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.
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.
YOUR WRITING TIME: OWN IT OR YOU WILL HAVE BLOWN IT.
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?