Each month, the Nonfiction Authors Association asks a burning publishing question of the industry’s best, brightest, and most innovative experts. Here’s what they have to say!
NFAA: How do you carve out time for writing?
There are basically two methods writers use to carve out time to write: scheduled time or project deadline. Some writers prefer to “write every day, first thing for two hours, uninterrupted,” or some version of the scheduled method.
I carve out time based on the project I need to get done, whether it’s deadline driven for a client or just time to get my own newsletter or article out. I shut down email and other distractions, close my office door (which has a sign on the outside doorknob: “Writer at Work: Do Not Disturb.” I’m also a “mood” writer, rather than based on the time of the day. If I’m feeling the creative juices, I carve out some time; doesn’t matter the hour.
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CARLA D. BASS
I rise before the proverbial “early bird” and write for a few hours prior to starting my day job where I compose products for executive signature sent to Congress and the White House. This works well, as I am a morning person. Of course, I go to bed early, too! My friends think I’m nuts, but this battle rhythm is pure joy. Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons offer opportunity to compose new material for writing workshops I present to wide-ranging audiences based on the second edition of my book Write to Influence! https://amzn.to/2ZpLYdR … another aspect of this journey I simply adore! “Carving out time to write” is one aspect; leveraging that precious time to best advantage is another. This approach minimizes subsequent, extensive revisions: 1) assess and write to the audience’s needs, 2) outline the intended message, 3) strategize to make it focused, concise, and compelling, and 4) and apply Word Sculpting Tools that make each word count and every second of the reader’s time play to the author’s advantage!
Carla D. Bass, Colonel, USAF (Ret), served 30 years composing correspondence for general officers, ambassadors, Congress, and the White House. She developed her unique writing methodology and taught thousands of Air Force members for 15 years to rave reviews. Carla shares her expertise in the multiple award-winning book Write to Influence! and highly acclaimed workshops for corporations, private business, government, the military, NGOs, and students in high school through graduate school. https://www.WriteToInfluence.net//.
The key for me is scheduling time to write. I’m already working fifty plus hours a week, so finding extra hours for highly quality writing is challenging. Mornings are best for me—that’s when I’m most creative and not distracted by the looming demands of a typical day. During the seven months I was writing the first draft of my book, I would write at home from about 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then I’d head into the office. On non-writing days, I’d go to my usual 6:00 a.m. swim workout and then be in the office by 8:30 a.m. To keep up with my writing schedule for the book, I’d usually also have to write for four or five hours on either Saturday or Sunday. Again, I’d usually start writing early when I was fresh and creative.
Over the seven months it took to write the first draft, I found that I got faster at writing over time and it took less effort to get the words flowing in any particular writing session. The consistent schedule and regular practice were key for me in being productive and increasing my output. Even now with my writing focused on blog posts and articles for various publications and websites, I follow the same schedule. When I have an article due, I write early in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays (and occasionally on the weekend). I still find that having a regular time slot for writing prepares my mind to drop into gear faster and helps me get through my writing assignments more quickly.
Bruce Barton, CFP® CFA, is a wealth manager and the owner and founder of a boutique wealth management firm in Silicon Valley. His book Personal Finance for Tech Professionals: In Silicon Valley and Beyond provides a practical introduction to the financial issues facing those in tech. Bruce brings a distinct perspective, having worked in three venture-capital-backed tech startups in product management and executive roles during a fifteen-year tech career before moving into wealth management.
As an author fortunate enough to be ever on book deadlines, and as contributing editor at The Writer Magazine—with a 12-year-old daughter actively involved with school and dance lessons—I have to carve out two hours of focused writing time every morning with no distractions. I use LeechBlock to block all social media and email sites on my computer for those two hours. I turn off all smartphone notifications except for my ringer, and set the phone far away so that I’m not tempted to check it unless my daughter calls.
I get more done in those two hours of focused writing time than I could in eight hours punctuated by checking email and Twitter and Facebook and answering phone calls. I highly recommend using a computer distraction blocker and keeping your phone out of arm’s reach for a fixed amount of time, and challenging yourself to work deeply during those precious couple of hours.
—Melissa Hart, author of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Sasquatch, 2019), www.melissahart.com
After my career as a dedicated physician, I pledged that during retirement my final two noble goals would be sleeping late and completing my memoir. Linda, my wife of forty years, is usually awake by 6:30 a.m. She answers emails, walks the dog, eats breakfast, and puts last night’s dishes away. If I’m not awake by 8:30 a.m. she goes downstairs and calls me on her cell. I know the message by heart: “Geoffrey, get out of bed; ‘early birds’ get the worm. And remember what your doctor says: be more active.” The distraction takes off only twenty or thirty seconds at most from my last dream of reading my own book while lying comfy in bed. I turn over, knowing she won’t call again. I’m reliably up by 10:00 or, at the latest, 11:00.
I’ve been working on my book for five years. Given my actuarial stats I figure I have enough time to finish my book before I fade into a coma or greet Linda by asking her, “Do I know you?” Living in a small town, without traffic jams or distant shopping malls, my errands can be wrapped up in about one hour three times per week. Just to burn time, I leave the house periodically to drive my e-bike slowly around our neighborhood. By noon, six days per week, I’m ready to write. I look at the clock…six hours until dinner. I know that after dinner, my brain is out of order—it’s Netflix® time. This is the reality of being retired in your seventies, having saved enough money so I don’t need to work and being a new writer. My major fear is that I’ll not have enough time finish my book before the reaper gathers me up. Yes, it’s all about time.
Geoffrey Goldsmith, M.D.
“A doctor fights his way back from brain injury”
Writing is going to be my semi-retirement and retirement profession, so I have all the time now to be a writer and hopefully make enough to support myself. My day is mainly writing and research after the few chores I need to accomplish around the house from day to day. I already have a few paid writing projects lined up and am currently working on them.
After the chores are done then it is time to write for the various online sites that I “work” for presently. These projects include an eBook on being a Certified Nursing Assistant along with several courses one being about the U.S. Constitution and teaching it, followed my another course about teaching children’s literature. Writing is a profession that I truly like doing and I’m thankful that my past professions gave me the needed work experience so that I can be a full-time writer.
Mark Graham is a writer who has studied in education and nursing, and has worked in both day care for about two years, and as a licensed practical nurse for 14 years in geriatric nursing. Mark holds a Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, as well as a post-Master’s in college teaching that led him to graduate with a Doctorate in reading and literacy. He is a freelance writer for several online companies, writing book reviews and articles and creating educational materials for the classroom. In his off time, he enjoys making crafts that include latch hook rugs, needlepoint, and crocheting.
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