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07 September 2016

Finding Time In My Busy Day | IWSG

 


The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

A new feature of IWSG is a monthly question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question prompt is:

"How do you find the time to write in your busy day?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to know how I answered the question, have a read below.

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Goodness, it's a pretty serious question this month. One that requires lots of data collection, research and analysis. My days are so darn busy that I wasn't sure how I was going to find the time to really give the question the attention it deserves. So, I called in a few favors from some folks at MIT and got a crack team of scientific geeks together to crunch the data and pull together a detailed report.

Here's what they found after exhaustive study. My typical day looks something like this:


As you can see from the table above, much of the day is focused on meeting basic needs - sleep, food and personal hygiene. The rest of the day is devoted to scholarly research (erroneously labeled "playing on internet") and meticulous and detailed planning for writing projects (erroneously labeled "thinking about writing"). There is no time left in my hectic days to devote to actual writing.

The team at MIT also did a comparative study, looking at a the typical day of a cat.



You can see from the table above that cats spend an extraordinary amount of time sleeping. Shocking, really. Also, for creatures that are highly interested in when their next meal is, surprisingly, they spend very little time on food related activities. The cunning creatures get humans to prepare their food and then they snarf down those delicious, crunchy nuggets in minutes, freeing the rest of their day for other important activities like personal hygiene and playing loudly with toy mice during the middle of the night while their humans are sleeping.

The feline study did raise some interesting data points. For example, while cats spend part of their day planning how they're going to hunt critters outside (correlated to humans planning their writing projects), they also manage to find time to actually go outside and hunt lizards and snakes (correlated to humans actively typing on their keyboards).

The team at MIT concluded that there were some key lessons to be learned from felines, which could be applied to my own life and free up time for actual writing - namely, get other humans to prepare my food and then wolf it down quickly, growling at anybody who looks like they might take my food bowl away.

In all seriousness, my days are anything but busy. Now that I don't work in corporate la-la land, I theoretically have hours each day to devote to writing. But, I often spend more time thinking about writing, than I do actually writing the draft mystery novel that I've been working on for ages.

Interestingly, I recently wrote a short story in a matter of days and didn't have any problem finding the time to write it. Perhaps, I've been trying to write the wrong thing and putting my energy in the wrong place?

How to you find time in your busy (or not so busy) day to get things done?

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69 comments:

  1. Seems the problems are the same everywhere. I have the same problem with photography. Seems the projects I feel I want/need to do usually need a tremendous amount of procrastination time. However other stuff goes quickly and is done. Perhaps it's time to drop those plans and do the things that get done.

    The other question I run across is whether I really have something worthwhile to say with my projects or if I just do as if.

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    1. That's really interesting to find that you have the same problem with photography. I was wondering how this sort of thing played out for people who create through art, photography etc.

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  2. Love this post! I knew I should have been a cat ;)

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    1. Maybe if you're good in this life, you'll be reborn as one :-)

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  3. I laughed and learned throughout your post. I'm thoroughly impressed you found the time to research, write, and post this incredibly entertaining post.

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    1. That's where the crack team at MIT comes in - they did all the work. Now, if only I could get them to clean the boat.

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  4. I'm pretty sure I'm part cat. Or is it just that I want to be a cat? Either way, I think about 70% of my day is spent being Mum, definitely not sleeping! And I definitely need to tip some of my playing on the Internet time into writing time.
    angelinetrevena.co.uk/insecure-writers-support-group-rediscovering-my-mojo

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    1. For sure, as a mum, the bulk of your day is going to be focused on the wee ones. You can sleep when they're grown up :-)

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  5. Ha, ha, love it. Thanks for the morning laughs. Maybe you hit on something with the short story ideas. Since you were able to write the first one so quickly, that might be a promising direction to explore. Good luck with it!

    IWSG Co-host at http://lorilmaclaughlin.com

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    1. Thanks so much for hosing Lori and popping by!

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  6. That was hilarious! Yes, the cats are smart. And they make good planners and executors.

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    1. They are clever little creatures, aren't they. After all, they've manage to get us humans to tend to their every need and desire.

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  7. So funny! I pretty much conform to your first table. Frightening to think a cat is more productive than I am. Novels require a lot of thinking. Short stories can be born from the sliver of an idea and be written in no time. Novels need to have far more depth, action, likeable characters, twists, etc. It all needs to stew a long time before it's ready. Good luck!

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    1. I know - I was shocked by the research that cats are more productive than me. So embarrassing.

      I wrote the first draft of this story in no time, but the revisions are taking quite a bit longer than I thought they would.

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  8. These charts crack me UP. Hmm, the correlation between the lazy writer and a cat are just uncanny...I think more research is needed. You know, instead of writing! ;)

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    1. Definitely - much more research is needed, especially on the internet watching cute cat videos as part of studying their behavior.

