The beginning of a story on an old fashioned typewriter

I sometimes feel like a loser when I think about how long it’s taking me to write my first novel. Yes, I have a lot of good excuses (writing it while earning an MA in Writing and while birthing/adopting/raising three young children and writing it during my family’s three-year living abroad experience). Perhaps I’m supposed to cut my teeth on one novel that’s a decade in the making while other writers learn to write by writing two or three novels…but none of those things makes me feel like less of a loser.

So I read a book on time management. It was awesome! It turns out – light bulb! – that I’ve got a few bad habits that might contribute to my slow pace. While I can’t control my kids’ sick days or school holidays, there are many small changes I can make to be more productive.

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind was designed to help creatives with idea execution. It’s a playbook of best practices to increase one’s productivity and mindfulness, focusing on four key skill sets: (1) building a solid daily routine; (2) taming your tools; (3) finding focus; and (4) sharpening your creative mind.

Here were my takeaways, which I’m putting into practice this month, as I participate in NaNoWriMo:

Creative, most important work first. For many people, this is morning time. I’ve sometimes squandered the golden morning time doing family chores, errands, school volunteer work, or family administrative tasks. Now I’m protecting 9am-lunch for writing time, when my mind is sharp and focused. There’s nothing that kills my desire to sit and crank out a new scene like a morning spent in a school PTA meeting, or at a doctor’s office, or at French class! I’m making sure to put writing first, right after dropping off the kids at school, to get my 1700 words typed and saved before doing other tasks.

Phone and email (and Facebook) off during writing time. This is a hard one for me. I hear the buzz of a new text or email and I want to take a peek. I feel stuck in a scene and I want a Facebook break. Nothing reminds me of an email response I need to send like sitting down at my computer to write. The problem is that every time a writer steps out of the story and puts his or her attention in email/Twitter/Facebook/texting, the writer loses some of the magic that was happening in the flow of writing. Now that I’m aware of how much time these little peeks actually take, and how they disrupt the flow, I am trying my best to spend an hour to 90 minutes focusing entirely on writing.

Sleep is more important than food. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been more than willing to sacrifice sleep for anything – writing, exercising, child care, laundry – when the truth is that even small amounts of sleep deprivation disadvantage our cognitive capacity. And kills creativity. I’m now prioritizing sleep, aiming for seven hours a night.

What time management books or tips have worked for you? What helped you finish your first book? How’s NaNoWriMo going for you? Email me. (But not during your writing time!)

 

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