Posts Tagged ‘time management’

Free Time!

One of the things I look forward to the most about MileHiCon is having some time to myself. Aside from some evening commitments and the panels I’m on (and the book signing time), I’ve got the whole weekend to myself, and I can do whatever I want with it.

And MileHiCon has traditionally been very productive for me. Admittedly, when I was chained to the Turtleduck Press table in Author’s Row, I could get a ton done, and that’s not as true now that I’m free (freeee ahahahaha), but last year at least still proved quite useful.

(Like many conventions, MileHiCon has ~50 minute panels that start on the hour. So there’s about ten minutes between panels where the majority of the con population is meandering about when you deal with people, and then for the other 50 minutes you twiddle your thumbs, or a few people wander through. That’s a lot of thumb twiddling.)

I tend to get overwhelmed at panels, so I don’t go to that many, no matter the convention (even when I go to writers’ conferences where there’s a ton of stuff to do, every now and then I skip a session to recharge). I’ll hit the artist’s alley (I love the artist’s alley and seeing all the cool stuff people have come with) and the vendors’ hall a few times, maybe watch some anime if something looks fun, watch the costume contest.

That still leaves a lot of time.

When I was table-chained, I often got some editing done, drew pictures for the blog, wrote short stories, etc. (The Internet does not really work in the hotel, so I have to plan ahead to make sure I can do what I want to do. But, on the other hand, I am not distracted by silliness.) Even last year, I wrote a short story and managed to get feedback on it throughout the weekend.

So, knowing that I will have several hours to do whatever this weekend…what do I do?

(Well, if this anthology story doesn’t finish itself a little faster, I’ll have to finish it there.)

It’s one of those times when there’s too much possibility. I could do so many things. How do I pick? How do I focus? Do you do that, squiders, where there are so many opportunities you end up getting nothing done because you flit from one thing to the next?

Because I do. And it’s problematic.

If we go off of priorities…well, anthology story. Hopefully done before the end of the week, and so no longer an option. Siri has the Sekrit Project and so there’s nothing I can do there. I’m into the climax and conclusion on space dinosaurs, so maybe that? I’m probably not going to want to write a short since I’m coming off the anthology story. (Although at a projected 10-11K, it’s not really a “short” story. We shall consider the matter still open.)

(I may need to have a short done by Nov 1 anyway, actually. Yes, we shall keep that on the table.)

I could also work on some things I’ve been wanting to do that keep getting eaten by other things, like work on potential new series (including a picture book and a chapter book one) or poke at the nonfiction books and see what I need to do to get them ready to be published. (I think there’s one more book to be written, but that’s kind of why I need to evaluate where I am.)

So, options:

  1. Space Dinosaurs
  2. Short story
  3. Children’s books
  4. Other series?
  5. Nonfiction books

Hm. Five options, and only three days. Decisions, decisions. A short would need to be plotted before hand (see, no Internet, so I won’t be able to access my idea file at the hotel). Nonfiction probably also needs Internet, so that might be out. What would you do, if you were me?

Writing Around Life: School (High School)

Good evening, squiders! We’re moving on to more specific tips this week.

We’re doing school first, because almost everyone goes to school (one would hope, anyway). I’ve got this section divided into three subsections: high school, part-time college, and full-time college. While some tips will be applicable across the board, the difference in scheduling (in high school one is typically at school for a solid block of time, whereas in college classes are spread out all over the place and generally in the least useful combination) makes it a logical break.

High school is an interesting time, when one can do a little of everything and see what sticks. As such, around schoolwork, clubs, sports, social activities, and other time commitments (at least in this state, high schoolers must complete some number of volunteer hours to graduate), it can be hard to find time to work on writing or other creative endeavors.

First things first: no matter what, you must make writing a priority. There will always be something else to do, whether it’s sharing videos with your friends during lunch or checking out the latest student council display. In some cases, you will have to choose to write over doing something else.

The first step is to examine your day. Do you find yourself with free time frequently in a certain class or activity? Is there a block of time open where you have options on what to do? Are you at school early or late?

Here are some places to look for times to write:

Lunch

Lunch can be a good time to write because it’s typically a large block of time with no set requirements (aside from hopefully consuming food). I know this is prime socialization time, but depending on how your school’s schedule is organized, you may find yourself on your own occasionally or on a regular basis, especially if your friends have lunch a different period or have some other commitment (club meetings, travel time if they’re taking college courses off campus, etc.) during that time. Some schools have long lunches, so part of the time can be spent socializing and the other part working.

Home Room

My school called this “Access,” but the basic idea is that you have a period some time during the day where you report to your home room/teacher. Some schools require you to stay in the classroom; others allow you to leave to get help from other teachers or attend club meetings. Not all schools have this time period built into their daily schedule, but if yours does, and you don’t need help/haven’t finished your fifth period homework, this can be a great time to squeeze some writing in, especially since teachers generally prefer the students to be relatively quiet.

During (Some) Classes

Let’s face it. In some classes you may routinely finish your work early. For me, it was biology and drafting. So you can sit there and twiddle your thumbs, talk to your neighbors (and probably get in trouble for disrupting the kids still working), or you can be productive. This does depend on the teacher, however, because some don’t care what you work on once you’re done, but others might throw a fit.