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  9. I love your tables and comparisons, Ellen! :-) I wonder whether it is a female thing... thinking so much about stuff we could/should be doing, especially when it comes to writing. I have written so many amazing things - perfect things, really - in my head! You might be on to something thinking that you are trying the wrong kind of story... Maybe it is the same with me. It would be easy to just write my memoir chronologically (and in my eyes boringly), but I am trying to come up with better ways to do it and stare at blank screens instead - although, in my head it is all making sense what I want to do.

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    1. Hmmm...interesting thought about your memoir. Maybe it would work better to just dump it all chronologically and then go back afterwards and make it more interesting. If only I could find a device that could take all of the wonderful ideas I have in my head and transfer them to paper in a coherent and compelling way. Alas, the process seems to require the use of fingers on the keyboard :-(

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  10. I think you and I are spoiled. hehehe

    I write first thing in the morning with my coffee. Old habits die hard. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Mornings can be a good time for me to write, but generally not until I've had a couple of cups of coffee to wake the old brain up.

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  11. I LOVED this! So creative and fun to do a chart. And that sounds like my cats, except they don't actually catch lizards or snakes. They are scared of snakes and just stare at lizards from the window. :)

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    1. I watch a friend's cat for them when they go away and they were telling me she actually caught a snake one day (a non-poisonous one). I was really surprised. I didn't think they'd go after snakes.

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  12. Love your charts. I laughed out loud.

    I do what I want when I want anymore. I spent so many busy days when I was working that I don't want that pressure anymore. Okay, I don't write either. Too much like work.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Glad you liked the charts. They're a hangover from my days in corporate la-la land when I'd have to make lots of presentations with charts, tables, diagrams etc. I guess you never forget how.

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  13. One of the things I like about writing short stories and flash fiction is that they have a beginning and an end that I can actually see, unlike a novel which is a huge, vague seemingly endless project. That's why I usually like to work on a long project and shorter ones at the same time. Makes me feel like I'm actually accomplishing something. :)

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    1. I'm finding working on a shorter and a longer project at the same time is proving to be quite helpful as I can go back and forth between the two. The only problem is that they're different genres so I have to adjust my thinking when I switch over.

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  14. It's all about the love! I have a pet project that snuck itself into my writing time while completing the third book in my trilogy. Pet project got all the way up to 35K while I was supposed to be dedicated to the other book. You have to go where the love is!

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    1. I think you nailed it - it's all about the love :-)

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  15. I love this post! My husband and I are frequently telling our cat he needs a job to pull his weight around here. He recently (the cat, not the spouse) was diagnosed with heart disease, so we have medications to cleverly trick the cat into taking. So much time with the tricking... I often envy the cat's ability to relax and sleep at any instance and spring into action the next. I'm much slower to motivate :)

    Here's my September IWSG post - my secret tool for finding writing time

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    1. Cats are amazing how they switch between chill and action modes so easily. Me, on the other hand, need a lot of transition time between the two :-) Sorry to hear about kitty's heart condition. Always tricky to get a cat to take pills.

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  16. Love this post! It's so funny. Perhaps the short story was easier because its length was less daunting? Everyone loves to feel like they've accomplished something, so being able to complete a project like that is a great mood booster, whereas a novel can feel like a long slog, especially in the dreaded middle.

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    1. It was a great mood buster being able to churn something out so quickly. Of course, my mood crashed shortly thereafter when I realized what I had written was pretty rubbish :-(

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  17. This post wins the internet today.

    As for writing, I'm lucky. I have several hours of time each day to devote to my personal interests. I spend them writing sometimes, though I usually am more prolific later in the year (September-December).

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    1. Best compliment ever - you've totally made my day!!

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  18. I love this post. I knew there was a reason I'm more of a cat person. Short stories are and feel more manageable than a whole book--and oddly, the less time I know I have to write, the more I get done!

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    1. Scientific research is really useful like that :-)

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  19. Ellen, I had a GOOD laugh!
    Too funny!!!
    Your post confirms my belief that flash fiction is the best kinda fiction to write. Short and to the point, leaving you more time to partake in other shenanigans!!
    Happy IWSG Day!

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    1. Always happy if I can bring laughter into people's days :-)

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  20. Deciding to do something and actually doing it seems to be quite a problem for most writers. Amusing post.

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  21. What a unique post. I enjoyed it and your story about finding time to write. I do find when I have more time to write I write less. I wrote more when I was busy. I think developing a habit of structure that will work for you might get more writing in. I am working that for my self. I want to get to where I get every morning like going to work to write and structure my day. I have been reading successful authors and this appears to be a common habit with them. One author said this was her business and if she wanted to go out to lunch she could just go without having to get ready. She say the structure like a job works to keep her focus and prolific and productive. It was Christine Feehan on being a professional writer.

