As if authors didn’t already have too little time, we lose nearly an hour of daylight in August. Fifty-four minutes to be exact, at least in North America. September is worse.
I learned this depressing fact when I was a cub reporter for a daily newspaper. In those pre-automated days, I had to find the information for, and enter on each front page, the exact times for sunrise and sunset, as well as how many cubic feet per second (CFS) the Arkansas River was running.
In a tourism- and agriculturally driven economy, those were important numbers.
Since July loses only thirty minutes of daylight during its thirty-one day cycle, and June loses even fewer minutes (about seven), we feel the crush at the end of August and respond accordingly:
“What happened to summer?”
If you’re into numbers and want to see these facts for yourself, check out this website: Sunrise and Sunset.
The bottom line: There is never enough time.
Or is there?
When I became a published author, life got crazy(er). Of course giving birth to a book baby was exactly what I’d dreamt of. But babies keep you up at night. And then they become toddlers.
I was running out of time – that ethereal commodity we cannot create, hold, or harness yet we insist on measuring, saving, or killing. Gone were the days of leisurely reclining with my muse at my workstation to expand glorious images into a manuscript.
Because once you write a book, you must write others. It’s simply a matter of addiction.
“I LOVE THIS!”
“We’ll take your book. Sign on the dotted line and give us two more in the next six/nine/twelve months.”
And as everyone knows who reads or writes for this blog, we’ve gotten ourselves into way more than simply writing stories.
All while keeping our “regular” life nailed down. If we’re not careful, we’ll never see our muse again, not to mention our family.
I had to get organized on two fronts: Time and Thoughts.
There is a time for every purpose. (Eccl. 3:1)
I’m a morning person. I like to do everything in the morning: read my Bible and pray—aka listen to Him. Walk our Queensland heeler, Blue. Take photographs of every cool thing I see along the way. Water my giant sunflowers. Check email, read blogs, visit Facebook, Tweet. Write my column for the local daily newspaper. Work on my weekly blog. Make breakfast burritos and homemade caramel macchiato (every morning).
Trouble is, morning is over at noon where I live and I get really frustrated if I don’t accomplish a big chunk of my manuscript-writing goal before the big hand and the little hand meet at the top of the clock.
In a perfect world, I’d write all day, every day, and hire someone else to do all the rest. But then I’d probably write boring stories.
At least I’m in good company. Christy Award-winning author Randy Ingermanson (the Snowflake Guy) recently shared his time-dissection method in one of his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zines. He sets aside Wednesday for what he calls Administration. You can read more about his plan here.
I liked his idea and tried it and it wasn’t bad. Give up what you love most just one day a week and focus on administrative-related tasks. The stack of stuff on my desk actually shrank.
But it wasn’t a perfect fit, so I tweaked Randy’s idea into what has become Maintenance Mornings.
Lately I’ve been limiting maintenance to ONLY mornings, and even if I don’t get it all finished, I stop. Discipline is key because I’ll never finish it all, and that fact will eat me alive if I let it.
Now I work on my manuscripts all afternoon with a couple hours off if I have an assignment from our local newspaper editor. (Gotta pay the bills.)
But the good news is, this delegating of time-specific tasks is working!
We take captive every thought. (2 Cor. 10:5)
When I was a young wife and mother, grocery shopping required a list if I didn’t want to make five follow-up trips to the market for things I forgot.
When I progressed from cub- to crime-beat reporter, I took copious notes and learned the value of records. “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.”
These acquired tendencies transferred to my book writing, but there’s only so much room on a desk/wall/computer for sticky notes. Binders saved me to a point, but what if I wrote down a really cool idea in a binder. Which one?
So I designated a document on my computer that I keep at the top of my Recently Opened list. It’s called TO DO because that’s how it started out—my to-do list. However, it has evolved into a catch-all, and I’ve simply kept the original name.
My TO DO document is a Quick-Drop Site for ideas, notes, quotes, upcoming guest post topics, or anything I saw and liked and want to remember.
Okay, so it’s 14 pages long now, but still. I have the tendency to forget where I file an idea or quote or whatever when I’m in a hurry, so I put them in there. Perusing one long document with the “Find” feature still beats visually rifling through dozens of files or handling possibly hundreds of pieces of paper.
At first I tried separate documents for separate things like Blog Posts, Guest Posts, Newspaper Columns, Devotionals, and Story Ideas. However, many of these quick thoughts cross over to more than one area. It was easier to dump them all in one place, use the “Find” function with a key word to locate what I was looking for, and then transfer what I wanted to another specific document in files such as Books, Columns, Blogs, Marketing, etc.
(Confession: I have a particularly touching email from a reader copied into my TO DO document. Every time I scroll by it, I’m reminded why I write.)
By the way, my novella releasing today, The Columbine Bride, continues the family tale I began in last year’s Christmas novella. It started out as a “thought” in my TO DO file.
Best-selling author and editor Erin Healy said in a recent workshop on self-editing that the system she proposed was “not a new religion” so don’t treat it that way. Neither is my current organization method. I may change things up in a month or so. But for now, it works for me.
Everyone has a personal system for organizing time and thoughts. Some authors write only in the morning, at night after a full-time job, on commuter trains, or while the baby naps. Some use legal pads and pencils or smartphones and tablets. But for me for right now, Maintenance Morning and my TO DO document are my go-to structures.
Whether you are an author or not, what organizational techniques have you borrowed or developed to make your life easier during these ever-shortening end-of-summer days?
Today I'm giving away an e-copy of Book 4 of The 12 Brides of Summer with my story “The Columbine Bride.”
The Columbine Bride
Lucy Powell is on a path not of her choosing: widowhood. But she’s determined she doesn’t need anyone’s help to get her neglected ranch back in order and running right—especially the neighboring rancher who keeps showing up at the end of her shotgun. Buck Reiter can’t leave Lucy and her two young’uns alone. It’s just not in him to sit by and watch while someone struggles. But he ends up as the struggler, searching for a way to let Lucy know there’s a whole lot more going on in his heart than just being neighborly.
Seekerville has an extra give away for one commenter. A little timer to help you get in your daily word count. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.