MBM Intro and 3 Tips To Balance Your Writing Time by @rlbelliston

march-book-madness-2301

Welcome! This is my fourth year hosting March Book Madness. (What is March Book Madness? Explanation here.)

2015 MARCH BOOK MADNESS SCHEDULE:

MBM
2015 March Book Madness Presenters: Rebecca Belliston, A.L. Sowards, Chris Rosche, Danyelle Ferguson, Charity Bradford, Charissa Stastny, Sarah Belliston, Tricia Pease, JoLynne Lyon

I love these authors! Their topics include writing with humor, honing in genres, MFA programs, editing strategies and more. Don’t miss a post. Subscribe to get posts delivered in your inbox here.

This year, I thought I’d post my own thoughts. It would be strange to introduce myself, so I’ll just jump right in. :)

3 TIPS TO BALANCE WRITING TIME by Rebecca Belliston

3 Tips How to Balance Your Writing Time by Rebecca Belliston

I’m a mother of 5 kids (ages 7-18). I’m a wife, the author of 3 (almost 4) published novels, and a composer of 30-ish published songs. I’m a reader, an amateur graphic designer, a piano player/teacher, guitar player, tennis player, computer nut, and a lot of other things.

The NUMBER ONE question people ask me is, “How do you find time to write?”

It’s a funny question when you think about it. As if you misplaced time, like you set it down, turned, and when you went back, it was lost. Vanished. How do you find time to write? Here are my top 3 tips:

1) Be Efficient

I HATE wasting time. I loathe it with an unreasonable passion, even just a few wasted minutes. While I sit in the carpool line waiting for kids, I declutter my car. When I clean the house, I listen to an audio book. Not only do I try to fill every second of my day with something productive, but in the back of my mind I’m constantly thinking, “How can I do this faster?”

How does this work with writing?

If I have five minutes waiting for someone to put on their shoes, I’ll sit at my computer and edit a paragraph. If I’m at the orthodontist with my teen son, I’ll take my manuscript, red pen, and edit while those braces get tightened. I don’t watch TV. In fact, I hate watching TV because I feel like I should be accomplishing something. So when my family watches a mindless sitcom, I’ll join them on the couch with my laptop, typing away.

TIPS:

  • Look at every minute of your day and figure out if you can squeeze something into it. This shouldn’t stress you out. Just find a way to make your time work for you. It’s shocking how much you can accomplish in 5 minute increments–or on the flip-side, how much time can be wasted in 5 minute increments (Facebook, I’m looking at you!).
  • Learn to work on your book in smaller chunks and in smaller amounts of time (a paragraph instead of a chapter) so you can make use of those stolen moments. I hear from people, “I have to have several hours blocked out to work on my book.” I understand. I know it’s hard to jump in and write when you only have a few minutes. But maybe instead of drafting, take a few minutes to spell check, search for adverbs, tighten a paragraph or two, or even read an article to hone your craft. Did I mention I have five kids? It’s rare for me to get more than an hour uninterrupted. I promise you can accomplish a lot if you learn to work in smaller chunks of time.
  • In the car alone? Listen to an audio book (download them free from your library). Or find a text-to-speech converter and listen to your own WIP.
  • Download an electronic version of your WIP onto your phone/device so when you’re unexpectedly stuck somewhere (doctor’s office, hair salon, etc), you can read and edit your WIP.
  • When you’re stuck somewhere without your MS (like a traffic jam or cooking dinner), think through a scene. Close your eyes (unless you’re driving) and picture the scene playing out in your mind. Listen to the characters. How do they sound? What do they say? What does the scene look like, smell like, feel like? When you have the whole scene envisioned, it flies onto the paper later.
  • Keep a notebook with you to jot down notes wherever you are. 

2) Prioritize

This is the section you were expecting because as writers this is pounded into us: PRIORITIZE, PRIORITIZE, PRIORITIZE. And along with this is the sister word, SACRIFICE. Most writers have to squeeze writing time into their already-busy lives, sacrificing one activity over the other just to ‘find time.’ Like how I choose writing over watching TV.

