A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the first part of this post, “Don’t Wait for A Crisis To Figure Out Your Priorities”, and ended it with:
“Will your overall word output take a hit from trying to squeeze all these necessities into your life? Yes and no. Next week, I will talk more about how to actually go about juggling writing with everything else. There are some surprising upsides.”
Since writing that, I was sideswiped by a different project (the setting up of a Patreon page so you can access 1:1 coaching), but this week I’m here to finish the discussion about your priorities. The first part of the post examined why you should carefully juggle your priorities. This week, I want to talk about how you manage that. Because it’s not always easy or straightforward.
In fact, I would suggest that making sure those priorities that are important to you get equal airplay with your writing will be the most important challenge you face for the rest of your career.
Here we go, with five ways to fit everything important into your life:
Give up stuff to fit everything else in (eg, secondary writing).
Really scales things back.
I can hear you now: “But I already don’t do enough of xxx!”
This one will hurt. I know it will. A couple of years ago, I gave up all the crafting, crocheting and sewing that I love. This latest crisis made me give up another activity that I thought was essential, but discovered it wasn’t: My secondary writing.
My primary writing is everything that currently pays the bills and includes novels to short stories, under three different pen names. The secondary writing was the fun stuff, the reward. It included a lot of short stories I submit to pro markets, use as freebies and giveaways, reader magnets and other promotions…they’re useful, but not an essential part of my business, not when put beside my failing health. Instead of secondary writing, I now work out, and spend time working in the garden, or heavy duty housework in the house when the weather is inclement.
You must try to look at everything you do with a completely neutral mindset, and ask yourself how essential that activity is. Can you do without it? Can you survive with doing less of it?
Give up some of your word count.
This one sounds counter-intuitive, because you’re trying to preserve your current writing level, while also squeezing in other life priorities, like eating, sleeping, etc.,
But this one really works. I’ve seen it work for other writers I’ve advised, and it works for me, too.
My daily word count has been, for a very long time, 6,000 words. Sometimes, when I was sprinting, I’d nudge that up to 9K or 10K. But 6K was the baseline.
In the last couple of months, I’ve dropped that back to 5,000 words a day. I felt sick at the idea of shaving a whole 7K words off my weekly production, but something had to give, so I tried it…and it worked.
Easing off the gas pedal a bit removes a whole lot of stress. If your daily word goal has been 2K words a day, for a very long time, how much easier does it sound to “only” write 1,000 words a day?
Sounds like a doddle, huh?
That’s where the magic lies. If you only have to write 1,000 words a day, you absolutely know you’re going to sit and crank that wordcount out, every single day without fail.
When you were writing twice that much each day, how many days did you miss your word count? How many days did you blow off writing because it felt too difficult or too much like a chore that day?
With a lower daily goal, you’ll be able to write more consistently, and with less stress, and most likely still end up ahead.
And in the meantime, you’ve just given yourself an hour or more in which you can be doing something just as essential as writing–one of your other priorities can have air time.
Give up non-essential publishing activities.
My secondary writing also falls into this category, but so does a lot of marketing work, social media time, and more. One way of doing this is to contract out the work to third parties, but that supposes you have the extra revenue to pay a third party, and it also takes up more time, because you have orchestrate that contract work, and also wait to reach the front of their work queue. But if this works for you and you find contractors who are fast, efficient and completely reliable, it’s a good option.
Then there’s the rest of us.
You need to examine everything you do in your business with a clear, cool gaze and decide if it is contributing its weight to your bottom line. If it isn’t a government requirement, like taxes and bookkeeping (and even there, there are baseline necessities, while everything else can go–such as colour coding your expense categories), then you could argue that it is not necessary.
I’ve given up nearly all my marketing activities, especially the social media based tasks, because I couldn’t see a direct line from them to the bottom line. I’ve hung onto two strategies that do visibly affect sales and will double down on those in the coming months, but everything else went, including managing pay-per-click advertising (a huge time sink if you’re not a master at it, and a huge stressor).
Adding essentials like cooking and exercising back in will give you more time with friends and family.
You can make exercising a partners’ activity, or even a family event, giving you time with loved ones.
Your new, healthy diet might (and almost certainly will) involve more cooking at home. Prepare meals together, or as a family, and enjoy family time, catching up on gossip, news, and just hanging out.
Less demanding activities like walking (and we all need more walking in our lives), and solo exercise, or even working out in the garden, gives you time to think about your stories. You can mull over the next scene, sort out story problems, and think about how the story is going overall. When you do get to your writing desk, you’ll be able to dive back into the story without hesitation, and get more words down than if you came to it with no pre-thought.
Getting healthy once more gives you more energy to write.
A great many people, writers included, complain about not being able to focus, these days. They blame all the distractions pulling them away from the deep focus required to complete tasks like writing a story. But you can improve your concentration with simple lifestyle changes that include (big surprise!) diet, exercise, sleep, and drinking more water. (See here, here and here.)
You may even write better when your brain isn’t fogged by bad food. You’ll have less sick days, and days where you just don’t want to write. Plus, the shorter writing hours will add gentle pressure to write faster. It’s possible your word count could increase, even though you’re spending less time at the desk, because you’re working to maintain a balance with your other priorities (e.g., diet, exercise, family time, etc).
I have found this myself. A bare week after a radical change in diet, I found it a lot easier to get to the desk and get writing (that is, Just Starting), so that the consistency I’ve been working to find, this year, kicked into gear.
There are five primary strategies for helping you squeeze more essentials into your life.
Got any of your own? Comment below and tell me about them.