Wahoo, #ReVISIONweek-ers! You’ve made it over hump day.
The revision train is full steam ahead as we enter day 4.
I hope you’ve picked up a few new tricks and feel good about the revisions you’ve made so far.
Today’s post is all about PROTECTING WRITING TIME by the talented and amazingly funny, Michal Babay. Stay-tuned, Michal will be announcing extremely exciting news soon! I just know her post will help you prioritize your writing time. To your writing heart, you must be true…
By Michal Babay
Last year, after nearly missing a writing deadline because life kept distracting me, I had an epiphany.
It was time to revise…
Well, everything writing related: my schedule, focus, and priorities.
Here’s what happened:
As soon as I heard about Tara Luebbe’s mentorship program, Writing With the Stars, I couldn’t wait! I immediately pulled up the application page and filled in my name, my dream mentor’s name, and the date.
Then…my cat barfed.
On the nice rug.
So I put our three dogs outside (they’d begun “helping” me clean up), wiped down the rug, opened windows for non-barfy air, and gave the cat fresh food/water.
And since I was already in the kitchen refilling her water, I washed dishes, wiped down counters, ate a sandwich, tripped over a suitcase left by the door, yelled at my empty house, let the dogs back in, called my daughter’s school to arrange a meeting, called my son’s school to arrange a meeting, called my old principal to discuss those meetings, realized it was my day to pick up carpool, grabbed the keys, and I was outta there.
It wasn’t until weeks later, right before the due date, that I realized I’d never completed my application. In desperation, I pulled an “almost” all nighter. And it was miserable.
Time. It all comes back to time.
As in, how should I spend it?
What are my priorities TODAY?
Where did it go?!
As a die-hard procrastinator and pantser, it takes a few tricks to get my butt in chair (BIC) and stay focused. Luckily, there’s a world of wisdom out there from writers wiser than myself, and I’ve gathered a few to share:
Trick 1: Make writing part of your daily schedule.
Writing requires time. We all know this. We’ve read the craft books and we realize those words aren’t going to write themselves.
We all have numerous demands on our time (day jobs, kids, elderly parents, etc.). However, we can’t let those demands kill our dreams.
In order to take ourselves seriously as writers, the work must be part of our daily schedule.
Some ways to do this are:
- Find a time that works for you, and stick to it: Join the 6 a.m. club (or 3 p.m. club, or even the 11 p.m. club if necessary!).
Here’s what RJ Palacio says about her writing process for WONDER:
“It took me about a year and a half to write WONDER. The only time of day that I could find to write, since I had a full-time job and two young children to keep me busy during the day, was in the middle of the night, so I got into this routine where I would wake up at midnight and write til 3 am. I did that every night until I finished the first draft of the book.”
- Now realistically, some days our schedules go out the window. Life happens.
That just means it’s time for yet another revision!
Look for hidden pockets of time in those crazy days: doctor’s waiting rooms, kid’s soccer practice, while the noodles boil, etc.
Instead of playing games, write.
A friend of mine revised her manuscript in hospital waiting rooms. And that manuscript? It’s a published book now!
A story written in 5-minute increments is still a story.
- How do you revise in a hospital waiting room if your computer is at home? So glad you asked! Use Google Docs. This way, as long as you’re holding a smartphone, you’ll always have access to your manuscripts. Revise your stories anytime, anywhere!
But, speaking of phones…
Trick 2: Put your cell phone AWAY!
When you are able to dedicate a solid chunk of time to writing, that phone needs to disappear.
It’s time to revise your focus!
- Turn your cell phone to silent and put it away (FAR AWAY. Like, the other side of your house, in a closet, or under that giant pile of mail). The farther away you are from those distracting pings and dings, the more focused and productive you’ll be.
Psychology Today published an article about this:
But, it’s hard saying good-bye for a long time. How long is long enough?
Trick 3: Use a timer.
This will vary for each of us. For me, 60-minute writing chunks work best. That way I get into the flow and my BIC doesn’t get too sore.
And guess what? I’ve found that most days, even after my hour ends (and I’ve indulged in coffee/food/ and some doggy attention) the work has taken root in my psyche and it calls me back to the computer. So I revise my schedule and reset that timer.
My critique partner, Lauren Kerstein, taught me this trick, and it’s been a game changer!
Here’s the basic 60-minute sand timer I use:
But, what about those days that you don’t feel like working?
Trick 4: Find an accountability partner.
Set a goal with an accountability partner for days when you’re really struggling to focus.
Then …hold each other accountable!
The knowledge that another author is expecting an email with my latest WIP or revision is enough to get me moving. Now!
To this end, my critique partner, Katie Frawley, and I designed a writing challenge specifically targeted at lighting a fire under our butts.
And we cleverly named it: #FireButtChallenge.
If you’re interested in joining us, write us on Twitter at @KatieFrawley1 or @MicBabay, and we’ll tag you next time we spring a #FireButtChallenge on the world!
Trick 5: If it’s not one of the B’s (bleeding, barfing, broken bones) IT CAN WAIT!
As you saw above, a number of distractions led me away from my writing. So I’ve learned to say NO to anything that takes away my writing time (which explains why I tripped over that suitcase instead of putting it away).
Of course, there are hundreds more ways to revise your schedule and find time to write.
Your challenge now is to identify the key distractions in your life, and work to minimize their impact.
What’s YOUR favorite tip?
Let’s work together to revise our schedules, and thus, revise our writing!
Michal Babay was born in Israel, raised in Arizona, and currently lives in Southern California with her husband and three kids. After many years as an elementary school teacher and resource specialist, Michal decided to say “YES” to her writing dreams. She now spends her days wrangling teenagers, telling the dogs to stop barking, ignoring cat barf, and saying “NO” to distractions. Michal is represented by Laurel Symonds at The Bent Agency. You can follow Michal on Twitter at: @MicBabay. You can also visit Michal’s website at http://www.MichalBabay.com.