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Monday, January 7, 2013

Writers and Resolutions

Over the holidays, I moved my writing space to a big broad table in our living room. The table had been my grandmother's and previously kept by my brother. A few months ago he redecorated and decided he wanted it gone. For sentimental reasons, I took it home.

Not that I needed another dining room table, because I really didn't have room for it. After months of alternatively burying it under coats and moving it from spot to spot, I finally placed it in a window alcove of my living room. Success. My houseplants were happy, my Keurig carousel was happy and, best of all, my laptop was happy.

Unfortunately for me the table is once again buried--this time with piles of paper. I'm getting ready for tax time. (I just heard a collective groan!)

As I separated my receipts, I saw just how much I'd spent in 2012 to promote my novel. It never seemed like a lot as I purchased business cards here, a promo tour there, but once the receipts were added and stacked and beheld as a whole, I realized how much money I'd spent. However, that wasn't what really stunned me.

What hit me was the time I'd spent. I saw dates on emails. I saw receipts for magnets that I pass out just about everywhere I go. (I get a kick when people snap photos of them and tag me on Facebook.) I realized how many hours I spent on social networks and blogs, chatting and promoting and introducing my work to new readers.

Don't get me wrong--these are all worthy activities. These are things that authors should be doing, if we want to expand our audience.

However, I saw all the time I'd spend promoting and realized it was time away from what I loved--and that's writing.

I may be a published author now, but I've always been, first and foremost, a writer. I love seeing words on paper. The stream of thoughts that move from the brain to paper. The creation of actual stories out of images and ideas--that's what I really love to do.

While promoting gets my stories out, it does seem like I spent more time on promoting than I did on writing new ones.

Yesterday morning, I sat in my writing space, looking out over the stacks of paperwork and receipts. I did a mental tally of 2012 and remembered each activity--the blog tours, the emails, the weekend at Balticon and I thought; 2012 was a pretty good year.

Then I looked at the small pile of papers that had gotten tossed in the tax folder by accident. On top, was a stapled stack of manuscript, my WIP--a short-for-now story about wizards and gods and destruction.

A new story. It made me smile.

Yes, 2012 was a great year for sure but I decided that 2013 would be even better because I finally made my New Year's resolution…

I'd make more time for writing.

Too Much (Wasted) Time On My Hands

I took a good hard look at how I actually spent most of my "available to write" time and realized I wasn't spending all of it arranging blog tours or sending out Tweets. I can't add extra hours to the day and I can't quit the day job but I sure can trim the fat. Promoting my work didn't take time away from writing…not writing took time away from writing. There is plenty of time to spend writing if I streamlined my other activities.

I can accomplish more by I thought I'd share my own battle plans for making more time for writing.

1) Get organized…but don't re-organize

If you are like me when it comes to buried desks and tabletops, then you know the importance of organization. Straighten up, throw it out, put it away. Reducing clutter will reduce stress as well as reduce distractions. However, don't re-organize. A complete drastic change will trap you in an hours-long endeavor and then you won't have time for anything else. Don't get carried away. The key is to manage, not re-design. A little time spent cleaning up my writing space ensures I'll keep my butt in that space, doing nothing but writing.

2) Turn off the tube

I admit my biggest time distraction is the television. Usually I get side-lined by a Bollywood epic (we are talking three hours of sub-titles. Doesn't leave room for anything but staring at the screen) or a Ghosthunters International marathon. My main excuse is that I keep the TV on to keep me company while I'm home alone, letting it play while I manage the housework or work on promotional activities. Funny thing, though: as soon as the kids get home from school, I find myself lamenting peace and quiet to get some writing done. DUH! Off goes the TV, out come the words.

3) Set goals and deadlines

I am a champion time-waster (as is evident by how long it actually took me to complete this post.) I can lose entire days if I'm left to my devices and, were it not for deadlines, there are things I might never get done. My biggest weapon against procrastination is a desk calendar. Simple as that. I use a month-at-a-glance calendar and mark my tasks down. For me, it helps that I mark non-writing deadlines and meetings down, too. I know the horror of putting off an article until the last minute only to realize that I had a Boy Scout meeting the night before my article was due. Setting goals and making deadlines--even arbitrary ones--keep me moving forward instead of standing still.

4) Make a to-do list

When my children were younger, I learned a vital lesson in parent survival. Never go to the grocery store without a list. When I go into the market freestyling it, I spend money on things I want and not necessarily what I need. Inevitably I end up with less money--and less time, as well, when I have to go back for the vital groceries I forgot to buy the first time around. The list keeps me on task and reduces aimless wandering through the aisles. Eventually, I realized this was a good way to streamline my writing activities. I list out the things I want to accomplish: next week's QueryTracker article, a short story that's laying half-finished on my desk, updates to my blog or Goodreads page. Seeing those tasks on paper make them substantial, real, necessary. If I kept my to-do lists in my head, they'd flutter off like the rest of my butterfly thoughts. Besides, I like crossing things of my lists when I complete them. Each one is a victory, and you folks know the value of each victory, no matter the magnitude.

I'm Resolved! Are You?

Hopefully, I will accomplish one main goal: streamline my activities to maximize my time to write. I don't have to reduce the time I spend promoting in order to get more writing done.

As is evident by the time and effort I put into promoting my work, I view my writing as a business. Perhaps I just need to adopt the attitude that all writing time is business time. If I'm on the clock, I better get the work done.

I plan to use these tips to increase my writing time. Do you have a favorite time management tip to share? Leave a comment for the rest of us. Some of us need all the help I can we can get.

Happy New Year, QueryTrackers. Hope you find a worthy resolution of your own and wishing each of you a year of many words.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her urban fantasy "Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde" (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).


Sherry Ellis said...

Excellent post! I too, find myself spending more time promoting than writing.

Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

Thanks, Sherry!

Susan Kaye Quinn blogged about "Self-Imposed Deadlines" today on her blog...


Susan Kaye Quinn is an indie writer whose advice will be useful to ANY writer, and not only the indie crowd. After all, isn't the pre-agented writer or the pre-published writer an indie writer?

Until we have someone giving us deadlines, we can make our own, as an exercise in discipline. Good practice for the time we are faced with deadlines we can't avoid. :D