Writers aren’t the most organized people. Frankly, I’m lucky that stuff doesn’t fall on me in my bedroom every night. We’re especially bad at time management. After a certain point in our writing our minds start to wander. Even deadlines can’t help us all the time. It’s not because we aren’t passionate about our work or because we don’t want to write anymore. The reasons vary from writer to writer and situation to situation. Sometimes we’re too scared and subconsciously trying to self-sabotage, and sometimes we’re just distracted. Whatever the reason, time management typically isn’t a writer’s forte.
Is this lack of time management skills really a problem in our industry? What can we do to pull ourselves out of that trap?
Honestly, neither answer is simple.
For some writers a lack of time management skills can be a problem but for others it’s not. Some writers’ work will suffer if they don’t give themselves enough time. Others thrive under pressure. Still others are somewhere in between or move from one to the other depending on the project. I fall somewhere closer to the third category. While I often succeed best on a tight schedule for academic writing, my fiction writing can suffer greatly if I try to do anything at the last minute.
When deadlines are involved, it’s always best to start early enough to have wiggle room. Even last-minute writers can fall victim to writer’s block under too much pressure. That’s not to mention the array of technical issues which may arise solely because of Murphy’s law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. All we can do is be prepared, and starting early is one of the best ways to ensure that we’re prepared.
Other than preparing for the worst, I’m not sure if there’s anything else we can–or should–do if we have time management problems. As I said, different writers work best under different circumstances. If pressure helps you write, you may not want to change that. If it isn’t working for you, you should learn some time management skills.
If you’re looking to cultivate such skills, I’m not the best person to ask. Aside from keeping deadlines straight in my head and prioritizing what to do based on those, I don’t have any real “time management skills.” That may be one of the reasons why I’m stressed all the time (that and the fact that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder). However, I always turn work in by or before the deadline, so my disorganized methods must work for me.
The key to time management in writing is finding whatever works for you. Your best (writer) friend may have to write down a detailed schedule of when she’ll write what, but you may do best just by going with the flow. She may set her own deadlines in addition to an editor’s deadlines and you might need to just keep your editor’s deadlines in mind. As with all organization matters, writing is organized chaos; only the individual writer can understand his/her methods because they were tailored especially for him/her.
Do you have any time management advice? Tales of woe or cautionary tales? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Also keep an eye out for more of my thoughts on writing and organization, and be sure to sign up for notifications straight to your inbox.