During (Some) Activities

Some school activities require you to be there for long periods of time but not necessarily participate the whole time. You might be in the band and another section might be a mess and need some dedicated work from the teacher. You might be in theater but only be onstage for half the time. You might have a long bus ride to a game. Again, beware of the situation. If you have obligations for the activity that aren’t completed (i.e., you don’t know your lines for the show), those come first.

Before School

Sometimes you get to school early. This seems to be especially true in some bus systems, where whomever made the schedule wanted to be absolutely certain that the kids riding the bus were never ever late. My bus used to drop me half an hour before school started, and even my friends on other buses didn’t show up for another fifteen minutes. It can be hard to get going in the morning, but hey, you’re already up and you’ve successfully made it to school, so it can’t hurt to try.

After Your Homework

So, all of the above time periods can also be used to get some homework done throughout the day. You know what’s great about this? It means you have less homework to do later, and this can be a glorious thing. It means maybe you can get your homework done at a reasonable time, and maybe you can have brain to work on your writing after dinner and before bed. Then you can end the day on something fun instead of, you know, math or English.

Weekends

Weekends can be pretty busy still, depending on your activities and schedule, but you still have three nights to do homework instead of one, so hopefully you will also have some free time to do what you would like. It might help to pick a specific time each weekend–Saturday afternoon, maybe–where you typically don’t have commitments and make that your writing time. That way it’s planned, and it’s more likely to happen.

Another thing the can help with writing around high school is to have friends who also write, or friends who are interested in what you’re writing. Having a support system in place can help your productivity a ton. You can share your work, plan write-ins, and talk about what you’re working on.

Any other tips for high schoolers you would include, squiders? Or, as a high schooler, things you’ve found that have worked for you?

Marketing to Distraction

I’ve noticed something lately. I, like many people, I suspect, have a limited amount of time every day to spend on writing-related activities. These activities include:

  • Plotting/planning
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Marketing
  • Publishing activities
  • Ancillary activities, like blogging or market research

I would like to break these down a bit, so, say, I always have half an hour to an hour for actual writing, and maybe another half an hour for marketing/publishing activities, but that doesn’t seem to be the way things are working out at the moment.

So everything is currently coming out of the same well of time. And with the current climate of publishing, where authors are increasingly in charge of their own marketing, it behooves people to be aware of marketing techniques and to keep up with new and changing marketing trends.

And I realized lately that I seem to be denoting the majority of my writing time pool to marketing. But not, like, actual marketing. Learning about marketing. Taking marketing classes, readings marketing blogs, going to marketing webinars. Most are writing-related, but some are just general marketing.

Am I procrastinating? Is it an excuse to not do any real marketing, because I’m still “learning”? (Though, at this point, everything’s starting to sound the same and I’m pretty sure I’m not getting anything new out of anything.) Is it something that makes it seem like I’m being productive when I’m really not?

I hope to be able to better utilize my time now that I’ve realized what I’ve been doing. But I thought I’d bring it up in case other people are unknowingly (or in denial about) doing the same thing. Learning is well and good, but if you’re not getting anything done, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Have you ever realized you were trapped in the illusion of productivity? And to stick with marketing, what is the most useful thing you’ve found works?

(In other good news, my Kit Campbell Books and Kit the Editor websites are back up. They did lose some of the more recent content, so I will need to get them back up to date, but if you need general info, it’s all there, so go and take a look!)

Writing Around the Holidays

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is stressful even in the best of times.  You’ve got to buy your presents, wrap them, make sure they get to the right recipient (and that’s assuming you aren’t making any).  There’s Christmas Cards to send out (oh why did I start doing that?), decorations to put up, and neighbors to compete against to see who can spend the most on their electricity bills.  One could argue that this is all another sign of the commercialization of the holidays, but I would argue that it’s because we want to make the ones we love happy that we pile so much on ourselves.

This is, of course, on top of your normal work, family, and household obligations.  And the fact that you want to spend as much time as possible with your friends and family.

With everything as crazy as it is, it can be a pain to fit in your normal writing.  Here are a couple of tips for trying to fit it in.

1. Use it to destress.
Let’s say you’ve spent the last three hours wrapping presents and writing cards.  It’s very tempting to leave the mess for the cat to play with and go veg in front of the television watching Unsolved Mysteries.  Resist this urge, and why not sit down and work on a story instead?  It’ll clear your mind and when you look back at your day, you’ll feel productive instead of like a lazy lump.

2. Get away from it all.
Your children are belting “Grandma got run-over by a reindeer” at the top of their lungs and your husband has abandoned his half-done job of hanging the lights over the garage to watch the football game.  Do not lock yourself in the bathroom and cry.  Instead, stand in front of your husband until he acknowledges your presence and tell him it’s on his head if anything gets destroyed while you’re gone, and leave.  Go to a coffee shop, the library, a friend’s…wherever you like to write that’s not at home.

3. Remember that people will not hate you if it doesn’t all get done.
If a couple of your cards go out a few days late, guess what?  No one’s really going to care.  They’re just glad to hear from you.  If half the ornaments don’t get on the tree, Santa won’t mind.  If the dog eats your fruitcake, well, it’s probably for the best.  Remember that it’s much easier to maintain a writing habit than to try to restart one come January when the tree goes to the grinder.  So set aside a little time each day to get things done.  It’s okay.  No one will hate you.  (Give them bubble wrap to distract them while you make your escape.)

Good luck to you, Squiders!