However…can I take a different spin on this prioritize tip?

Please, please, please DON’T PUT WORDS BEFORE PEOPLE. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard writers talking about how they can’t get enough writing time. How their family complains about how much time they spend writing. How their friends are upset because they never go out to lunch anymore. The recurring rant seems to be: DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND HOW LONG IT TAKES TO WRITE A BOOK? No, they don’t. Nobody understands unless they’ve written a book themselves.

But…

Sometimes these family and friends of ours are crying out a warning. A plea. Maybe priorities have swung too far in the other direction. Writers are obsessed. We get lost in our books–in our minds–sometimes for days and months, right? My family has complained in the past, and I’ve had to take a step back to realize–and be reminded–that people come before words.

The way I figure, writing can be categorized into one of TWO categories:

  • Job
  • Hobby

It’s one or the other, so which is it for you?

For me it’s kind of both. My husband coined the phrase, JOBBY, and it fits for me. But I still struggle with this balance/prioritizing thing because–as I said–I have a hard time doing nothing. I like to fill every moment of my day with something productive.

Here’s how I try to make it work:

GNO
Girls night out with my cuties.

I write when my kids are in school. I put facebook and other distractions away and just write. But when they’re home, they get first priority. If they need me, I’m there. If they don’t, I’ll pull out the laptop and steal a few moments (where I can overhear to make sure WWIII isn’t happening).

I’m an introvert like many authors, so the pull to words is strong, but I still try to volunteer in my kids’ school or sign up for service opportunities at church. If my friends invite me to lunch, I go. If my hubby wants to go out on a date, I not only smile and agree, but I tell the character voices in my head to quiet down so I can actually listen to what he has to say. I’m not perfect at this balance thing, but I’m trying.

So when it comes to prioritizing, yes, sacrifice the unnecessary to ‘find time’ but please don’t sacrifice people. It’s not worth it.

TIPS:

  • If writing is your job, treat it like a job. Set hours. Set limits. Turn off the world when you’re at work. Turn off facebook, email, twitter, TV, the phone, or whatever else distracts you. But know when to be done and turn the world back on. Don’t be a workaholic.
  • If writing is your hobby, treat it like a hobby. Set limits. Know how to differentiate between downtime (facebook, TV, etc) and family/friend time. Know when to be done and know when to sneak away to write. Don’t be an obsessed fanatic..

3) Work Smarter, Not Harder

Time is precious, so we all need to work smarter. Because I find that sometimes even when I find the time to write, I accomplish little. How we work is as important as how often we work. Maybe more. Here are some things that help me work smarter.

TIPS:

  • Schedule writing time during the times you’re most creative. I’m most creative in the morning. Whenever possible, I write in the mornings. I put distractions away (the internet) and just write. I use my less-creative times of day to catch up on emails, facebook, and the other stuff. Some people are more creative at night, so if that’s you, see if you can squeeze in a few quiet hours at night.
  • Find ways to focus. Write to music. Write in silence. Write in a room with little distractions, little clutter, and no internet. Whatever helps you focus. You know yourself. Be kind to your brain.
  • Write more efficiently. For me, this means plotting, sketching characters, and knowing scenes and places before I ever write a word. This cuts down my rewriting later. I read a great post a while back entitled: How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. I’ve yet to write 10k words a day–I’ve yet to come close–but she has some great tips on working smarter.
  • If you’re burned out, move on. Change tasks. If I’m running on low, the words aren’t flowing, or I can’t quite think straight, it’s time to change things up. If I’ve been first-drafting, I’ll switch to editing. If I’m editing, I’ll switch to plotting. If I’m stuck on a chapter, I’ll jump ahead and write the next one, or write the ending, or just write something different. We know when the muse isn’t there. Instead of fighting it, work around it.
  • Take care of your body, and your mind will follow. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Eat healthy. You know, all that jazz we tend to neglect as writers. But we can’t. It really, frustratingly does make a difference. Your brain and body are connected, and you’ll think better and more quickly if you take care of your body, so just do it. Make it a priority (see #2).
  • Stay organized. Don’t lose time through disorganization.

