Saturday, July 26, 2014

Need Time to Write?--Go Public!

5 ways going public will help you find time to write...

You say you want to write your book. You need to write your book.

The story is constantly on your mind, but you are not writing nearly enough. What's the deal?
So much to ask about the story. One question for the writer: Why am I not writing?
(Image: Orin Zebest on flickr)
Unhelpful Advice

A lot of people, like John Scalzi, say that if you keep talking about writing but maintain excuses for why you are not working on your book, then you clearly just don't want to write. Writers write, after all, and you're just a poser. 

I don't know. Maybe you are. Maybe you need to be confronted like this.

Or maybe you're undisciplined and every attempt you make to develop your writing into a daily practice doesn't stick. 

Good Ideas 

You've listened to plenty of advice. You've rethought your priorities and cut down on time-wasters. (Moira Allen has an excellent list of time-waters and how to deal with them.) You've scheduled writing appointments and created a writing space for yourself—you've even followed Melissa Tydell's advice to just sit down and write for 15 minutes. You got up early and dedicated your lunch break to writing, as Joanna Penn told you to do. It worked a couple times, but then life interrupted. Chris Brogan told you stay up late and write while everyone else was watching TV. 

So many good ideas. How long did they last?

When Good Advice Doesn't Work for You

For god's sake, you've got a job, you have a family, you need to eat, and if you don't get up and exercise you'll exacerbate your back problems. You're trying to market the last thing you wrote—don't let people fool you into thinking that you can just write and be a writer! It's up to you to get the word out now! And if you're a freelance writer, you're trying to drum up business and then you have to write something else. Something that isn't your book.

There are all kinds of things to distract you from writing what you really want to write. I'm living with my aging dad and no matter how many times I get him to understand that I must be left alone while writing, he forgets. Then he's bringing me things with freezer burn to assess, or he needs to ask again if his cell phone will explode if he charges it while the power is on, or he feels he needs to complain about the elastic in his socks being too strong. 

I mean, there's a point when getting people to understand the importance of your writing time is entirely ineffective. Your children may be too small, your cats may be too cute, or your parents may be suffering from whatever ailment your hereditary line chooses. You can't really do anything about that.

It doesn't mean you don't really want to write. It doesn't mean you are a loser who will just blather on about the brilliant book you never write.

It means you need another solution.

Go Public

By far, the most effective method for me to find time was to go public. Going public relieves you from having to struggle with a self-discipline problem.

1. Make your writing space a space outside the house. Just getting away from those things and people that distract you can do wonders for your focus, even if the music is loud. You don't need to rent an office. You can use a library or coffee shop—I have a list of some in Phoenix and Tucson. Co-working sites, like Spoke6, Connect, CoLab, CO+HOOTS, Coworking on 15th Ave., or Gangplank here in AZ, have cropped up all over the country. Some have a monthly fee and others are entirely free. 

The beauty of these places is that you can make connections with other writers, creative people, and business people while you are there. You connect with people who could be helpful further down the road. Writing isn't just about writing, unfortunately. It's a business, and you can make contacts while you're writing.

2. Start a workshop that has deadlines for submission. I work on deadlines. If someone gives me a date and time, I'll get it done. (Most of the time.) And if the deadline isn't enough, I'm the organizer, the leader, the person with the writing experience and education in the group—if I don't meet the deadline, how does that look to the people in the workshop? I'll tell you: crappy.

I don't want to look crappy.

Do you want to look crappy? Start the workshop yourself. You aren't allowed to not get the work done, then.

3. Schedule writing times with other writers. The problem with deadlines is that sometimes they lead to procrastination until crunch time. There is all this other time going unused. Schedule a time to sit down with other writers and hold each other to writing for that period. I do. We meet at a cafe or a bar twice a week, and usually have one or two online times scheduled, too. It's been one of the most productive periods of writing in my adult life, outside of grad school.

4. Connect with other writers. Note how I finished the last section: It's been one of the most productive periods of writing in my adult life, outside of grad school. The value of spending time with other writers is that you help each other work through your writing issues. You check in with each other. You ask each other what you are working on. You might offer each other challenges. You inspire each other when you see what someone else is working on. When you talk about your writing with someone who understands what you go through to write, you can get more excited about your own work. When you're in writing school, this comes naturally. But when you're done with school, you have to work to find readers who live near you.

I say near to you because I insist that meeting face to face and sharing a beer or a coffee or a meal are critical to this connection. It allows you to relax, to be human, and to be personal. It has a greater opportunity to be a real relationship than an online one where you are thinking about what you write. It also allows you to talk freely about writing, without the constraints of “I have to be writing right now.” Talking about writing is vital to writing itself. It allows you to process things.

And you don't need to be in grad school to connect with other writers. You can do this through groups—you'll find them on Meetup or Craigslist, or you may need to search you town for writing groups and associations that can direct you to some groups. 

Be forewarned, you may not walk right into the perfect group for you. You may need to try out some different ones. They are not all the same.

5. Declare your goalsShout your goals out for everyone to hear! Make sure everybody knows—not just the writers you've been connecting with. Everyone needs to know. I try to place my goals on Twitter and offer a challenge to anyone else who wants to take me up on it. Recently, I posted my website of Facebook. I had actually been afraid to do this because the successful writers I know would then be aware that I am trying again. Because then all the people in my Master of Public Administration program will know I'm not concentrating on the non-profit work I'd been studying for. (Actually, I'm working on building a non-profit for writers now.) Because then my family would send me messages to admonish for being an artsy fartsy dreamer with no sense of reality or what it takes to make a living. (Because family likes to cling to what you were like when you were 15.)

Now I'm setting myself up on Wattpad and some similar sites--just another way to hold myself accountable for my writing and hear what people have to say.

It's a little scary to put yourself out there.

But once you do, you don't want to look like an ass who says she does things and doesn't follow through. Once you do, all the bullshit comes out and people want to call you on it. You know what? It doesn't need to bother you because you are doing what you know you need to be doing.

The other thing is that, once you do put yourself out there, you'll find that there are people who support you, and that support helps you stick with your goals. 

That what's so great about going public. It changes everything.


  1. Robin, I love this post -- so much practical advice. I think starting your own workshop is wonderful idea. And I agree that people are surprisingly supportive when you put yourself out there. Thanks for sharing, and happy writing! By the way, if you have a moment, please take a look at my blog at If you do, I'd welcome any feedback.

    1. Thanks, Sonny. I've checked your blog out and am keeping track of it! You'll hear from me soon! Robin

  2. Yes, this! ABSOLUTELY correct. I've considered myself a writer for the last 10 years, but it wasn't until I started telling everyone ELSE that I was a writer, that I started to commit myself full force to the creation and completion of a project from beginning to end. I think when you tell other people about your goals, it pressures you into achieving them. You hold yourself accountable. Nice blog!

    1. Thanks, Justine. It's funny how we don't really fulfill our commitment to our own goals until someone else knows about them. Thank goodness we are kind enough to ridicule each other or act disappoint in each other when we flake out on ourselves--something we don't do to other people!