Friday, December 30, 2011

Time Management for the Busy Writer

Recently, I had the privilege of talking with Lynette Benton as a source for an article she was writing, called When Business and Creative Writing Clash. Lynette posed the question:

Courtesy Images
"Do you experience any conflicts (creative, time management, isolation vs. collaborating, etc.) between your creative and business writing? What tricks do you use to make it all work? And does your business writing affect the quality of your creative writing for better or worse?"

I answered her question in such detail that she ran my answers as a guest post on her own blog this week. You can read Balancing Your Business and Creative Writing here. In thinking some more about this topic, I decided to touch on it a little more here on my blog.

First, let me tell you how I spend my writing time:
  • I work full-time (40 hours a week) for a nonprofit organization, writing fundraising letters, donor reports, encouraging stories of how the organization is helping people, and so on. 
  • I also freelance anywhere from 1-5 hours a week, both for other nonprofits as well as for-profit businesses. 
  • I write three blog posts a week (3 hours a week).
  • For creative work right now, I'm writing flash fiction stories, as well as the novel I'm currently working on in my spare time. (This is where my time varies greatly, depending on what else I'm doing and whether I "feel" like writing.)
  • I also occasionally teach for the local college, which amounts to 10 hours a week when I do it. It's a fair question to ask when I sleep or spend time with friends. But that's for another blog post.

It's also fair to say that I may over-schedule myself, which makes being balanced a heck of a lot harder. I like to be busy, and perhaps I like it too much. But when it comes down to time management and writing, I have found that the busier I am, the more motivated I am to get things done. It seems to boil down to the deadline. The pressure. If the only time I have to get a blog post done is in the next 30 minutes, then I'm more likely to write it and get it done now, even if I don't have to post until tomorrow. But if I have all night and tomorrow morning too, with nothing pressing, I'm more likely to procrastinate. It seems to be how I'm wired. The busier I am, the better.

But that means I have to be anal with my time management to make my schedule work. I write to-do lists every day, so nothing falls through the cracks. I stay on a blog schedule of three times a week, posting in the mornings, to keep consistency. I carry a notebook and a calendar wherever I go. And I try to make time daily to write for myself, no matter what, even when it isn't easy, which is often.

I'm still learning what works best for my creative writing. As I told Lynette, I give myself a little break between the end of the day job and the start of my evening. The brain needs to clear. But to be most effective, I just have to put butt in chair and write. And it's best to do it when I'm alone. Once my roommate comes home, we tend to start chatting (she's a good friend too). And then I get distracted. So I have to find a good way to stay focused for the creative writing, and that's my biggest challenge.

So... What do you do to manage your time? If you write for a day job and then write creatively in the evening, how do you make it work? And even if you don't write for your day job, do you use a schedule to stay more on task for your creative writing? Share, share, share!

Copyright (c) 2011 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.


  1. I almost never watch TV. I haven't for a while now anyway, but definitely not now that I'm writing. I used to play Castle Age on FB, but I gave that up. It took too much time away from . . . you guessed it. Writing. lol

    Happy New Year

  2. I am a full-time writer, and I find much of each day in the office is spent making connections for promotion of my mystery series and non-fiction book. Of course I'd rather be writing the products that sell--ie, my books, but promotion by authors is increasingly important today. I work for publishers who are great with some promotion, but it still takes a lot of additional work by the author. (And that's even more true if you're a self-pubbed author.)

  3. Donna, I agree. TV easily becomes a time sapper. I do watch TV, but I do better with my writing when I don't.

    Radine, that's a good point. Part of your time has to go to marketing work, which you need to do. I've heard people say that the more successful a writer is, the harder it is to find time to write. But I think it's always challenging to make time to do what we love.

  4. And when someone messes with your schedule, Lady Nightblade comes out and takes care of business?!? ;)

    Thanks for sharing because I struggle with this. Sometimes it's all just too much!
    I have a day job that gets me up at 3 am & has me in the office before 4 am. I work 11 hrs, five days a wk. I'm an Administrative Supervisor so I can get away with being attached to my iPhone throughout the day - which I definitely am. As soon as I get home and clean up, you'll find me attached to trusty laptop on & off for five hours. I read a little at work during breaks and then again just before bed.
    I only post on Mondays now, allowing me the time to visit other blogs *waves* during the week. I write an article a month for a local free e-zine, and I'm currently working on my third novel while I await the edits on book 2.
    Thankfully I have an understanding wife and my boys are old enough that they don't need too much from me except the occasional ride.
    I push hard at this because I'm a late-bloomer, seeing the dream realized at 40 years old. I never thought I would see the day, so this is really just gravy!
    Now you know. ;)
    And, yes, my friends call me Jimmy

  5. Lady Nightblade ALWAYS takes care of business! Hahaha!

    Seriously, thanks for sharing, Jimmy. Congratulations on making the dream work. Age is just a number anyway.

  6. Always a hot topic, Chipper. Time management is a sticking point for many creatives. Since I tend towards my left and right-brained activities pretty much 50/50...I'm a time management fanatic. My hubby has to slow me down, so I don't frazzle myself out. :)

    Happy New Year! Wishing you much success this year.

  7. With 2 young sons and a job writing is a juggling act. Dont switch on the TV is the only way - and I don't get to read for pleasure much either!

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Simone! I can imagine you have a lot of juggling to do with two boys to care for.

    Seems like the no-TV rule (or very limited TV anyway) is a common refrain. It's a great point. I think TVs and movies can sometimes sap our desire to tell a story because we've watched one instead. I don't necessarily feel that way about non-story endeavors, like working out at the gym or taking a walk. Those activities help my creativity. But casual entertainment can decrease it if I overdo it. Interesting...


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