Monday, November 14, 2011

Think You've Got No Time? Think Again.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say "I'd write a book if only I had the time."

Hmmm. No time? Let me tell you something. If you have thirty minutes a day then you have time. What? You don't have thirty minutes? You're super busy? Hmmmmmmmmmm.... I bet you have a half an hour of time that is just wasted.

Think about it. Do you really use every minute of your day productively? Write down every meaningless task you do and how often you do it and for how long. Dillydallying on the computer? Internet Squirrels to chase? Answering emails first? Volunteering your time versus using your time to write? Answering the phone even if it isn't an emergency?

Okay, here's my story. A lot of people ask me how I do it all and keep it straight. My first answer is "I don't do it all." Check my bathrooms out as well as my floors. House is not spotless and it never will be spotless. I also don't work in what we writers call a Dreaded Day Job. Lots of published authors work DDJs or DNJ's and they have deadlines to meet. So not using my time during the day wisely is just wrong.

Oh, I could use it differently. I could have an immaculate house. I could have tons of social activities during the day to attend. I could volunteer ALL my hours away. I could shop and decorate on a dime. I could have other hobbies. I... well... I don't do it all. If I want to be a career writer, then I have to prioritize. So a perfect house which is perfectly decorated and pursuing all sorts of hobbies just aren't on my agenda.

Housework? I ask for help and if I don't get it, then the house goes to Defcom 102 and we all have to pitch in to clean because no one in my house likes it to get too dirty. Social life? Here I have virtually none--which is a problem because I am very social, BUT I digress. Here's the deal. I like to spend time with people who don't write, too. So I make sure that my evenings are clear. I don't write as much on the weekends, but then I don't have a pesky DDJ/DDN so I am lucky.

And here's another secret. I am scandalously unmoved by the ringing phone. Yes, it's true. I DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE. This is my biggest defense against time sucks. DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE UNLESS IT IS THE SCHOOL, THE HOSPITAL, THE DOCTOR--NOT FOR ANYONE DURING YOUR ALLOTTED WRITING TIME. That includes calls from neighbors who are wondering where you are or friends who want to gab and gab and gab. This doesn't mean that I never talk on the phone, I just plan my phone time around my writing schedule.

I don't answer the phone during my writing time unless it is my daughter's school calling, her, or my hubby. They are the important people. Well, hubby is often sent to voice mail and then I check it during my break (yup--MY BREAK) and see if it is important. Same goes for friends--unless it is a friend in another country--I will answer because of the time difference. But usually I just let the answering machine pick it up--in my case it's voice mail AND I have a phone voice announce out loud  WHO IS CALLING so I know when to let it go to voice mail. I don't even have to get out of my chair to check the caller ID.

Cool right?

I do volunteer, but very sporadically. I help with my daughter's theater group and do some things with my local writing chapters. But I have even backed off the writing volunteer stuff because my daughter is graduating in 2012 and I want to have time with her. Plus senior year is just insane and there are a lot of holes to plug before the big graduation day.

Time is precious. And I spend time with people who are precious to me. So here's another secret: I don't let things like other people's expectations or the phone or the Internet own me. I am in charge of those things. I own my response. I own my time. I own my writing time.


Okay. Want one more secret? Use "downtime" productively. For instance, today I had to color my hair (I don't go to the salon unless I'm getting a cut or highlights or both. And that's rare these days). Roots were rearing and I needed to get my blonde going on before I forced my minions AKA my daughter and husband to help me clean this behemoth of a house. No point in sparkling up the bathroom if I throw dye down the sink.

So what's a girl to do while she waits for her blonde to set? Thirty minutes is a long time. Here's what I did while my hair cooked to it's "natural" blonde again.

*tidied up the living room
*cleaned the guest bathroom (company coming tonight for dinner)
*cleaned the kitty litter (must talk to the minions about this--not my turn but it smelled bad)
*loaded the dishwasher
*checked my voicemail
*called my husband to ask for info for the school
*called the school and gave the person info asked for in the voicemail
*emptied the garbage
*played with Tonks
*wiped out my sink so Tonks wouldn't lick errant hair dye particles

That's what I accomplished during the time my hair was becoming blonde again. Thirty minutes is a lot of time. You can write half a page in thirty minutes. You can work on getting the synopsis for your Golden Heart ready for thirty minutes.

Or you can write a blog about time and prep it for the following week so you have time to keep moving forward on your Golden Heart entry--which is exactly what I just did.

How do you spend your free time? Do you own your time? Or does time own you?


Anne Gallagher said...

