This semester, I am scheduled to teach five writing classes across three campuses. I've done this before, and found that I had virtually no time left to write. Which brings us to today's advice, plus an announcement about this blog.
Like my writing students, I started taking writing seriously when I was an undergraduate. I think when most people are in college, they don't realize how much free time they really have. I had a part-time job and was attending classes full-time, but I could drop back to my dorm in the middle of the day and do homework or take a nap, then watch movies or hang out with friends at night. Now I'm lucky if I have an hour and a half after dinner to relax. This, I think, is the norm for most working people, and if you're trying to be a professional author, it's a serious impediment. I think this is the primary reason so many people in college are enthusiastic about pursuing a writing career, but give up six months after graduation.
There's no answer to the problem of time. Last week, I wrote about guilt that results from failing to make writing time. I said the best thing to do in that case is to let go of the guilt and to reexamine where things went wrong. Can you schedule things more effectively tomorrow? Give it a try. That's all you can do. And if that fails, try again or try something else.
I know some authors who barricade themselves in a hotel room in order to finish their works-in-progress. I'd like to try that sometime, myself. In the meantime, I focus on a weekly word count goal. I try to keep a daily writing schedule throughout the week, but some days, shit happens. Today, for example, I have to prioritize planning and organizing course materials for classes that begin next week. I may have to put my writing on hold for several days so I can prioritize that pressing task. It's tough. I'm enjoying my novel-in-progress, and I just got over what was beginning to feel like a slump. But that's what we have to do sometimes, because that's life. And I don't even have children. (I don't know how writers with young children complete their projects. I am in awe of these people.)
I think the key is knowing what you're capable of. Some people can get up at 5am, write, and go to work. Some people can only write on weekends. Some people use hotel rooms. The only way to discover what works best for you is to try some things, fail, and try different things. But be careful not to spread yourself too thin for too long, because you might end up resenting your own writing for making you exhausted. And a miserable writer is an ineffective writer, generally speaking. Still, you need to write if you're going to be successful. Period.
With that in mind, here's my announcement: For the time being, because my schedule will be packed for the next four months or so, I'm going to put my writing tips on hold so I can concentrate on completing my novel-in-progress and teaching my classes.
Ron Swanson once said, "Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing." For those of us with full-time jobs (which is 99.99% of all writers in the world), we need to find a way to whole-ass two things. It's tough, but it's doable. So get at it.