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Journaling for Creativity.

Busy – But Busy at What?

If you were throwing away loads of something that is very important to you.

Would you not want to do something about it?

Of course you would.

In this post I am hoping to illuminate a little dark corner that seems programmed into all of us. A corner where we waste something very precious to us, without realizing that we are doing it.

In the previous post Sorry But I Am Too Busy Writing there were ten excuses listed from Jack Bickham’s book, “The 38 most common fiction writing mistakes.” Three of them had the same root, each of the following excuses were grown from a perceived lack of time.

  • Blame others in your family for your lack of free time
  • Fail to work because you’re too busy right now
  • Say your job is too demanding to allow you any other activity

It is this very sticky point about lack of time that I am focusing on in this post. Four weeks ago I suggested that at the end of each day when writing failed to happen, the reason why it failed should be written down. Then at the end of the week the list as to why, should be reviewed and steps taken to work round them for next time. By now you hopefully have an organized writing habit, one that your family, and You, respects, either that or a long list of excuses.

On most lists of excuses the lack of time will almost certainly be the biggest offender. The trouble is that life just always gets in the way and couple it with Murphy’s law that things will always go wrong, then it is difficult to know what to do.

You have to get smart, you have to cut out the waste that holds you back, otherwise your writing is stalled before you start and no matter how good you are or how good you might be, it all starts with writing.

And writing starts with a little planning.

I am not referring to plotting, that is another issue entirely. I am picking up on what we do ourselves that stops us from doing the very thing that we want most. Which is to write.

Allow me to outline some useful steps and highlight where waste normally creeps in.

1) Plan to Plan. This is so obvious that everyone overlooks it but it is probably the most important step. Every week over the same breakfast muffin, after the school run cuppa, Friday lunch or any consistent personal routine, decide when and on which days to write, then what target you are aiming for. Don’t be woolly, have a target that is measurable so you can pat yourself on the back and for that reason it had better be one that is actually attainable.

Make a plan that at the same time each week you will plan the next seven days.

Waste: Each day that passes without a writing slot planed is an opportunity lost, it might have been fifteen minutes with a coffee and journal or it might have been sixty minutes before the family wakes up. Whichever it is, it is wasted, lost, forever.

2) Plan writing time. Often as soon as we sit down to write our loved ones have urgent demands on our attention. The phone rings. The dog needs to go out. The washing is not in the dryer, and so on. To get around this as much as is possible, plan your session before you start. Let your family know that it is ‘your’ time before hand and ask them is there anything they need before you start. Take the phone off the hook and put it under a cushion before that whistling starts. Turn off Twitter (you can catch up later). Exit all programs other than the one used for writing. Make a check list of distractions and go through it each time before you start, that way your head will be clear.

Be inventive. Find your own way of diverting distractions. If wearing “Mommy’s Writing Hat” helps then do so. Some writers find wearing earphones and listening to music helps, they are then oblivious to low noise distractions, also people do not expect someone with earphones to be “in the conversation”.

Waste: More than half of the time can be wasted by answering simple queries or simply trying to keep or get your thoughts back to where they were moments ago. Nagging household thoughts can stop you from getting into the flow of your work leaving you guilty and hamstrung because other things are not being done.

3) Plan the next scene. How often do we sit down and spend the first ten minutes reading where we left off? Then spend the next ten minutes pondering what next to put down? There is a simple and elegant way to get around this, simply stop short at the end of your session, and never finish at the end of a scene. Whilst your mind is filled with the story think about where you would go with it if you had fifteen minutes more to write. What happens is that your subconscious mind is left with a problem and it chews on it in the background between now and the next session. Then the next time you sit down your head is full of where the story is going and you can start immediately.

Waste: This will sound horrible but it is more accurate than I would like to admit to. If a writer has six sessions a week and loses ten minutes reading time and ten minutes thinking time each session, then it is

10×6 + 10×6 = 120 minutes = 2 hours lost.

If the writer only writes for one hour a week then it is

(10+10)/60 = 33% of the writing time.

In summary, failing to start is easy when there is a lack of planning. Then half the time can be filled dealing with distractions and any scant remainder can be eaten up with getting started. In the end it is up to us as individuals to stop throwing away the opportunities that are important to us. It is just so very hard to realize that we are doing it.

If you do not have a writing plan already then now is the time to start, do not put it off, do it now.

In the comments box below answer these two questions.

1) My weekly day and time to plan my plan is _____ .

2) I will write at this time ____ , for this long ___ , on these days ___ .

Photo “Perfect Stranger” CC Mezone

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2 comments to Busy – But Busy at What?

  • Vicky

    For myself, I can say my weekly time to both plan and write is the first thing after the boys are on the bus for school. Kindergartner is home at 11:00, and I have to be done by then. Its been wonderful for the discipline its helped create having those three uninterrupted hours!

    Step 3 is brilliant, I love that idea and will have to try it sometime. Some really good tips in here Andy :)

  • Andy Shackcloth


    Sounds like you have recognised and grabbed with both hands, that daily slot of opportunity. I noticed that you said “I have to be done by”, does it help you keep focused during that time because you are aware that the end time is so rigidly fixed?

    I will bet that there are household jobs pilling up, this morning’s mail, dusting, tidying etc. That all know they have to wait till after 11:00, that they are effectively ‘on hold’ until your writing ‘habit’ is finished.

    Thanks for the kind words and thanks for showing that my telling works. ;)