As a full-time author with a day job, a 35-mile commute, and family commitments, I have to fight for every scrap of my writing time. This often means writing in my car during my lunch hour, and even that gets interrupted, at times. [Seriously, my boss actually came down three floors and across the parking lot to get me once, because I left my cell phone on my desk and he needed something.]
I’m not alone in my struggle to make time to write. Many authors have day jobs and families.
What might make me unique, though, is that if you interrupt my precious writing time, you can almost guarantee I’m going to fantasize about murdering you. Like, right then, with whatever weapon I can reach. (And if you’re one of my Facebook friends, you know I actually have a vast array of very sharp weapons.)
Saturdays and Sundays used to be my only hope for long blocks of writing time. Only the laundry interrupted my writing binges, which was all right, because it’s not good to sit for twelve hours or more each day.
This year, though, I feel like we have been invited to every reunion, wedding, funeral, and picnic in the Mid-Atlantic region. Add to that family drama, constantly ringing phones, dinners with friends, and illnesses, and you have a word count of ZERO. Now, mind you, I love to spend time with friends and family, and I really enjoyed showing off my moves like Jagger at the 30th class reunion, but our hectic summer really cut into my word count.
I am just not tough enough to say no to events with loved ones, and I’m still not sure I should. But there have been times when my word count sits at zero because those around me do not respect my writing time. It often feels like others consider their needs more important than mine. Is that selfish of me to think so? Somebody tell me.
I know from talking to other authors that carving out—and protecting—writing time is a writer’s greatest challenge. I sat down to ask a few seasoned authors how they deal with invasions. Here are the wonderful ladies who responded. Their answers follow the bios.
Collette Cameron is an Amazon bestselling (3 times Amazon Kindle top 100) and award-winning author of Regency and Scottish romance. If that’s not enough to convince you she knows what she’s doing, how about this? She won the 2013 Sneak Peek Contest, was a 2014 RONE Nominee, a double RONE Finalist in 2015, Aspen Gold Finalist 2015, and 2015 Wisconsin RWA Write Touch Reader’s Choice Winner. At this time, she has nine books under her belt with contracts for four more. She self-published a series, has four group projects already published and two more coming out in early 2016.
Tema Merback ‘s first book was a National Jewish Book Award Finalist entitled “In the Face of Evil,” the story of her mother’s survival of the Holocaust. It took her four years to write, but it was worth it, as it continues to be one of the highest rated books on Amazon and Goodreads. With her hot romance and suspense, she went the self-publishing route. She also writes under a nom de plume, Belle Ami.
Tina Susedik writes romantic mysteries, children’s books, and history books using her real name and erotic romance as Anita Kidesu. Her novel, “Riding for Love” was a finalist in the 2014 BTS awards. She has eleven books and two short stories in print, with two more on the horizon.
Catherine Castle writes sweet and inspirational romance. She has published one novel under the pen name of Catherine Castle and three as a coauthor with her husband. Her books consistently win awards, including the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award Winner for Inspirational Romance, and a RONE in 2014 for inspirational romance. She was a finalist in the 2014 EPIC awards for an action/adventure romance and was a 2014 Carolyn Readers Choice Award finalist.
Ryan Jo Summers writes romance she calls “a mishmash of inspirational, time travel, shape shifting, paranormal, mystery, any and all combinations of the above.” She has three novels out now and another three coming in 2016. She blogs at http://www.summersrye.wordpress.com
Stacy Hoff writes contemporary romance. She has two anthology stories and three full-length novels to her credit, along with a 2015 “Rising Star” nomination from BTS emag’s Red Carpet Awards.
Jessica Jefferson is a bestselling author of historical romance. Her fifth novel is about to hit the market.
Samanthya Wyatt is a Golden Rose finalist. She writes both historical and contemporary romance, and has four books out at this time.
Petie McCarty is the author of five books, with the sixth coming in December. She writes contemporary paranormal romance for Desert Breeze and Soul Mate Publishing.
How do you protect your writing time and space?
Collette: I have a writing room and do most of my writing there. I really guard my writing time now and won’t even check emails during that time.
Tema: Barbed wire, a machete, AK-47, and a “do not enter“ magical spell. Just kidding! I’m very fortunate that I can write full time, however, I still have to balance, checkbook, children, husband, pets, parent, siblings, gym, friends, not in that order, of course. I try to write a thousand words every day, I often fail, however, I don’t punish myself if I fail because I somehow manage to make it up on another day when I take the opportunity to exceed my thousand word goal.
