Writerly Wednesday – FINDING TIME

Today’s guest blogger is the fabulous Angela James! I’m sure many of you don’t need me to tell you how wonderful and talented Angie is – but you can look below at her bio and see for yourself!

In addition to a more than full time job, I have a number of hobbies and interests like reading, crafting, blogging (and I just added a new craft/cooking blog!) so it’s quite common for me to hear people say, “where do you find the time?” And so often, I also see authors saying, about promotion, writing and editing, “I just don’t have the time!”

The truth is, for me and everyone out there reading this, we have time because we make time for what we want, what is easiest for us or most fun. Let me give you an example. I enjoy sewing, and I find shopping with coupons very rewarding (holy cats, you can save a boatload of money shopping the sales with coupons!) but though both are things I’ve done in the past, I’ve done neither recently. When asked why, I always say “I don’t have time” but that’s not really true. What I really mean is, “I’m not making time in my schedule for that because there are other things I’ve made time for instead.”

For one thing, I probably spend far too much time working (according to my husband I do, anyway). If I put aside work at a reasonable hour (instead of writing blog posts like this at 9:15pm at night), I would have time for sewing for at least an hour each evening. If, instead of surfing blogs, chatting on forums and nattering away on Twitter, I shut off my computer at 9:30p every night, I’d get far more books read for pleasure. But I make my choices of doing one thing instead of making time for others.

For authors, the same holds true for the questions of “when do I find time to write/when do I find time to promote?” The answer is: if you want it bad enough, you’ll find the time. I’m sure we’ve all heard from authors who get up an hour earlier in the morning to utilize that peaceful time to write. And how about novelist Peter Brett who says he wrote his novel with his thumbs (on his smartphone) during his daily commute? Those writers wanted to write and they found the time to do it.

Don’t have time to promote? If you’re an author, it’s a bit like saying you don’t have time for your job. More and more in these days of publishing, marketing and promotion is a much a part of an author’s job as writing—no matter which publisher, following whichever business model you publish with.

So how does a busy writer find time for these activities of writing and promoting? Evaluate your schedule. Make sacrifices. Be ruthless with yourself. Live for your dream, not just for the moment.

So when you evaluate your schedule, look at what you’re spending time on and where you’re spending time. Could you get up a half hour earlier and write? Write on your phone or a notepad during your commute or lunch break? Give up watching on reality TV show (or five) so you have an extra hour a night to write or spend on promotion.

Evaluate your time spent on the computer (this is a big one for me). Where is your time being spent? 45 minutes on IMs and forums chatting with friends? 2 hours reading blogs, commenting on the latest drama and chasing it around the internet? An hour on Zappos shopping for shoes? Keep in mind, marketing is part of my job. I know how much time marketing and promotion can take (hi, see me here? The one writing a blog post at…now 9:30 at night?) and what a time suck social media can be. When I evaluate my schedule, I tend to look at much of my time spent on writers’ forums, blogs and Twitter as a form of marketing and promotion, so part of work, but I also recognize there are days when I need to skip this so I can focus on other, more important things. Authors need to do the same.

Make sacrifices. Finding time to do these things is not always going to be easy, and don’t think that’s what I’m saying. Sometimes you’ll give up something that will hurt (like an hour of sleep), but will your sacrifice be worth it in the end? In the long term, what will have a more lasting impact on your life—watching Dancing with the Stars or getting an hour of writing done?

Be ruthless with yourself. No one else is going to monitor what you’re doing (though your editor and publisher might be interested in your marketing and promotional efforts—and subsequent sales numbers). But in the long run, writing is largely a solitary pursuit and you’re mostly answerable to only yourself. So you have to be ruthless with yourself. Allow yourself a few minutes of whining, grumbling and self-pity. Then remind yourself why you’re doing it.

Because you’re living for the dream, not for the moment. Living for the moment is indulging in sixty minutes of mindless browsing on Amazon. Living for the dream is spending those sixty minutes writing the best damn dialogue you’ve ever written—or even the worst damn dialogue you’ve ever written—or sixty minutes of promotional effort or developing a marketing plan. Whichever it is, every word is one more word towards polishing your craft, every promotion is one more reader who recognizes your name, buys your book, tells a friend. Every minute you invest in the business of being a writer is a minute closer to reaching your dream, whatever it may be.

Executive editor of Carina Press, Harlequin’s digital-only press, and veteran of the digital publishing industry, Angela James is a well-known advocate for digital publishing. James has enjoyed a long and varied publishing career that has included ownership of an independent editorial services business, work as a copy editor for electronic book and small press publisher, Ellora’s Cave, and executive editor for Samhain Publishing. James frequently travels to regional, national and international writing conferences to meet with authors and readers, and present workshops on digital publishing for both authors and readers of all genres of fiction.

You can follow Angela on her blog, Nice Mommy, Evil Editor www.nicemommy-evileditor.com/blog or on Twitter http://twitter.com/angelajames

4 comments to “Writerly Wednesday – FINDING TIME”

  1. Nancy Naigle
    November 25th, 2009 at 7:51 am · Link

    Words to live by ~ especially as the holiday season starts tugging at our time and commitments.

    Sometimes you have to say no, or let the laundry pile up one extra day, or do a sandwich night . . . small sacrifices to keep you moving toward your goal.

    Don’t forget too — the promises we make to ourselves are just as important to keep. You will find time to do the things you really in your heart WANT to do.

    ~Hugs and Happy Holidays

  2. Deborah Schneider
    November 26th, 2009 at 2:37 pm · Link

    A lot of this is what I tell my friends and coworkers who ask me, “How do you find time to write?”

    Like you, I love crafts, altered books, making jewelry, Steampunk cosplay, (and that means sewing costumes) and of course writing and promoting my books.

    How to do it all? You can’t — just as you say, but you make the best choices.

    And another thing people forget is that at home, you can recruit family members to take on a fair share of the work. My husband and son do most of the cooking and a share of the household work, (except cleaning the bathroom – no one will take that nasty job on!)

    So when I get home from work, I eat dinner, help with the clean up and then have several hours to work on promotion and writing.

    You are so right, we have the time it’s just a matter of how we choose to use it.

    Thanks for the great post!

  3. Ciar Cullen
    November 27th, 2009 at 3:54 pm · Link

    I like this post so much. I used to hear the same from folks who said they had no time to exersize, only to tell me they watched 3 hours of TV a night.

    I’ve found I do better when I get offline completely to write, and when I’m online, I promote gently by being “present” on groups and Twitter. I think everyone needs to find the promotion venues that aren’t awfully painful for them, and schedule in the ones you like the least.

    But when it’s time to write, for me–it means no surfing. I set the kitchen timer. A trick I learned from Shelly Munro. Sounds a little silly, but it works wonders. After it goes off, I get 15 minutes to surf. Like now. 😀

  4. Jesi O'Connell
    November 29th, 2009 at 8:25 pm · Link

    Dang, I needed to read this right now! I was just lamenting my lack of time…um, I mean my poor time management skills. Thanks for putting me back on track. These are great reminders to keep my eyes on the prize.