Does this sound at all familiar? You’ve got this great idea for a fantasy story that’s been bubbling away in your head for some time now, but you just can’t seem to get started on putting the words down on paper. All you have is a blank page.
Something more important always seems to come up, just when you think you might get started.
Or perhaps you just don’t know where to start!
Well, don’t get stressed. We’ve all been there. Getting started is your first big hurdle. Get over this and you’ll be off and running!
So today let’s talk about one the most common hurdles:‘I’d love to do it but I simply don’t have the time.’
OBSTACLE # 1 – TIME
Scheduling Writing Time
This is one of the biggest obstacles to writing your story.
There always seems to be something that absolutely needs to be done before you start writing. Needs is an interesting word, though, isn’t it?
Generally speaking, there are:
- tasks you must do as you go about your daily life,
- tasks that are important and which, therefore, have a high priority,
- tasks which are important but which don’t have to be done straight away, and
- tasks which are optional.
Life, of course, won’t come to an end if the optional tasks don’t get done.
If you’re committed to being a writer, and you want to become an author, then your writing has to be up there amongst the important tasks.
There will certainly be lots of other important tasks, like paying the bills, eating, sleeping, looking after and/or spending time with family or friends, and many others. But for an inspiring author, writing needs to be one of your important tasks.
Not the highest one. Let’s not lose perspective. Eating, sleeping, and paying the bills are just a few that will be right near, if not at, the top of the list — and rightly so. But writing has to become one of your important tasks, nonetheless. Otherwise, it will keep getting bumped and you’ll keep thinking: ‘I must get started on that novel/novella/short story one day!’
So, if that is true, why not schedule some time each week that you will dedicate to writing? Perhaps a few hours in the morning, on a number of specific days, or late at night, when the house is finally quiet. Whatever suits you best, taking into account likely interruptions or distractions as well as what time of the day you are generally at your most creative.
And then, once you’ve worked out where in the schedule it best fits, stick to that schedule as closely as you can! Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep to the schedule 100% of the time, but be determined.
Make failing to stick to your schedule be the exception rather than the rule.
Don’t set your goals too high at first. Perhaps start with just two mornings a week. Set easy goals, achieve them, and then build on that success. Most of us had to crawl before we could walk.
It might take a bit of trial and error. Perhaps mornings won’t turn out to be the best time after all. Or the end of the day doesn’t work for you after all. You’re just too tired then. Listen to your biological clock. It’s probably the best determinant of when you will be most productive.
Be prepared to review and re-think your schedule until you find what works best for you. Perhaps a more flexible schedule, not locked into set times but focusing on the amount of time you will find for writing over, say, a week, will be the best way for you.
Ultimately, though, it will come down to commitment.
As J. K. Rowling has said, you need to “be ruthless about protecting writing days”.
If you want to be a writer, then the one thing you simply must invest is time.
The bad news is “time flies”.
The good news is “you’re the pilot”!
Time Allocation – The Bigger Picture
That’s fine down at the micro level, but I remember how it was for me. For many years, I had dreamed of writing a novel. But that was all it was — a dream [sound familiar?]. I just couldn’t see how to turn it into a reality. I had a busy and demanding job. I didn’t know where to start. I was scared that I didn’t have the talent to match my ambition, and so on.
Then my boss sent me on a management development course. Only, this turned out to be one that really helped turn me around.
One of the ideas put to me on that course was about life planning.
As a senior manager, I knew how to develop business plans and project plans. They were some of the key tools you used to help you ensure things that needed to be done in the workplace actually got done.
So what about things I wanted to achieve in my personal life? Why wouldn’t a Life Plan, covering what I would like to achieve in my personal life over, say, the next five years, help me at a personal level just as much.
That seemed both a reasonable and a novel approach to me.
And so I drafted one. And lo and behold, when I thought through what my goals and aspirations were, writing a fantasy novel was right up there on my personal ‘To Do’ list. So I put that down. And, just like I would with a Business Plan, I then worked out what resources and skills I would need to achieve that. I set myself some goals and milestones, and, very importantly, I determined to focus on achieving that dream which had eluded me for so long.
Well, I wrote that novel within two years of going on that course!
At the end of the day, recognising and prioritising what was important to me turned out to be the single biggest thing I needed to do. Once I did that, setting aside time at the more micro-level became fairly easy.
Of course, there were still some other hurdles to jump over, but more about those in my next article.
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