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Time Management Ideas for Writers (Or If You Need More Hours in Your Day, Move to Venus)

This week's guest blogger: Phil Giunta

This week’s guest blogger: Phil Giunta

Here at The Sarcastic Muse, Saturdays are our guest blogger day!  Today’s guest blogger is Phil Giunta, author of two paranormal novels and a plethora of short stories.  If you are interested in becoming a guest blogger for The Sarcastic Muse, please email us at:  tthesarcasticmuse [at] gmail.com

When I consider time management for just about any pursuit in life, the first facet I examine is attitude. How badly do you want it and where does it fall in your priority list?

By way of example, I was in excellent physical condition straight through my late twenties, but something changed when I hit thirty.   The bouts of depression that I had been battling since age six seemed to occur more frequently. My intake of “comfort food” increased while my workouts became fewer and farther between.   Job stress and volatile family issues played no small role in this.

However, as time passed, my life improved. The family issues abated, I started publishing, and while job stress will always hagride me, I’ve learned ways to deal with that. I have a wonderful and supportive wife and the best friends and writing buddies I could ask for. I have found my place in life.

Finally, at the age of forty-two, it was time to tackle the weight issue. As I entered 2014, I decided that this was the year I would stick to the resolution that I’d failed so often in the past decade.   I made my health a priority. From January until the writing of this article in July, I’ve dropped 36 pounds and two clothing sizes, added two inches to my biceps, and—oh look—my muffin top is shrinking!

I drastically altered my eating habits and what began as thirty-minute workouts a few days a week quickly progressed to daily workouts of one to three hours.   The results were visible both in the mirror and on the scale, and I certainly didn’t mind the compliments either.   Once I saw the changes in my body—the success I was achieving—it inspired me to continue.

Now, I look forward to my workouts with enthusiasm, as I do my writing sessions.

My motto is “write or die”. I become agitated with anything (and anyone) that disrupts my writing time. While I cannot always follow the old axiom of “write every day”, I do my best to maintain a regular schedule.   After two novels, a novella, and several short stories so far in my burgeoning writing career, I must be doing something right.

The vehemence with which you pursue your writing depends on your attitude toward it. If you’re fairly new, do you view writing as a hobby? A potential second-job to supplement income? Your future full-time job? The answers to those questions will determine your level of devotion, dedication, and discipline.

For those struggling to make time to write, what are some ways to squeeze more time out of your day? Here are some quick tips:

Scheduling Time: Shut the world out and write!

  • Wake up an hour earlier, or stay up an hour later. Seize the time when everyone else in the house is (hopefully) asleep!
  • Lunch hours. 50% of my writing happens during this time.
  • Writing retreats. If you cannot find a retreat sponsored by a writers group or other organization, make one of your own.   Plan a long weekend away in solitude at a hotel. Set daily word count goals or resolve to finish that outline. See Maya Angelou’s quote at the end of this article.

Sacrifice: The Dreaded Word

  • Social engagements. I do not advocate becoming a complete recluse, but can you skip the occasional happy hour, movie night, or party? That all depends on your dedication and discipline—not to mention how supportive and understanding your friends and family are.
  • Time online.   Addicted to Facebook or Twitter? Love video games? You may need to limit your time with these activities in order to achieve your writing goals. The internet can steal your writing time as much as…
  • Television. In his 1970 collection of essays, veteran speculative fiction writer, Harlan Ellison, called television the Glass Teat, and five years later, released a follow up, The Other Glass Teat. For over sixty years, the “boob tube” still reigns as the time-draining champ!    Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on TV of the 80s and there are so many shows I adore, but my writing always takes precedence.   Most of my TV watching these days happens during my workouts.

Focus: What helps you concentrate on creative work beyond merely setting time aside each day?

