My friends and I took "artist dates" and met every weekend to share the sculptures, sonnets and songs we'd created. Over time, many of us changed our lives to enable us to make creative expression a top priority.
One day, a member of our group announced amazing news.
"I've saved up some cash," he said. "I just quit my day job. I'm going to write full-time!"
40 extra hours a week? To write? I was incredibly envious. (Happy for him, but envious.)
My newly full-time artist friend did some good creative work at first, but as the months passed by, he got depressed. Without a daily structure and routine, he just couldn't focus.
He stopped making art.
As anyone who's ever dedicated an afternoon to writing and found themselves wasting the hours away instead, more time doesn't necessarily equate to more--or better--writing.
It is entirely possible to drown your productivity in an abundance of time. With skillful time management you can avoid the perils of unstructured, extended work sessions (what I call "time bloat") and stay focused on your writing.
Tip #1 - Segment & Stop
Planning to "write all weekend?"
You'll create urgency and focus for yourself if you break down your overall goal ("20 hours of focused work on my novel") into a series of discrete writing sessions. (One of my clients, Dan Schifrin, calls his work sessions "modules." I like this approach.)
Adjust the length of your work sessions to fit your needs.
- Most folks I've coached do well with planning up to 2 solid hours of writing at a time.
- You may prefer to plan for 45 minutes at a time or 4 hours...everyone's different.
When you're ready, note the time and begin writing. When your session's elapsed and your time is up, (here's the rub)...
Be as serious about honoring your time limit as you are about your writing. Stopping when you say you will builds integrity ("I do what I say!") and also creates urgency and focus: your own personal deadline.
Tip #2 - Reward Yourself
As a Kiwi friend of mine used to say: Good on ya!
If you've followed my suggestions, you segmented your time into smaller work sessions and stopped writing when said you would.
You wrote. And you honored your commitment to your own deadline.
You deserve a little reward for all this work, dontcha' think?
The key to staying energized and alert is to give yourself periods of "guilt-free play" (this is Neil Fiore's term, from his fantastic book, The Now Habit) between back-to-back writing sessions.
My suggestion is that you shoot for 5-10 minutes of play for every hour of focused writing. As an example, I often write--and coach--in 40-50-minute work sessions beginning at the top of the hour. I use the last 10 minutes of each hour to call a friend, stretch outside or sip a cup of tea. After awhile, this way of segmenting your time will become a habit.
Conscious "fun" breaks are refreshing and relaxing. An added benefit? In this space of "not-trying," you also give new ideas and insights a chance to surface.
Two guidelines for you:
1. Step away from the writing desk. (This means putting down the pen and closing the laptop, if you have to.)
2. Choose an activity that's very different from writing. (Get back into your body, walk outside, feed the fish.) You'll find plenty of suggestions for fun on this blog. Just search The Relaxed Writer's "Ease" and "Balance" categories for ideas.
Be deliberate with your time and honor your need for play. Using these tips, you'll alternate "structure" with play and your writing-weekend word count grow.
image credit: PinkSherbertPhotography (Flickr.com)
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