Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Time Mining

Not so very long ago, the "big studio" system used to stick writers in a room with a typewriter, reams of paper, and little else. Like monkeys in a cage. At least that's what I've heard. I imagine there wasn't much a writer could do in such a circumstance but...write.

Now, with everyone being plugged in and logged on, today's writer faces a threat to his very creativity and attention -- the massive time-suck known as the Internet.

Between life, work, email, instant messaging, social networking, and mind-numbing slack-jawed web browsing, keeping your head in the game is absolutely impossible sometimes. I know you're reading this thinking, "Not me, brother. I have that Mr. Miyagi kind of focus." But even you, sensei, can fall victim at any time.

Merlin Mann, offers a simple solution that socks you right in the nose as soon as your web browser pops to life. Leo Babauta of ZenHabits has a few additional tips for keeping your dreams on track. (And believe me, you'll want to check out the other random bits of coolness on both of these sites.)

Since a lot of these suggestions are good for just about any task you happen to face, I thought I'd offer six simple time-making ideas specifically for writers. Are some of them tough to do? Sure. Do I do all of them? Not all, but some. At least it's a start.

1. Set a deadline. Even if it has no real-life monetary significance, you can invent a circumstance where your family's survival depends on getting that draft done on time. Hey, you're a writer...make it exciting.

2. Put the desktop on the deskbottom. Having all those reminders, pingers, and alerts flashing like a marquee across your screen can easily send you into an ADD nosedive. Applications like JDarkroom and Writeroom let you hide everything except your writing screen. These are two splendid tools that black out the desktop, leaving you with nothing but a lean word processor and your awesomeness.

3. Make down time the write time. Stuck in traffic? Pull out a pad and pen and get some stuff on paper. Got time to kill on the bus? Pull out the laptop and get tapping. I take the bus to the office, so I already have four allocated hours of me-time that I can spend reading, writing, or thinking about story ideas.

4. Rise and shine. This one's a no-brainer and has been covered by other screenbloggers out there, but it makes perfect sense. If you want more hours in your day, create them. My day typically starts at 5:00 am, and while I'm usually more in a mood to punch a rooster in the mouth than write, it's uninterrupted time I wouldn't have otherwise. NOTE: I've found that a 20-minute nap in the afternoon (Pzizz is great for this) does wonders for your mental state and keeps you from sleep-deprived insanity.

5. Group therapy. Sometimes, a little peer pressure is a wonderful thing. Except when it involves jumping off something or tequila. When you don't feel like writing, get others to give you a pedal to the posterior. Writers groups keep you writing because on one wants to show up at another meeting with no pages to show. Find one in your area and join. No groups around? Start one.

6. Kill your television. Go ahead. Unplug it. Sell it. There's nothing on anyway.

7. It's up to you. I'm leaving this one blank because this list is all about making time for YOU. Now, close this and go write.