Do you feel guilty while wasting time during your writing day?
I’ve just read the results of a survey where workers across many different occupations indicated that the average worker wasted 1.7 hours per day while they were at work. That’s 102 minutes every day. And for that to be an average, some were wasting far more – some as much as 3 or more hours per day. While employers might find these results staggering, many respondents indicated that boredom and not having enough to do were high on their lists of reasons. That must give employers some room for creative thinking, planning and changes to the work day and environment. You can read a report of the survey here.
Do you find yourself wasting time during your writing day?
I do. I check my email, Facebook, Twitter and favourite websites several times during the day. Generally this is a waste of precious writing time. I’ve learned to… let me correct that… I’m learning to limit how many times each day I access my email and social networking sites. I’ve streamlined my email in-box so emails now go into categorized folders. Some need to be dealt with quickly, others can wait and some newsletters may get read if I have time.
Unless it is research, or the distraction moves your writing project along, it is wasted time. But when I do read my emails or check those social networking sites I am trying not to be too guilty about it. Writing is a lonely occupation and I need some contact with the outside world each day. I find some of my Facebook friends, for example, quite stimulating and they are also very encouraging. I need that. They cheer me on – and I cheer them on with their WIP.
It’s all about priorities I guess.
Today’s quote about writing:
“All the things we achieve are things we have first imagined and then made happen.”
David Malouf, Australian writer
Imagination is a powerful, essential, elemental, almost organic tool of the writer. It is the driving force behind all writers, especially writers of fiction. Without our imagination our stories cannot take shape, the characters cannot come to life and the plot limps along until either the reader or the writer give it up as a hopeless cause.
But when the writer calls upon an active imagination, the story can soar to wonderful heights, the characters can develop vibrant, energetic lives and the plot grabs the attention of the writer demanding to be written. And when this happens the readers are carried along in that imaginary world of delights and the book cannot be put down. Hopefully it also sells many copies via word of mouth too.
But I wonder if David Malouf was actually thinking along these lines?
Was he instead thinking about dreams and goal setting? It doesn’t really matter for it doesn’t negate what I’ve already written. Dreaming big dreams and setting goals with our writing (and all other areas of life) can result in amazing outcomes. Without dreams and goals we tend to drift through life aimlessly.
Dream big – you might just surprise yourself.
I’ll give you a few examples:
- Imagine holding your first novel in your hands. Feel it, look at it, smell it.
- Dream about the day you sign a three book contract – and the satisfied feeling it engenders.
- Visualise walking across the stage to receive that literary prize.
- Plan and rehearse what you are going to say and do when you launch your first book.
On the last item my wife and I attended a friend’s book launch last year. My wife took detailed notes on what to do and how to run a launch – and she keeps reminding me of this. It spurs me on to get that manuscript finished and off to a publisher.
Make it happen.
I had a fantastic day of writing today.
I actually completely finished a whole chapter. Chapter 12 of my novel for children is now finished and it leaves the reader dangling ready to turn the page to the next chapter. I have been trying hard to finish each chapter on an exciting high like this, enticing the reader to keep turning the pages.
Stopping at a high point of drama like this also helps me as a writer. I’ve planned what happens next already. The scene is not yet complete and so I have the perfect launching point for tomorrow’s writing session.
I have set myself the goal of 600 words per day over the last month. This goal will remain in place for the rest of September too. Over the last four day, however, I’ve managed to achieve just shy of 4000 words, 1990 of them today, my most productive writing day in a long time. I’ve not only passed the half way mark of 20,000 words, I leapt over the 22,000 word marks as well. The feeling is great.
An even greater feeling is that the story and the characters are really taking over. The momentum has been building now for several weeks. The plot is now an unstoppable vehicle heading for the climax.
As a writer I have learned that I need to be very goal oriented.
- Setting firm goals for my writing keeps me on track.
- Setting firm goals keeps me accountable to myself.
- Setting firm goals helps me to track my progress.
- Setting firm goals keeps me focused and minimizes distractions.
More recently I needed to revise some of the goals I set for this year. Due to my illness and hospitalization several months ago, I suddenly found myself well behind with the writing of my current novel. For new readers to this blog, this novel for children is my thesis paper for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing. I should have had the draft finished weeks ago and I should now be in the process of rewriting, editing and polishing the finished product. Not so. My supervising lecturers have been very sympathetic to my plight.
About a month ago I reassessed the situation. Could I, in reality, get it finished on time? The lecturers believed I could. I knew it was going to be a close call. So I took a cold hard look at myself, at what needed to be done and the available time left to complete the project.
I decided to set myself a goal of 600 words of my novel per day. This would get me finished on the first draft by the end of September, leaving October to complete the rewriting, editing and copy editing. I also needed to set aside November to write a 10,000 word exegesis essay about how I went about the writing, my research and other matters.
My goal of 600 words daily seemed achievable. Last year I achieved just over 700 words per day for the whole year. This year I was hovering around the 600 mark so it was a realistic goal to set.
To help me visualize the task and the progress (or lack thereof) I was making, I set up an MS Excel file. On this file I listed the dates, my progressive goal for each day and then graphed the actual words achieved. Every day I update this graph and it maps my progress. It is working like a charm. At a glance I can see if I’m ahead of schedule (I was) keeping up (I did), getting behind (currently yes) or slacking off completely (I haven’t).
I think I’ll do it. I might need to take a few extra days near the end, but there is enough flexibility built in to accommodate this eventuality.
So it’s head down, tail on the seat and fingers to the keyboard.
I just can’t afford to get sick again.
I did it.
I finished my novel 10 days ahead of schedule. This will give me much needed breathing space and more time for rewriting, editing and proofreading.
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
~ Richard Bach
If you are a writer struggling with the dream of becoming a professional writer, don’t quit.
Persistence is the key, and hard work. Set some firm goals for today, this week, this month, this year and for the next five years. Write down these goals – then go for them. Don’t even think about quitting.
Word by word, chapter by chapter, story by story, poem by poem you will become a professional writer.
You may not reap fame or fortune – very few do. Most professional writers who diligently pursue their dreams make a reasonable living from their labours.
And while you are becoming a professional writer you will have the satisfaction that you are doing what you love – writing.