As writers, we face many difficulties.
Not only do we try to write a brilliant manuscript and edit it, but we need to query and follow all of the necessary steps towards publication. And at the end of the entire painstaking process, we aren’t even guaranteed success. In fact, we’re likely to fail, no matter how hard we try. Uplifting thought, isn’t it?
But what about the other challenges we face?
Regardless of how much we’d love to actually have a writing cave where the outside world can’t reach us, that’s simply not possible. We all have families, jobs, and other responsibilities. That’s part of what makes a successful author so heroic in our eyes. How do they do it? How are they able to be so productive while balancing the rest of their life? Although I can’t speak for every author out there, I have noticed a trend in their answers to those exact questions: time management.
I know, I know. We all hate that answer, but it’s true. To be successful, you need to be able to manage your time, however much of it you might have. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mother of three, or an executive at a big company. Or, like me, a college student. Either way, you need to know how to manage your time.
For the past four and a half years of my life, I was neck-deep in university, desperately clawing my way towards my English literature degree. As if that wasn’t enough, I also earned a minor in European history. Throughout those years, I faced two very serious arm surgeries, an engagement (which required wedding planning) and, of course, my writing.
Yep, that’s right. Through all of that, I managed to write my very first novel at the age of twenty-one. I prepped it, wrote all of the necessary documents (letter and synopsis) and queried that sucker. And I got an astounding response, too! I did all of this during a full—and slightly insane—class load. How?
First and foremost, I didn’t view writing as a hobby. In my mind, it was simply another class that I had to work on. I had writing to do, so I did it. Some days I was literally falling asleep at my computer, but that didn’t stop me. I had set a goal for myself and I was going to finish it, even if it killed me.
Secondly, my days were perfectly scheduled from start to finish. That might sound a bit crazy (and impossible) to some of you, but it worked for me. I’m not this OCD about my time now, but I still make daily lists of things I need to accomplish. It makes me feel good when I can cross something off the list, even if it’s just laundry.
If you’re anything like me, you could waste a good hour doing nothing but surfing Facebook and Twitter. When I entered university, I knew I couldn’t continue that trend. Not only were my parents paying for my education, but I have an inherent need to succeed at everything I tackle (which is both good and bad). I knew that meant I had to find a way to hold myself accountable. Lists work for me.
To succeed, I had to be strict with myself. If I wanted to check my emails in the morning, I had fifteen minutes to do so. Once those fifteen minutes were up, my inbox was closed and I was working on whatever essay needed writing that day. When that essay was done, I moved onto the next project, and the next, and the next. Writing was simply another project that needed completing. When I looked at it as an assignment, I excelled. I had to finish my story—I had no choice.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still relaxed. To have a happy and successful life, you need to be able to strike a balance between your work time and your relaxation time. For me, I adore naps. Whenever the work became too much, I shifted my schedule around and took a wonderful nap.
I also worked towards the goal of leaving my weekends open. Since I lived on campus for the majority of my degree, I would work during the week and collapse on the weekends. I would visit with friends, watch movies with my parents, read sexy romance novels, and sometimes, if I felt up to it, I would work on my story.
So there you have it. It’s not about how much free time you have on your hands—it’s about how much time you make for yourself. If you place writing as a high priority, your progress will reflect that. It takes organization, dedication, and most of all, it takes patience. You will have good days and you will have bad days. Accept that and move on. Once you do, everything else will fall into place.
Bio: Natalie lives in Roanoke, Virginia with her new husband and their dog, Powell. She graduated magna cum laude from Mount Royal University with a B.A. in English literature and a minor in European history. She is also a PRO member of Romance Writers of America and Celtic Hearts, where she co-chairs the newsletter committee. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and on her blog at www.nataliemurphy.blogspot.com.