I addressed the topic of not having enough time to write a couple of weeks ago, which you can read here. But when I learned my publishing guru had some more advice to share, I couldn’t help but ask her to write a guest post. Meet Ekta Garg, founder and owner of Prairie Sky Publishing.
My girls take dance lessons at the cultural center connected to our local park district. Families of all students participating in the big recital this spring must volunteer for 10 hours to help prepare for the performance. This includes sewing costumes, building and painting sets, and volunteering to help corral kids on the day of the recital.
Recently I went to the first volunteer meeting. The head of the group, an easy-going woman clearly an expert at this entire venture, suggested that instead of taking time out of the week to work on the set, we come to the basement of the cultural center during dance classes. It’s a good way, she said, to use the time we would normally spend waiting for our children to finish their lessons.
I can’t come down here during dance class, I thought. That’s my writing time.
Welcome to one of the keys to my time management strategy for writing.
A writer who lives alone has the luxury of time and space. He or she answers to no one and only has to worry about one person’s needs and wants. Most of us writers, however, don’t live alone. We have children, spouses/partners, often other jobs. We need to make meals, do laundry, clean homes, and, occasionally, have a social life.
The minute you connect your life with someone else’s, you’re scrambling for time. When those someone elses come in the form of little people who can’t drive yet, you’re really scrambling for time, it becomes the biggest issue, the most precious commodity.
Writing good stories takes time. But how do you find time to write when so many other demands line up for your attention at any given point?
By getting creative and keeping a proactive attitude toward your day. Stay in attack mode. Pounce on any free minutes you have. How do you do that? I’d like to share a few tips that have worked for me.
- Take advantage of the mornings. After I drop the kids off at school, I come right back home, make myself a cup of tea, and sit down with my computer. I don’t get up for at least an hour. This first hour of the morning offers me a great deal of clarity because I haven’t cluttered my brain with everything else for the day just yet. I’m coming to my story fresh and with energy. On the days when I don’t get a chance to write at any other time, at least I know I’ve tucked in an hour of time first thing.
- Have kids in activities? Write. My daughters take art, dance, and music lessons after school. Because my husband is involved in a demanding career, I get to play chauffeur during the day. My computer goes with me everywhere. Dance moms can be incredibly chatty, but I don’t indulge in social time during class. I even leave the immediate vicinity of the lesson area by going to a coffee shop nearby (and, yes, I’ve taken the time to find coffee shops where I can escape.) These are times when I’m guaranteed freedom; the kids have something to keep them occupied and I am required to sit still. I make time for friends on other occasions. When I’m waiting for kids in lessons, I’m writing.
- Don’t underestimate the power of the half-hour. Okay, so I’ll admit that sounds a bit cheesy, but the point is this: Don’t think you need long stretches of time to write well or productively. If you find yourself with an extra half-hour of time, use it. Have leftovers in the fridge you can use for dinner? Use that time you’d normally devote to prepping your evening meal for writing. Did a friend make plans for lunch and then bail at the last minute? Use that bailout for writing. Is it a snow day and the kids are parked in front of a movie? Watch half of it with them and then spend the rest of the time writing. Look for those opportunities for that half-hour or even 10 minutes, and then use them.
- Writing doesn’t always mean with a pen or the computer. Agatha Christie said that one of the best times to write was when one was doing the dishes. You can substitute any mundane activity in that spot, and the idea still applies. Often when I’m driving from place to place, I let my mind work on my current work-in-progress. I think about the story, where it is, where I’d like to take it. I consider a variety of scenarios for my characters and use that time to work out story problems. When I sit down at my computer later, I’ve already got the bare bones framework in my mind.
It may take a little practice, but once you go after your day with a proactive “Writing first” mindset, you’ll find yourself with little pockets of time to write every day. Make it a priority, be flexible, and learn to adapt to what your day brings. You’ll finish that manuscript in no time.
With an MSJ in magazine publishing from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern under her belt, Ekta has enjoyed a great deal of diversity in her publishing career. Since 2005 she has written and edited about everything from healthcare to home improvement to Hindi films for a variety of publications. In 2014 Ekta launched Prairie Sky Publishing as the home of her dynamic short story concept, Stories in Pairs. She also manages her professional writing platform, The Write Edge, as well as its three extension blogs on weekly fiction, parenting, and book reviews, and she completes her passion for storytelling by editing the manuscripts of writers who want to prepare their work for publication. When not fulfilling her writing and editing dreams on a regular basis, Ekta maintains her position as a domestic engineer (housewife) and enjoys being a mother to two beautiful daughters.
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