“I have no time.”
It’s the main excuse most people give for why they can’t do something they allegedly want to do.
Now, I don’t get on my soapbox about this often, but it seems fitting to do it here. I run two businesses, one of which is a brick and mortar I have to be physically present at 25 hours a week. And I have two kids. Also, we live without a car. (Imagine how that translates regarding running errands, networking, etc.) Additionally, I’m busting my ass to find an agent for my book, attempting to find a house, and preparing for when my partner goes back to college in April.
I also spend more time than I care to admit every week on social media, Pinterest, and playing video games.
Do not tell me you don’t have time. If you want to make excuses, stop pretending you want to do something great and go waste your time doing what apparently matters more. At least you won’t be bullshitting yourself.
That said, scheduling writing time with children doesn’t work.
Being the parent of young children and trying to keep up any sort of writing schedule is stupid. Until they can use the bathroom and remember to wipe, flush, AND wash their hands, you’re on their schedule. (Unless you have reliable, outside babysitting help. Then you have NO excuse.)
This is why I don’t have much of a routine. There are set hours I’m at the caffe and others where I’m working with clients, but those are the only certainties in my schedule because I appreciate the flexibility of being able to play with my kids throughout the day until I can stay home more. It’s a choice I’ve made that impacts my work, but I don’t think it has impacted it in a negative way.
How is that?
Systems and planning. Lots of planning. Last post, I briefly discussed the difference between a routine and having a system for writing. Essentially, a routine delegates tasks and projects to a set time and a system is a comprehensive plan that maximizes limited time.
The trick to writing when you’re stealing bits of time is to always know exactly what to write. Now, that may seem very simplistic. Of course a writer should always know what comes next. But if you’ve ever written anything more substantial than, oh, a sentence, you know that just isn’t the case. In order to write clearly and to know what comes next, you need incredible clarity around your concept. (Get yours here by working with me.)
And the best way to demonstrate clarity is a hyper-specific outline. Before we get into the how’s of it, let’s talk about the technology that makes this system possible. In order to understand the system, a basic understanding of two apps is needed.
I am madly in love with Asana. I use it to handle everything from light CRM to project management to task management. Tracking and taking small, specific action on these tasks is the most important part of writing the book for me. Get a two-minute primer here.
If your book requires any sort of research or source material, you need to use Evernote. It’s better than a bookmark because you can tag anything you save. My tags reference specific chapters, terminology, and material that is relevant but will probably end up in the followup book to Rebel Mama. Learn more here.
The reason I rely on these two pieces of software is because they both automatically sync between my iPhone and MacBook. For non-Apple users, I’m sure there is an equivalent, but I’m unfamiliar with it.
At any rate, here’s how I rewrote my book in a week with no additionally writing time.
My writing system
After drafting my book outline, I copied it into Asana. Here’s the breakdown:
- The book is one project
- Chapters are priority headings
- Essays within that chapter are tasks
- The guts and research that go into those essays are subtasks
Essay is the term I use to denote sections of a chapter because calling it a post seemed an inaccurate description. I have a very difficult time grasping the size of a book. It’s too big. My best writing is between 600-1200 words, otherwise known as blog post sized. Because I know this is how I prefer to work, I can outline an essay in much the same way I would a blog post. This allows me to write a book that flows well, because I can trick myself into writing the damn thing instead of letting it intimidate me with how monumental it feels.
To construct one of these essays, I would write a brief outline on paper and then translate it into Asana at least down to the paragraph level. If I knew sentences and transitions already, I would put them into the comments of that task.
As for integrating my source material, whenever I found anything relevant, I would tag it appropriately so I could find it later when compiling the sources page. Tags included keywords I use on the website and plan on using more for the book and chapter titles. (If you don’t have your titles yet, you can use something temporary to get the idea across. I don’t recommend numbers because order of chapters can change.)
Why this works
As you can imagine, I spend far more time outlining books than writing them. It prevents me from going off topic. I can identify pieces that don’t fit very quickly. Most importantly, I can take tiny steps towards book completion while I’m in transit on my iPhone or on the rare, golden occasion when the kids take a nap at the same time. Because I can flesh out to the sentence what needs done, I am always in my book and always getting a quick win.
Instead of staring at a laptop screen, wondering what I feel like writing, I get my feelings out of the way. As an ENFP, this is obviously important. I find a task and complete it. I write. I check it off.
And then I get back to playing with my kids.