Tina: I set a time every day to be in my office writing. Some days it’s frustrating when other commitments get in the way of writing. It’s extremely frustrating when the non-writing world thinks you don’t have a ‘real job’ and are available to volunteer for anything and everything. This was a real problem when I first started writing, but now most of my friends and acquaintances know that I ‘have to get to work.’ My grandchildren, (whom I watch two days a week) know that for one hour (sometimes I can stretch it to one and a half) I have to write. They know they have to play and not (hopefully) fight with each other.
Catherine: It’s just me and the hubs, so we don’t have a need to protect our time. We just need to get butt in chair.
Ryan Jo: I live alone, so the house is my own. The only interlopers are the pets I share it with and they usually bother me at feeding time. Otherwise, my interruptions come in the form of work, (day job), friends, other commitments that come up. Sometimes I just have to say no, sorry, but I can’t. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often.
Stacy: My own writing den. It’s small, but it’s my sanctuary. When I’m in there it’s a like a virtual “do not disturb” sign has been hung.
Samanthya: Oh good grief. I have to clean it up every once in a while. I have notes, note pads, pens, and post it notes stuck all over my desk. LOL. But, I have my own room, my own desk, and no one else touches my space.
Petie: That is probably the biggest hurdle a writer faces every single day. Authors need a little corner at home to spread out where they can write and not have to pack up every time they stop, though this is no deal breaker since the writer can also retreat to the local coffee shop or library.
Authors must have the support of family and loved ones. Spouses or friends who complain every time a writer wants to hibernate and work on a story can quickly kill a budding career.
A husband supporting a wife’s desire to pursue a writing goal is no different than a wife supporting a husband’s weekly pilgrimage to the local golf course to work on his handicap.
It’s not just others who interrupt us. Sometimes, we do a fine job of it ourselves. How do you handle the temptation to surf? Are there other distractions that threaten your writing time?
Collette: I could be distracted all the time, so I’m very careful to only do exactly what I intend to do. If I have to look something up on the Internet, I restrict myself to only researching that item. I won’t touch social media after my first hello in the morning until my writing is done for the day.
Tema: I haven’t had that problem since JAWS, I’m afraid of the ocean. Actually, I try to keep my surfing to a minimum, except for research. I’m always bouncing back and forth from the internet to my manuscript. Sometimes, I must admit, I get sidetracked by an interesting article or fact, and I find myself straying from my original purpose.
Tina: FB is a time-sucker. So is researching. I mean how long does it take to find out when zippers were invented? Probably not three hours. The web is another time-sucker. I still have a lot of research books, so to save time, I’ll go to them before the web. Since I work from home, (not all writing) things that need to be done around the house are distracting. I’ve had to schedule myself like I work outside the home. I get up early, do my exercise, rush around and get as much house stuff done as I can, eat breakfast, and am in my office by 9 am. Usually the mornings are spent with my other commitments. I give myself a one-hour lunch when I eat and rush around to get other stuff done. Then I’m back in my office to write. In the summer, I sit outside to write, but the birds, butterflies, chipmunks, and other critters can be a distraction.
Catherine: Surfing doesn’t distract me because I keep the internet off and ignore the phone when it pings—most of the time. The biggest distraction to my writing is keeping up my social media presence through my blog, my garden and keeping up with the house stuff. I tend to over extend myself.
Ryan Jo: I am pretty self-disciplined. I can set controls on how long I surf. Facebook is my big time suck and I just scroll the feeds. Research is my threat. I start researching topic A, get distracted by related articles and end up reading about topic F. That’s because everything is so interesting. Other threats to my writing time is promotion. It’s vital, but it’s time spent away from the actual writing or revisions that need to be done. So it becomes a balance thing. Same with home obligations. Like everyone, I have house chores, yard maintenance, pet care, day job, errands, etc… that all pull me away from my writing chair. BALANCE.
Samanthya: Yes, I can spend hours with emails and Facebook chatting. I really need to get that under control.
Petie: Use of the Internet for whatever reason is the greatest deterrent to an author’s productivity. You especially have to fight off the I’ll-just-check-this-one-thing-before-I-write urge because it’s NEVER just one thing. The social media sites can suck the hours right out of your hard-won allotment of writing time.
Surfing? I turn the computer AND adjacent — as it’s always nearby — iPhone OFF until the time I set aside to write has elapsed. I had no choice. I can get lost doing research on Google or on Twitter and Facebook in the blink of an eye.
Do those around you respect your writing time and space? Do you?
Up Next Week: Time Management. Writing time vs. Marketing.