  • Location
  1. Do you have a room at home where you can close the door and concentrate, such as a spare bedroom, office, basement, a loft?
  2. Do you need to get out of the house in order to find enough peace and quiet to write, such as your local library, a café, a hotel room? For the latter, see Maya Angelou’s quote at the end of this article.
  • Objects
  1.  Do you write longhand using—gasp!—pen and paper? I do! I then transcribe it into the computer at the end of my writing session, sometimes editing as I go.   I even have a favorite pen (called the Uniball. Hey, keep your lewd comments to yourself!).   Further, in an effort to be “green”, I actually write on a clipboard filled with scrap paper that would otherwise have been tossed away at work or home.
  2. Do you have a favorite computer or software? I have no preference, personally. I’ve been working in IT support for over two decades and I’m bi-partisan, so I like Windows and Macs.   Until recently, I typed up everything in boring old Word, but I recently downloaded a trial version of Scrivener and plan to start my next project with it. Looking forward to learning something new!
  • Music
  1. “Music to Write By” has been a topic of more than one discussion panel at the SF cons I attend as a writer guest.   What types of music put your mind in the “creative zone”? For me, it ranges from movie and TV soundtracks to alternative or classic rock, depending on the emotional tone of the scene or story I’m writing.

Alternate Uses of Creative Time

Writers often become caught up in the almighty “daily word count”.  That’s easy to do when your writing pals on Facebook are always bragging about the 2,000 words they popped out last night…and every night.   They could be lying, but you’ll never know.

Earlier, I mentioned setting word count goals, but you should not become disappointed in yourself if you fall short. You’re only human.   I’ve had writing sessions where I could barely rub two words together that made any damn sense.

So how else can you use your scheduled (or impromptu) writing time productively?

  • Researching facts for your story.
  • Editing the previous day’s (or week’s) work, which might get those clogged creative juices flowing.
  • Outlining a different story idea as a way of taking a break from the current one.
  • Writing prompts or exercises. The Internet is replete with them.

Finally, I leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou:

“I get up about five… I get in my car and drive off to a hotel room. I can’t write in my house, I take a hotel room and ask them to take everything off the walls so there’s me, the Bible, Roget’s Thesaurus, and some good, dry sherry and I’m at work by 6.30. I write on the bed lying down – one elbow is darker than the other, really black from leaning on it – and I write in longhand on yellow pads. Once into it, all disbelief is suspended, it’s beautiful…

“After dinner I re-read what I’ve written… if April is the cruelest month, then eight o’clock at night is the cruelest hour because that’s when I start to edit and all that pretty stuff I’ve written gets axed out.”

Source: Time Management for Creative People by Mark McGuinnes

 

About the Phil

A Pennsylvania resident, Phil Giunta graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and continues to work in the IT industry. His first novel, a paranormal mystery called Testing the Prisoner, debuted in 2010 from Firebringer Press. His second novel in the same genre, By Your Side, was released in 2013. Phil has also narrated the audio version, available in podcast episodes at Prometheus Radio Theatre: http://prometheusradiotheatre.com/

In August 2012, he was among an exclusive group of authors selected to participate in Crazy 8 Press’s new venture, ReDeus, a collection of anthologies depicting the return of all the world’s mythological gods. The series was created and edited by veteran authors Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, and Paul Kupperberg. Phil’s short story about the Celtic gods, “There Be In Dreams No War”, was featured in the premiere anthology, ReDeus: Divine Tales. He followed up with “Root for the Undergods”, a tale about the gods of the Gaul Empire in ReDeus: Beyond Borders.

Phil has recently finished editing an anthology titled Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity for Firebringer Press to be released in August 2014 and is currently finishing a paranormal thriller.

Visit Phil’s website: http://www.philgiunta.com

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3 thoughts on “Time Management Ideas for Writers (Or If You Need More Hours in Your Day, Move to Venus)

  1. Pingback: Get into the Groove | The Sarcastic Muse

  2. Pingback: Time keeps on ticking | Amanda Headlee

  3. Pingback: Time keeps on ticking | The Sarcastic Muse

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