I saw an interesting article today, and it inspired a few thoughts of my own.
Kris Rusch wrote a blog article in her Business Musings series. She put those essays out weekly, each a commentary of some sort about the business of writing. This one was called “Whining”. It’s totally worth reading, but here’s the TL;DR version:
Writers often complain that they have “no time to write” in today’s world. They blame the lack of time on having to do promotion, social media, blog tours, work on getting covers, and myriad other things. Kris outlines some really basic math showing that even in the “old days”, writers who wanted to write could find time to write amidst even the most intensive of promotion schedules – book tours, conventions, and the like. Dedicated writers would find a couple of hours of “extra time”, even in the most heated of promotion activities.
And then at the very end of her essay, she hits what I really think is the heart of the issue: she suggests spending that “extra time” on social media and other promotion stuff, and put the primary focus where it belongs – on writing new words. She recommends writers carefully control how much time they spend on promotion exercises, and put the writing first.
Which brings me to my title: priorities.
I write every single day. Even if I’m sick, I write. I put in at least 500 words. I do it when I am camping. I do it when I am traveling. I do it when I have “day job” days. Every Thursday I work a 17 hour day. I have still gotten in at least 500 words every Thursday, despite the heavy work day.
I do this because streaks have power, and because by writing every day I am telling my brain that the writing is important to me. I am building the good habits of writing. And I’m telling myself – through action – that the writing is important. It’s a priority.
Now, on those Thursdays, it gets hard sometimes. I can’t prioritize the writing over the job, because, well, I’d lose the job if I did. So I have to either get up half an hour early (which I am bad at doing), write during meal breaks (often), do a voice to text bit on the drive home (have done that a few times), or write after getting home which eats into my sleep time. If I didn’t prioritize the writing, I could sleep a little longer instead. Or read during a leisurely thirty minute break instead of pounding the keys. Relax and check emails. Whatever.
People who succeed at anything do so by making that thing a priority in their life. They work at it daily; even a little bit. They think about it, even when they are not working on it. They constantly strive to improve and learn new things about their priority.
I once read a great article once by a therapist who was seeing a patient. The patient said that his priorities were to eat healthier and work out more. But it was so expensive to go to a gym, and he didn’t have a lot of time. As they went on, he kept talking about playing “Candy Crush”, and finally she called him on his shit. She said that getting healthier wasn’t his priority – the game was his priority. He spent lots of both time and money on the game. He was doing that *instead* of working out.
Look at your own schedule. How are you spending your time? Are you actually spending it on the things you want to be doing? Or are you spending it on things that don’t really matter to you? I’m as guilty as anyone else of “just checking in” on Facebook and looking up to see that an hour has gone by. But if you prioritize the writing, you do that before the Facebook break.
Aristotle once said that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” We can only set habits into place by making them a priority.
Write first. Do the other stuff after. When the month is done, you’ll find you got a lot of new words written.
Or don’t. But don’t tell yourself that writing is a priority if you’re actually spending most of your free time playing Candy Crush. We are what we repeatedly do.
Thanks for reading! I hope you found this helpful. I talk a lot more about priorities, and schedules, and finding the time to write more in the over-full lives we often find ourselves stuck with in my book “The Coffee Break Novelist”. You can find the print book in all places which sell such things, and the ebook on Amazon, Kobo, and Apple!