Dr Sally Ann Law is a personal and business life coach. Here she offers her advice on how you can manage your time, and thereby ensure you find time to write, and maintain your motivation!
A lot of writers say they have trouble finding time to write for themselves. A staff writer on a publication must squeeze freelance writing into their free time, while if writing is not the main source of your income, it can be difficult to justify finding time to get on with it. However, your main problem may be overcoming your own perception of what you do.
Take your writing seriously – then others will too
One major problem writers have to deal with is the opinion of others. Writing is often seen as a frivolous activity. Help the important people in your life take your writing seriously by teaching them that this is not a hobby, it’s a job!
You can overcome this by making sure that you yourself believe in your writing as a serious activity. You’ve got to develop a degree of self respect around your choices, be proud that writing is something you’re choosing to do. When speaking to others, use positive language, and speak up about it – show them that it’s a key part of your life.
Prioritise your writing as much as possible
Don’t think of writing as something you must fit in around other activities – fit other activities around your writing. It’s sometimes useful to keep a weekly diary or calendar and note on it all the times that are feasible for you to devote to writing. Give writing the priority on your calendar. To do this you may have to make some sacrifices, give up some other activities or see some friends or relatives less often for a while.
Only keep the things in your life that are beneficial either financially or emotionally. Do things that you enjoy, but discard old, outdated habits.
You may find yourself spending a lot of time on a multitude of small, trivial tasks rather than tackling one large, important task. Assess each small item and see if it really is a priority or whether you can put it off for a couple of days or disregard it entirely to allow time for the larger writing task.
Reward yourself for meeting deadlines
Even if you don’t have official deadlines, create a timetable that ensures you finish each piece of writing in a timely manner. Give yourself incentives by timetabling in a rewards, so that if you finish a feature of chapter by a certain time and date, you can spend the next day or afternoon doing something fun such as visiting a friend, going shopping or swimming.
Avoid isolating yourself too much. Writing can be a lonely business, so join a writing group, see a mentor, or simply spend time with supportive friends. Even visiting a writing forum can help to boost your morale and keep your motivation alive.
If you’re new to writing and feel vulnerable, you may find yourself wanting to withdraw and be secretive about your work. Actively seek feedback as much as possible so that you are continually learning as you write.
Celebrate your successes
To maintain your motivation, keep a diary of your successes. We have a tendency to be very aware of what we haven’t done, yet often overlook what we have already achieved. By keeping a regular diary of what you have accomplished with give you a boost to carry on.
Another way of maintaining focus is to spend a few minutes each morning considering what you want to do that day, and how it will make you feel. This period of self reflection should include reminding yourself to be kind to yourself as you go along. If things go badly, consider what went wrong and try to learn from it.
Don’t punish yourself. If you are a freelance writer, you are your own boss, and you should treat yourself as well as you would expect to be treated by a good boss. Be encouraging towards yourself, not negative.
No one is telling you to become a writer. Trust that you have made the right choice and give yourself time to become good at it, to learn how to structure your day, to make contacts, to achieve your goals. This is a life-long choice, not something you have to master within six months.
Don’t expect everyone to validate your choice. When you want to get feedback, be careful who you seek it from. When you’re feeling vulnerable, be aware of the influential people in your life who might throw cold water on your writing ambition.
You have to get the balance right – get support, but also protect yourself. Trust yourself and learn which feedback is useful constructive criticism rather than simply negative.