Is Your Writing a Priority or a Pastime?

By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Life is as simple as these three questions:
What do I want?
Why do I want it?
How will I achieve it?” ― Shannon L. Alder
________________


hand with list written on it

What are the Priorities Today?

I haven’t written for Two Drops of Ink for some time. Why? Because I had other things to do. Sound familiar?

Today, I feel guilty because I didn’t make my writing the priority. Did I have the time? Yes, but I had all those other things to do.

Okay, I had snatches of time and chose to use those minutes elsewhere. And that is the problem for many writers.

Make Writing the Priority: Use Time Wisely

On most days, I’m up at 6 AM, write until 7 and take a 10-minute break, usually for more coffee, then back to writing, editing, revising or posting.  I’m usually done by 10 AM. Then I get ready to go to my full-time job. Yesterday began as usual, but then I remembered that I needed to:

  1. Check my phone plan
  2. Run to my daughter’s house and get some stored things moved as she sold her house.
  3. Time my errands to coincide with my grandson getting home from school.
  4. Get groceries, specifically on senior day for the 5% discount.

I can’t fault the things I had to do:

  1. The phone plan costs too much.
  2. The boxes might contain something sentimental.
  3. I wanted to see my grandson.
  4. The dog and cat were out of food.

I’m Not Setting Boundaries!

The phone store ate up about 3 hours, the boxes had meaningless things I thought I needed at some time in the past, my grandson was involved in a video watching someone else play a game, and so that left the dog and cat.  They still needed food. So, I had to run by the house and drop off the boxes, then back to the store.

But before the store run, I needed to check the weekly BOGO. Armed with my list, I realized once I saw the parking lot that every other senior within a five-mile radius was there, too.  And on this day, there were all the people grabbing a quick rotisserie chicken for their dinner, and there was only one lane open for 10 Items and Under.

dog by the window waiting

By the time I got home, groceries up, dog and cat loving me again, it was 8 PM.  I’m not a TV watcher, but the news is still a priority. 

There’s that word again. Conflicted, because I knew I needed to write, but justifying that it was too late to start,  I found a broadcast that filled me with dread, sadness, and anger. Dread, sadness, and anger are not great motivators for writing about effective writing.  Therefore, I didn’t write.  Instead, I checked the stats on the blogs, checked in with Facebook, logged into Twitter, and ate up another two hours.

If my day sounds familiar, let’s try to get ourselves back on track.  

Back on Track with the Writing

If we’re going to make writing a priority and not a pastime, what can we do to make our writing important?  We might adopt some attitudes that have helped me in my recovery:

Persistence, persevering, and purpose are all words and attitudes that I use when writing about addiction and recovery on FromAddict2Advocate. Why?

Because persistence, persevering, and purpose convey the necessary attributes needed to recover. But don’t they apply equally to those of us who say we are writers?

Clearly, if you’re writing for the fun of it, they may not matter.  But for those of us who want to write with purpose and to provide advice, we have to have those qualities and then use them daily.

Pausing is Okay, Just Get Back on Track

Before you decide that I’ve beaten myself up enough for not writing, I agree with you.  Enough.  Guilt is non-productive unless we change what’s caused it.  So, done with the guilt, and on with the writing. However, sometimes we can’t write.  Yesterday I knew that if I tried to write, all the other priorities would crowd my mind and not let anything meaningful come into focus.  So, it’s necessary to be patient with our writing process, and sometimes that means just sitting and waiting.

For some of us, having a writing schedule releases some of the negative feelings. I realize that I’m fortunate.  I know exactly when I have blocks of time to dedicate to writing. My recovery groups are scheduled, my coaching clients have set times to call, and unless there is an emergency at the recovery homes, or in my client’s lives, the schedule is fixed.

What can you do without those freedoms? Schedule your write times. For a week, look at where you have to allocate time:________

  1. Work
  2. Family obligations
  3. Other

to do blank grey and blackAfter you determine where the time went, see if you don’t have times that you can make appointments with yourself to write. We’re wired to respect appointments and meetings; so think of your writing time as one of those and see if you don’t make it a priority.

