Boundaries – Establishing Time & Space to Write Effectively
By Megan DiMaria
If you want to be a writer, there’s no getting away from the fact that you have to write. And to write, you need time and space to create and complete your project.
People often don’t understand when a writer in their life chooses to sit by themselves and tap out a story on their computer instead of ____________. You fill in the blank: watch a movie, meet for coffee go for a walk, go out to dinner, play a board game, etc.
Remember the excitement you felt when you first decided to test the waters and become a writer? Remember the sparkling possibilities that dazzled your vision like shiny stars in a dark sky? It seemed so exciting. The thrill of completing that great novel or other writing project was the dream in your heart. Hold on to that dream.
The hard truth is that when you choose to become a writer you must count the cost of that decision. If you’re going to spend time writing, then you won’t have space to do lots of other stuff that used to occupy your day. There’s the price to pay for your decision, and it is calculated in time away from people you care about and hobbies you may enjoy. But if you’re sincere about your call to write, you’ll suck it up and get the work done.
Don’t lose sight of your writing goal. Diana Scharf Hunt, author and time-management guru says, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” If you don’t keep your eye on the prize (a completed manuscript or articles or blog posts), then you won’t maintain the necessary motivation. Most writers will tell you that it’s much more satisfying to have written a book than to be writing a book. It’s work. Period. But it’s doable!
If you’re really serious about being an author, you need to establish boundaries and develop good habits. Here are some suggestions to guard your time and be productive:
- · If you have a spouse and (older) children in the home speak to them about the importance of uninterrupted writing time. Ask them to help you be productive by giving you time to write. For example, allow your family the opportunity to clean up and do the dinner dishes so you can get some writing done.
- · Get up a few hours before others in your household to get some uninterrupted time on your computer.
- · Shut the door to the room where you write. If you work in a room without a door (dining room, living room), light a candle next to your computer. When the candle is burning you’re not to be interrupted.
- · Just say no. If you don’t consider your writing time to be sacred, no one else will either. It’s difficult to be productive when friends and family are calling to you, both with fun pursuits and the demands of life, but if you need to get your word count done for the day or week, tell them that you have to work.
- · If you can manage it, try to eat a 30-minute lunch at work, and spend the other half of your lunch break writing.
- · Do you work from home? Schedule all your errands for one day. Do you need to run to the Post Office? The dentist? Want to meet a friend for coffee? Schedule all your errands for one day. Running out of the house several times a week will eat into your scheduled writing time.
- · Use a calendar. Figure out how many words per day you can comfortably write, and mark off how long it should take you to finish your writing project. Track your progress and watch your word count escalate!
- · If my productivity is lagging, I’ll set a timer for 15 minutes and make sure I write at least 250 words. In an hour, I’ll write 1,000+ words.
- · Practice discipline. Sometimes you must force yourself to sit down and write. Do it. Even if you only write a few hundred words, write daily.
- · Keep your goal in mind, and visualize your success. Imagine how it will feel to write, “The End.” Visualize submitting your finished project to an editor or agent. Or take it a step farther and visualize your book sitting on a bookstore shelf.
- · Set goals, and reward yourself. If you write x amount of words in an hour, allow yourself a walk around the block or a decadent snack.
- · Make writing routine—try to write as a matter of routine every day, just like brushing your teeth or drinking enough water.
- · Have an accountability partner. This doesn’t need to be a fellow writer. A friend or relative can check up on your progress and help to keep you on track.
To be successful, you must protect your writing time. Don’t feel as if it’s an act of selfishness. If you’re called to write, it’s up to you to carve out the time and space to do it. Write on, friends!
Megan DiMaria has been a freelance writer for 20 years and is the author of two women’s fiction novels, Searching for Spice and Out of Her Hands, both of which are set in the Denver area. She is a member of several writers’ groups and enjoys encouraging other writers in their pursuits. Visit Megan online at http://www.megandimaria.com/index.html or at her blog at http://www.megandimaria.blogspot.com/