What are the Priorities Today?
Overheard in a coffee shop, “I haven’t written for some time, and I feel guilty. 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.
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:
- Check my phone plan
- Run to my daughter’s house and get stuff out of storage in the basement as she’s sold the house.
- Time my errands to coincide with my grandson getting home from school.
- Get groceries, specifically on senior day for the 5% discount.
I can’t fault the things I had to do:
- The phone plan costs too much.
- The boxes might contain something sentimental.
- I wanted to see my grandson.
- 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.
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.
Postponing the Priority, 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.
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:
Fueling the Priority
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.
Make Time for What is Important
What can you do without those freedoms? Schedule your write times. For a week, look at where you have to allocate time:
- Family obligations
After you determine where the time went, see if you can schedule times with yourself to write.
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.
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. Click To Tweet
Remember Your Focus
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.
“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.
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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