To Do, or Not to Do

If a “to-do” list works for you, then add it as a priority item. Also, science says that mornings are the best time to write. If you can, make those appointments before breakfast, kids and car-pools.

I know that Wednesdays are a good day to write.  Nothing is permanently scheduled, but it’s also a good day to consolidate all my running around.  When I consolidate and swap activities from “all the things I need to do this week”, to all the things I need to do on Wednesday, I’ve freed up Thursday and a good portion of Friday.

Now, I’ve got almost two days for writing, revising and editing – with time to breathe between words, let the article rest and view it with fresh eyes. Now you know when you have time to write – in theory.  The notion that you have to be inspired to write is a false one in my opinion. Writing as a job is like any other.  I can’t imagine a bank teller saying, ” I just don’t feel inspired to work today; all those money exchanges just seem too much and I’m not feeling it.”  Or the baker, “I don’t feel inspired to pound dough.”

Writers write. So when you have time, write. Period.  Does that mean that you’ll publish? Not necessarily. But writing is the first step to publishing.

Woman Writing in Daily Planner

You know that you have blocks of time on certain days.  Honor them, hold them precious and dear and do what you set out to do – produce a piece or as much of one as you can in the allotted time.

If you see that you have two hours to write -don’t do laundry, even at the beginning of your writing.  Just as soon as the washer goes off, and there’s no repetitive swishing sound, you’ll notice the lull.  Then you’ll get distracted and have to put them in the dryer.

Turn off notices on your phone. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and whatever will still be there when your writing is done. I promise.

Multi-tasking doesn’t work when you try to combine anything else with writing.  There is a natural flow for most of us when the words line up, the sentences make sense, and the paragraphs are piling up.  Interrupt that flow and you’re back to reading your first sentence trying to figure out where you’re going.  You’ve lost the momentum. And where you’re going is backward.

Moving Forward

“Well, I always know what I want. And when you know what you want–you go toward it. Sometimes you go very fast, and sometimes only an inch a year. Perhaps you feel happier when you go fast. I don’t know. I’ve forgotten the difference long ago because it really doesn’t matter, so long as you move.” ― Ayn Rand, We the Living

So long as you move sounds simple, and it is. Moving forward as a writer is making writing a priority, writing, and improving.  So, I’ve looked at my time-management chart, made some adjustments in the Have-to-dos, and discovered that I have time on Saturday before I have a group.

overwhelmed to do list_____________
Whoop-whoop, stay tuned and let’s see what I can produce because that time is now blocked off as a priority writing time. And how was your writing week?

_____________

 

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2 comments

  1. Hi, Caitlin. Thanks for commenting and relating to it, also for adding your personal experience.

    I believe in lists. I think some of the problem today is that we have too many options for scheduling. I remember when Day Timers first came out. There were classes on how to prioritize and use them. (Yes, I’m that old.) Anyway, today, there’s paper, programs, apps and phone.

    I think some people start one set of reminders/lists and then don’t stick with one. I’ve got a program on my computer that I update after making the paper notes, both for work and writing. I can then sync to phone so at least they all remind me of the same thing. She smiles.

    Like

  2. This was perfect timing, Marilyn! Me and another writer friend were actually talking about this exact thing today. I am going to share this with her, as she was feeling particularly discouraged. This also happens to be the topic of my blog post for this Wednesday. I completely agree with your idea that the goal is simply to keep moving forward. That’s a point I stressed in my article as well.

    This issue of getting distracted by other things is something I struggle with, and something I’m working on changing. If it isn’t on a list, on my planner, or blocked out in a schedule, it’s probably not getting done. And the thing is… there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people think that if they need a list, they are somehow incapable of managing their time. Therefore, they tell themselves they are going to do it without any help (aka the help of any kind of list). But we need to find what works, and embrace that. Thank you so much for this post… very honest, and very helpful!

    Like

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