I don’t know how you do it all

It is the comment I hear most when I am talking about any recent writing projects. I’m going to tell you how I do it all; I don’t do it all. I work hard at a very demanding job to which I commute 1.5 hours each way. I am a full-time PhD student. I have written over a thousand pages of creative writing this past year; poems, short stories, plays and one complete novel. I’ve had two of my short plays produced this year in local theaters which included rehearsal time.  At the same time, my house still needs painting. I don’t do it all. I know how to prioritize.

I once did an activity with my high school seniors. I asked them to do a time study. All a time study does is allow a person to be aware of how they spend the hours of their days. While they were doing the time study, I asked them about their goals, dreams and aspirations. We did a project where they got fairly detailed in what they wanted out of life. In the end, I asked them to compare the two studies. How many hours a day, I asked them, do you spend on achieving your goals, dreams and aspirations? Almost all of them spent no time on achieving their goals, dreams and aspirations.  A few of them were both shocked and embarrassed.

To do as my seniors did, you need to do two things. First, do your time study. I would do it over a course of a week or two. Keep a detailed journal of what you do and how long you do it. I had a spread sheet for my seniors to use and you can make one yourself. But simply writing in a journal will suffice. Don’t cheat because this is for you. Write down everything you do and how long you spent at doing it. If you spend 4 hours on Facebook or playing video games, there is no judgement. The purpose of this is simply to find out where you spend your time. (It is the same of tracking your finances to see where your money really goes.)

While you are doing this you should dive deep into what your goals, dreams and aspirations are. If you want to be a writer, what kind of writer do you want to be? Do you want to write full time, supplement your income or use it to pad your CV? There are a lot of self-help books on finding your purpose and purpose. Find more than one. Work through these until you feel like you have a vision for yourself. It doesn’t need to be long term but it does need to be specific and tangible. Maybe it is as simple as I want to finish a novel this year.

Once you complete the two, compare them. What are you really spending your time on and how is it (or how is it not) propelling you into your own dreams, goals and aspirations. How will you carve your schedule to fit your goals, dreams and aspiration into it? Most of us, myself included, spend our days so we can just spend the next day. We call this “the grind” or “the rat race.” The purpose of this is to go beyond “the grind” or “the rat race” and achieve something—even if it is a small dream.

Let’s use the example of a novel in a year. A novel is roughly 80K words. That is only (really) 220 words a day! Of course, I know novel writing is more than simply writing but if you wrote 500 words a day you would have time for your research, planning and some editing! Where can you carve that time out? Lunch time? Your commute (I’ve used a voice recorder.) Give up a T.V. show you always watch? Cut down on Facebook? Stop at the library on the way home and write for an hour?

Once you start writing and see your progress it becomes habit forming. Watch here for more advice on writing!


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