    Great post.

    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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    1. I left out some crucial words. The whole going out to lunch things has to do with getting up every morning and dressing for work day, which she talks about in the article.

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    2. Thanks so much for the link - I'll check it out! You make a really great point about behaving like a professional writer. I tend to think about it more as a hobby which may be one of the reasons I'm not as focused as I could be.

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  22. I love your charts, they're great! I find it much easier to write short stories than a novel - probably because the pay-off comes around that much quicker. You have to put so much time in to create a novel.

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    1. I have enjoyed the relatively quick pay off of writing a short story. Being able to see a draft so quickly was quite exciting.

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  23. This was a very fun read. Of course, I'm such an old school Blogger person, I immediately searched for the ol' Blogger follow button and there wasn't one. Duh, Elsie. I had to settle for the more modern Facebook follow instead. Looking forward to more entertaining posts. You've set the bar high, so keep 'em coming!

    Elsie
    co-host IWSG

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    1. Thanks for flagging up the lack of a Blogger follow button. I think I used to have one of those. Wonder what happened to it?

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  24. What a great post! I try to make certain that I do things (as much as possible) in advance. For example, when I receive a bill, rather than waiting until the due date, I pay it immediately. I leave home early enough so that when I take the bus I arrive early at any appointments...this way, even with traffic, I will arrive on time.

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    1. I could use some of your organizational skills in my own life :-)

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  25. Great research! And most likely right on target! LOL
    I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about writing, but that's good, right? I mean my brain has to work out the plot before I put it on paper. :)
    Cats do have it well, don't they!

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    1. I hope spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about writing is good because I sure do that :-) Cats have it very well. If only they could type, think how much more useful they'd be though. That lack of opposable thumbs really hampers them.

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  26. I blame the heat. I could be really productive if it wasn't so hot! I can't even imagine churning out a novel - so you're light years ahead of most. I'm reading Steven King's memoir On Writing, and he says reading is a valid way to become a good writer, especially if you're reading trash. I love trashy romance novels, so I'm not wasting time, but becoming a better writer! See how it all works out in my favor :-)

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    1. A number of people have recommended that Stephen King book. I don't like horror so I'm a bit worried he'll stick something terrifying in the middle of his thoughts about writing and then I won't be able to sleep.

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  27. Interesting analysis. Mine list of activities would be longer! Maybe you could think of your novel as a book of short stories (the chapters)! Good luck.
    Mary at Play off the Page

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    1. I actually did have that thought about writing a bunch of connected short stories and then going back later and drawing them all together into a novel. Good idea!

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  28. I think when things flow it means that they are ready. If a task I have set before me eludes me due to procrastination, it simply means I'm not actually wanting to do it that badly, or that it just isn't time yet.Maybe you are trying too hard. Let the things that are ready to flow to all the work for you. You know how she posts write themselves. I bet stories do the same thing. Also Cats have great wisdom. I'd listen to the cat if it were me.

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    1. One should always listen to cats. They know a thing or two about how to live a good life.

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  29. I knew that I should learn from my cat...especially when she showed an attraction to my keyboard. Made my day, this post did, Yoda said.

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    1. Thanks Roland - I'm glad it made your day, and hopefully Yoda's too :-)

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  30. Love the research and analyses. Great team you have. Best wishes on making time to write, and all those pesky things like eating, sleeping, etc.

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    1. Yep, the folks at MIT can always be counted on to do really thorough research and analysis :-)

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  31. Thanks for this hilarious post! I had a good laugh and I think the team were very accurate in their analysis of cats. I do think it's true that our excitement about a project plays a part in how much we get done. Maybe write and submit some more short stories to establish a good routine and then come back refreshed to your draft?

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    1. I think that's really good advice to get into a routine with more short stories - thanks!

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  32. According to your research I'm somewhere between you and a cat.

    I can relate to your actual analysis. When I was working at an outside job it seems like I found more time to do things. Now it seems like I'm often busy trying to find things to do besides write.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I agree - I do think that having plenty of time to get something done isn't always a good thing.

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  33. I'm still waiting for the answer to this question...

    Perhaps I should take up the life of a cat. Although - 70% of my life sleeping doesn't sound that great either... but I'd like if someone prepared my food!

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    1. 70% would be a bit much to spend on sleeping, but having someone prepare delicious meals for me would be awesome!

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  34. If I have a second life, I want to come back as a cat. Specifically one that belongs to Bill, then I would be spoiled rotten. My cat's motto; "I could get so much more done if I didn't have to sleep 18 hours a day."

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    1. Me too - I want to come back as a very spoiled cat :-)

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