Time Management

One of the best essays I’ve ever read about writing came from the amazing Octavia Butler.  Her piece, “Furor Scribendi” offered the following advice:

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable.  Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not…Forget talent.  If you have it, fine.  Use it.  If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter.  As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent… Finally, don’t worry about imagination. You have all the imagination you need…Persist.”

Everyone thinks they might want to be a writer—I know, I teach creative writing—but the only ones who become writers are those who actually persist in the process.  It seems obvious, but people who dream of writing seldom consider the height of that hurdle. Writing takes time.  Revision takes time as well (and that’s where the real magic happens). If you don’t find the time, you will never write.

I always have students who can make magic with words, fill pages with interesting characters and sparkling dialogue.  As long as they have an assignment due, they turn out amazing work.  However, when I run into them after the semester’s over and ask about their writing, they inevitably say, “I just don’t have time.”

Let me share my situation: I have a full time job. Under my own name, I write short stories, novels, plays and academic papers, as well as three blogs, one of which is a serial novel.  I write under a couple of pseudonyms as well (like this one).  People often seem to be amazed at my output, but it comes down to one thing: time management.

I don’t watch a lot of television. I don’t do much in the way of cleaning at home. I do think carefully about the structure of my day. I have to have play time built into it, but I give myself limits: “all right, half an hour on Facebook and then back to work.”  Your schedule should never feel onerous, but you need to have one.  Don’t forget rewards when you have finished something; reveling in that satisfaction makes it possible to return to work with new enthusiasm.

Deadlines are essential. If you don’t have one given to you, make your own.  Put a calendar in your workspace and keep those dates religiously. Just ask yourself: do you want to be a writer?  Writers write, dreamers dream. Get to work and tell the stories only you can write. Your readers will thank you.


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