If you are writing and in high school, there are tests. If you are writing and in university, there are exams. If you are writing and employed, there is work. If you are writing and parenting, there are children. Unless you are on holidays, sick leave or retired, you will always be too busy and too tired to write.
Our society doesn’t reward writers. Yes, there are royalties, but authors don’t get them every month after working 40 hours each week. You get paid sometimes and the amount of money in your paycheck may vary. So, to survive, you need a “real job”. And while this “real job” is going to provide your everyday bread, it’ll consume most of your creative energies and hinder your writing process significantly, making you less efficient (here is your anticapitalist love note: “You are worth more than your productivity”).
After “real jobs”, most people watch movies, play games and surf the web. But, if you are a die-hard writer like me, you are probably trying to write faster, better and more in whatever’s left of your free time. Which isn’t always possible, as you are a human being, not a novel writing machine. And if you have reached the point when you are so frustrated that you want to throw the keyboard out of the window, please throw it on the bed, because someone could get hurt, and that person could also be another miserable novelist returning from somewhere they hate.
I have only two quotes to motivate me in such situation and I will share them with you.
- “Your pain will make a way for you” (Tumblr). I keep this one pinned to my corkboard. It reminds me that even though it’s extremely hard to fulfill all my duties and write, I must persevere, because it will be worth it. In order to reap, we must sow. It will all pay off with time, hence, it’s crucial to be patient.
- “I forced myself to be enthusiastic” (Soichiro Honda). I have this one on my corkboard, too. A lot of people believe wrongly that working on your passion is a piece of cake. It is not. And you are not going to be highly motivated and efficient all the time. This is why you must discipline yourself and do things as if you were enthusiastic about them, even if you aren’t.
And now – advanced time management techniques:
- Limit contact to time consuming people – Who are time consuming people? For example, an old friend who invites you for a coffee to gossip about everyone she knows for three hours. Or it might be your sister who drops her children at your appartment every weekend “because you are not going anywhere anyways and she has stuff to do”. It might be a coworker who writes you on Friday night to talk about work or it might be a university group leader who wants you to do voluntary work each time there is a conference. Altruism is good, but not pathological altruism, where you regularly give up on your needs and wants, simply because you “can’t tell someone no”. Be assertive and healthily selfish. Protect your time!
- Learn to delegate people. Consider if it wouldn’t be better to pay someone to help you instead of doing everything alone. If you don’t have time to clean, hire a cleaning lady. If you don’t have time to cook, order a take-out. If you don’t have time to edit, get a gig on Fiverr. You could actually hire the whole team to write, edit and market your book. If you can’t invest your time, invest your money. After all – time is money and money is time.
- Avoid long routes. Let me give you an example: you live in the northern part of the city. Your child’s school is in the southern part of the city. Your dance studio is in the eastern part of the city. Your favorite bookshop is in the western part of the city. Oh, and your best friend lives in the suburbs. How much time do you lose on driving in between those places? Try to do as many things as you can in ONE district of your city.
- Avoid big and crowded places. Buying vegetables at the local grocery can take you 30 minutes at most. Driving to the supermarket, finding a parking place, walking between shelves, reminding yourself of other things to buy, then standing in the line, packing the stuff in the car… Do you see how much time it takes? If you have to visit the supermarket, try to do it once a week instead of three times a week. It will save you a lot of time and tiredness.
- Give up on something. But not on sleep, healthy food and exercise, because it’s going to backfire sooner or later. Here is a list of things that you can cut on:
- Playing arcade games.
- Rewatching old movies / TV shows or watching AMVs.
- Surfing the web without an aim.
- Watching TV programs you aren’t interested in, just because a TV is on in the room.
- Reading forums and responding to each new post.
- Checking social media more than necessary.
All those things can be done later, as a way to rest from writing. However, if you do them for two hours after work, then at night you will be probably too tired to write.
And now, some more tips on how reorganize your writing routine to make the most out of your creative energies:
- Reconsider your writing hours. If you are too tired after work, consider going to sleep earlier and getting up at dawn to catch up with writing. It’s always easier to write when your brain has rested. Also, try to take advantage of the weekend.
- Organize your writing. For example, I’ve made an excel table with all the projects I’m working on. It’s very useful, as I work on lots of projects at the same time. I update the word count regularly and keep track of what needs to be done next for each story, whether it needs to be rewritten, edited etc. In this way, I don’t need to waste time on thinking which project I should open and what I should do.
- Set goals to track progress. I have created a table with every little action I do to push my writing career forwards. Each action is rewarded with a small number of points. For example, I get 2 points for writing a page from scratch, and 1 point for creating a picture quote. I try to earn 10 points each day. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s impossible. Whether I fail or reach or cross my point goal, it doesn’t matter. I keep the table to remind me that I’m moving forward.
- Try not to freewrite. If you feel that the quality of your writing dropped below 30%, skip the writing. Do marketing instead. It’s not as tiring, and it’s really worth it: in fact, you’ll probably thank yourself later for it. Add followers, seek book blogs and contact reviewers. Alternatively, you can also read a book in your genre or research a topic that you’d like to write about.
In general, I am very stern about my own writing routine and I encourage people to do their absolute best as writers. However, the real question at the end of the day is not “how to write when exhausted?”, but rather… “should you write when exhausted?”. Pushing yourself to do more when you can’t is never a good idea, as it’ll leave you feeling empty, depressed and angry. If you feel you don’t want to write, don’t write. The world won’t collapse if you publish your opera a year later than planned. However, you yourself could collapse, if you don’t rest and live on coffee and 3 hours of sleep every single day. Always put your own physical and mental health first. Remember that when you are well rested, inspired and happy, writing is much easier. And it might pay off to give up your Friday evening to watch a good movie instead of forcing yourself to write when you really can’t.
I hope this helps, stay inspired.