Sunday, November 30, 2014

Three Steps to a Disciplined Writing Life

Although I’m not the most prolific writer in the world—far from it—colleagues often think of me as a disciplined writer. It’s probably because my publisher has released a book a year for the last four years and, until recently, I was posting two blogs a week and four book reviews a month. But, as you can imagine, output changes along with lifestyle.

For a dozen years now, I’ve alternated day jobs with full-time writing. I haven’t worked at the same job for more than five years, and I’ve tried different types of employment beyond clerical work. I’ve learned that how much time I have to write isn’t nearly as important as how efficiently I use whatever time I do have. Honestly, while writing full-time I was at the computer only three to four hours a day, with many breaks in between. Another hour was spent networking. A full-time day job this past year forced me to cut much of the networking, but I was still completing the blogs, reviews, and slowly editing chapters. I’m not one of those people who can tell you how to write a novel in two weeks, but I do finish projects. Here’s how:

1)      Have a plan. At the end of each day, I think about what I want to work on the next day and during that week. I always have more than one project on the go, so setting priorities is essential. A book review is often my warmup. If it’s a weekend, heavy editing will come next, then lighter editing in the evening and afternoon. First drafts, where creativity hits its stride, occur better in the evening. By the way, an interesting article on why sleep deprivation helps creativity can be found at

2)      Set aside time for writing every day. On weekdays, it was a half hour before work and another half hour during lunch breaks. By Friday, I had five hours of uninterrupted writing or editing completed, plus whatever I could accomplish in the evening after a shift. Evenings were used to type up the penciled edits and rejig things. Whether you have thirty minutes or two hours, stick to your schedule. This means, no answering phones or becoming distracted by something good on TV.

3)      Keep it in perspective. There will be obstacles, sick days, emergencies, and a host of unexpected events to swallow up your allotted time and damage a positive outlook. It’s not the end of the world. Real life…the aggravating, fearful, shocking, heart-wrenching aspects of it, will happen. There will be setbacks. There will be bad reviews and unsupportive family members, colleagues, and acquaintances. It doesn’t matter. If writing matters to you, you’ll keep going and learn and improve. There are no short cuts. There’s just life and the many creative ways we share our experiences

Good luck!

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