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Point of View: Crunch Time

Crunch Time

Too many things to get done, and not enough time to do them. Every writer runs into this problem eventually, assuming that they stick with their craft long enough.

You see, the average writer whose name is not Stephen King or Piers Anthony works at least one other job to support their habit – in my case it’s one and a half. Or maybe one and a half, and a half. My husband Mark and I run a web design and directory business, which consumes upwards of 70 hours a week. We’re also part of an Italian study group, of which I am the defacto teacher (I know – scary, right? Me?). So my writing time is limited to a set amount of time every day. And right now, my writing demands are squeezing me hard.

I have not one, not two, not three, but four existing projects that publishers have indicated that they want or have a strong interest in – two sci fi novels, a contemporary novella, and a short horror story. And I have committed to turning out a brand new novella by the end of the month.

I am clearly insane.

But looking around at my fellow writers, I see I’m not alone. So in the spirit of solidarity, I thought I would offer a few tips to other authors in my shoes, to help get you though the crunch.

1) Make a Schedule: Figure out how many days you have to get each thing done, and schedule time each day to get there. I know, it sounds basic, but most authors I know are wildly over-optimistic about their own writing prowess, and will leave things until the very last minute. No, you will not be able to write and edit that 200 page novel in the five days before the deadline. It’s just not humanly possible. So schedule.

2) Pick a Writing Time: Set aside a regular time to write, and stick to it. This is one of the best strategies I have found for getting things done, as it forces me to focus on my writing. The tricky part? Avoiding the laundry’s siren call two minutes before your writing time starts. Tell the laundry to fuck off. It can wait.

3) Minimize Distractions: If you are working on a laptop or tablet, close EVERYTHING ELSE before you start. No Facebook, no emails, nothing. I use a great little app called Isolator that blacks out the screen and all other apps besides the one I’m in. “But I need my browser open for research!” you wail. Not a problem. You can open it when you actually need to look something up, and then close it again. Remember, your “writer brain” is like a magpie, always looking for the next shiny thing to distract it. Get a birdcage.

4) Eat Brain Food: All my normal joking about Oreos and Wild Cherry Pepsi aside, when you are getting ready to start an intensive writing session, eat a handful of nuts or something else with good protein to sustain you during the slog. Sugar will only take you so far, and you will crash hard. Think of writing as a marathon – your brain needs good food too to make it the distance. Besides, you can have the Oreos later as your reward for a job well done.

5) Write A Little Every Day: Work on your writing in the twenty minutes before the movie on your cell phone. and mail it to yourself, or while you are in line at the post office. Bang out a few paragraphs in bed before you go to sleep, or when that idea strikes you at 3 AM. Miss your regular writing time today? Squeeze in ten minutes this afternoon after lunch. It all adds up.

6) Don’t Kill Yourself: Life happens. Sometimes your honey will drag you away for a surprise dinner. Or your Great Aunt Josephina will pass away unexpectedly, necessitating a last-minute trip to Kalamazoo. Or you’ll sleep horribly the night before and your writer brain just won’t engage. It’s okay. It happens to us all. Take the loss, and re-engage tomorrow.

In the end, I may have to move a couple things back to make it all work, but I have my schedule. I’ll get through this crunch time – I always do. And next year, I’ll have a bunch of shiny new things to put on my shelf to show for it – the best reward for a writer!

So how do you get through crunch times?