start reading a really good book during breakfast, I'm good. That's the key for me. Both are big distraction. Otherwise, I don't find time the rest of the day to write.

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  8. I found that 30 minutes a day was not enough time to really "get in the zone", so most of what I was writing was fluff and when it really started to click, I was out of time and had to quit. The next day, it would take me 29 minutes to get back to where I was happy with what I was writing, and again, I was out of time.
    Now, I spend my 30 minutes a day thinking, jotting down notes, and outlining. And then, on Saturdays, I have blocked off 5 hours of "writing time". I find, because I basically know what I want to say (from my 30 minute pre-writing days), I have 5 hours of quality writing. It flows easily (or at least easier) and I am farther ahead at the end of the week with one big push than I was when I was cramming in 30 minute intervals.

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  9. Richard, isn’t it amazing how many of the “wasted crannies” in our lives turn up if we just go looking? Good luck exercising your “grey muscle”. Like any other muscle, it gets stronger the more we use it.

    Robin, it’s so important to find that “creative” time in the day and be able to cash in on it. Good luck.

    Victoria, 30 minutes is never enough time to do much, but for some folks, just finding that much time is an accomplishment. BTW, that 30 minutes of “thinking time” can appear somewhat strange to a non-writer observer, but it sure is important to have that time to work through the mental planning stages. Thanks for commenting.

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  10. First book was tough, since I was working more or less full time. I spent a few years on it, writing in fits and starts. I have to say, one of the most inspiring stories I've ever heard was a fellow author in my writing group who was a full time MD with two young children. He used to wake up at 5AM to write when the house was quiet. That book turned out to be THE KITE RUNNER.
    I confess, if my only option was to wake and write at that hour, I might not be an author today...

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  11. Thank you for this inspiration as I'm dragging myself back onto the writing wagon.

    Is there a secret to discovering one's most creative time of day, beyond writing at different times and seeing how it goes?

    I wonder if the best creative time is different from the best analysing time. I'm doing a fairly left-brain revision course on my second manuscript, and it's difficult to stay with it - writing is the easy part!

    I'd appreciate your thoughts.

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  12. Bonne, discovering the best creative time of day is not easy, but for me, it's the time in which I find I can slip into the "zone" the quickest. Hope that helps.

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  13. Saturday night - 9PM 'til 4AM. Sunday afternoons, only if it's raining. Edit Monday & Thursday PM. Travel (my Muse gets car sick)& working away from home makes it more difficult, but I manage, with some interruptions. Rarely watch TV (not sure why we have 7 for just the 2 of us), limit blogging & FB stuff. Have great support at home & never reward that support by putting my wife on the 'back burner'. Lots of quality time & conversation - give n' take = encouragement rather than resentment.

    Good post - sorry I'm late.

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  14. I'm pretty disciplined about getting up early in the morning for about 90 minutes of writing time. The thing that frustrates and drains me is marketing, promoting, querying, i.e., the business side of writing. It's no secret that publishers want writers to have a platform. I struggle trying to write and build a platform at the same time.

    Any suggestions?

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  15. Gene, here's a post I did some time ago on building a platform. Hope it helps. http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2009/03/building-writers-platform.html

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  16. Good post, Joe, and good comments that followed. I'll check out some of the links mentioned. After I posted my comment, I thought, "Duh, just dedicate one morning to business and the rest to writing." Sometimes it helps just to pound out our thoughts on the keyboard, doesn't it?

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  17. You’re right, Gene. Unabated stream of consciousness is the best way to let creativity flow.

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  18. Joe - this is great advice. It's always great to hear an established writer's actual experience.

    Question: you mention that you quit your day job four years ago. Had you already sold a novel by that point? Or were you just so fired up about writing that you had to devote your life to it?

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  19. Hi John,
    Thanks for dropping by TKZ. When I quit my day job I already had 1 book published and a 2-book contract. I was lucky that I could financially make the move to writing full-time. It's turned out to be the best job on the planet. :-)

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