Oh I own my time. Learned that a LONG time ago when I worked as a chef.

I NEVER answer the phone, even in down time. The house is a nightmare, but the clothes are clean and folded in baskets, and the kitchen sink is dish free. And the toilet and sink are clean in the bathroom.

However, the dust bunnies have mutated and the spider in the laundry room had 7million babies. Do I care? No. I'm writing.

And you know, I'll bet if I REALLY wanted to, I could clean my desk in less than 30 minutes and put everything back in the folders where they belong. lol

Rashda/Mina said...

OMG, I'm so glad you mentioned NOT answering the phone. I feel so rude ignoring the ringing phone, but I do it. Now I feel better :)

Enjoyed the post!

Christine said...

Hi Anne: Let the dust bunnies play. I clean out my office between projects. Sort of like getting ready for the next book I'm itchy to write.

Hi Rashda: I'm so glad you are not answering the phone unless it is an emergency. Good for you. The phone is a tool we control--not one that should control us.

Happy Writing!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Such a great post, Christine! I agree with everything.

I am often amazed at how much TV people seem to watch. If you have time to watch TV then you have time to write a book! We make time for the things that are important to us, whether we are conscious of it or not. And we should be deliberate about setting priorities.

And now that I've got some writing done, checked my emails, and read a couple of blogs, I need to go to the gym and exercise! Which I don't really want to do, but it's important. :-)

Anonymous said...

You are so right Christine. I used to let other people control my time. It was hard breaking that habit (sometimes still is). I've volunteered forever, so it's hard to say no. After I hit a certain age, I decided I needed me time including writing time, or else it wasn't going to happen. It's totally up to me :)

Sia Huff

KarenG said...

I wrote a post on my website called Time and Money, because to me it seems like that's basically what every decision boils down to! I don't stress over time much, I stress over money. The other day I asked my husband which bothered him the most, and he said "time." I've always been able to find enough time to do whatever I wanted (eventually). Maybe because I don't answer the phone either?

Christine said...

Hi Melanie: I'm so glad you're using your time to exercise!! I am, too. It's not my favorite thing, tho' I do love Zumba, but I want to stay healthy. I pay myself a quarter whenever I exercise as part of my healthy writer motivation :-)

Hi Sia: Yes, it is so easy to give away our time if we are people pleasers. I know that one very well. But staying strong and having a top five priority list has really helped. I just don't have enough time in the day to be all things for all people.

Glad you found the balance (for the most part--always have to tell myself that's the goal).

Hi KarenG: Oh, I'll have to read your post when I get done my writing day. I usually have enough time but this is senior year so lots going on--internally and externally. I stress over money, too. Will there be enough for college? Will I make any writing? That kind of stuff, but for the most part, it's always worked out well.

Happy Writing :-)

Mac said...


Just stopping by to thank you for dropping by last week and commenting on my interview over on the Piedmont Writer.

I really appreciate Anne offering her forum. Great lady. Great writer.


Melissa said...

Loved this post!! Time is precious and I know I waste way too much of it. LOL Thanks for the reminder!

Christine said...

Hi Mac--thanks for dropping by and saying hello to me. I enjoyed hosting Anne during her debut novel event. And it was fun reading about your adventures in publishing, too. Hope you have a great writing day and get lots accomplished.

Best :-)

Hi Melissa: I'm glad you enjoyed the reminder. Time is way too precious to dabble around if you have writing to do and publishing houses to query.

Happy Writing!


Katherine Bone said...

Great post, Christine!

Oh, Melanie you punched me in the gut. TV time? There are just certain shows I like to watch, probably more so now that my mother is living with us. But there is Vampire Diaries, Secret Circle, Supernatural, Once Upon A Time, Castle, The Mentalist, Hell on Wheels, Downton Abbey, Dirty Little Liars, The Lying Game, Teen Wolf, and my greatest guilty pleasure, Revenge.

OMG! Listen to me! I work part-time and spend all my evenings watching tv. Blah! Blah! Blah! Looks like I need to exit the room when the tv is on, doesn't it? Sadly, I don't have a DVR, which I know a lot of writers use.

I wish my hubby could read this article and the comments. He doesn't understand why I'm not keeping the house clean all the time. Plus, when I deserted my Martha Stewart 'wannabe' phase, he had to learn to let go of the happy homemaker image I tried to pull off for years, along with all the volunteering.

Goodness! I have lots to ponder...

Christine said...

Hi Kathy: Glad you're embracing your writing time now instead of keeping a perfect house. You go girl :-)