Science fiction and fantasy are full of ways to waste less time, (or get more). Time-turners, transporters, replicators, time machines, immortality, Time And Relative Dimensions In Space1.
Unfortunately for me, if I know anyone with time manipulation powers, they’ve managed to keep it from me2. So, on top of reeling from the topsy-turvy sleep that Daylight Saving Time gives most of us, that means I’m left to master the far harder art of TIME MANAGEMENT. How to fit all the things I want to do into the time I have.
It’s sadly a matter of priorities.
For Maslov’s hierarchy of needs: I want to keep the job I have (it’s good work and pays the bills), I do best with 9 hours of sleep a night4. I have to eat. With my commute, and a bare minimum household upkeep of 2.5 hours a week, that’s 110+ hours a week. Leaving 58 hours a week for everything else.
Next are maintaining my fitness and maintaining my relationships with my friends and loved ones. My current gym routine is about 4(to 6) hours a week. In general, I like people. I’m an ambivert, I need my alone time, but I also need time with people. I’ve been blessed with some of the most welcoming groups of people.
Yes. Groups. That’s awesome and wonderful. But. It also means that there is always something fun going on. Or something that I’d love to help support my friends with. Picking and choosing is hard. I’m not perfect, but I’m working hard on saying ‘no’ to the things I really don’t have the time for. But, let’s just say that I have 1 large and 1 small weekend event, every week. Plus, Monday night TV time with my bestie. That’s 20 hours a week, not counting transportation. I’m down to 24 hours.
I hate letting people down, so I try for a system of first come-first serve. Smaller organized events get higher priorities that large casual events. There’s mental calculations based on who’s attending that I haven’t seen in a while. Of course, crisis take priority. If a loved one needs me, I’ll even give up sleep5.
But back to that remaining 24 hours. It sounds like a lot. And I waste most of it. Facebook, feeding my webcomic addiction, Feedly6, sometimes I even read books. I even joined twitter this week7. It amounts to a little less than 3.5 hours a day. People with kids? 2nd jobs? Long commuters on public transit? You’ve done the math, you know you don’t get even that much time. I know I’m lucky.
I could give up my social time and double my free time. But, I don’t think it would be good for my mental health. Having strong ties to my community is something I prioritize. It’s part of my self-image that I’d hate to have shattered. But I’m trying to cut down on it. Please! Don’t feel unloved!
What this leaves me with is about 2.5 hours Tuesday-Thursday (7.5hrs) to work on my project. Some weeks I’m more focused. Some weeks I even work on my projects on the weekends. But, mostly that only happens when I’m writing or editing for word/page count. And I spend about 1 hour on Wednesday nights writing my blog post.
At first, I only had the one project. WRITE MY NOVEL. Then, edit and revise it. Now?
– I’m reading a family member’s novel to give feedback (it’s really good).
– I’m working on tweaking the children’s story I wrote (with some help from my bestie)
– I’m revising My Novel.
– I’ve got a great short story idea from a dream I had last night I’d love to write.
– I’m assembling a bi-annual photo album for my niece’s upcoming birthday.
Fortunately? Only the photo album has a deadline.
Someday, the novel will sing with rightness and I’ll be ready to start my next one. I’m looking at this as a learning process and hope my next book will be faster, if only fewer revisions because I’ll know what to look for and what not to do in the first place.
This week? I played hookie. I read a book Monday and Tuesday night. Really? You can’t blame me, the latest Seanan McGuire’s Incryptid book: Chaos Choreography and Patricia Briggs’s: Fire Touchedhave been WAITING for me on my kindle.
So now, it’s time for me to get back to my project for the night.
I think, and this is something I’ve heard a lot from other writers, that it’s a matter of making the time a priority. It replaces other things. A writer I know recently posted a list of “Things I Gave Up to Write” and looking at it, I was humbled.
Somewhere along the way in my own personal journey, I realized that I don’t have what it takes. I like to run games and plan league events for the local gaming store. I like having a full-time job with benefits. I like going to the gym, and going to cons.
The first time I did NaNoWriMo I succeeded. I was proud. The first time I sold a short story (really, flash fiction), I was amazed. The day Margaret Weis tapped me on the shoulder at a con and told me I had talent (after being in her writing workshop), I was convinced that I could do it. But with 40 in the rear-view mirror and no major project to be proud of yet… well, I decided that it probably wasn’t for me because otherwise, I’d be writing.
For an essay I recently wrote I learned that Octavia Butler consistently took mindless, low-paying jobs because they didn’t demand any mental energy on her part so she would get up hours before the sun every single day and write for 2-3 hours before going to work… I have trouble rolling out of bed to get to work.
Sorry, that got long and confessional. I guess my only point is that you want to be a writer so you’ll make the time. You’ll prioritize it and sacrifice other things. You’ll have the “midnight disease.” Or you won’t. At the end of the day I suspect that’s what separates writers from aspiring writers.
I’m working on the balance. 🙂