Finding the Time
by Erin Brown
There is one important rule that I always recommend to unpublished authors: don’t quit your day job. Of course, the second rule is to learn the difference between their/there/they’re, its/it’s, your/you’re, and affect/effect. But most importantly, don’t give up the money, the cash, the moolah. But why, you ask? I’m going to be rich and famous the second that someone realizes how talented I am. Well, even if an agent and editor take a chance on your manuscript, the odds of getting enough of an advance to enable you to quit your job down at the factory, in your cubicle, in the fields, driving the bus, riding the range, milking the cows, etc., is slim to none. Sure, there are a few cases when a million dollar advance is thrown an author’s way, but trust me, it probably won’t happen to you. I can say this with conviction because I gave out hundreds of “$10,000 for three books” advances, and only a handful of six- to seven-figure advances. This has nothing to do with talent; this is about reality. So if you’re not quitting your day job until you publish book #6, when the hell are you going to find the time to write?
Here are some important tips:
1) It’s imperative that writers carve out a certain time each day (yes, each and every day!) to keep those creative juices flowing. Writing is your second job, and this is made even more difficult if you have a husband, wife, children, friends, the desire to eat food, do laundry, surf the net, and/or brush your teeth. As the mother of a three-week-old baby, a three-year-old boy, and the wife of a thirty-four-year-old man-child, I usually choose one of the choices listed and devote the rest of my free time to writing and sleeping. My time is so incredibly limited that I adhere to a strict schedule, whether it’s for work, dinner, play dates, or date nights. And I definitely schedule a time for writing. It’s imperative that I, and you, block out time for writing at the same time each day; otherwise, life will get in the way. And for most of us, writing is a huge part of our lives that shouldn’t take a back seat to the daily grind—at least not if we want our writing to find success. So carve out a time to write, whether it’s at 5:00 a.m., on your lunch break, or late at night when the rest of the sane world is sleeping (FYI, I am currently, as the mom of a newborn, not a card-carrying member of the sane world).
2) Carve out a spot to work. It always helps to have a special place devoted to your craft. It should be inspirational, conducive to how you work (in absolute silence, while gazing out a window at a lovely songbird or garden, next to a radio blaring rap music—if you’re writing a hip YA novel or if you’re Jay-Z), and a place where you’re comfortable spending time. This could be in your home office, on your front porch, at the library, in a tree house (yes, we have a deluxe one in our yard that is very encouraging to creativity) or at a Starbucks (mmmm…Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte). Just make sure that your spot is one you can occupy every day during your writing time.
3) Be devoted to your time. In order to dedicate enough time to writing, you must devote yourself to your time. Don’t get sidetracked by other things during your writing time, say no to people that try to infringe on your writing time (although I must admit a crying preemie doesn’t understand, “Please, dear young sir, respect my sacred writing time”), and don’t schedule activities that interfere with your writing time.
4) Be realistic with your time. If you’re going to write consistently, you must be pragmatic about your schedule. No matter how inspired you are, telling yourself that you’re going to write from midnight to eight a.m. every night/morning before you go straight to work isn’t realistic, and is, in fact, suggestive of bipolar disorder. Try for a more attainable goal: “I will write every day from 6-8 a.m. before I head to the office.”
It can be very hard to find time to write consistently when you have a job, a family, a hobby, a desire for a social life, and/or a pet. But you must view your writing as a second job—one that doesn’t pay, saps your energy, and makes you wonder what in the hell you’re doing spending so much time on something that might never pay off. And isn’t that the most rewarding job of all? It reminds me of motherhood.
Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her website at www.erinedits.com