Ink-Dipped Advice: Time Myths

We’ve all done it. We’ve heard it.

“I don’t have t-i-i-i-me!”

I tell my writing students that there’s no such thing as “no time” to write. There’s writing. There’s not writing. Make your choice. Anyone who chooses writing is welcome in my class. Anyone who uses the No Time Whine needs to get the hell out.

There’s a big difference between not having time and mis-managing your time.

We all have 24 hours in our day. How we choose to use them defines us.

In this splintering economy, where the people who are supposed to represent us are, instead, trying to turn us into serfs in their feudal society, there are issues. Many of us have to work multiple jobs without benefits to keep a roof over our heads, and those of our families.

Yet we still write.

We’re tired. We get up earlier or stay up later. But we get it done. We prioritize the writing. We set boundaries and hold them. We refuse to be manipulated. Even more important, we take responsibility and refuse to use others as our excuse not to write.

Whenever I hear the “ha, ha, ha, my (wife/husband/spous/partner) won’t LET me . . .” my hackles rise. Are you or are you not an adult? Why does another person LET you do or not do something? Are you in an abusive situation? Do you need help getting out? If not, why are you turning over responsibility for your life and your decisions to someone else? Blaming them, in effect, for you not following your dreams?

I lose respect for those individuals.

Time management means being aware of time constraints and working within them.

For instance, I was on site with a client recently. Client asked, “How long are you here today?”

“Two more hours.”

“We need to do x, y, z today.”

“Okay, but I need to leave on time. I have other commitments.”

Ten minutes before my departure time, we hadn’t started. Something that would take us several hours. Now, in those two hours, I’d knocked out several small projects that I could have done my next time there. These were things that didn’t take much time, so I could wind them up whenever this other person needed my help. Which didn’t happen.

That is poor time management, on the part of the person who wanted my help.

Not my problem anymore.

I’ve had the same client state, five minutes before leaving time, or as I was gathering my stuff, that we had to do x, y, z “right now.” If it was something actually essential, and I wasn’t on my way to another client, I have stayed. But often, it’s not, so I say, “I’ll have to do that first thing next time I come in. I have to leave now.”

There’s an old saying, “Disorganization on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” I find that very useful.

Yes, it means cutting other things out. Less television, less time spent on the phone, on the screen, on social media. Complete days where I disconnect. Saying “no” when people want me to put their agendas before my writing.

That doesn’t mean I don’t take time off or mess about to relieve stress and have fun. It means I make choices rather than letting time slip away. I limit procrastination. I manage deadlines, and I spread work out so I’m not frantic and exhausted at the end.

Although I’m always frantic and exhausted at the end of a book, even when I’ve managed my time well. It’s just part of the book process for me. Hopefully, it’s better for you.

Within the writing, I’m juggling multiple projects. Have to, or I couldn’t keep a roof over my head.

So how do I prioritize the projects I juggle?

With the fiction and plays, it’s about getting my first 1-2K done first thing in the morning on what I call my “Primary Project.” The rest of the day is spent moving between other projects, organized by deadline and money.

He who pays most with the tightest deadline gets first attention.

He who nags when I’m well within deadline gets bumped to the bottom of the list.

The stronger my boundaries, the better gigs I land, the better matches I have with new clients, the better my work, and the happier we all are.

Time can be bent and stretched. It can be expanded or contracted. But when it’s disrespected, it will work against you, not with you. Time can be your best friend or worst enemy.

You get to choose which. And face the consequences.

2 thoughts on “Ink-Dipped Advice: Time Myths”

  1. Time is our bread and butter. We cannot bill for time wasted, and that impacts our earnings directly.

    I’m a pre-planner. Right now, I know what’s coming in this week, when the deadlines are, and how much time I can allot daily to each project. If an unexpected project comes in, I’m so much better equipped to fit it in having already organized the existing projects.

    When I get a “can I have this by tomorrow” request at 3 or 4 pm, I usually respond with an alternative deadline — “Tomorrow is booked, but I can have it by the next day.” I don’t lie — my tomorrows are almost always booked in advance. But I’ve found most emergencies have arbitrary deadlines, so holding firm and not losing my mind so they can have something a few hours sooner doesn’t hurt them.

    And no work over a holiday. Ever.

    1. Yeah, I’m done working on holidays. I’m working working on Broadway anymore. It’s not up to me to work while others play! 😉

      I do the alternate deadline when they have a rush, too. Usually, I’m met with, “But I need it NOW.” Then I tell them the rush fee. Suddenly, it’s not such an emergency anymore . . .

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