How to Balance Writing Time2

Those are my THREE tips. Be efficient (find time), prioritize, and work smarter. I know there are a lot more tips, so I hope you’ll add some of your own in the comments.

How do you balance your writing with life? Share here.

.

Rebecca BellistonBio:

Rebecca Lund Belliston is the author of the bestselling LDS novel, Sadie, its sequel, Augustina, and a new dystopian trilogy entitled Citizens of Logan Pond. Rebecca also composes piano and vocal music. When she’s not writing fiction or music, chasing kids, or teaching piano, she loves to cuddle up with a good book.

She and her husband live in Michigan with their five children.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Books: 

Life by Rebecca BellistonSadieAugustina by Rebecca Belliston

.

Make sure to check back Thursday for our next presenter on March Book Madness, when Sarah Belliston will talk about the Top 5 Reasons to Get (or not get) Your MFA.

See you then!

2015 MARCH BOOK MADNESS SCHEDULE 

2014 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

2013 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

2012 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

DON’T MISS ANY POSTS:
Advertisements

Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

14 thoughts on “MBM Intro and 3 Tips To Balance Your Writing Time by @rlbelliston”

  1. Super tips! I don’t think I’ll add to them, because those are enough for me to work on right now. I need to work on the Work Smarter one a lot. I get easily distracted and need to figure out how to write when I’m writing, instead of switching in between screens to check email and all those other social media traps. I do the same thing with TV–I never watch it (besides Downton Abbey that is my husband’s and I’s new thing to do together occasionally since we got a few seasons for Christmas; I find that show fascinating!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. :) I was thinking about turning off the WiFi on my laptop during writing times, help take away the temptation to peek. I haven’t seen Downton Abbey, but so many people talk about it. What do you find fascinating about it? Characters? Plot? Both? Just curious. Thanks for your thoughts. Looking forward to your post!

      Like

      1. The time period and attention to detail in the early 1900’s in England is amazing! I love seeing how the aristocracy lived compared to the servant class, and even the levels within the servant class. The plot is amazing, of course, and my husband bought the first 2 seasons for me and I thought I would watch them alone…but he has ended up liking it even more than me, if you can believe it. We love everything–the period dress, the cars, the estate itself, and how crazy the distinctions were. That history with WWI and the flu epidemic of 1919 and other little tidbits is just really interesting to watch.

        Like

          1. Having the DVDs make it easy to do. We watch one or 2 episodes a week depending on time–usually after our Friday date since we’re too cheap to pay for movies. We’ve been loving them and have gone through one season a month so far (the seasons aren’t very long–only 5-8 episodes–not like most TV show seasons that have like 20 or more)

            Like

  2. Great advice… so happy to say I’m already doing a lot of these. And I was thinking of writing my own rant about this… especially the part about how words are not more important than people. I could say so much more, but maybe I should just write my own post, because like you, I’ve noticed some cranky things said out there.

    Like

    1. That’s awesome that you’re already doing so much. If you write a post on the other, let me know. There’s a fine line to walk as a writer, and I get that people need some quiet and all, but it worries me to hear so many complaints about people (kids) taking away writing time. Books are great and they might help people someday (depending on what you write), but the people closest to you should come first. And yet even knowing this, I still constantly have to remind myself. Oy.

      Looking foward to your post here!

      Like

  3. Wonderful post! Priorities are so easy to get mixed up. I know I’ve struggled off and on with that one. It’s wonderful now that my kids are all in school because it’s easier to have that “job” time and then turn it off for family time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed this post. I love to write and still harbor the dream of being published when I grow up, but have often set the characters in my head aside completely because I couldn’t live up to a huge time commitment. I felt like a “fake” writer if I was still working and knew my childrens names. Instead, I’ll think of writing the way you suggest, as a hobby with a place and time that I can ask others to respect.

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s