I invited best-selling author and motivational speaker, Connie Sokol, to guest post today. She graciously agreed to share her secrets for making more time to write! I love her ideas and insight and hope you will too.
For most female married-with-children writers, finding a matched pair of socks is a time-challenge, never mind create, type, and polish The Best-selling Manuscript Ever. Over the years I’ve used a few fabulous tips to carve out hundreds of free writing hours. Because you’re likely short on time, I’ll share five.
1.10,000 hours. Malcolm Caldwell, author of Blink, studied experts in their field (i.e. Michael Jordan in basketball) and discovered that 10,000 hours of focused and proper practice made them legends. The great news for moms is that everything we do in daily life counts, if done cognitively (the catch). Write as many of those 10,000 hours as possible, but actively use mundane routines of laundry and vacuuming to flesh out a plot, cook up a few scenes, or add meat to your story bones.
I’ve received some of my best writing ideas attending a Zumba class, my daughter’s art lessons, and loading the dishwasher. Cache what’s memorable then transfer it to paper. Laundry (“Aha—that’s what the main character was doing while the thief broke into the home”), visiting friends (perfect protagonist hairdo), or doing dishes (the characters fell in love rinsing and drying). You’re not simply functioning, you’re stockpiling 10,000 hours. Consider how every day routines can generate food for thought, and your novel.
2. Get a clear concept. Truly find your story and you’ll find the time to sit, type, and produce. For practice, write a query letter to an agent, or email your sister and describe your plot. Use your voice—the excited I’ve-got-the-best-idea voice reserved for telling close friends. If you’re without a reader-grabbing idea, pump the writing neurons with quick writing exercises. Try excellent suggestions from Pen on Fire by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. In fifteen minutes juicy thoughts and ideas will flow—instead of reading celeb magazines at the dentist office, you’ll be writing.
A clear concept can also resolve writer’s block. Last year while writing a historical romance, I got stuck, like a piece of toffee binding teeth. Then my mom, with whom I had previously shared a different plot of a modern romance, randomly said, “You should definitely do that one instead.” The light went on, I made the switch, and in about three months I finished the 240-page rough draft.
3. Chewable chunks. We have free time, we just don’t see it. If we were told a million dollars was hidden in our house, I’m guessing the vital PTA dinner plans would simplify. Years ago, I took my own advice and simplified routines such as bill paying, cooking, and teaching my children life skills. I carved out 26 hours a week of “free” time. I used that free time to speak, write, and for ten years run a small business that helps women and families improve their quality of life.
If you’re game, give this planning exercise a try. Write across the top of a piece of paper the days of the week; list down the left-hand side the hours of the day. Now add your typical significant tasks of a given week (i.e. laundry, errands, cleaning, bills, etc.). Next, circle them in colors to signify Vital, Helpful, and Fluff.
Lastly, use ADE to simplify, which stands for Abbreviate, Delegate, and Eliminate. First, start with Fluff and eliminate all you can (keep one for fun). Look at Helpful—how can you delegate any of these—carpool instead of drive each way? Teach your children to cook one night a week? Lastly, Vital—how can you abbreviate or simplify? One year my three boys wanted to take karate. Rather than drive three separate hours, I called around and found a class that took all three in the same hour. Beauty.
4. Reward yourself. Daily. I reward myself all the time, mostly for not beating my children, or the dog. List your personal favorite rewards and actually do them. When I life-coached women this was the most difficult principle for them to implement. Yet, it was—and is—key to positively associate goal-setting with success. Try paying yourself five dollars every time you write (see, you’re a working writer already). Put that towards a writing conference, laptop, or Amazon goodies. Or, reward good works with writing time —each time you do a chunk of housework or an ignored family project, give yourself an hour or more to read or write.
Making time to write is a conscious choice. Once you choose it, I guarantee you’ll pile up the free time to write that novel or submit that article. Happy hunting!
Connie Sokol is a mother of seven, a national and local presenter, Education Week speaker, and TV contributor on KSL’s “Studio 5”. She recently released Caribbean Crossroads, a romance novel, and is also the author of Faithful, Fit & Fabulous, Motherhood Matters, and Life is Too Short for One Hair Color. Visit www.conniesokol.com for more.