If I only had a dollar for every writer who’s ever said to me: “I know writing a book makes sense, but I have no time. I have kids/ two jobs/ a chronic illness/ (fill in the blank) ”.
Let’s assume that no matter how busy we are, we can find ten to 20 minutes a day, somehow. If all else fails, we may need cut back on sleep, but we can do it.
You need more than time, however. While managing your hours can be done easily enough, managing yourself isn’t as simple. You need to deal with fear.
Writing a book can be scary
When I started writing, I’d sit at my green Olivetti typewriter, and later at my IBM Selectric, with tears rolling down my face. This misery went on for a couple of years, but I sat anyway.
The sitting was key. It never occurred to me to leave my desk. I sat at my typewriter and wrote. The tears stopped eventually. I didn’t face my fears; I out-sat them.
You can do this too. No matter how anxious you are, stay at your desk.
Now let’s look at some tips.
1. Start by estimating the hours needed (guess!)
How long does it take to write the first draft of a book?
That depends on many things, but all you need is a rough guess for this book. If you’ve been writing for a while, you know that a thousand words takes you an hour or two, for example.
Guess how long your novel or nonfiction book will take. Let’s say that you’re writing a 60,000 word novel. A thousand words takes you two hours, so the novel will take 180 hours. Please remember it’s only a guess. You don’t need to know precisely.
Why estimate? So that you can create a self-imposed deadline. You need a deadline (feel free to alter it when you must), because open-ended projects never end well. Projects expand. When you have forever, because there’s no deadline, it will take forever.
2. You can’t avoid distractions, so schedule your writing time
This video, Indistractable: How to Master the Skill of the Century, is worth the time you spend watching it. Nir Eyal makes the point that if you don’t schedule your day, someone else will.
A schedule sounds… uncreative, I know. Aren’t writers supposed to be creative? Just as you need a self-imposed deadline, you also need a schedule.
It’s not enough to decide that: “I’ll work on my book every night after dinner.” With such a loose schedule, you’re leaving yourself open to 1001 distractions.
You’ll become distracted, by:
- A phone call;
- A discussion with your child, or your partner;
- Email or social media…
3. Avoid judging your book while you’re writing it
This is a challenge. You’re writing a book. You want your book to be good. It’s hard to avoid judging what you’re writing, and what you’ve written.
Do it anyway. Commit to writing without judgment. Here’s why. Everyone has moods, which change daily; sometimes hourly.
Sometimes you’ll finish a chapter, and think: drivel. Nothing can save this… A day later, you’ll read that chapter and you’ll think, hey, it’s not so bad. It might be good, and I can make it better…
When you judge your book while you’re writing it, you’ll get into tangled messes, which waste time. Trust yourself. You’re better at writing than you think.
So — what are you waiting for? Start writing a book. 🙂
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