Writing Tips for the Horrifically Over-Scheduled

(Note - this post was originally published on Let the Words Flow, on March 16, 2011. My reference to NaNoWriMo was probably a bit more appropriate at that time than it is today, on the brink of November. I hope that - November or not - these tips are still helpful to the over-scheduled writers out there!)

In the last few weeks, things have gotten out of control as far as my personal schedule is concerned. My “online presence” has really dwindled – I’m rarely on Twitter, the blogs, or even my own email – and it’s rare if I get a few quiet minutes in front of the computer. Despite this epic time-crunch, I still consider myself to be “writing,” and I’m still making forward progress on my current story. It’s definitely not easy to keep going when you find yourself having to choose between writing and sleeping, but there are other ways to keep up the momentum besides living like a sleep-deprived zombie.

Here are some tips for my fellow HOSWs (Horrifically Over-Scheduled Writers):

  • Remember that every month isn’t November. Don't live in the midst of a never-ending NaNoWriMo. Don’t feel you have to add 50,000 words to your manuscript each month. The key is to work on the manuscript. One day you’ll add 2,000 words. One day you’ll delete 1,000. But even on the days when you edit out most of what you added the day before, you’re making progress!
  • Write in the shower. Maybe you can’t take the laptop in with you, but you can brainstorm with (hopefully) minimal interruption. Once you've dried off, take a minute or two to write down a few words that can act as memory triggers later.
  • Invest in a handheld digital recorder. Hit the record button while you’re stuck in traffic and dictate your latest idea for a key plot twist or describe a character in depth. If you feel particularly frustrated with the traffic, describe how your characters deal with frustration. Use the circumstances that threaten to prevent you from writing and turn them into writing prompts.
  • Don’t forget that handy-dandy notebook! Carry a pocket notebook at all times and don’t preserve it for only your best, most notebook-worthy ideas. Even a moleskine can handle your worst! Give yourself permission to write down ideas that might embarrass you later. Notebooks are also great places to sketch maps!
  • Keep in mind that writing is not a race! Very little in life is improved by haste. Write your book in the time it takes. After the first one gets published, you'll have plenty of publisher-imposed deadlines to meet.

Do you feel overwhelmed by an oppressive list of time-consuming obligations? How do you make the most of the time you have? Please share your ideas in the comments!

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